Jan 12, 2019

WaPo: Trump sought to hide details of conversations with Putin from admin officials

Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov via Getty Images

President Trump has repeatedly sought to conceal the details of his face-to-face conversations with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin from senior officials in his own administration, the Washington Post's Greg Miller reports.

Details: After meeting with Putin in Germany in 2017, Trump reportedly took notes from his own interpreter and instructed them not to discuss the contents of the conversation with other administration officials. This is just one example of what Miller reports is "a broader pattern" of Trump shielding his communications with Putin from the public as well as senior government officials — a pattern that has resulted in there being "no detailed record" of his face-to-face meetings with the Russian leader at "five locations over the past two years."

The big picture: Trump's 2-hour closed-door meeting with Putin in Helsinki over the summer has drawn scrutiny from Democrats in Congress, after Trump appeared to side with Putin over the findings of the U.S. intelligence community about Russian interference in the 2016 election.

  • Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), new chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told the Post that the meeting will be a target for investigators now that Democrats have taken control of the House. While in the minority, Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee attempted to subpoena Trump's interpreter, but were blocked by Republicans.

Go deeper: FBI reportedly probed whether Trump was secretly working for Russia

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Trump's clemency spree

Rod Blagojevich in 2010. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

President Trump announced Tuesday that he commuted former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's 14-year prison sentence for extortion, bribery and corruption — as well as issuing full pardons for former San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr., former NYPD Commissioner Bernie Kerik and financier Michael Milken.

The big picture: The president's clemency spree largely benefitted white-collar criminals convicted of crimes like corruption, gambling fraud and racketeering, undercutting his message of "draining the swamp."

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Trump's improbable moonshot

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

NASA is unlikely to meet its deadline of sending astronauts to the surface of the Moon by 2024, even with a large influx of funding.

Why it matters: The Artemis mission to send people back to the Moon is the Trump administration's flagship space policy, and its aggressive, politically-motivated timeline is its hallmark.

Go deeperArrow3 hours ago - Science

Justice Department says U.S. attorneys are reviewing Ukraine information

Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd sent a letter to House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) Tuesday informing him that the U.S. attorneys for the Eastern District of New York and the Western District of Pennsylvania are reviewing "unsolicited" information from the public related to matters involving Ukraine.

Why it matters: Nadler had requested an explanation for the "intake process" that Attorney General Bill Barr stated had been set up in order to receive information that Rudy Giuliani had obtained about the Bidens in Ukraine.