News from the note…
A round up of the day’s news that might be of interest to you.
Consider this an OPEN THREAD, folks. Chat about any of the stories listed, share links to stories that caught your eye today, and generally have a good time discussing whatever you want.
From The Hill
Legal experts say it’s likely special counsel Robert Mueller secretly gained access to the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) tax returns as part of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, according to a McClatchy report.
Mueller’s team is reportedly looking into NRA donors with links to Russia and investigating whether some donors used the organization to illegally funnel foreign money to President Trump’s campaign.
The NRA spent $30 million in support of Trump’s campaign in the 2016 presidential race.
NRA officials maintain that the organization has not been contacted by the FBI, but legal experts told McClatchy that it would be “routine” for investigators to access the group’s tax filings through the IRS.
The tax filings would reveal the NRA’s “dark money” donors, whose names are hidden on public documents.
The government’s top health official could barely conceal his discomfort.
As Health and Human Services secretary, Alex Azar was responsible for caring for migrant children taken from their parents at the border. Now a Democratic senator was asking him at a hearing whether his agency had a role in designing the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that caused these separations.
The answer was no.
“We deal with the children once they’re given to us,” responded Azar. “So we don’t — we are not the experts on immigration.”
Separating families while sidelining the agency responsible for caring for the children was only one example of a communication breakdown in the federal government that left immigrant children in limbo, parents in the dark about their whereabouts and enraged Americans across the country.
From The Hill
A record-low number of people in the U.S. consider themselves either extremely proud or very proud to be Americans, a poll released Monday found.
Gallup found that 47 percent of citizens are “extremely proud” to be Americans, while 25 percent are “very proud.” Both numbers mark new low points since Gallup started polling on the question in 2001.
The number of people who are “extremely proud” has slowly been declining in recent years, according to Gallup. The number peaked at 70 percent in 2003, but was down to 52 percent in 2016 and 51 percent in 2017.
President Donald Trump on Monday interviewed four candidates to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, and said he plans to meet with two to three more.
“They are outstanding people. They are really incredible people in so many different ways, academically and every other way,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “I had a very, very interesting morning.”
Trump is moving rapidly to fill the seat and solidify a conservative majority on the court. He said he plans to announce his pick on July 9, and will choose from a previously published list of 25 contenders.
President Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen stated that he will “put family and country first” over any allegiance to Trump amid his ongoing legal woes in an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos — Cohen’s first since the FBI raided his home and offices in April.
Why it matters: Cohen has long been Trump’s fix-it man, and he is the only person on earth intertwined in Trump’s professional, political, personal, legal and family life. Cohen has also been in the spotlight thanks to both Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and a federal investigation of his business dealings, prompting speculation that he may cooperate with authorities.
From The Hill
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte pushed back against President Trump‘s tariffs against European goods, saying they were “not positive.”
His remarks came as the two leaders spoke with reporters at the White House on Monday.
Trump said “a lot of good things” were happening in discussions with leaders of the European Union (EU) amid a trade fight.
“If we do work it out, that will be positive,” Trump said. “And if we don’t, it will be positive also, because —“
“No,” Rutte interrupted with a smile.
“Just think about those cars that pour in here,” Trump finished saying.
“It’s not positive. We have to work something out,” Rutte insisted.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Monday said it’s “premature” to say whether President Donald Trump will go forward with his plan to slap auto tariffs on foreign vehicles.
Ross‘ comments on CNBC come after Trump last month threatened to impose a 25 percent tariff on foreign cars.
Last week, General Motors voiced its reservations on Trump’s proposed tariffs, which could lead to raising costs for consumers, reducing demand for cars and forcing automakers to lay off workers.
From The Daily Beast
Apparently all Michael Cohen had to do to lose Fox News was sit down with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.
Following an off-camera interview in which Cohen pledged his loyalty not to President Trump but to his family and his country, the hosts of Fox’s Outnumbered came down hard on the full-time fixer and sometime lawyer, openly questioning his “credibility” ahead of his potential cooperation with two separate investigations into the president.
Delivering a major understatement, Harris Faulkner noted that Cohen “seems to be creating some daylight” between himself and Trump, for whom he once suggested he would “take a bullet.” Going against the president, Cohen told Stephanopoulos that he doesn’t think Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation is a “witch hunt” and said that he trust the intelligence community’s “unanimous conclusions” about Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.
“If he knows something that is so important and yet he’s willing to sort of taunt the president by seeming to go against him, what does that say about this person as a witness?” Faulkner wondered aloud. “It gets difficult to kind of even see him as credible at this point. I don’t know what he knows, just based on the way he’s acting.”
Later, she added, “The one thing we know about Michael Cohen is that he’ll throw anybody under the bus.” Faulkner pointed to the moment in court when Cohen gave up Fox News’ own Sean Hannity as his mystery “third client.”