“Jared Kushner has had his security clearance downgraded — a move that will prevent him from viewing many of the sensitive documents to which he once had unfettered access,” Politico reports. “Kushner is not alone. All White House aides working on the highest-level interim clearances — at the Top Secret/SCI-level — were informed in a memo sent Friday that their clearances would be downgraded to the Secret level.”
“Four Commerce Department political appointees working on interim security clearances lost their jobs Tuesday because of problems in their background checks, the latest fallout from the intensifying public scrutiny on administration officials working without permanent clearances,” the Washington Post reports.
Meanwhile, “officials in at least four countries have privately discussed ways they can manipulate Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience,” the Washington Post reports. “Among those nations discussing ways to influence Kushner to their advantage were the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel and Mexico.”
“It is unclear if any of those countries acted on the discussions, but Kushner’s contacts with certain foreign government officials have raised concerns inside the White House and are a reason he has been unable to obtain a permanent security clearance.”
BREAKING: Special counsel Robert Mueller's team has been asking some witnesses about Donald Trump’s business activities in Russia prior to the 2016 campaign as he considered a run for president, sources say https://t.co/eVTyCUyq1P
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) February 28, 2018
Special counsel Robert Mueller “has moved to drop charges that were brought last week in an expansive superseding indictment against Rick Gates,” Axios reports. “Mueller’s decision to drop the more expansive charges against Gates suggests that he may have provided good information for Mueller’s probe. Gates still faces an advisory sentence of 57 to 71 months under his guilty plea, per Bloomberg, but it’s worth nothing that the ‘prosecution can request a shorter sentence but isn’t required to do so.’”
There is a lot of speculation that this means he has delivered the goods on Trump to Mueller. We will see.
Signs of a blue wave are also showing up in early voting statistics. The Dallas Morning News reports that with early voting for the March primary more than half over, Democrats have outpaced Republicans dramatically: “Through Sunday in the 15 Texas counties with the most registered voters, 135,070 people had voted in the Republican primary and 151,236 in the Democratic. Compared to the first six days of early voting in 2014, Democratic turnout increased 69 percent, while Republicans saw a 20 percent increase. The Democrats even surpassed their early voting totals from the 2016 primary — a presidential election year.”
Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) campaign sent a fundraising email this week warning donors that the early voting numbers “should shock every conservative to their core.” And Cruz told a group of Republican voters this month that the left would “crawl over broken glass in November to vote,” adding that Republicans “could get obliterated at the polls.”
“Department of Housing and Urban Development officials spent $31,000 on a new dining room set for Secretary Ben Carson’s office in late 2017 — just as the White House circulated its plans to slash HUD’s programs for the homeless, elderly and poor,” the New York Times reports.
“The purchase of the custom hardwood table, chairs and hutch came a month after a top agency staff member filed a whistle-blower complaint charging Mr. Carson’s wife, Candy Carson, with pressuring department officials to find money for the expensive redecoration of his offices, even if it meant circumventing the law.”
The Guardian: “A senior career official in the US Department of Housing and Urban Development has alleged that she was demoted and replaced with a Donald Trump appointee after refusing to break the law by funding an expensive redecoration of Ben Carson’s office.”
“Helen Foster said she was told ‘$5,000 will not even buy a decent chair’ after informing her bosses this was the legal price limit for improvements to the HUD secretary’s suite at the department’s Washington headquarters.”
West Virginia's teachers tell me they've had enough. https://t.co/QbkHhWFOhM
— Sarah Jones (@onesarahjones) February 27, 2018
A new USA Today/Suffolk University poll finds that by wide margins, Americans are convinced that Russians meddled in the 2016 presidential election and that they will try it again. More than four in 10 believe Moscow’s interference affected the outcome of the election that put Donald Trump in the White House.
A 58% majority say they have a lot or some trust in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, while a 57% majority say they have little or no trust in Trump’s denials.
A new CNN poll finds 72% of Americans are concerned about foreign government interference in U.S. elections generally, including 90% of Democrats, 68% of independents and 53% of Republicans.
Meanwhile, 60% say they are not confident President Trump is doing enough to prevent foreign countries from influencing future American elections.
In a shocking development, everything Democrats predicted about the GOP's tax cut is coming true: https://t.co/DGcxIGgpF7
— Paul Waldman (@paulwaldman1) February 27, 2018
“The U.S. intelligence community developed substantial evidence that state websites or voter registration systems in seven states were compromised by Russian-backed covert operatives prior to the 2016 election — but never told the states involved,” NBC News reports. The states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Texas and Wisconsin.
“Top-secret intelligence requested by President Obama in his last weeks in office identified seven states where analysts — synthesizing months of work — had reason to believe Russian operatives had compromised state websites or databases…The officials say systems in the seven states were compromised in a variety of ways, with some breaches more serious than others, from entry into state websites to penetration of actual voter registration databases.”
John Kelly can't stand up to the president, so he leaked his disapproval of Ivanka Trump's South Korea trip to the media rather than confront Trump directly. https://t.co/WCwLjZ9i1F
— Washington Monthly (@washmonthly) February 27, 2018
“White House communications director Hope Hicks is the latest close adviser to President Trump to refuse to answer questions about the administration or transition period, posed by House investigators as part of their probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election,” the Washington Post reports.
“Democrats and Republicans emerging from the House Intelligence Committee’s ongoing interview with Hicks on Tuesday noted that she resisted answering any questions about events and conversations that occurred since Trump won the election, despite the fact that Trump has not formally invoked executive privilege with the panel.”
“Your operation leaks like a sieve,” Stone wrote. “You need to figure out who your friends are.”
Stone told me he couldn’t recall whether he and Wikileaks spoke earlier than October 13, or if they continued to communicate after the election. https://t.co/bEHbCi3n26
— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) February 27, 2018
“On March 17, 2017, WikiLeaks tweeted that it had never communicated with Roger Stone… In his interview with the House Intelligence Committee last September, Stone, who testified under oath, told lawmakers that he had communicated with WikiLeaks via an ‘intermediary,’ whom he identified only as a ‘journalist.’”
“Private Twitter messages obtained by The Atlantic show that Stone and WikiLeaks, a radical-transparency group, communicated directly on October 13, 2016 — and that WikiLeaks sought to keep its channel to Stone open after Trump won the election.”
How Trump’s 2020 campaign manager is connected to the Russia scandal https://t.co/rE6XKs2l4p
— Vox (@voxdotcom) February 27, 2018
“US Cyber Command chief Adm. Mike Rogers told lawmakers on Tuesday that he has not been granted the authority by President Trump to disrupt Russian election hacking operations where they originate,” CNNreports.
“Asked by Democratic Sen. Jack Reed if he has been directed by the President, through the defense secretary, to confront Russian cyber operators, Rogers said “no I have not” but noted that he has tried to work within the authority he maintains as a commander.”
— Talking Points Memo (@TPM) February 28, 2018
Cook Political Report: “It’s not normal for Republicans to be worried about losing a seat President Trump carried by 20 points. But with two weeks to go before the March 13 special election, Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone is locked in an extremely close contest against Democratic prosecutor/Marine veteran Conor Lamb, who has significantly outspent him.”
“We’re moving the race from Lean Republican to Toss Up.”
“What’s made the race so close, many Republicans admit, is that Lamb has simply proven to be a stronger candidate than Saccone.”
— New York Magazine (@NYMag) February 28, 2018
Ron Brownstein: “Americans are just growing accustomed to the impact of the massive millennial generation as consumers, workers and voters. But now the crusade for gun control led by survivors of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting is heralding the arrival of the younger generation rising behind them. And in their racial diversity, attitudes toward religion and culture, their digital fluency and their political priorities, this emerging generation — usually called the post-millennials, sometimes labeled Generation Z — might shake American life even more profoundly than the millennials.”
“For Republicans who have nervously watched polls showing an enormous backlash against President Donald Trump’s insular nationalism among the millennials, this younger generation could represent an even greater threat.”
— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) February 27, 2018
Eugene Robinson: “The deliberately outrageous idea of arming classroom teachers is nothing more than a distraction, a ploy by the gun lobby to buy time for passions to cool.”
“The National Rifle Association and its vassals in the Republican Party would like you to exhaust your outrage on a possibility that is, from the start, impossible. … ‘Up to States’ means abdicating the federal government’s responsibility and urging state legislatures to waste time and effort debating whether to mandate that instruments of death be introduced to classrooms.”