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Analysis and perspective about what's happening in the political realm.

Trump’s Meeting With Putin Draws Alarmed Responses From Both Parties

“Surreal.” “Extraordinary.” “Disgraceful.” Lawmakers in the U.S. and abroad appeared shell-shocked on Monday following President Trump’s press conference with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in which Trump again refused to condemn Putin for Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, even going so far as to deny the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia was responsible.

“I think we have both been foolish,” Trump said, when asked by a reporter whether he would hold Russia accountable “at all, for anything in particular.”

“We should have had this dialogue a long time ago, before I got to office,” Trump continued. “And I think we are all to blame.” Asked later whether he would denounce Russian interference and ask Putin to never do it again, Trump said he didn’t “see any reason why it would be Russia” that interfered, and began discussing the Democratic National Committee server that, according to the Justice Department, was hacked by Russian intelligence officers in 2016. “I really want to see the server,” Trump said, appearing to cast doubt on his administration’s conclusions. (The FBI obtained copies of the DNC server from the private firm hired to investigate the hack).


Trump Blames Bad Relations With Russia on Everything but Russia

During his press conference with Vladimir Putin in Finland on Monday, Donald Trump was given a chance to walk back his tweet from earlier in the day blaming poor U.S.–Russia relations on past American presidents and Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling in U.S. politics. The real culprit, according to Trump, was not Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election or illegal annexation of Crimea or support for Syria’s murderous dictator, but rather “many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!” (“We agree,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry tweeted in response to the American president.)

“Do you hold Russia at all accountable for anything in particular?” asked Jeff Mason of Reuters. At first it seemed like Trump might: “I hold both countries responsible,” the president said. “We have both made some mistakes.” But that was essentially the extent of his reflection on Russia’s actions. He proceeded to boast about his victory over Hillary Clinton, deny that his campaign colluded with the Russian government, and describe Mueller’s probe into the the Kremlin’s efforts to disrupt the U.S. democratic process—not the efforts themselves—as a...

Analysis: Corruption in the Trump Administration Is Spreading

You’ve got to at least give credit to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for finding the silver lining—or the gold one, as it were.

It was late October 2017, just days before the so-called Paradise Papers, a tranche of leaked documents, would reveal that when he divested some of his holdings upon taking office, Ross had retained assets in a shipping company enmeshed in Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. Ross had not disclosed the investment, and apparently had no legal obligation to do so. Still, the realization that the commerce secretary held a stake in a company tied to Putin at a time of Russo-American tension was likely to be damaging, no two ways about it.

So he apparently decided to make a buck off the bad news. Three days after a New York Times reporter contacted Ross to inquire about the stake in Navigator Holdings, the company, he took a short position on it—in effect, betting the value of his investment would drop. Lo and behold, when reports about Ross’s stake were published, the stock dropped somewhat. Ross then made a profit of between $100,000 and $250,000, according to disclosures. It looks like an...

Analysis: The Invisible Melania Trump

First Lady Melania Trump may have spent 24 days out of the public eye, but it was the 33rd first lady, Bess Truman, who said: “I am not the one who is elected. I have nothing to say to the public.” Truman gave exactly one press conference as first lady, during which she replied “no comment” to each policy question.

But things were different in 1945. Public figures were seen differently, quite literally, because they were seen less frequently. The mid-century media landscape offered fewer opportunities for citizens to peer directly at the presidency.

Trump, meanwhile, entered the office following several decades of first ladies who each expanded the role in her own way; by these standards, Trump’s absences are a big and noticeable departure from the behavior of her recent predecessors. Her latest hiatus started after she accompanied Donald Trump to welcome home three American hostages from North Korea on May 10. Four days later, on May 14, her office announced that she had been admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to undergo a surgery for what they described as a benign kidney condition. Her absence stretched through June 4, when she attended a ceremony for...

No One Knows If a President Can Be Indicted

Can the president be indicted while in office? Rudolph Giuliani, at this writing one of President Trump’s lawyers, apparently wants the public to believe that there is a clear answer to that question—the one that by coincidence favors his client.

The one thing I am sure of is that there’s no clear answer.

To begin with, no one suggests that a president can never be indicted for crimes committed in office or out of it. Of course he can. The question is whether a president can be indicted while in office.

There’s no caselaw, but we have four interesting government memos dating back half a century. I reviewed them, and asked six prominent legal scholars how we should look for an answer.

Start with the memos—one issued by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) during the waning days of the Nixon presidency; a contemporaneous memo by the late Robert Bork, then solicitor general, advising a district court that a vice president could be indicted; a 2000 opinion by the OLC reaffirming the 1973 opinion; and, finally, a 1998 opinion by a lawyer in Kenneth Starr’s Office of the Independent Counsel investigating...