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Trump explains why he refused to answer Mueller's questions under oath

06/14/19 10:05AM

Despite having boasted last year that he was "looking forward to" an interview with then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Donald Trump never actually sat down with investigators to answer their questions. The president eventually agreed to answer written questions, though Trump's answers were deemed "inadequate" – and in some cases, "incomplete or imprecise"– by Mueller and his team.

Multiple news accounts concluded that Trump's lawyers refused to let their client testify because they were concerned that the president, unable to control himself, would lie under oath.

With this in mind, Trump sat down with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, who had lengthy exchanges with the president about the investigation into the Russia scandal. It led to a striking exchange:

"If you answer these questions to me now," Stephanopoulos asked, "why not answer them to Robert Mueller under oath?"

"Because they were looking to get us for lies or slight misstatements," Trump said.

Oh. So the president believed federal investigators were looking for instances in which he lied under oath, which left him with a limited number of options: Trump could (a) refuse to fully cooperate with the probe; or (b) he could tell the truth.

The Republican chose the former over the latter.

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Trump and his team confront their crisis of credibility

06/14/19 09:20AM

When Donald Trump first spoke to ABC News' George Stephanopoulos this week, the president was preoccupied with reports about his poor standing in public opinion polls. Stephanopoulos asked why he was so bothered by the reports.

"Because, it's untrue," Trump replied. "I like the truth. I'm actually a very honest guy."

It was his use of the word "actually" that stood out for me. The president must realize on some level that he's seen as one of the world's most flamboyantly dishonest people -- a reputation he's earned by lying so frequently, more than a few observers have raised concerns about his mental stability.

"I'm actually a very honest guy" is a hilariously false claim, but it comes with an unfortunate subtext: Trump almost seemed to suggest, "It might surprise people to hear that I'm honest, but..."

A day later, NPR's Steve Inskeep sat down with Peter Navarro, a controversial White House figure who's helping guide the president's agenda on trade. The host inquired about Trump's claims about a secret side deal with Mexico:

INSKEEP: I do have to ask ... about this purported secret agreement. The president says he has one. Mexico says he doesn't have one. Who's not telling the truth?

NAVARRO: The president always tells the truth.

As best as I can tell, Navarro wasn't trying to be funny. He actually expects people to believe that Trump is honest.

To be sure, it would be great if anyone could take boasts like these seriously, but in this presidency, it's just not an option. Trump has proven himself to be untrustworthy. His lies are innumerable.

The result is a crisis of credibility that the White House may not fully appreciate, but which the president and his team are nevertheless being forced to confront.

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Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., participates in a news conference.

Indicted GOP congressman's life just got a lot more complicated

06/14/19 08:40AM

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) recently made national headlines for his controversial comments about war crimes. But as alarming as the lawmaker's comments were, they weren't his most serious problem.

This is Hunter's most serious problem.

The wife of indicted Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to misuse campaign funds, including for an Italy trip that cost more than $10,000.

Margaret Hunter, who worked as her husband's campaign manager, had previously pleaded not guilty to corruption charges alleging the couple used more than $250,000 in campaign funds to pay for personal trips, hotel rooms and shopping sprees.

On Thursday, she withdrew that plea in U.S. court in San Diego and pleaded guilty to a single count carrying a sentence of up to five years in prison. The move suggests she is cooperating with the prosecution and might even testify against her husband, whose trial is scheduled for September.

In case anyone needs a refresher, the GOP congressman and his wife were charged last summer, and the criminal indictment was quite brutal: federal prosecutors alleged that the Hunters stole more than $250,000 in campaign funds and used the money to pay for personal purchases, ranging from trips to school tuition to dental work to veterinary care.

As if that weren't enough, the Hunters allegedly went to great lengths to cover up the scheme: according to prosecutors, they made fraudulent claims that their purchases were for charities, including veterans' charities. A Washington Post report added that the prosecutors' allegations "read like a caricature of a corrupt, greedy politician."

The Republican's defense has evolved a bit over time.

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Meet the Republican who blocked the election-interference bill

06/14/19 08:00AM

On the surface, some congressional Republicans have expressed their discomfort with Donald Trump inviting foreign interference in American elections. Whether these GOP lawmakers are prepared to do anything about these concerns is another matter entirely.

Yesterday, Senate Democrats offered their Republican colleagues an opportunity to demonstrate their sincerity on the matter. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the vice-chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, asked members to unanimously approve his bill called the Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections Act (FIRE Act), which does one simple thing: it legally requires campaigns to report attempts at foreign elections interference to the FBI and the FEC.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) blocked it. To put it mildly, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) was not pleased, delivering remarks soon after from the chamber's floor:

"This one is a new low. It's okay for foreign powers to interfere? You don't have to report it to law enforcement? That's welcoming foreign powers to interfere, and as my friend from Virginia said, the president's own FBI director said it's going to happen again in 2020. 'But let's cover it up, because it might have an effect that we like,' say our Republican friends.

"Today is a new low for this Senate, for this Republican Party here in the Senate, and for this democracy.... It is truly outrageous that this unanimous consent request, which should bring all of us together, is being blocked by our Republican friends."

I don't imagine we've heard the last of this -- House Democrats, for example, are very likely to pass their own legislation on this issue -- but before moving on, it's worth pausing to appreciate Marsha Blackburn's role in yesterday's developments.

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Thursday's Mini-Report, 6.13.19

06/13/19 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's remarks on this were not accompanied by evidence: "An American-guided missile destroyer was sent to assist two burning tankers in the Gulf of Oman, following what the Trump administration on Thursday described as a 'blatant assault' by Iran."

* Now that the White House has effectively ended press briefings, I guess the question is whether she'll be replaced: "White House press secretary Sarah Sanders is leaving her post at the end of June, President Donald Trump said Thursday."

* Flint: "Prosecutors investigating the deadly lead-poisoned water crisis in Flint, Michigan, dropped criminal charges against eight people, including the former head of the state's health department."

* Subpoenas of note: "The House Intelligence Committee has issued subpoenas for former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former deputy Trump campaign chairman Rick Gates, two of former special counsel Robert Mueller's most important cooperators."

* Investigating the investigators: "Justice Department officials intend to interview senior C.I.A. officers as they review the Russia investigation, according to people briefed on the matter, indicating they are focused partly on the intelligence agencies' most explosive conclusion about the 2016 election: that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia intervened to benefit Donald J. Trump."

* Schiff talked about this on the show last night: "House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on Wednesday threatened to subpoena the FBI for information about the original counterintelligence investigation into Russian interference. Schiff said he has been unable to get briefings or information on the status or findings of the counterintelligence probe, including on whether it was ever shuttered."

* In the current administration, this is not a great job: "President Donald Trump intends to appoint Eric Ueland, a senior White House aide with vast experience in the Senate, as the next director of legislative affairs at the White House."

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About The Rachel Maddow Show

Launched in 2008, “The Rachel Maddow Show” follows the machinations of policy making in America, from local political activism to international diplomacy. Rachel Maddow looks past the distractions of political theater and stunts and focuses on the legislative proposals and policies that shape American life - as well as the people making and influencing those policies and their ultimate outcome, intended or otherwise.

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