Trump faces new challenges

Trump still has the bully pulpit, but is facing more challenges to his authority

In recent weeks, Congress has moved on a number of fronts to curtail the president’s authority. Lawmakers passed legislation limiting his ability to lift sanctions on Russia and the Republican-controlled Senate will not formally adjourn this month to prevent Trump from making any recess appointments, a tactic usually employed when the president is from the opposite party. Amid increasing concerns about Trump’s attitude toward the federal investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation this week aimed at preventing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III from being fired.

Trump is also facing the reality that his words — or tweets — are often not having their desired impact. Three Republican senators defied him and congressional leadership in opposing efforts to move the Republican health-care bill forward. His entreaties to lawmakers to delay their summer break and stay in Washington to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act were summarily ignored.

Federal employees step up defiance of Trump

Government employees are growing increasingly willing to criticize or defy the White House and President Trump’s top appointees.

A handful of current and former career staffers in the Interior Department and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have openly shredded their superiors within the last several weeks, continuing a trend that has developed throughout the government over the course of Trump’s tenure in the Oval Office.

The growing opposition in the executive branch comes as the White House’s legislative agenda has stalled in Congress and Trump turns to his Cabinet agencies to change course in several policy areas. It also is emanating from career staffers or political holdovers whose resistance to Trump has, at times, been rooted in deep opposition to the president’s agenda.

Obama's army takes on Trump

OFA isn't sitting still. It's already looking at plans to go into 2018 with a massive voter registration drive that could become its main project ahead of the midterms.

First, though, OFA will spend Congress’ August recess sending organizers to town halls and district offices. It has a calendar of “accountability” (read: protest) and “appreciation” (read: drop-ins like the one to deliver cupcakes to Sen. Joe Manchin’s West Virginia office last week) events, based on senators’ votes on repealing Obamacare. They’re showing up to cheer for John McCain, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, and yell at people like Jeff Flake and Dean Heller.

OFA has organized thousands of people to attend events protesting the president’s policies, while also advising new progressive groups taking shape. Matt Traldi, a top organizer at Indivisible, met with OFA in January for a primer on what the group does and how. Others, like Swing Left, have come for crash courses. And since April, some 1,000 people in 29 states have participated in the group’s six-week fellowship program.

“If anything changed, it’s the interest level of people who were not previously active — not the type of people, but the numbers,” said Hogan. “Now there is a recognition of what we were always doing.”

Trump's trip to Bedminster prompts protesters to get creative

Locals can still drive past the Bedminster club, so the local chapter of We the People has taken police orders to “keep moving” literally, forming a motorcade that circles around the lavish course each Saturday, whether Trump is in town or not.

Additional past tactics have included hanging large signs on overpasses and even spurring actions inside the club — from coordinated pink hats to the occasional attempted heckle — which the organizers briefly pulled off during the LPGA tournament at Trump National in mid-July.

For the president’s vacation, Girvan, a local, says he’s organizing more than a hundred cyclists to make loops around the area, which would be only as fast as 10 to 15 miles per hour — which will slow down traffic.

The name for the fresh tactic? The pedal-cade.

“It’s a call-out to all liberal cyclists!” said Girvan. He added: “As long as he’s here, we’ll be here.”

Sen. Jeff Flake’s flame-throwing polemic takes aim at Trump

The most newsworthy parts of Flake’s new book, “Conscience of a Conservative,” are his frontal attacks on the president. He writes that the GOP’s “Faustian bargain” to embrace Trump as a way to advance its agenda has backfired by putting sacred institutions and the rule of law at risk. He refers to Trump as a carnival barker, expresses alarm about the president’s affection for authoritarian rulers and calls out his Republican colleagues in Congress as enablers.

Russia investigation is heating way up!

Mueller investigation enters new phase

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of potential coordination between President Trump’s campaign and Russia has moved into a new phase with the impaneling of a grand jury.

By taking the step, legal experts say, Mueller is indicating that he has found evidence of criminal activity and that the investigation will extend beyond Trump’s ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn.

“We don’t know exactly what these developments portend, other than that there’s actually some significant criminal charges being considered,” said Stephen Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas Law School.

“It is a more serious phase, because it suggests that the special counsel has reached a point where he is up to presenting evidence to a grand jury.”

Mueller requests White House documents on Flynn

it is the first known instance of the special counsel, which is probing ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, requesting documents from the White House.

It also shows that the special counsel probe has expanded into an examination of Flynn's financial deals, beyond disclosures about his conversations and business arrangements with Russian officials

The list of things that Michael Flynn could be charged for seems to be expanding

If Flynn’s firm did in fact hide the source of funding and paid middlemen to help cover the tracks, it would open Flynn up to a variety of criminal charges — including fraud.

That’s a big deal, because it expands the already substantial list of things that could open Flynn up to criminal charges.

In public discussions over Flynn’s work on behalf of Turkish interests, most of it has focused on his failure to register as a foreign agent.

FARA is typically lightly enforced — the Justice Department tends to bug violators to comply with it rather than taking them to court. But it is a felony if registration is violated intentionally, and it can be punished with prison time. 

But now it seems that Flynn is also being investigated for hiding the true origins of payments for his lobbying and funneling the money through a third party. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Mueller’s investigation is also looking into whether Flynn misled FBI agents about the nature of his discussions with the Russian ambassador to the US in December. It is illegal to lie to the FBI, and federal prosecutors routinely bring charges in such cases.

U.S. Reportedly Intercepted Suspected Russian Agents' Chatter That Manafort Asked for Their Help With Clinton

Buried in a long story on CNN Thursday recapping the current state of play in the Russia investigation was a reminder that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who is largely out of the spotlight at the moment, may not be for long. Manafort, who had spent years on the political fringes helping dictators and strongmen get elected around the world and then lobbying on their behalf in Washington, came out of nowhere to join the Trump campaign, and then take over the reins when Corey Lewandowski was fired in June 2016.* By that time, unusual communications between the Trump campaign and Russian officials had pinged on U.S. intelligence agencies’ radar. As did Trump’s new right hand man.

CNN has learned that investigators became more suspicious when they turned up intercepted communications that U.S. intelligence agencies collected among suspected Russian operatives discussing their efforts to work with Manafort, who served as campaign chairman for three months, to coordinate information that could damage Hillary Clinton's election prospects, the US officials say. The suspected operatives relayed what they claimed were conversations with Manafort, encouraging help from the Russians.

Robert Mueller’s grand jury 

Like Bill Clinton before him, Trump will be compelled to give testimony. He might want to start working on that honesty thing so the special counsel doesn't nail him on that perjury thing, as independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr did Clinton. He could use some practice on telling the truth. This week, the Washington Post proved him a liar not once but twice. Lie No. 1: You may recall that Trump denied—through his lawyers—any knowledge of the meeting his son Donald Jr. took in June 2016 with Russians at Trump Tower. But then the Post reported that Trump dictatedJunior's original public statement that the meeting was primarily about adoption. Lie No. 2: Remember how Trump tweeted back in February that, contrary to the reporting from the "FAKE NEWS media" (specifically the Washington Post), he had enjoyed a "very civil conversation" on the phone with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull? Another whopper, as the Post this week published transcripts of the Trump-Turnbull conversation that proved the call was just as uncivil as the Post previously reported.

And expect Mueller to deliver something big. Very big. This is, after all, his last great hunt.

Rosenstein: Special counsel Mueller can investigate any crimes he uncovers in Russia probe

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein said Sunday that the expanding investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election is continuing apace, even as President Trump dismissed the probe as “a total fabrication.”

Rosenstein said special counsel Robert S. Mueller III can investigate any crimes that he might discover within the scope of his probe, but the deputy attorney general would not discuss which individuals are the subject of their inquiry. The interview comes days after Trump said he believes it would be inappropriate for Mueller to dig into Trump family finances.

Other news

Republicans aren’t tired of winning under Trump. In fact, more think they’re losing.

more Republican and GOP-leaning voters say their side is losing on the issues that matter to them, according to a new poll.

But asking the question in this way is a bit more revealing than asking whether people like or approve of Trump or think the country is winning. Responses to those questions tend to be dripping with partisanship and draw pretty predictable answers. People don't want to look like they are criticizing a president with whom they share a party affiliation and for whom they may have real affection.

This is more of a measure of bona fide political progress for your side of the debate, and Republicans clearly aren't tired — or even a little drowsy — of the winning that they've been doing.

And as Philip Bump pointed out this week, there are signs that the GOP base is souring, ever so slightly, on Trump. Just more than half — 53 percent — of Republicans had a strongly favorable view of him in a new Quinnipiac poll; that's down from a previous low of 62 percent in Quinnipiac's regular polling.

Chicago to sue over 'misguided' sanctuary city warning

The city of Chicago says it plans to file a lawsuit against the US Justice Department on Monday over new stipulations placed on federal law enforcement grant money requiring local police departments to assist in federal immigration actions.

Reporters Not Being Pursued in Leak Investigations, Justice Dept. Says

Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, said on Sunday that the Justice Department was not pursuing reporters as part of its growing number of leak investigations, just two days after he and other department officials had appeared to signal a harsher line toward journalists.

“We don’t prosecute journalists for doing their jobs,” Mr. Rosenstein said on “Fox News Sunday.” “That’s not our goal here.”

Stealth trolling is turning some of Reddit’s worst corners into funny, harmless delights

Fans of the color white have had enough. On Reddit, they’re joining forces to resist the takeover of their color by racists.

You might say they’re throwing shades.

As the Daily Beast reports, trolls on Reddit have gotten fed up with the encroachment by right-wing extremists onto the site’s more mainstream areas. So they’ve taken over a few dormant white supremacist subreddits themselves — and filled them with topical debates about colors.

Reddit’s r/WhitePolitics and r/Whites subreddits have both been taken over and turned into havens of color discussion. For example: The link described as “why whites must be separated from blacks” above directs to an article on laundry sorting.