After the most trying week yet of his young presidency, in which members of his own party leveled criticism at his decision to fire the FBI director amid a probe of his campaign's potential ties to Russia, President Trump seems to have gone dark.
After a Friday morning tweetstorm suggested that he had secret records of his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey and threatened to cancel daily press briefings because his aides couldn't be expected to deliver accurate information, Trump exercised some rare discipline. But that doesn't mean he's gone silent. In private, aides say the president is seething after a chaotic week, collecting his grievances against his senior-most aides since the beginning of his presidency. Trump has never been fully satisfied by his factionalized team, especially as reports of infighting dominated the news. But the current situation is different, as those factions were largely united in advising Trump against canning Comey. The challenge to any large-scale shakeup—as Trump has been considering in conversations that aides say amount to little more than venting—remain as they have been for months. Already, Trump has had difficulty attracting top-tier talent to his Administration, and there is little reason to expect that the replacements will be any more able than the current occupants. The president, though, has been less concerned by competence than with loyalty.
A key test for Trump as he looks to right the ship is who Trump chooses to replace Comey with. The selection of a partisan or loyalist would certainly draw outrage from Democrats—and even Republicans are urging Trump to select a respected professional for the role given the optics of the Comey firing. Meanwhile, Democrats are trying to rally support to block Trump's eventual nominee—whomever it may be—until the Justice Department appoints a special prosecutor.
Comey goes to the theater. A Gingrich to the Vatican. And how Sessions blew up a bipartisan compromise on criminal justice reform.
Here are your must reads:
Meet the Prosecutor at the Center of the Controversy Over Comey's Firing
Rod Rosenstein has been a low-key figure—until now [TIME]
Unity Was Emerging on Sentencing. Then Came Jeff Sessions.
Trump's Attorney General shatters bipartisan efforts on criminal justice reform [New York Times]
It’s Far From Case Closed on Trump, Russia
Fact checking the president [Associated Press]
How Trump Gets His Fake News
The president rarely surfs the web on his own, but his staff have made a habit of slipping news stories on to his desk—including the occasional internet hoax [Politico]
Under Trump, Inconvenient Data Is Being Sidelined
Administration is disappearing some scientific data [Washington Post]
"The President has nothing further to add on that." — White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer when asked about President Trump's tweet suggesting he had secretly recorded conversations with former FBI Director James Comey
"Yes, I think there are a lot of Democrats who feel that way. We will have to discuss it as a caucus, but I would support that move, because who the FBI director is, is related to who the special prosecutor is." — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on whether he'd seek to block a new FBI director until a special prosecutor is named for the Russia probe
Bits and Bites
Trump Administration Interviews Potential Candidates for FBI Director [Associated Press]
Pope Francis Says He Will Try to Find Common Ground With Donald Trump [Associated Press]
A Seeker of Kansas Voter Fraud Gets a National Soapbox [New York Times]
Former Employees of Donald Trump Say They Saw Him Tape Conversations [Wall Street Journal]
James Clapper: U.S. Government Is 'Under Assault' After James Comey Firing [Associated Press]