1/ Canada: “We’re not there yet” on a NAFTA deal. The Trump administration had given Canada a Friday deadline to join a preliminary, new trade agreement between the U.S. and Mexico. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would only sign a “good” NAFTA deal, while Canada’s top trade negotiator added: “We’re looking for a good deal, not just any deal. We will only agree to a deal that is a good deal for Canada.” A spokesperson from the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office described the negotiations as “ongoing,” while the Trump administration told Congress that it intends to keep Canada in the pact. (New York Times / Politico / Bloomberg / CNBC)
- Transcript: Trump’s Interview with Bloomberg.
2/ Trump is unwilling to make any concessions to Canada at all on NAFTA, and said trade negotiations would be done “totally on our terms”. The remark was told to Bloomberg reporters off the record, but then reported by the Toronto Star. At the time, Trump said he couldn’t admit this publicly because “it’s going to be so insulting they’re not going to be able to make a deal.” He suggested he was forcing Canadian leaders into submission by repeatedly threatening to impose tariffs. Trump followed up by lashing out on Twitter, saying he was “BLATANTLY VIOLATED” due to the leaking of his “OFF THE RECORD COMMENTS” about Canada. He then confirmed the remarks by adding “At least Canada knows where I stand!” (Toronto Star / Politico / Washington Post)
Wow, I made OFF THE RECORD COMMENTS to Bloomberg concerning Canada, and this powerful understanding was BLATANTLY VIOLATED. Oh well, just more dishonest reporting. I am used to it. At least Canada knows where I stand!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 31, 2018
3/ Robert Mueller’s investigation is pushing up against the “60-day rule,” an unofficial Department of Justice policy that suggests that investigators not take any actions within two months of an election in order to avoid influencing the outcome. Rudy Giuliani previously said that if the special counsel’s investigation is not completed by September, then there would be a “very, very serious violation of Justice Department rules,” because Mueller “shouldn’t be conducting one of these investigations in the 60-day period.” The cutoff, however, is not a hard and fast rule and, according to the Justice Department’s inspector general, it’s “not written or described in any Department policy or regulation.” Some of the evidence we’ve yet to see: Trump’s tax returns and bank records; Trump Organization records; other Michael Cohen recordings; cellphone records related to the Trump Tower meeting. (Politico / Axios)
Giuliani and Trump’s legal team are crafting a “counter-report” to question whether the “initiation of the [Mueller] investigation was … legitimate or not”. One section of the report will allege “possible conflicts” of interest by federal law enforcement authorities, while the other section will respond to allegations of collusion and obstruction of justice. (Daily Beast / CNN)
Democrats are trying to bring Trump’s tax returns into public view following tax fraud charges against both Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen. Trump was the first major party candidate in four decades to refuse to disclose his tax returns. (ABC News)
4/ Trump threatened to “get involved” in the Justice Department and “get in there” if the FBI doesn’t “start doing their job and doing it right”. Trump again accused top officials at the FBI and Justice Department of being biased against Republicans. “Our Justice Department and our FBI - at the top of each, because inside they have incredible people - but our Justice Department and our FBI have to start doing their job and doing it right and doing it now,” Trump told the crowd. “I wanted to stay out, but at some point if it doesn’t straighten out properly … I will get involved and I’ll get in there if I have to.” (Reuters)
5/ A former associate of Paul Manafort and a Cambridge Analytica employee struck a plea deal and agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s office. Sam Patten pleaded guilty to failing to register as a foreign lobbyist while working on behalf of a Ukrainian political party and to lying to a Senate committee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. Patten was a business partner of Konstantin Kilimnik, who was indicted along with Manafort on witness tampering charges. In previous court documents, Mueller’s team said they believe Kilimnik was a Russian intelligence operative in 2016, when he was communicating with Manafort and Rick Gates as they worked for Trump’s presidential campaign. (Politico / Bloomberg / Washington Post / Vox)
Patten funneled $50,000 from a Ukrainian oligarch to Trump’s Presidential Inauguration Committee using a “straw purchaser” in order to secure four tickets to the inauguration: The tickets were used by Patten, Kilimnik, the oligarch and another Ukrainian. (The Guardian / NBC News / Washington Post)
6/ A senior Justice Department lawyer said Christopher Steele told him two years ago that Russian intelligence believed “they had Trump over a barrel,” according to multiple people familiar with the previously unreported details. Bruce Ohr, who testified behind closed doors this week to the House Judiciary and Oversight committees, also said Trump campaign aide Carter Page had met with more-senior Russian officials than previously acknowledged. Ohr’s meeting with Steele occurred on July 30, 2016, and the FBI opened its counterintelligence investigation the next day, but for entirely different reasons: the report that Russian hackers had penetrated Democratic email accounts, and George Papadopoulos’ contacts with Russians who said they had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of emails. Earlier this month, Trump proposed stripping Ohr of his security clearance and has asked “how the hell” he remains employed. (Associated Press / CNN)
- House Democrats accused Republicans of misusing “sensitive” documents during their closed-door interview with Bruce Ohr. Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Elijah Cummings say Republican lawmakers “never introduced these documents into the official record, never marked them as exhibits, never explained how they obtained them, and never provided copies to Democratic staff participating in the interview.” (Politico)
7/ Trump is considering Washington litigator Pat Cipollone as a replacement for White House counsel Don McGahn. Trump interviewed Cipollone earlier this week. Cipollone is a former Justice Department attorney who practices commercial litigation. (Reuters / CNN / Washington Post)
poll/ 60% of Americans disapprove of Trump’s job performance. 36% approve, which matches his all-time low, and makes Trump’s average approval rating lower than any president since the 1940s. 49% say Congress should begin impeachment proceedings, while 46% say Congress should not. And 53% believe Trump has tried to interfere with Robert Mueller’s investigation in a way that amounts to obstruction of justice. 63% support Mueller’s investigation. (ABC News / Washington Post)
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