Russia is The Swamp, and The Swamp is winning.
On Day 120 of the Trump presidency, Russia has become the administration's unintended but self-imposed mood music and narrative arc — sucking bandwith, draining esprit, looming as a potential calamity.
The price and opportunity cost have already been high — in time, in credibility, in possibility.
And it may just be starting. Legal scholar Jonathan Turley pointed out on Fox News that the Mueller miniseries may run for years.
The mood among some top Republicans is turning to anger: So much has been squandered.
"The damage to the agenda is permanent," said a Republican working to pass Trump's plans.
Et tu, Putin? In an article headlined, "Russia Grows Anxious Over U.S. Political Chaos Engulfing Trump," Bloomberg reports: "Trump's presidency appears hijacked by the U.S. obsession with Russia, one senior Kremlin official said. ... [H]is fate looks increasingly uncertain to Kremlin policy makers."
The Mueller appointment could have been used as a temporary lifeline — an excuse to fence The Swamp, and try to get lawmakers and journalists to focus on Trump's plans, at least until findings emerged.
Several top operatives gave me a similar plan of attack. You'd say: "I'm happy Robert Mueller is going to get to the bottom of this. He's perfect for the job, and I'm eager to cooperate." Then say no more. When you're asked about Russia, point the questioner to your previous statement, then talk about tax reform.
Asked about the special counsel at an East Room presser yesterday, Trump said: "I respect the move, but the entire thing has been a witch hunt. ... I think it divides the country."
At 2:10 p.m. today, Air Force One takes off from Joint Base Andrews to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for a nine-day trip that will also take the President to Israel, Italy and Belgium.
Former FBI Director James Comey "has spoken privately of his concerns that the contacts from Mr. Trump and his aides were inappropriate, and how he felt compelled to resist them," according to an ominous N.Y. Times front-pager by Michael Schmidt:
Ben Wittes later posted his own account on Lawfare, "What James Comey Told Me About Donald Trump": "Comey was preoccupied throughout this period with the need to protect the FBI from these inquiries on investigative matters from the White House."
"Comey described at least two incidents which he regarded as efforts on the part of the President personally to compromise him or implicate him with either shows of closeness or actual chumminess with the President."
Why it matters: Comey will be testifying, before Congress and perhaps before a grand jury. This article spells trouble for 1600: He's aggrieved, he has notes, and he's not known for holding back.
Roger Eugene Ailes of Warren, Ohio, despite his humiliating end, changed America with Fox News — one of the great media, business, social, political stories of our lives.
A speed read of the coverage of his death yesterday at 77, from complications after he fell and hit his head in the bathroom of his Palm Beach home on May 10:
"Ivanka Trump plays guiding role in plan to grant six weeks of paid leave to new moms and dads," by WashPost's Danielle Paquette and Damian Paletta:
"Trump's budget proposal next week will include a new benefit for America's working parents, one Democrats have long championed and Republicans have long opposed: paid family leave."
"The president's first detailed budget request on Tuesday will seek funds for the creation of a program to grant mothers and fathers six weeks of paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child."
Vaughn Hillyard, who was NBC's Pence embed on the campaign, gets the goods:
"Vice President Mike Pence has been kept in the dark about former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn's alleged wrongdoing, according to a source close to the administration, who cited a potential 'pattern' of not informing the vice president and calling it 'malpractice or intentional, and either are unacceptable.'"
The House Republican leadership is agitated after the WashPost published a transcript from a secret recording of one of the inner-sanctum conversations in the office of Speaker Ryan, Axios' Jonathan Swan reports:
The Economist cover, "The legacy of the six-day war: Why Israel needs a Palestinian state — More than ever, land for peace also means land for democracy":
Unexpectedly, there may be a new opportunity to make peace: Donald Trump wants to secure "the ultimate deal" and is due to visit the Holy Land on May 22nd, during his first foreign trip. The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, appears as nervous as the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, seems upbeat. Mr Trump has, rightly, urged Israel to curb settlement-building. Israel wants him to keep his promise to move the American embassy to Jerusalem. He should hold off until he is ready to go really big: recognise Palestine at the same time and open a second embassy in Jerusalem to talk to it.