Following Friday's indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said Saturday "the evidence is now incontrovertible" that Moscow interfered in the 2016 election. McMaster's statement stands in sharp contrast to President Trump's Friday claim that "results of the election were not impacted" by Russia's "anti-U.S. campaign."
Meanwhile, White House representative Raj Shah mostly echoed Trump on Fox News Friday evening. He argued Russian "efforts were about sowing confusion in the electoral process and undermining the next president, not about supporting one candidate over the other." Mueller's indictment specifically accused its targets of conspiring to "defraud the United States," including by "supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump."
McMaster was speaking at the Munich Security Conference in Germany when he made his remarks. Also there was Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who declined to comment on the indictment. "You can publish anything and we can see those indictments multiplying," Lavrov said. "Until we see the facts everything else is just blabber." Bonnie Kristian
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday drew a contrast between Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who is "accepting responsibility, apologizing" for sexual misconduct allegations made against him, and President Trump and Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, "who have done neither."
Her remarks came a day after Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, should have resigned over the Monica Lewinsky scandal, while allowing that the political climate surrounding sexual misconduct was different in the 1990s. "Things have changed today, and I think under those circumstances, there should be a very different reaction," Gillibrand said. "And I think in light of this conversation, we should have a very different conversation about President Trump, and a very different conversation about allegations against him."
Gillibrand is historically a Clinton ally, and her comments are the latest development in the Democratic Party's renewed debate and division over sexual harassment and assault accusations against Bill Clinton. Clinton defenders argue it is disingenuous to suggest the former president escaped consequences for his behavior by putting him in the same category as Trump and Moore. Bonnie Kristian
Ousted White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon attacked fellow Republican former President George W. Bush while speaking at the California GOP convention banquet Friday evening.
"There has not been a more destructive presidency than George Bush's," Bannon said, arguing that Bush "embarrassed himself" with a "high falutin" speech in New York City on Thursday. Bush's talk did not mention President Trump by name, but its decrial of "discourse degraded by casual cruelty" was widely regarded as a critique of Trump.
Bush "has no earthly idea of whether he's coming or going," Bannon added Friday, "just like it was when he was president."
Watch Bannon's full speech below — the Bush comments begin around the 24-minute mark — and read The Week's Paul Waldman on why even Trump critics shouldn't misremember Dubya as a representative of a nobler age and a nobler GOP. Bonnie Kristian
"We have many options for" dealing with the ongoing political unrest in Venezuela, President Trump said Friday. "I am not going to rule out a military option," he added, noting the United States has "troops all over the world in places that are very, very far away" and "Venezuela is not very far away."
— CNN (@CNN) August 11, 2017
Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino labeled Trump's comments "a crazy act, an act of supreme extremism." The Department of Defense said in a statement the "Pentagon has not received any orders with regards to Venezuela," calling rumors of a U.S. invasion "baseless." Bonnie Kristian
Republican lawmakers have rallied to urge President Trump against firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, an option Trump has repeatedly indicated he is considering.
Sessions' most eager defender may be Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who called Sessions "one of the most decent people I’ve ever met in my political life" and labeled Trump's tweets about him "highly inappropriate." Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted his statement Wednesday morning:
Served with Jeff Sessions for 6 yrs. Always honest & transparent. When he's with you no better ally,when against you,tough adversary 1/2
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) July 26, 2017
Jeff Session's not caricature created by those who don't know him. Even when we disagreed on immigration I saw his fairness & kindness 2/2
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) July 26, 2017
Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Luther Strange (R-Ala.), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) all stated their support for Sessions' character, as did former lawmaker Newt Gingrich. "There's a lot of good in Jeff Sessions," Gingrich said Monday. "I think it would be a big mistake for the president to do anything except move forward with him."
Lawmakers slam Trump's Russia cybersecurity proposal: 'We might as well mail our ballot boxes to Moscow'
President Trump's early morning tweets proposing the U.S. "move forward in working constructively with Russia" by "forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit" with Moscow to prevent election hacking were met with swift condemnation Sunday among members of his own party.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) shared his response on Twitter, conceding "reality & pragmatism requires [sic] that we engage Vladimir Putin" and maintaining the U.S. has "no quarrel with Russia or the Russian people," but also dropping this line:
Partnering with Putin on a "Cyber Security Unit" is akin to partnering with Assad on a "Chemical Weapons Unit". 2/3
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) July 9, 2017
Meanwhile, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) gave his reaction during an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press:
Graham on Trump discussing cybersecurity unit w/Russia: “not the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard—but it’s pretty close” pic.twitter.com/vTRbLSAGL1
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) July 9, 2017
"It's not the dumbest idea I've ever heard — but it's pretty close," Graham said. "When it comes to Russia I am dumbfounded, I am disappointed, and at the end of the day [Trump is] hurting his presidency by not embracing the fact that Putin is a bad guy."
The president also came under fire from across the aisle. If the U.S. is going to work with Russia on election hacking, "we might as well mail our ballot boxes to Moscow," said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on CNN's State of the Union, calling Trump's idea "dangerously naïve." Bonnie Kristian
President Trump used Saturday's terror attack in London as an occasion to tout his travel ban executive order targeting Muslim-majority countries, which remains stalled pending a Supreme Court ruling. "We need to be smart, vigilant and tough," he wrote on Twitter. "We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!"
Trump's rallying cry has not been met with universal acclaim, including within his own party. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said on Fox News Sunday he believes "the president does have certainly the right to put in place extreme vetting," but that this could be accomplished "without a travel ban."
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was even less enthusiastic. "I think that the travel ban is too broad and that is why it has been rejected by the courts," she said Sunday in a CBS interview, while allowing that the U.S. should do a "better job of vetting."
Across the aisle, Trump's raising of the travel ban topic also came under fire from former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, who served under President Obama. "There's a very real risk that by stigmatizing and isolating Muslims from particular countries, and Muslims in general, that we alienate the very communities here in the United States whose cooperation we most need to detect and prevent these homegrown extremists from being able to carry out attacks," she said while appearing on ABC News. Bonnie Kristian
Senior adviser Jared Kushner and chief strategist Stephen Bannon are reportedly attempting to smooth their differences as competing power centers in the Trump White House after reports on Friday suggested Bannon was on thin ice.
President Trump ordered a "bury-the-hatchet meeting" between the two top aides while senior administration staff weekended at Mar-a-Lago, Politico reports. "Work this out," Trump said, per two accounts given to The New York Times, expressing frustration with media coverage of administration infighting.
A White House statement to the Times denied the entire narrative of a potential shake-up in White House staff. "Once again this is a completely false story driven by people who want to distract from the success taking place in this administration," said White House representative Sarah Huckabee Sanders. "The only thing we are shaking up is the way Washington operates as we push the president’s aggressive agenda forward." Bonnie Kristian