December 08, 2018

😎 Good Saturday morning.

Milestone ... "COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — The U.S. Secret Service has ended its detail for George H.W. Bush after nearly 40 years of protecting the former president, who was known by the code name 'Timberwolf.'"

  • "The agency says its security detail officially ended at 6 a.m. Friday 'with no incidents to report' following Bush's burial Thursday at his presidential library."

1 big thing: When Russia approached, Trump officials gladly obliged

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

The flashing siren in the "known knowns" of the Russia probe is how often people close to Vladimir Putin approached people close to Donald J. Trump — and how often they gladly connected. 

  • And then lied about it.

Two court filings last evening on Michael Cohen — one by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, followed an hour later by special counsel Robert Mueller — put new meat on those bones, show that the contacts go back to 2015, and allude to multiple ongoing investigations.

  • Why it matters: All that broadens the legal risk for Mueller's "Individual 1," the president of the United States.

Connecting the dots I ... Garrett M. Graff writes on WIRED that Mueller’s court filings, "when coupled with other investigative reporting, paint a picture of how the Russian government, through various trusted-but-deniable intermediaries, conducted a series of 'approaches' over the course of the spring of 2016 to officials in Trump's orbit:

  • "The answer, from everyone in Trumpland — from Michael Cohen in January 2016, from George Papadopoulos in spring 2016, from Donald Trump, Jr. in June 2016, from Michael Flynn in December 2016 — appears to have been an unequivocal 'yes.'"
  • "Mueller and [investigative] reporting have shown that the lieutenants in Trump’s orbit rebuffed precisely zero of the known Russian overtures. In fact, quite the opposite. Each approach was met with enthusiasm, and a request for more."
  • "Given every opportunity, most Trump associates — from Paul Manafort to Donald Trump, Jr. to George Papadopoulos — not only allegedly took every offered meeting, and returned every email or phone call, but appeared to take overt action to encourage further contact. Not once did any of them inform the FBI of the contacts."

And it all started even sooner than that. Yesterday's Mueller filing shows that a "Russian national who claimed ties to the Kremlin told ... Cohen ... as early as November 2015 that he could use his Russian government connections to help Trump’s business and political prospects," per the WashPost:

  • Why it matters: "The interaction between a top Trump lieutenant and a Russian citizen who claimed government ties is the latest of dozens of similar interactions that have emerged since the November 2016 election."
  • "Days after Trump’s victory, his spokeswoman Hope Hicks asserted that there had been no contacts of any kind between Trump associates and Russia."

Connecting the dots II ... The intersection of profit and political motives is distilled by CNN legal analyst Elie Honig (hat tip: Brian Stelter):

The puzzle pieces fit together. Trump needed Russia for his business dealings. Russia wanted Trump to win because they could influence or control him. And the Trump team wanted Russian help simply because they thought the Russians could help Trump win the election. Everyone profits, everyone gets what they want.

P.S. Shot ... N.Y. Times lead story: "Federal prosecutors said on Friday that President Trump directed illegal payments to ward off a potential sex scandal that threatened his chances of winning the White House in 2016, putting the weight of the Justice Department behind accusations previously made by his former lawyer," Michael Cohen.

  • Chaser ... Trump tweeted shortly after the filing: "Totally clears the President. Thank you!"

2. Pic du jour

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Former FBI Director James Comey, who's 6-foot-8, strides through security as he arrives at Rayburn House Office Building yesterday to testify after being summoned to testify during Republicans' final full month of control.

3. The bravest maid

Victorina Morales becomes tearful during an interview yesterday in New York. (Bebeto Matthews/AP)

"A Guatemalan living in the U.S. illegally who says she faced abusive working conditions as a maid at Donald Trump's New Jersey golf club doesn't regret speaking out, even though she might lose her job and be deported," AP's Claudia Torrens and Bernard Condon report.

  • Victorina Morales, 46, who first told her story to the N.Y. Times, says in a foll0w-up with AP "that she can't go back to Guatemala because her family has received death threats, but that she had to stand up for other workers without legal documents at the club who have been ridiculed by a supervisor."
  • "We need to come out and defend ourselves," said 47-year-old Morales, brushing away tears. "I had enough with suffering."
  • "Morales, who said she has not been told definitively that she's been fired, said that at least a dozen other workers at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster did not have legal documentation."

"Morales said that during Trump's presidential campaign, hours for workers at the resort whom she thought were in the country illegally were cut. She was told she couldn't clean Trump's house anymore."

  • "After Trump was elected, Morales said a manager told her she needed new Social Security and green cards showing permanent residency, and the manager helped her procure them with help from a maintenance worker."

Bonus: Cover du jour

Courtesy N.Y. Post

4. "Healthy paranoia": What Walmart's CEO keeps on his phone

Becky Quick / CNBC

"Walmart CEO Doug McMillon keeps a photo on his phone that lists the top 10 retailers in the U.S. over the past few decades to remind him how so many companies come and go," CNBC reports.

  • "After learning from so many people ... we know that retailers come and go," McMillon told CNBC's Becky Quick after he spoke in Washington at the Business Roundtable CEO Innovation Summit.
  • "Businesses grow and they don't change enough and they decline over time. Retailers do that on a bit of a faster cycle."

5. 🏈 Urgent push for new Redskins stadium at RFK

"Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder is getting help from District officials, congressional Republicans and the Trump administration as he tries to clear a major roadblock to building a new, 60,000-seat stadium on the site of RFK Stadium," the WashPost's Liz Clarke and MikeDeBonis report:

  • "[T]he team has been working in concert with local and federal officials to insert a stadium provision into the massive spending bill that the Republican-controlled Congress is rushing to complete this month."
  • "The provision could pave the way for the NFL stadium and other commercial development on the 190-acre site that was the setting of the team’s greatest triumphs."

Why it matters: "By tucking it into a complex spending bill, the team and local officials could sidestep some public debate over whether other uses for the coveted parcel of land would benefit a broader swath of D.C. residents."

  • "While controversy over the team’s name has subsided, it remains vehemently opposed as racially offensive by some Native American groups."

6. 1 fun thing

From left, Janelle Monae, Kacey Musgraves and H.E.R. (AP)

"After being nearly muted at this year's ceremony, the 2019 Grammys are shaping up to be the year of the woman, with powerful female voices representing the majority in two of the top categories," AP Music Writer Mesfin Kefadu reports:

  • "Kacey Musgraves, H.E.R. and Janelle Monae, performers who play instruments, write or co-write all of their songs and are also listed as producers on their projects, earned nominations for ... album of the year."
  • "They are joined by singer-songwriter-instrumentalist Brandi Carlile, whose recent album is critically acclaimed and scored nominations in the big three categories, and Cardi B — a former stripper, social media darling and reality star who has become a pop culture sensation now competing for both album and record of the year."

"Nominees for album of the year at the 2018 Grammys only included one woman — Lorde — and she was not given a performing slot on the show."