President Trump apparently wants to make it as easy as possible for Attorney General William Barr to confirm his “spying” suspicions about the origins of the Russia probe.
This week, Trump extended the attorney general’s authority to investigate the investigators, not only directing the CIA and all other intelligence agencies to cooperate with Barr’s investigation, but also giving the attorney general the authority to declassify any intelligence documents he chooses. The move is a significant break from precedent, as intelligence agencies generally decide for themselves what information can be made public.
Trump’s directive came just hours after he accused several former FBI officials — Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, James Comey and Andrew McCabe — of “treason.” Taken together, these moves mark a significant escalation of Trump’s campaign to prove that the Russia investigation was born out of a desire to oust him from office.
As Pelosi cautioned her caucus to dial back impeachment talk this week, Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) surprised his colleagues by tweeting that Trump’s attempts at obstruction “meet the threshold for impeachment.” The break with his party earned him a primary challenger and criticism from House GOP leadership.
At the same time, Trump engaged in a very public mudslinging match with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), which began after the top Democrat suggested after an impeachment discussion with her caucus that she believes Trump is engaged in a “coverup.” According to Pelosi, Trump threw a “tantrum” during a meeting to discuss bipartisan infrastructure initiatives not long after her “coverup” remarks. He reportedly stormed out of the discussion and immediately held a press conference during which he vowed to not work with Democrats on legislation until they stopped investigating him.
Meanwhile, former White House counsel Don McGahn — on the White House’s orders — defied a subpoena to appear before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, infuriating Democrats. Lawyers for Trump were dealt setbacks in Manhattan and D.C. federal courts, where judges blocked White House efforts to prevent the President’s accounting firm and banks from complying with congressional subpoenas. The White House says it will appeal both cases.
The House Judiciary Committee is still tussling with the Justice Department over the terms of special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony. Mueller is reportedly concerned about appearing political and wants any testimony he gives to be private, committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said Thursday.
Back on the Paul Manafort beat, a bank CEO who loaned the former Trump campaign chairman $16 million — allegedly in the hope of securing a post in the Trump administration — was indicted on Thursday and charged with financial institution bribery.
We also saw the return of two Trump administration alum this week: Ex-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly testified about the administration’s interactions with Russia behind closed doors on Tuesday and the House Judiciary Committee issued former White House communications director Hope Hicks a subpoena.
Meanwhile, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson granted Roger Stone permission to travel to Memphis to work as a celebrity judge for a stripping contest. Because of course that’s what Stone’s up to.