During a recent meeting, President Trump spoke with Attorney General Jeff Sessions' chief of staff about replacing his boss, several people with knowledge of the discussion told The Washington Post on Wednesday.
Trump met with the chief of staff, Matt Whitaker, after The New York Times reported last month that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein suggested wearing a wire to monitor Trump; people close to Rosenstein said he was not being serious. The White House was interested in having Whitaker replace Rosenstein as acting deputy attorney general, and the conversation moved on to him taking over for Sessions, the Post reports. It wasn't clear if Trump wanted Whitaker to become the official nominee to replace Sessions, or if it would just be temporary. The plan was ultimately dropped, with Trump saying he does not want to remove Rosenstein.
Trump has wanted to get rid of Sessions ever since the attorney general recused himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, setting up the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Trump has dragged him publicly multiple times since, and recently announced, "I don't have an attorney general." Catherine Garcia
Throughout the 2016 campaign and even after the inauguration, President Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen would regularly receive digital copies of National Enquirer articles and cover images related to Trump and his political opponents before they went to press, three people with knowledge of the matter told The Washington Post.
Trump is close to David Pecker, the CEO of American Media Inc., the parent company of the National Enquirer. The stories passed along about Trump were always positive, the Post reports, and if Cohen made any changes, it was to pick a more flattering photo. Trump, several people said, would pitch stories to Pecker and also saw them before they went to print, including an article about Hillary Clinton's health and another about former GOP presidential primary rival Dr. Ben Carson allegedly botching operations.
Sam Nunberg, a former Trump campaign adviser, told the Post that the Enquirer was "such a help to Trump during the primary and even the general" that it was basically free advertising. The company's chief content officer, Dylan Howard, denied that the Trump camp had a say in the articles, adding that if the stories ever were shared, "it was not at the behest of me or David."
In April, FBI agents raided the office and home of Cohen, and people with knowledge of the matter say they took his records related to AMI, Pecker, Howard, and payments made to women who say they had affairs with Trump. Catherine Garcia
While President Trump's executive order on Friday that keeps travelers from seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States came as a surprise to Republican leaders, a small group of senior House Judiciary Committee staffers were aware of it, having helped draft it in the weeks before Trump's inauguration, Politico reports.
An unnamed aide told Politico that Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) was not consulted by the administration on the executive order, and several other people with knowledge of the matter said Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) only saw the order's final language when reporters received it Friday night. It's "extremely rare" for administration officials to go around Republican leadership and work directly with congressional committee aides, Politico reports.
While staffers offered their expertise on immigration law, "the Trump administration is responsible for the final policy decisions contained in the executive order and its subsequent rollout and implementation," an unnamed aide said. Politico was told by several people that the staffers who helped with the order signed nondisclosure agreements, an unusual move for congressional employees, and had the GOP leaders had the opportunity to look at the order before it was signed, they would have been able to point out its problems, like denying entry to green card holders. The order was purposely kept under wraps, Politico reports, with the rollout coordinated mostly by Stephen Miller, White House policy director, and senior strategist Stephen Bannon. Read more about the blindsiding of GOP leaders and how they reacted at Politico. Catherine Garcia