You will be shocked and appalled to learn that Donald Trump said some stuff to some Russians that he probably shouldn’t have.
It’s late on a weekday, and that means there’s a lot more Trump/Russia news, my friends.
- First up: The New York Times reports that President Trump told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Ambassador Sergey Kislyak (to whom he also famously leaked classified intel about ISIS), "I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I face great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off." [NYT / Matt Apuzzo, Maggie Haberman, and Matthew Rosenberg]
- Good times. White House press secretary Sean Spicer responded to the scoop in a statement: "By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia's actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia." That's a pretty startling statement, given that it explicitly explains the decision to fire Comey in terms of the Russia investigation, which just last week the White House was denying had anything to do with the firing. [Ben Jacobs]
- Meanwhile, the Washington Post is reporting that a current senior White House adviser is a person of interest in the FBI's investigation into coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. [Washington Post / Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky]
- The Post didn’t specify who this person is, but speculation immediately turned to Jared Kushner, who failed to disclose meetings with Russian officials in his security clearance paperwork. [NYT / Jo Becker and Matthew Rosenberg]
- Yashar Ali, a freelance reporter, claims to have confirmed that the report is about Kushner. He said this in a tweet, though, without an accompanying story clarifying the sourcing, so take it with a grain or two of salt. [Yashar Ali]
- Another sign it might be Kushner: Apparently the White House is considering invoking an obscure ethics rule that would bar special prosecutor Robert Mueller from investigating clients of his firm (WilmerHale). Those clients include Paul Manafort and … Jared Kushner. [Reuters / Julia Edwards Ainsley]
- In interpreting this, keep in mind that "person of interest" has no specific legal meaning and doesn't necessarily mean "suspect." This doesn't mean Jared Kushner or anybody else is about to be indicted, or suspected of criminal misconduct. But it’s, uh, not good. [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
- Nor is Trump telling Russians how nice it is to have this Comey jerk off his back. Indeed, it seems to suggest a bigger problem with Trump's personal communication style. One White House source told CNN, "It can be difficult to advise the President effectively given his seemingly short attention span and propensity to be easily distracted. You can't say what not to say, because that will then be one of the first things he'll say." [CNN / Jake Tapper]
- This is the president of the United States we’re talking about, just as a reminder.
- Trump’s comments to the Russians could also provide ammo if he’s eventually accused of obstruction of justice. They lend credibility to the idea that he fired Comey to impede the investigation into collusion with Russia during the campaign. [Washington Post / Aaron Blake]
- Indeed, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told senators that the investigation has been expanded to include looking into a possible cover-up — and that this expansion happened because of reports that Trump ordered Comey to scuttle an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. [McClatchy / Matthew Schofield and Lesley Clark]
- CNN is reporting that the White House's legal team has begun researching impeachment procedures to prepare for the possibility that Congress might try to remove Trump. [CNN / Evan Perez]
- At this point, we mostly need to wait. Mueller has expansive powers to indict White House officials and other figures he thinks have committed criminal offenses, but if indictments come, it won’t be for a little while at least.
- But we could also learn a lot when James Comey testifies before an open Senate Intelligence Committee hearing — as he has agreed to do, as of very late Friday. [Washington Post]