Fox News Halftime Report -- Mueller a fitting foe for Trump

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Fox News Halftime Report

May 18, 2017
By Chris Stirewalt

 

On the roster: Mueller a fitting foe for Trump - Flynn notified Trump transition of criminal probe - Hmmmmmm… Pence starts up his own super PAC - I'll Tell You What: Shake ya tail feather - **cough** It was a sting **cough**

MUELLER A FITTING FOE FOR TRUMP
History could have hardly chosen a more fitting inquisitor for President Trump than Robert Mueller.

Born less than two years apart in New York City, and both products of private schools and Ivy League colleges, Trump and Mueller are very much opposite sides of the same coin.

Mueller, the stand out student and jock, volunteered for Vietnam after finishing at Princeton. Trump, the self-described "wise guy," got a draft deferment for bone spurs in his heels after finishing at Penn and instead waged his own personal assault on the social and business worlds of Manhattan.

Now, Mueller, 72, is a figure of near-universal respect and admiration in Washington, even after serving as FBI director for a tumultuous 12 years. At almost age 71, Trump, on the other hand, is the object of near universal and bipartisan mistrust in the capital.

One is the best face of the patrician, WASP establishment. The other has devoted a life and now a political career to tearing that establishment down.

A wave of relief swept across Washington with the news that Mueller would head up the special investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 election, including whether or not Trump aides colluded with the hostile power. Republicans and Democrats both felt that finally, calm and order could be restored.
 
The president was less happy.

Speaking to graduates of the Coast Guard Academy just hours before Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein pined a badge back on Mueller, Trump could not contain his anger and resentment at the investigation itself.

"No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly," Trump lamented to the sea of fresh faces assembled to hear his words. Leaving aside the dubiousness of the claim, it was a good indication of how the Russia story that has clouded most of the beginning of Trump's term preys on his thinking.

When news of the Mueller appointment broke, however, the White House issued a statement from Trump that was measured and appropriate, promising cooperation and looking forward to a swift and conclusive end.

After two very long weeks, Trump's staff had finally managed to deescalate a potentially explosive situation, and even got the president's cooperation. Victory!

But as the Grateful Dead sang, "'till the morning comes."

Today, Trump was back to self-pity, bemoaning what he said on Twitter was, "the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!" The president further fumed that there had never been a special counsel appointed to investigate his predecessor's investigation nor the campaign of his 2016 opponent.

Trump evidently still doesn't see his own role in creating the predicament for himself and in thwarting his own agenda.

Mueller is on the job precisely because of what Trump said and did, particularly the audacious boast that he fired FBI Director James Comey because of the Russia investigation.

Had then-President Obama sacked Comey for his handling of, say, an investigation into IRS targeting of conservative political groups or the doctored talking points about the Islamist raid on a U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya, there most certainly would have been a special council appointed.

If you think that the Republican-controlled Congress wouldn't have insisted and had the impeachment alarms blaring, too, you are mistaken.

On several occasions, Obama walked right up to, and probably stepped over, the line relating to interfering with investigations including the IRS one and the probe into Hillary Clinton's mishandling of state secrets. But he knew better than to fire the top federal investigator and then explicitly state that it was because of a politically charged investigation.

Trump might even have fired Comey and not ended up with Mueller performing a campaign colonoscopy on him if Trump had just resisted the urge to boast but, alas, it was not within him, just as restraint was not within him today.

So now stands Mueller – battle-hardened, stoic, thorough and modest – on one side, and Trump – a lover of luxury, given to complaint, abjuring of details and the consummate self-promoter – on the other.

If Comey got Trump's goat, Mueller will get the whole pasture.   

THE RULEBOOK: DIFFERENT STROKES
"The federal and State governments are in fact but different agents and trustees of the people, constituted with different powers, and designed for different purposes." – James Madison, Federalist No. 46

TIME OUT: SPEED KILLS
Atlantic: "Pitchers today throw harder than ever before ([Noah Syndergaard]'s hammer of a fastball clocks in at 98 miles an hour on average), at the cost of increased risk to every tendon, ligament, and muscle involved in their motions. 'Shoulder problems, elbow problems, they're all the same,' wrote Jeff Passan in 2016's The Arm, a study of the modern rash of pitching injuries. 'All the function of men pushing themselves to do something the body never intended it to do.' The 'something' Passan refers to is pitching in general, the inherently taxing act of throwing baseballs overhand, but the risks mount for harder, more muscular throwers. Among the most valuable commodities in contemporary baseball, then, are the rare aces who can shut down offenses without rearing back, who dominate but don't strain themselves. … Chief among them right now is Dallas Keuchel of the Houston Astros… He throws soft, gets outs, and, for the most part, stays healthy. He is a throwback, but he solves a modern problem."

Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

FLYNN NOTIFIED TRUMP TRANSITION OF CRIMINAL PROBE 
NYT: "Michael T. Flynn told President Trump's transition team weeks before the inauguration that he was under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign, according to two people familiar with the case. Despite this warning, which came about a month after the Justice Department notified Mr. Flynn of the inquiry, Mr. Trump made Mr. Flynn his national security adviser. The job gave Mr. Flynn access to the president and nearly every secret held by American intelligence agencies. Mr. Flynn's disclosure, on Jan. 4, was first made to the transition team's chief lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, who is now the White House counsel. That conversation, and another one two days later between Mr. Flynn's lawyer and transition lawyers, shows that the Trump team knew about the investigation of Mr. Flynn far earlier than has been previously reported."

Report: 18 interactions between Russia and Trump camp - Reuters: "Michael Flynn and other advisers to Donald Trump's campaign were in contact with Russian officials and others with Kremlin ties in at least 18 calls and emails during the last seven months of the 2016 presidential race, current and former U.S. officials familiar with the exchanges told Reuters. … The 18 calls and electronic messages took place between April and November 2016… Those discussions focused on mending U.S.-Russian economic relations strained by sanctions imposed on Moscow, cooperating in fighting Islamic State in Syria and containing a more assertive China, the sources said."

Trump told Flynn last month to 'stay strong,' according to friends - Yahoo News: "Not only did he remain loyal to President Trump; he indicated that he and the president were still in communication. 'I just got a message from the president to stay strong,' Flynn said after the meal was over, according to two sources who are close to Flynn and are familiar with the conversation, which took place on April 25. … The sources who spoke to Yahoo News say Flynn did not indicate how Trump had sent the message —whether it was a written note, a text message, a phone call or some other method." 

Rosenstein to give rare briefing to full Senate - U.S. News: "Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has agreed to give a classified briefing to the full Senate this week, responding to lawmakers' demands for a fuller accounting on the events leading up to President Donald Trump's decision to fire FBI Director James Comey. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell confirmed on Monday that Rosenstein plans to brief the Senate on Thursday at 2:30 to answer questions about his involvement in the dismissal."

Senate panel seeks Comey testimony - The Hill: "The Senate Intelligence Committee has sent a request to former FBI Director James Comey to testify publicly in the wake of his firing by President Trump. Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and ranking member Mark Warner (D-Va.) on Wednesday said they sent a letter to Comey asking him to testify during a public hearing as well as meet with members in a closed-door briefing. Warner said they hadn't received a response to the letter, but signaled he was optimistic Comey would testify."

The Judge's Ruling: All in a week's work - Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano examines how just seven days will shape the entirety of the Trump candidacy. More here.

[Liam Donovan wonders what, if any, breaking point there will be for Republicans when it comes to Trump scandals]

HMMMMMM… PENCE STARTS UP HIS OWN SUPER PAC
Bloomberg: "…Vice President Mike Pence has taken steps to begin building his own political war chest. Pence launched Great America Committee, a leadership PAC, a move that will enable him to channel money to congressional Republicans ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. The political action committee's registration was posted Wednesday on the Federal Election Commission website. … It's unusual for vice presidents to set up their own fundraising vehicles. Neither Joseph Biden nor Dick Cheney, the two vice presidents who preceded Pence, had one while in office. … 'Launching a leadership PAC sometimes signals an intent to run for higher office, which in Pence's case, has been a topic of public interest ever since he was first nominated,' said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsible Politics, which studies money in politics."
 
SCOREBOARD
Trump net job-approval rating: -14.8 points
Change from one week ago: -1.4 points

I'LL TELL YOU WHAT: SHAKE YA TAIL FEATHERS
Nothing like breaking news while mid podcast! This week Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt discuss former FBI Director Robert Mueller's appointment as Special Counsel looking into the Russian intervention in the 2016 Presidential Election. Dana breaks down how she would handle the latest happenings in Washington and Chris lays out the path for the investigation ahead. Plus, when is it too hot to eat red meat for lunch? (Hint: never.) LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE

PLAY-BY-PLAY
In first education budget, Trump makes cuts to public school programs - WaPo

White House under pressure to denounce Turkish ruler's goon squad - The Hill

Chaffetz expected to announce resignation today - Politico

GOP allies dump late cash into Montana special House race ahead of Tuesday votePolitico

Donald Trump Jr. gets royal treatment in Dubai - AP

Final Obama travel tab just under $100 million - WashEx

AUDIBLE: BOLTS AND BOLTS
"He's a man without coattails." – Historian Douglas Brinkley in an interview with WaPo, discussing the growing isolation of the president, a wearer of famously capaciously-cut suit coats, from his own party.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
"Despite my disdain for this President, it appears that this new crisis (reported Comey memo) was actually dealt with as well as it could be.  They simply denied the reported conversation and allegations on one or two occasions and let the maelstrom swirl around without adding to the hysteria (with Tweets, or shrubbery laden off-the-record Spicer comments or immediate individual WH staffer talking head moments on FOX/MSNBC that would need to be walked back later).  What would the landscape look like if they had handled the other purported crises in such a coordinated and – dare I say – normal manner?  Partisan as ever, but they would be able to maintain the higher ground." – Ken Levine, Lionville, Pa.

[Ed. note: I think you're on to something, Mr. Levine. Part of the advantage may have been that they were responding to things outside the White House – published news stories – rather than the actions of the president himself. So far, Trump has been the worst enemy of his own communications shop.]

"I recall a moment in history when Harry S. Truman at the Potsdam conference turned to Josef Stalin and quietly informed him the United States had 'a new weapon of unusual destructive force.' Although still technically allies, it was clear that Stalin and the U.S.S.R. was not only a rival to the western democracies, but also a growing threat. Stalin reportedly said nothing, just nodding. Then as now, the Russians already knew. It's high time someone sweeps away all this useless chatter and lays bare the truth: The radical left and progressives on both sides of the aisle, as well as foreign actors, want to cripple and destroy the United States. They have worked for decades to tear down and corrupt not only the Constitution, but every other democratic institution grown and nurtured as part of your great Republic. We saw what they would do with unchecked power, but didn't have time to finish the job. And now Donald Trump is the only thing left standing in their way. Oh, and the American people." – Steve Keffer, North Vancouver, Canada

[Ed. note: Things must look pretty dire from across the northern border, Mr. Keffer. I gather you mean that you think our president divulged secret information to Russia about a threat to civil aviation in a bid to intimidate the Kremlin, as Truman did in the dawning days of the Cold War. It certainly doesn't look that way from here, where instead it appears that Trump was either trying to work cooperatively or just showing off. As far as your view that the United States is nearly crippled and destroyed, I would encourage you to visit our country and see that despite some problems, this remains truly "the last, best hope of earth," and a proud nation filled with free, dynamic and optimistic people.]

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

**COUGH** IT WAS A STING **COUGH**
AP: "FRESNO, Calif. – The bee industry is buzzing over the arrest of a man accused of stealing thousands of hives worth nearly $1 million from California's almond orchards, one of the biggest such thefts on record…. In California, which relies on bees brought in from such places as Missouri, Montana and North Dakota to produce more almonds than any other place in the world, hives began to vanish overnight across several counties three years ago. The break in the case came in late April, when a tip led authorities to a ramshackle 'chop shop' of stolen beehives on a corner lot outside Fresno. They arrested 51-year-old Pavel Tveretinov, a beekeeper-turned-criminal from suburban Sacramento, on suspicion of possessing stolen property, investigators said…. One of the biggest single thefts came in January, when more than 700 hives vanished from two orchards north of Sacramento, about 200 miles away."



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