I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Friday, April 13, 2018. 207 days until Election Day 2018. 935 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It was a busy news day in Trumpworld. Here's a roundup of what you need to know:
Comey's book rollout begins
The first portions of former FBI Director James Comey's book were published on Thursday. In the memoir, Comey describes Trump as "unethical and untethered to truth," adding that his leadership style is "transactional, ego driven and about personal loyalty." Comey details his interactions with Trump during the transition and the first five months of his presidency, from his first meeting with the President-elect about Russian interference to the dinner where he claims Trump demanded loyalty, as well as other meetings and phone calls that Comey saw as an affront to the FBI's independence.
Repeatedly, Comey writes, Trump brought up the "golden showers thing": the allegation about prostitutes in a Moscow hotel that originates from the Steele dossier, which the then-FBI chief described to President-elect Trump just after the election. In Comey's telling, Trump frequently urged him to investigate the allegation and insisted, for various reasons, that it is untrue.
Comey's memoir, "A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership," will be released on Tuesday; the ousted FBI Director will embark on a full-on media tour to promote it next week, starting with an ABC prime-time special on Sunday and including appearances on the "Late Show with Stephen Colbert," "The View," and a CNN town hall, among others. Read more: The Washington Post's roundup of revelations in the book... The New York Times' review of Comey's book...
--- President Trump responded to Comey on Twitter this morning, calling him a "slime ball" who "should be prosecuted" and saying that it was his "great honor" to fire the former FBI Director. At 8:01am: "James Comey is a proven LEAKER & LIAR. Virtually everyone in Washington thought he should be fired for the terrible job he did-until he was, in fact, fired. He leaked CLASSIFIED information, for which he should be prosecuted. He liked to Congress under OATH. He is a weak and....."
At 8:17am: "....untruthful slime ball who was, as time has proven, a terrible Director of the FBI. His handling of the Crooked Hillary Clinton case, and the events surrounding it, will go down as one of the worst 'botch jobs' of history. It was my great honor to fire James Comey!"
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President Trump plans to pardon Scooter Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, numerous news outlets have reported. Libby was convicted in 2007 of lying to the FBI and obstruction of justice in the investigation of the leak of the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame. His 30-month sentence was commuted by President George W. Bush, but he never received a formal pardon, despite lobbying from Cheney and other conservatives. Trump "has already signed off on the pardon," according to ABC News, which was first to report the news.
Big picture: Libby's conviction was the result of the most recent special counsel investigation before the Mueller probe, and Trump's rare use of the pardon power for him raises whether he would do the same for political allies of his wrapped up in the current investigation.
President Trump issued an executive order on Thursday creating a task force to evaluate the U.S. Postal Service's finances. The surprise order, announced late at night, follows the president's claims that the Postal Service was losing money serving as the "Delivery Boy" for online retailer Amazon. "The president does not mention Amazon in the order, but it is clear that he intends for the panel to substantiate his repeated claim that the financial arrangement between the Postal Service and Amazon, its biggest shipper of packages, is a money loser," according to the New York Times.
In a meeting with Republican lawmakers on Thursday, President Trump directed National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to examine whether the U.S. should re-enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership. "Larry, go get it done," Trump said, according to Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE). The move is a significant flip-flop for the president, who withdrew from the trade pact on his third day in office. "Would only join TPP if the deal were substantially better than the deal offered to Pres. Obama,” Trump tweeted later in the night. “We already have BILATERAL deals with six of the eleven nations in TPP, and are working to make a deal with the biggest of those nations, Japan, who has hit us hard on trade for years!”
Meanwhile... President Trump met with his national security team for 90 minutes on Thursday to discuss options for responding to a chemical weapons attack in Syria. "No final decision has been made," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said. President Trump tweeted Wednesday that a missile strike "will be coming," although he walked the comment back in a Thursday tweet, when he said that a response attack "could be very soon or not so soon at all!"
President Trump met with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Mueller probe, on Thursday, days after criticizing Rosenstein's handling of the Russia investigation. Rosenstein had been scheduled to speak at a Justice Department event marking the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, but instead was called to the Oval Office, where he met with the president about "routine" Justice Department business, according to the White House.
However, Bloomberg reports, the meeting was set up by advisers hoping to "cool tensions" between Trump and Rosenstein, with the latter assuring the former that the DOJ was cooperating with a Republican congressional investigation into the FBI. "Yet the brief meeting at the White House on Thursday afternoon appeared not to defuse the president’s anger over Rosenstein’s approval of an FBI search of Trump’s personal attorney’s office and home in New York," the report said.
Trump has reportedly been musing about firing Rosenstein lately, which would give him more control over the Russia probe. According to CNN, the White House is preparing an effort to undermine Rosenstein's credibility, instructing allies to highlight potential areas of conflict that would preclude the Deputy Attorney General from overseeing the investigation.
--- The meeting comes as Trump's outside allies have increased calls for Rosenstein and Mueller to be fired. CBS News' Jacqueline Alemany: "A source tells me that Trump called yesterday and asked source to go on TV to call for Trump to fire Mueller."
The FBI may have seized recordings made by President Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, in a raid of his home and office, the Washington Post reported. According to the report, Cohen has been known to tape conservations with associates (including Trump aides, and potentially, the president himself) and Trump allies "are worried" that federal investigators seized the recordings.
--- According to NBC News, negotiations between special counsel Robert Mueller's team and President Trump's lawyers over a presidential interview continue, but they have been complicated by the Cohen raid, which sparked new frustrations about the Russia probe inside the White House.
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise said Thursday that he won't run to succeed retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan if Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy seeks the position. "I mean, I've never run against Kevin and wouldn't run against Kevin," the Lousiana Republican said on Fox News, "and he and I are good friends." McCarthy and Scalise are seen as the frontrunners to replace Ryan, who is hoping to avoid a bitter leadership battle. "I was encouraged that Steve Scalise this morning said that he thinks that after the election, Kevin McCarthy ought to be the person to replace me," Ryan told reporters, somewhat exaggerating Scalise's comments.
Trump: The president has no events on his public schedule today, besides his 11:15am intelligence briefing.
Pence: The vice president departs Washington, D.C. for Callao, Peru at 8:15am. He will arrive in Peru at 4:15pm. At 5:15pm, Pence participates in a meeting with Venezuelan opposition leaders at the U.S. Ambassador's residence. At 6:11pm, Pence meets with U.S. Embassy staff and their families. At 7:30pm, he attends the Opening Ceremony of the Summit of the Americas, followed by a 9:45pm banquet hosted by the President of Peru.
Senate: The upper chamber is not in session today.
House: The lower chamber is set to vote on the Volcker Rule Regulatory Harmonization Act.
*All times Eastern