Dec 2, 2017

Reality check on Trumpworld's Russia problems

Photo: Susan Walsh / AP

Michael Flynn's guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with Bob Mueller's investigation was without doubt terrible news for President Trump and his inner circle: Flynn knows more than anyone about their dealings with Russia.

But, but, but: This doesn't necessarily mean Trump is in personal legal jeopardy, much less on the road to impeachment.

The atmosphere of hysteria is dangerous. We saw this yesterday when ABC News reported that Flynn planned to testify that he was directed by then-candidate Trump to make contact with the Russians. That sure didn't sound true. Hours later, ABC significantly softened its report, saying one source says Trump asked Flynn to contact the Russians during the transition about fighting ISIS. Huge difference.

Jeffrey Toobin, writing about Trump's lawyers ("The Russia Portfolio") in the forthcoming issue of The New Yorker, offers a gut check on how hard it will be to go after Trump, even with Flynn's help:"

  • In several conversations with me, [Trump lawyer Jay] Sekulow emphasized that collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, even if it did take place, wouldn't be illegal."
  • Sekulow: "For something to be a crime, there has to be a statute that you claim is being violated ... There is not a statute that refers to criminal collusion. There is no crime of collusion."

Toobin points to two ways Mueller could move, both difficult:

  • The Trump campaign received unlawful in-kind political contributions in the form of damaging info on Hillary Clinton.
  • The Trump campaign aided and abetted the hacking of the Clinton-related e-emails.
  • Toobin: "Nonetheless, based on the available evidence, both of these theories of criminal liability ... look like long shots for Mueller. Prosecutors tend to be cautious about pursuing criminal cases based on novel legal theories.

"This is why several White House officials worry most about a possible cover-up. Obstruction of justice is easier to prove. Remember: There's a reason Steve Bannon said the firing of James Comey will go down as the dumbest political decision in America history.

  • Toobin: "In sum, on the basis of the publicly available evidence, the case against Trump for obstruction of justice is more than plausible. Most perilously for the President, Flynn may know what Trump has to hide."
  • Go deeper: Jeffrey Toobin, "Ty Cobb, John Dowd, and Jay Sekulow are setting out to prove that there is no such crime as collusion."

Go deeper

In photos: Authorities issue warning as Americans venture out for Memorial Day weekend

Venice Beach in Los Angeles on May 24. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

Authorities urged Americans to maintain social distancing and wear masks against the coronavirus amid reports of packed beaches and bars during the Memorial Day weekend.

Driving the news: Law enforcement stepped up beach patrols, authorities on Florida's Gulf Coast closed parking lots because they were full and there were crowded scenes at Lake of the Ozarks bars in Missouri, per AP, which reports a shooting injured several people at a packed Daytona Beach in Florida.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9:30 p.m. ET: 5,405,029 — Total deaths: 344,997 — Total recoveries — 2,168,408Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9:30 p.m. ET: 1,642,021 — Total deaths: 97,698 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,195Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil, coronavirus hotspot in Southern Hemisphere Over 100 coronavirus cases in Germany tied to single day of church services — Boris Johnson backs top aide amid reports that he broke U.K. lockdown while exhibiting symptoms.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks headed into Memorial Day weekend Report finds "little evidence" coronavirus under control in most statesHurricanes, wildfires, the flu could strain COVID-19 response
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Republicans sue California over mail-out ballot plan

California Gov. Gavin Newsom during a February news conference in Sacramento, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

President Trump accused Democrats of trying "Rig" November's general election as Republican groups filed a lawsuit against California Sunday in an attempt to stop Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) from mailing ballots to all registered voters.

Driving the news: Newsom signed an executive order this month in response to the coronavirus pandemic ensuring that all registered voters in the state receive a mail-in ballot.