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A short time ago on CNBC, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross appeared on CNBC to discuss the President’s trip to Saudi Arabia. After raving about a “very bright, very attractive young woman” at a venture capital panel he attended on the trip, Ross noted the absence of any protestors during the visit, in contrast to the situation in the US.

Ross: I think the other thing that was fascinating to me … there was not a single hint of a protestor anywhere there during the whole time we were there, not one guy with a bad placard, instead …

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The main takeaway from Friday’s Washington Post story on Trump/Russia was that the investigation has now expanded to include a current White House official who is close to the President as a “significant person of interest.” That’s a big deal not least because the description (1. current White House official, 2. present during the campaign and 3. “close to the president”) matches up so closely with the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. But to me that wasn’t the most noteworthy revelation.

What jumped out to me was that the authors twice invoked investigators’ focus on “financial crimes.”
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Richard Rubin is the author of three books, his most recent being Back Over There: One American Time-Traveler, 100 Years Since the Great War, 500 Miles of Battle-Scarred French Countryside, and Too Many Trenches, Shells, Legends and Ghosts to Count. Richard will be in The Hive Wednesday May 24th at 2 PM EST for a chat about World War I, which reaches its 100th anniversary this year. Submit your questions at any time or feel free to join us on Wednesday! If you’d like to participate but don’t have TPM Prime, sign up here.

Before more time goes by I wanted to share a few thoughts about the latest we’ve heard on the role Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein played in the firing of FBI Director James Comey as well as the larger Russia investigation. Rosenstein has now written an explanation and justification for the firing memo and appeared in a close door session before members of Congress.

The memo Rosenstein penned to explain the firing memo and why he wrote it is a minor bureaucratic masterpiece. It does what lawyers are trained to do in an advocacy context: state clearly and emphatically what can be discussed and argued, ignore or seek to make irrelevant what cannot be discussed and put a firm interpretation on what is inherently subjective.
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I was in meetings when this afternoon’s burst of stories hit. For now, I’ll mention one thing. The kinds of discussions, signals, hints that would likely count as collusion would not look much different from what we now know happened in the Oval Office with President Trump and the Russian Foreign Minister.
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Vice President Mike Pence speaks at a rally to gather support for the Republican plan for the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act at the Trans Parts and Distribution Center, Saturday, March 11, 2017, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

We’re seeing multiple stories this morning, building on hints and suggestions over the course of the week, that Vice President Mike Pence was kept “out of the loop” on seemingly all the problems with Mike Flynn. I see no reason to believe this.

Pence wouldn’t be the first Vice President to go this route. Some of the modern ubiquity of this phrase stems from then Vice President Bush claiming he’d been “out of the loop” on key decisions and knowledge about the Iran-Contra Scandal. There’s even less reason to believe this with Pence.
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President Donald Trump accompanied by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, speaks during a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, May, 18th, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Let me share a few thoughts on the press conference President Trump just held with the President of Colombia. In the nature of the moment, I’ll just focus on the questions President Trump fielded on the investigations.
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CNN just reported that a team of outside advisers to the President have been meeting today to bring in more lawyers to help the President in light of the appointment of a special counsel. That is not abnormal. Presidents who have been in some sense the focus of investigations like this have often, probably usually, hired outside lawyers beyond the White House Counsel. But apparently shepherding this process is Michael Cohen, the President’s longtime “personal lawyer” and Trump Organization fixture who has his own tangled relationship with various Russian and Ukrainian interests, Felix Sater and more.

Remember, he was actually the one who met with Sater and that Ukrainian member of parliament who had a ‘peace plan’ to deliver to Mike Flynn.

This is very interesting.

The fact that President Trump is still making contact with Mike Flynn shows at a minimum a level of recklessness on the President’s part that makes it quite likely he’s done plenty of other things that will land him in a world of trouble. Meanwhile Vice President Pence is still insisting he knew nothing about the investigation into Mike Flynn months after Flynn told the top lawyer for the presidential transition Pence at least nominally ran about the probe. That’s conceivable but, I’d say, not likely.

We have a small landslide of new news this morning tied to the growing tangle of Trump administration scandals. Let me try to piece them together and sort the important from the less important. (Everything is relative when we’re moving at this velocity.)

Let’s go through the headlines. I’m choosing just three – there are a handful of others that on any other day would be siren-blaring news.
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Yesterday afternoon I was going to write this post about expanding our muckraking team here at TPM. Then we had the second afternoon in a row when a shattering blockbuster news story broke right at the end of the day turning everything upside down and scrambling my plans. Which is to say that President Trump is managing to be corrupt faster than I can hire people to cover his corruption, which is both impressive and daunting. So here goes. We are hiring reporters in both our DC and New York offices. These are investigative reporting positions. But I prefer to think of them as muckraking jobs. Because digging into big scandals and stories about corruption and abuses of the public trust, sometimes unseen and unexplored is what our history is as a site and what I love to be a part of. If you’re interested, please see the job listing after the jump.
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The very latest reports out this morning have it that Jared Kushner was a major voice pushing to fire James Comey. And the President is “angry” over the backlash to his decision. A shadow of uncertainty must hang over every report like this. We’re hearing these details through interested parties, a yacht basin Lord of the Flies, with different faction leaders gouging each others’ eyes out as the executive branch descends into chaos. 
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We’re getting more clarity on where Republicans are ending up after a bruising, punishing 36 hours. Republicans are now reportedly debating whether to push for an independent prosecutor or commission, two demands Democrats have made for weeks or months but which almost all Republicans have heretofore refused. They seem almost universally to be calling to see the Comey memos and hear from Comey himself as soon as possible. Wanting to hear more from Comey – either from his memos or his testimony is an obvious position for Republicans since it covers all the possible bases and leaves freedom to maneuver as the situation becomes more clear. They’re not condemning or defending. They just want to hear more. They can interpret that as condemnation or defense later, as more facts reveal themselves. The upshot of tonight, I think, is that Republicans collectively decided to get out of the way. They’re not attacking Trump. But they’re also no longer standing in the way or blocking more investigations. For now at least they seem to saying: you’re going to need to handle this on your own.

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