“Donald Trump is trying to persuade his preferred candidate to succeed Michael Flynn as national security adviser to change his mind after the retired admiral tapped for the role told the US president that he could not accept the White House position, according to two people familiar with the situation,” the Financial Times reports.
“Mr Trump asked Robert Harward, a retired navy special forces officer, to succeed Mr Flynn, who was fired as national security adviser on Monday. At a press conference on Thursday, he said his decision to replace Mr Flynn had been made easier because he had an “outstanding” candidate to serve as a replacement. But Mr Harward is said to have turned Mr Trump down.”
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, is seeking criminal charges against a former State Department employee who helped set up Hillary Clinton’s private email server, the AP reports. Chaffetz sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions “asking him to convene a grand jury or charge Bryan Pagliano, the computer specialist who helped establish Clinton’s server while she was secretary of state.”
“Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn denied to FBI agents in an interview last month that he had discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States before President Trump took office, contradicting the contents of intercepted communications collected by intelligence agencies,” the Washington Post reports. “The Jan. 24 interview potentially puts Flynn in legal jeopardy, as lying to the FBI is a felony, but any decision to prosecute would ultimately lie with the Justice Department.”
Lawfare: “Heated public rhetoric regarding leaking is common from both sides of the aisle, and it masks an ecosystem that is, in its own way, rather permissive about leaks. Still, Trump’s accusation raises a number of concerns. First, the President makes these accusations despite not knowing the actual source of these leaks. At least some of the information seems to be coming from his own White House. And nothing that has come to light is the kind of material that only the FBI or NSA would be aware of. Indeed, there is no particular reason to assume that any of these leaks are intelligence community leaks, rather than leaks by current and former White House officials with the knives out for Flynn.”
“Second, these tweets suggest that the President is more interested in hunting down leakers than in getting to the bottom of extremely serious allegations against his own administration. Whether Trump’s comments represent an intentional deflection or merely reflect misaligned priorities, most people can agree without defending leaking that the leaks are probably not the ‘real scandal’ here.”
“Finally, and perhaps most worryingly, the President’s statement seems to signal an intention to use the pretense of leak investigations to engage in political retaliation.”
A new Pew Research poll finds that President Trump’s overall job approval is much lower than those of prior presidents in their first weeks in office: 39% approve of his job performance, while 56% disapprove.
“The intensity of the public’s early views of Trump is striking: Fully 75% either approve or disapprove of Trump strongly, compared with just 17% who feel less strongly. Nearly half (46%) strongly disapprove of his job performance, while 29% strongly approve.”
“This level of strong disapproval already surpasses strong disapproval for Barack Obama at any point during the eight years of his presidency. The only occasion when strong disapproval of George W. Bush was higher than for Trump currently was in December 2008, near the end of his presidency.”
The Gallup daily tracking poll has Trump’s approval at 40% and his disapproval at 55%.
Politico: “Agriculture Department hopeful Sonny Perdue has grown nervous about his own prospects in light of Puzder’s troubles — unable to get access to Priebus for reassurances that the former Georgia governor’s nomination is still backed by the administration, according to a source familiar with the matter.”
James Hohmann: “Trump’s decision to not release a statement about Puzder’s withdrawal says a lot about his leadership style. He always wants to wash his hands of things that reflect poorly on him. He didn’t even tweet out well wishes. He just pretended like it didn’t happen.”
“Nevada’s chief gaming regulator surreptitiously recorded a conversation with Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R), who approached him about interceding in a lawsuit on behalf of his biggest donor and Nevada’s wealthiest casino magnate, Sheldon Adelson,” the Nevada Independent reports.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) says President Trump made him order meatloaf when they dined together at the White House this week, the AP reports.
Christie said while guest hosting a New York sports talk radio show that Trump pointed out the menu and told people to get whatever they want. Then he said he and Christie were going to have the meatloaf.
Said Christie: “This is what it’s like to be with Trump. He says, ‘There’s the menu, you guys order whatever you want.’ And then he says, ‘Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.’”
Jared Kushner “met with a senior Time Warner Inc. executive in recent weeks and expressed the administration’s deep concerns about CNN’s news coverage,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“In a meeting at the White House, Mr. Kushner complained to Gary Ginsberg, executive vice president of corporate marketing and communications at CNN’s parent Time Warner, about what Mr. Kushner feels is unfair coverage slanted against the president.”
“While the administration is battling a large swath of the media, the fight with CNN has special intrigue because its parent company has a massive piece of business awaiting government approval: a proposed $85.4 billion sale to AT&T Inc. Messrs. Kushner and Ginsberg, who have been friends for a decade and whose discussion covered a variety of issues including Israel and the economy, didn’t discuss the merger in their recent meeting, said the people familiar with the matter.”
Politico: CNN chief says attacks are boosting morale