After two weeks of headlines, Trump heads overseas … With a special counsel appointed, Trump keeps talking


CNN Politics:  Nightcap
May 18, 2017   |   by Daniella Diaz and Eli Watkins

After two weeks of headlines, Trump heads overseas

Less than two weeks ago, President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, setting off an avalanche of headlines on top of what was already an administration surrounded by controversy.

On Friday, he’ll put real distance between himself and Washington by heading to the Middle East. He’s wheels up on Friday afternoon, with the first stop in Saudi Arabia on Saturday after the long flight. He’ll be giving a speech in Saudi Arabia, and another on his stop in Israel.

According to CNN’s Kevin Liptak’s curtain-raiser on Wednesday, Trump aide Stephen Miller was drafting these speeches. It might also be a good time to look back at a CNN KFile review of Miller’s past and hard-line views.

By Wednesday, as detailed by national security adviser H.R. McMaster, Trump will be in Rome and meet with Pope Francis — with whom Trump had a minor spat during the 2016 campaign. And one week from now, Trump will be in Brussels ahead of the G7 summit in Sicily on Friday.

Given the way the past few weeks have gone, who knows what will happen on Trump’s trip — or what will be going on in Washington when he returns.

STRAIGHT UP

“There was no collusion. Everybody, even my enemies, have said there is no collusion.”

 

— President Donald Trump to reporters during a joint news conference with Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos.

BUZZING

Republican senator jokes about photos taken outside Capitol Hill: GOP Sen. Ben Sasse tweeted out a series of photos taken of him wearing basketball shorts and a T-shirt while talking to his Senate colleagues — and joked it looked like he’s “smoking reefer outside a wedding” with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. He’s pictured in all three photos with GOP Sen. Tom Cotton — and at some point GOP Sens. John Cornyn and John McCain also stopped by.

BAR TALK

With a special counsel appointed, Trump keeps talking

CNN’s Dan Merica writes: President Donald Trump said he did not ask FBI Director James Comey to end his investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.

Trump emphatically said “no” when asked during a joint news conference with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in the White House’s East Room. It was Trump’s first time taking questions since his Justice Department named a special counsel to probe Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election.

“Well, I respect the move but the entire thing has been a witch hunt,” Trump said when asked about the investigation. “There is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign. But I can always speak for myself and the Russians, zero. I think it divides the country, I think we have a very divided country because of that and many other things. So I can tell you that we want to bring this great country of ours together.”

Trump is both publicly and privately stewing about Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein‘s decision to name a special counsel. After the White House put out a subdued statement on Wednesday night about former FBI Director Robert Mueller being named special counsel, Trump publicly vented on Thursday morning about the new probe.

“This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history,” he wrote on Twitter. “With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special counsel appointed!”

Trump’s tweets signal his White House — or at least the man in charge — will try to resist Mueller’s investigation, meaning the shadow of that probe will now hang over a White House in need of a morale boost.

TIPSY

Chelsea Manning posts the first image of herself since release: After being sentenced to 35 years, Manning came out as transgender. By the time of her release, Manning had spent seven years behind bars. More from Eli.

LAST CALL

3 things you might have missed today

Chaffetz leaving Congress on June 30: The chairman of the House oversight and government reform committee, Jason Chaffetz, is leaving Congress on June 30, the Utah Republican announced on Thursday. More from CNN’s Jeremy Herb and Deirdre Walsh.

McCain says to throw Turkish ambassador out of US: GOP Sen. John McCain called for the Turkish ambassador to the US to be thrown out of the country amid growing anger over the violent beating of protesters that took place outside the Turkish embassy in Washington earlier this week. More from CNN’s Zachary Cohen and Jeremy Herb.

Nunes continues reviewing Russia intelligence, despite recusal: The former head of the House Russia investigation, Rep. Devin Nunes, is continuing to review intelligence relating to Russia, a move that has Democrats grumbling that he has violated the spirit of his recusal. More from CNN’s Tom LoBianco.

CLOSING TIME

US-led coalition aircraft bombed pro-Syrian regime forces that “were advancing well inside an established de-confliction zone.” … Former President George H.W. Bush offered warm praise of late former Fox News chief Roger Ailes, who helped guide his successful 1988 presidential campaign. … Who is controversial Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke?
Thanks for reading the CNN Politics Nightcap. Your bartenders are Daniella Diaz and Eli Watkins. The tip jar: nightcap@cnn.com.
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Your bartenders for CNN Politics’ Nightcap are Daniella Diaz (@DaniellaMicaela) and Eli Watkins (@EliBWatkins)— Tips, thoughts and beer recommendations are always welcome at nightcap@cnn.com.
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