Rachel Maddow reports on the evasiveness and obstruction of testimony by former Donald Trump aide Hope Hicks before the House Judiciary Committee, but finds insight in a passage about how the Trump campaign handled the Access Hollywood tape while a rumored lewd tape of Trump with Russian prostitutes was assigned to Michael Cohen to handle.
Cohen said he acted on his own in paying Clifford. Trump agreed, saying he didn’t know about the payment. In this case, Cohen was not acting as Trump’s attorney in the transaction, and there is no attorney-client relationship since, according to the president, there are no communications in which he sought legal advice. Trump has essentially waived the attorney-client protection on this issue. Moreover, if any of the materials obtained were used in furtherance of a crime, they are subject to a crime-fraud exception to the attorney-client privilege.
His conviction that it was still in play, however, is probably a consequence of the way he and other affluent figures have long used attorney-client privilege as a preemptive shield. Whether they realize prosecutors have ways to navigate the attorney-client privilege, they know that getting around it is never easy.
.. This presumption of privilege can give cover to criminal actors. Well-heeled criminals often include attorneys in their illicit communications to shield their activity from discovery. Conversely, people who are familiar with the privilege often assume it’s stronger than it really is: Former White House aide Hope Hicks reportedly alarmed Mark Corallo, former spokesman for Trump’s legal team, when she made a potentially compromising statement without a lawyer present and thus — in Corallo’s view — unprotected by the attorney-client privilege. The mere presence of a lawyer would not, in practice, have made the conversation legally privileged. Nevertheless, Corallo’s assumption that it could have shielded the comment from discovery speaks to the way Trump and his ilk have attempted to take advantage of attorney-client privilege.
“An attack on our country.”
.. But a lawful raid on his attorney’s office and hotel room is what prompted the president to use those immensely weighted words. They’re a signal — make that a siren — of how cornered he feels, how monstrously large his belief in his own persecution has grown and what a perilous situation America is in.
.. Some unrelated swipe at perceived enemies or random assertion of potency by a man who cannot bear any image of impotence and is always ginning up distractions, as both a matter of strategy and a function of temperament?
.. He was telling us, yet again, not to trust our own government. And he was reminding us, in shocking fashion, about his readiness to sell (and buy) fictions if they serve his self-interest, which he reliably puts before all else.
.. Even though Cohen is the apparent focus of their interest, Trump, too, must feel hideously exposed. This is a man who refused, despite intense pressure, to release his tax returns
.. Now information that may be much more private, and much more damning, is in strangers’ hands.
.. Trump, during a meeting that was supposed to be about Syria, went on and on about the “disgrace” (he used that word seven times) of Mueller’s investigation
.. It was the full martyr complex and all the greatest hits in one meltdown. Mike Pence sat stone-faced on one side of him, John Bolton without much expression on the other. It’s hard to imagine either of them having the rapport with Trump to calm him down.
.. There is no Hope Hicks anymore, no Rob Porter, no Gary Cohn, no H. R. McMaster: The ranks of people who either gave Trump a sense of comfort and stability or sought to steer him away from his most destructive impulses have thinned. He’s more alone than ever. He must be more frightened, too.
But not half as scared as the rest of us should be.
Tom Bossert is leaving as homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, an abrupt departure that comes as President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser moves to establish power.
.. Mr. Bossert’s position was on the same level as that of John Bolton, who just began as national security adviser on Monday. His departure also came days after Michael Anton, a spokesman for the National Security Council, resigned
.. Mr. Bossert came into the job with high praise from lawmakers from both parties. But after he took the job, current and former staffers at the National Security Council said he repeatedly clashed with former national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, and they said Mr. Bossert failed to develop a cyberstrategy or a counterterrorism policy as planned.
.. Mr. Bossert’s departure is likely to empower Mr. Bolton
.. Mr. Bossert’s departure was a sign that Mr. Bolton was quickly moving to consolidate power.
.. “This is an assertion of the primacy of the national security adviser,” the person said.
President Trump repeated on Thursday his false assertion that the United States runs a trade deficit with Canada, the morning after privately telling Republican donors that he had deliberately insisted on that claim in a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada without knowing whether it was true.
Mr. Trump’s private admission to having a loose grasp of the facts and his public refusal to back down from the incorrect statement — the United States has an overall surplus in trade with Canada — were vivid illustrations of the president’s cavalier attitude about the truth, and a reminder of how that approach has taken hold at the White House.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said Mr. Trump had chosen his figures selectively in the conversation with Mr. Trudeau and in a subsequent Twitter post that repeated the claim. The president was referring only to the trade of goods, which ignores the larger trade surplus in services the United States exports to Canada, Ms. Sanders said.
And in a briefing with reporters, she acknowledged that Mr. Trump had fabricated an anecdote he told the donors about unfair trading practices — Japanese officials, he claimed, conduct a test on American cars by dropping a bowling ball on their hoods from 20 feet high, and those that dent are barred from being imported.
“Obviously, he’s joking about this particular test,” Ms. Sanders told reporters who confronted her about the veracity of the tale. “But it illustrates the creative ways some countries are able to keep American goods out of their markets.”
Her explanation came two weeks after Hope Hicks, the White House communications director, told lawmakers on Capitol Hill that she sometimes told white lies on behalf of Mr. Trump.
The latest instance of Mr. Trump bending the truth emerged after The Washington Post published an account of the president boasting about his disingenuous exchange with Mr. Trudeau at a fund-raising dinner on Wednesday night in Missouri. On Thursday, the president refused to back down from the erroneous claim about the trade balance between the United States and Canada.
“We do have a Trade Deficit with Canada, as we do with almost all countries (some of them massive),” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. In an audio recording from the dinner obtained by The Post, a transcript of which was published on Thursday, Mr. Trump recounted how he pressed that point in a meeting with Mr. Trudeau even though he had “no idea” whether it was true.
The United States ran a trade surplus of $600 million in goods and services with Canada in January, according to the Commerce Department
.. But during the fund-raiser for a Senate candidate in Missouri, Mr. Trump said he had refused to concede the point in a meeting with Mr. Trudeau, as the prime minister repeatedly pushed back.
“He said, ‘No, no, we have no trade deficit with you, we have none; Donald, please,’” Mr. Trump told the donors according to the transcript, calling Mr. Trudeau a “nice guy, good-looking.”
“I said, ‘Wrong, Justin, you do.’ I didn’t even know,” Mr. Trump said. “I had no idea. I just said, ‘You’re wrong.’ You know why? Because we’re so stupid.”
Mr. Trump’s retelling drew rebukes from some diplomats and lawmakers who argued that it reflected a dangerous penchant by the commander in chief to misrepresent the truth.
“The president’s admission that he’s literally making things up while speaking face-to-face with a world leader should stop us all in our tracks,” said Representative Eliot L. Engel, Democrat of New York and the ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. “How can any other government — ally or adversary — have any confidence in what our president says when he admits to lying?”
During the conversation, the president said he and Mr. Trudeau had tangled repeatedly about the trade balance, with the prime minister saying, “Nope, we have no trade deficit,” and Mr. Trump ultimately sending an aide to, “Check, because I can’t believe it.”
The president then claimed that his contention had been validated, appearing to quote an aide he said had told him, “‘Well sir you’re actually right. We have no deficit, but that doesn’t include energy and timber. But when you do, we lose $17 billion a year.’ It’s incredible.”
.. Officials in Mr. Trump’s administration insisted that the United States runs a steel trade deficit with Canada even though data from both governments show that trade is balanced.
.. Mr. Trump’s top trade negotiators have presented a list of demands for revising Nafta that Canada has declared unacceptable. Mr. Trudeau has said that Canada is prepared to abandon Nafta rather than accept a “bad deal” and Mr. Trump has similarly threatened to withdraw from the pact.
.. Bruce A. Heyman, the United States ambassador to Canada under President Barack Obama, said that Mr. Trump’s approach was “creating a crisis where none existed before.”
“Lying to your friends only hurts the relationship,” Mr. Heyman wrote on Twitter. “Canada has been there for us thru thick and thin. How can you just casually damage this realtionship?”
The top candidates emerging from inside the White House, multiple officials said, are director of strategic communications Mercedes Schlapp, a veteran of the George W. Bush administration who has become a Kelly ally in his battle against Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner; and Tony Sayegh, assistant secretary for public affairs at the Treasury Department... There is also a broad internal base of support for press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to take on the job, adding overall messaging strategy.. The communications shop has long been one of the rockiest departments in the West Wing, with the top job there viewed now as a thankless task of overseeing messaging for a message-resistant, Twitter-happy president... Trump likes to revive names from his original, campaign inner circle.. Jason Miller, a veteran of the 2016 campaign, has been floated internally as a potential candidate for the job. Miller was first tapped for the communications director job during the transition in 2016, but was unable to take the job for personal reasons. He has managed to remain a favorite of the president, though, for his Trump-defending commentary on CNN... the role Hicks played is not replaceable — she was one of Trump’s closest confidantes, serving as a resource for colleagues who relied on her help reading the president’s moods.
She’s a strategic adviser in President Donald Trump’s West Wing. He’s a lobbyist who moonlights as the head of the American Conservative Union, which hosts the annual Conservative Political Action Conference — a key gathering for Trump supporters.
.. Mercedes and Matt Schlapp, a power couple tailor-made for Trump’s Washington... , Mercedes Schlapp — known as Mercy — is among the leading candidates to become communications director after the resignation last week of Hope Hicks... The move, said to be favored by White House chief of staff John Kelly.. Other internal candidates under consideration include Treasury spokesman Tony Sayegh and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who could take on a dual role, as her predecessor, Sean Spicer, did... Schlapp, a former Fox News contributor.. Schlapp is also well-liked by the president, in part because her husband is so often on television defending him... A veteran of the George W. Bush White House and the Koch brothers’ Washington operation, Matt Schlapp was elected chair of the American Conservative Union.. “Matt has successfully been representative of the conservative movement and been able to defend Trump without looking like a sycophant.. in 2017, when Schlapp invited alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos.. This year, the conference hosted a range of speakers from what were once the fringes of the Republican Party, and even hosted French nationalist Marion Le Pen.
.. “The sort of personality cult aspect of the Trump presidency … have caused people to have sort of a fire sale on long-established conservative principles,” Goldberg said.
.. “Those conservatives who are dubious about President Trump’s approach have withered down to next to nothing,”
.. “It’s not CPAC’s change of attitude toward Trump, it’s the American conservative activists who have changed their attitude toward Trump. … By the way, we agree with them.”
.. Schlapp’s lobbying firm, brought in more than $1 million in revenue in 2017 — up from $640,000 in 2016 and $600,000 in 2015.
.. “He has professionalized the conservative movement to be the backbone of the Republican president in power,” Lanza said. “I think he would have been equally successful if it were President Jeb or President Cruz