SAVE THE DATE: Six House Democratic Committee chairs — Reps. Jerry Nadler (N.Y.), Adam Schiff (Calif.), Maxine Waters (Calif.), Richard Neal (Mass.), and Eliot Engel (N.Y.) — have requested that Attorney General Bill Barr submit Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report to Congress in full by April 2 along with "the underlying evidence and documents.”
At the White House
THE MAN WHO ESCAPED MUELLER (NO, NOT TRUMP): While everyone in Washington was waiting for the Mueller report to drop last Friday, conservative author and conspiracy theorist Dr. Jerome Corsi was still waiting to be indicted.
Corsi only found out that he would not face federal charges through news reports that Mueller's 22-month had probe concluded without any new indictments.
- “I assumed I'd be indicted,” Corsi told Power Up. " . . . I thought that right up until the report was issued that they could be indicting me.”
His legal team tells Power Up they were surprised by the turn of events — and several legal experts said Mueller's decision not to indict Corsi was unusual.
Corsi LEAKED a draft plea indictment that laid out a ton of evidence against him, which is the equivalent of spitting in prosecutors' faces. He's a bit player in the drama, but for Mueller's office to just pack up shop and allow that to stand is itself pretty wild.— Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey) March 22, 2019
- Remember: Corsi rejected a plea deal in November after cooperating with Mueller's team for months as they pursued a key line of inquiry: "whether Roger Stone, a longtime Trump adviser, had contact with WikiLeaks, which published hacked Democratic emails in 2016,” according to my colleague Roz Helderman.
- Corsi alleges that Mueller's team attempted to coerce him into saying — falsely — that he intentionally lied to investigators
- Corsi even released a plea agreement drafted by Mueller's office that he says he refused to sign. “According to the document, Corsi alerted Stone in early August 2016 that WikiLeaks planned to release material damaging to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton,” Roz writes.
It's still unclear why Mueller declined to prosecute Corsi, but the Stone friend now tells us he feels vindicated after telling Mueller to “take a hike” on his “fraudulent” plea deal — and that he has no regrets:
- “My wife woke up one morning and said, 'We've been married 27 years — I’d rather visit you every day for the rest of your life in prison than have you not be the man I married.' Because if she had gotten there, I could not go in front of a judge and say that I had committed a crime that I had not committed.”
- “I constantly thought, 'Are they going to break through the door to take Dad to jail today?'” Corsi said, referring to himself.
- Corsi added that he'll vote for Trump again in 2020.
Corsi's case is "very unusual," Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor who is currently a partner at Thompson Coburn LLP, told Power UP. It's not often, he says, that a prosecutor notifies someone they intend to charge and then doesn't actually move forward to charge them.
“There's a possibility that there is a change in circumstances that led to a changed decision on the part of Mueller and his team,” Mariotti told us.
As Corsi and Stone “both seemed to be creating a political circus,” Mariotti said, prosecutors may have decided “that both of these men would not have been worth the time and resources.”
Hold the champagne? Another possibility, per Mariotti: “The D.C. U.S. attorney's office may charge Corsi in the future . . . I would not pop the champagne just yet.”
Stone is slated to head to trial in D.C. in November on charges that he lied to Congress and obstructed a congressional investigation into links between Russia and Trump.
However, Stone was not charged with coordinating with WikiLeaks.
Corsi says Mueller's team interviewed him for 40 hours and spent 20 of those hours — over six different interrogation sessions — focused on connections to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. “He was the center of my questioning,” according to Corsi.
- Now, Corsi says: “I knew Mueller had nothing. They were fishing, they were desperate, they bludgeoned me — they used every technique in the book.”
Trump campaign spokesman:
Best. Monday. Ever.— Tim Murtaugh (@TimMurtaugh) March 25, 2019
THE CUDGEL REPORT: The Trump White House has been gleefully embracing Attorney General Bill Barr's summary that found that no one associated with Trump's campaign conspired or coordinated with Russia — and are starting to deploy it as a weapon to attack critics across cable news, Twitter, and email blasts.
Our colleagues Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey report on some of the ways in which Trump and his allies already started to “attack perceived opponents they say unfairly accused the president of wrongdoing.”
- “White House counselor Kellyanne Conway called on House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) to resign immediately, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) urged Schiff to relinquish his chairmanship,” they write.
- “Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said he planned to investigate what he dubbed 'all of the abuse by the Department of Justice and the FBI' during the 2016 presidential election. And the Trump campaign sent a memo to television hosts and producers that included a list of guests it suggested should no longer be booked because they 'made outlandish, false claims' on air,” Ashley and Josh report.
PAYBACK TIME: Trump may even support a counter-investigation into those who called for and supported Mueller's investigation.
- “There are a lot of people out there that have done some very, very evil things. Very bad things. I would say treasonous things against our country,” Trump said Monday in the Oval Office. “We've gone through a period of really bad things happening. Those people will certainly be looked at.”
- “What he says is he wants this investigated,” said Trump’s lawyer, Rudy W. Giuliani. “I don’t think he’s thought it out like Lindsey has, but he wants these things investigated.”
Trump and his orbit will likely exploit their interpretation of Barr's preliminary findings as a way to continue to excoriate the media going into the 2020 campaign:
- “The members of Congress, who made these ridiculous claims, how can they be on television again? How can they be called by reporters again?” Dave Bossie, Trump's 2016 deputy campaign manager told Josh and Ashley. “How can reporters who have perpetrated this fraud gleefully on a number of networks, and at major newspapers across the country, how can they be trusted again?”
- “The Republican National Committee has already calculated how many hours or how much coverage particular television networks and newspapers devoted to the Mueller investigation when compared with Trump’s trade agenda or his efforts to defeat the Islamic State,” per Ashley and Josh. “The White House also organized a call with supporters Sunday night and sent them a lengthy memo urging them to attack Democrats and the news media.”
The only person who has been caught lying about Russia is Donald Trump. If he thinks I’ve made a false statement, he can sue me. And I’ll beat him in court. https://t.co/x9UvPnTqkO— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) March 25, 2019
ABOUT THAT PEACE PLAN: Trump followed up his diplomacy-by-tweet with an official proclamation recognizing Israel's sovereignty over Golan Heights alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, much to the protestation of other Middle Eastern states. The decision reverses over half a century of U.S. policy since Israeli forces seized it from Syria in 1967.
- Not mincing words: Syria called Washington “the main enemy” of Arabs due over the decision, a “slap” to the international community, an act of “blatant aggression” and indicative of “the highest level of contempt for international legitimacy.”
- Lebanon's foreign ministry released a statement that “no country can falsify history by transferring” land from one country to another and said that the recognition undermines efforts to reach a fair peace deal in the region.
- Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu tweeted: “The U.S. has once again ignored international law. However, this decision will never legitimize Israeli occupation. On the contrary, it will further increase tensions in the region by preventing peace efforts in the Middle East.”
But there's a consensus that while politically beneficial to both Trump and Netanyahu, the move imperils the long-awaited Middle East peace plan led by Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, the special representative for international negotiations. The release of the plan has been delayed until after Netanyahu's April 9 election — yet another potential political gift to Bibi from the Trump administration.
- “Politicians running to Netanyahu’s right are calling on the Trump administration to release their peace plan before the Israeli elections, hoping its contents become the subject of a referendum on the future of the peace process,” McClatchy's Michael Wilner reports.
- “Releasing the plan in advance of April 9 would require Netanyahu to go on record with policy positions sure to divide his delicate political coalition. But in exchange for holding out on its publication until after the vote, administration officials expect Netanyahu to play ball if he wins.”
'Political twinship' on full display: The two leaders, both of whom have been under investigation while in office, joked about sharing Israeli wine with the White House staff.
- “I hope they don't open an investigation on it,” Netanyahu quipped after Trump agreed to give the prime minister's gift to his staff.
Outside the Beltway
2020 DEMS IN A POST-RUSSIA PROBE WORLD: My colleagues Robert Costa and Sean Sullivan report that the conclusion of the Mueller probe leaves Democrats free to focus on their signature issues and policy platforms, knowing they must defeat Trump on Election Day — and not through impeachment.
- “When voters come out to hear the candidates that campaign in New Hampshire and quiz them, they want to hear their views on issues,” said Jim Demers, a New Hampshire Democratic strategist supporting Booker. “I don’t think any of the candidates were talking about the Mueller report, so I think things just continue to move on like they have been.”
- “Hanging the entire nomination, or the election, on an anti-Trump message, I don’t believe is a winning message or a winning strategy,” said Columbia, S.C., Mayor Stephen Benjamin (D), who is neutral in the primary. “I would caution anyone seeking the nomination to not put all their eggs in an anti-Trump basket.”
- “Over the weekend, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) held three town halls across northern New Hampshire, taking 25 questions from voters. None of them asked about the Mueller findings,” per Bob and Sean.
But that’s not to say 2020 Democrats are ignoring the story completely — and many are pushing for the release of the full report. Here's where key candidates stand:
- Cory Booker: “The American public deserves the full report and findings from the Mueller investigation immediately — not just the in-house summary from a Trump Administration official,' the New Jersey senator wrote on Twitter on Sunday.
- Pete Buttigieg: “Look, I think a lot of folks are waiting for some piece of evidence to come along that finally proves once and for all that he’s not a good guy. And what they forget is that there are a lot of people where I live, and maybe a lot of people around here too, who, knowing that he’s not a good guy, walked in to the voting booth and voted to burn the house down because of some very deep issues that motivated them to send a message,” the South Bend Mayor said during a stop in South Carolina over the weekend, per my colleague Dave Weigel.
Julián Castro: “So yeah, I do think that Congress needs to assert its power, if need be, they should subpoena the document and the American people should get a look at it,” the former Housing and Urban Development secretary told MSNBC’s Joy Reid on Saturday.
Kirsten Gillibrand: “The Mueller report must be made public. Not just a letter from someone appointed by Trump to protect himself — all of it. The President works for the people, and he is not above the law,” the New York senator wrote on Twitter on Sunday.
Kamala Harris: “The Mueller report needs to be made public, the underlying investigative materials should be handed over to Congress, and Barr must testify … A short letter from Trump's handpicked Attorney General is not sufficient,” the California senator wrote on Twitter.
John Hickenlooper: “The point is I think the American people want to know the facts and indeed if there was no conspiracy, then there was no conspiracy, but it doesn't mean that we knew that a year ago or two years ago,” the former Colorado governor said in an exchange with journalist Michael Tracey in New Hampshire on Saturday.
Jay Inslee: “The American people deserve the opportunity to read the full Mueller report, not a sanitized summary from Donald Trump’s handpicked AG. The Trump administration has proven it can’t be trusted,” the Washington governor wrote on Twitter.
Amy Klobuchar: “It’s time to make the entire report public that’s justice worthy of this building,” the Minnesota senator said Sunday during a video she posted on Twitter that was shot in front of the DOJ's HQ.
Beto O’Rourke: “Republicans and Democrats should do whatever they can to make sure that their constituents, the American people, can read that report, form their own judgment and make their own decisions …,” the former Texas congressman said Friday in South Carolina, per the Texas Tribune’s Abby Livingston.
Bernie Sanders: “I don’t want a summary of the Mueller report. I want the whole damn report,” the Vermont senator wrote on Twitter.
Elizabeth Warren: “Everyone needs to get a chance to read the Mueller report. It needs to be made public, all of it,” the Massachusetts senator told reporters on Sunday.
I just check with @jennagiesta on this. CNN's last poll asked "In your own words, please tell me what 1 issue will be most important to you in deciding whom to support in next year’s prez election?" 0 (!) respondents said the Russian/Mueller investigation. https://t.co/j4fNwjF7fU— (((Harry Enten))) (@ForecasterEnten) March 25, 2019
SPEAKING OF SIGNATURE ISSUES: The Justice Department may give Democrats more fodder to reinvigorate the base with its decision yesterday to argue that all of the Affordable Care Act, not just preexisting conditions, is unconstitutional. Polling showed the attempts to gut the law last year actually helped Obamacare record some of its best poll numbers ever.
The department's decision to declare its intentions in a federal case in Louisiana could, as my colleague Isaac Stanley-Becker reports: “potentially eliminate health care for millions of people and create widespread disruption across the U.S. health-care system — from removing no-charge preventive services for older Americans on Medicare to voiding the expansion of Medicaid in most states.”
MICHAEL AVENATTI’S DESCENT CONTINUES: Icarus famously found out what happens when you fly too close to the sun. Michael Avenatti realized on Monday what occurs when you try to cross the winged goddess of victory, better known in our times as the athletic giant Nike.
It did not go well for the high-profile Trump critic, who brought multiple actions against the president and his former attorney Michael Cohen while representing Stormy Daniels:
- The Southern District of New York charged Avenatti, who even considered running for president, with trying to extort the company.
- “Authorities charge that Avenatti threatened to hold a news conference on the eve of the NCAA college basketball tournament to reveal damaging allegations against Nike unless it paid his client $1.5 million and agreed to hire Avenatti and another lawyer for $15 million to $25 million to conduct an “internal investigation” into the purported allegations,” my colleague Devlin Barrett reports.
- Avenatti's day was about to get even worse: “Simultaneously, federal prosecutors in Los Angeles filed separate charges accusing Avenatti of wire fraud and bank fraud for allegedly taking a client’s settlement money and using it to pay expenses for Avenatti’s coffee business.”
For a man who smashed into the news last year with allegations of Trump violating campaign finance law to silence the reported affair of a porn star, it is a striking fall.
- Last year almost to the day, Daniels was giving her prime time interview to 60 minutes.
- Remember the case and Avenatti’s antics generated so much attention that he explored a presidential run.
- Now, Daniels has dropped him as a client and he faces the possibility of years in prison.
In the Media
WHAT WE'RE READING:
Great news: Ohio names shelter pets the official state pet to raise awareness about animal adoption. By ABC News 5 Cleveland's Camryn Justice.
It's true: Human Contact Is Now a Luxury Good. By The New York Times' Nellie Bowles.
ICYMI: Puerto Rico faces food-stamp crisis as Trump privately vents about federal aid to Hurricane Maria-battered island. By The Post’s Jeff Stein and Josh Dawsey.
This is a crazy read: The Underground Railroad of North Korea. By GQ’s Doug Bock Clark.
Hope, but don't change too much: Obama cautions freshman House Democrats about the price tag of liberal policies. By The Post's Rachael Bade.
- Heartbreaking: Parkland Teens Say The Suicide Deaths Of Two Shooting Survivors Is A “Wake-Up Call” For America. By BuzzFeed’s Tasneem Nashrulla.
- After Sandy Hook and Parkland, trauma and survivor's guilt remain. By The Hartford Courant's Josh Kovner.
*If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)*