Here are the essential things to know about the Trumps, with notes on the roles each family member may play in the administration
As soon as Donald Trump takes the oath of office, the Obama family is scheduled to board a helicopter for the airport and a California holiday. A new first family will have taken their place. Heres a bit about the Trumps, with notes on the roles each family member may play in the administration.
Washington (CNN)What was meant to be a celebratory tour of the Midwest on Thursday turned sour for President Donald Trump when he learned federal prosecutors were looking to question his company’s longtime financial boss.
For Trump, the news added another unfortunate layer to his growing frustration at the swirling legal questions now clouding both his administration and his business. Trump’s mood, people inside the White House say, has grown dark as his longtime fixer Michael Cohen executes a very public breakup. Even as he worked to exude confidence about a roaring economy and handshake deal with Europe, the encroaching troubles made for another agony-and-ecstasy week.
“They’re dying to see us make a little bit of a mistake,” Trump lamented Thursday from inside a Granite City, Illinois, steel plant, where he was hoping to exult in positive economic news in front of a supportive crowd. Aides said they organized the tour hoping to spotlight policies that have helped boost American manufacturing. Privately, some also concede getting Trump on the road is a way to distract him from the persistent drip-drip of the Russia investigation.
But even in the heartland, his mind turned again to his troubles back home. Glaring at a row of television cameras, he mimicked his media critics and flashed irritation at the spotlight that comes with his office.
“These people, they analyze every single word and they follow us,” he complained, describing an experience that every president in the age of television has endured. “The good news is: we can get the word out.”
There were some signs this week Trump is taking more seriously his aides’ longtime suggestion that he focus his message on the economy and jobs, rather than answering every question that is lobbed his way. He declined almost every shouted query this week, beyond an off-hand answer on Monday when asked if he was provoking war with Iran after an all-caps tweet.
Walking to his helicopter or sitting in the Oval Office, Trump at times appeared tempted to respond to shouts about Cohen or his on-again, off-again sequel summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But perhaps heeding calls from aides hoping to wrest control of the news cycle, he stopped short.
In an unprecedented move, White House staff barred a CNN reporter from attending an event in the Rose Garden after she questioned Trump about the Cohen matter in the Oval Office — questions that ultimately proved prescient a day later when news emerged that Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, claims Trump knew in advance of a 2016 meeting between his son and Russia-connected lawyers offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Later, a White House spokesman suggested the ban was Trump’s own doing.
“The President does feel strongly about this,” deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said when asked whether Trump ordered his new communications chief Bill Shine and press secretary Sarah Sanders to execute the decision. The move drew widespread outcry.
Standing in front of cameras on the South Lawn on Friday, Trump stuck to a triumphant script proclaiming new GDP numbers showing the economy growing at an annual rate of 4.1 percent and the return of apparent remains of fallen US troops from North Korea. He turned and retreated through the South Portico as reporters erupted into questions about the latest Russia development.
His longtime friend Larry Kudlow, now serving as the top White House economic adviser, said the positive economic news — paired with a preliminary agreement with the European Union to lower trade barriers — had the President in a cheery mood.
“Very positive. Upbeat. All upbeat,” was Kudlow’s description of the President’s frame of mind on Friday morning — despite a series of tweets from the President two hours earlier decrying the Russia matter and his now-estranged former attorney.
“So the Fake News doesn’t waste my time with dumb questions, NO, I did NOT know of the meeting with my son, Don jr,” he wrote. “Sounds to me like someone is trying to make up stories in order to get himself out of an unrelated jam.”
The collusion matter was still on his mind hours later when he phoned his friend Sean Hannity for an impromptu radio interview and raised the issue unprompted.
“There is a lot of corruption out there but it happens to be on the other side of the ledger. If you talk about collusion, the collusion is there. There’s no question about it. But it’s with the Democrats and Russia,” he said. “All you have to do is look at what they did and how they participated with Russia. It’s a disgraceful situation.”
Trump advisers say it’s little surprise the Russia investigation, and its ancillary subplots, remains a preoccupying distraction for the President. Cohen, who for years acted as Trump’s personal attorney, has shown he’s willing to take his split with the President public in sensational fashion. That includes approving the release of an audio tape this week featuring Trump discussing a payment to a former Playboy centerfold.
Weisselberg, however, could prove even more damaging to the President. A former Trump Organization employee told CNN that Weisselberg being subpoenaed as part of the Cohen probe is the “ultimate nightmare scenario for Trump” because Weisselberg knows “anything and everything” about the finances of the Trump Organization.
“It’s getting closer and closer to his inner circle,” a Republican close to the White House said when asked about Trump’s mood. “How do you think he feels?”
(CNN)Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, claims that then-candidate Trump knew in advance about the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower in which Russians were expected to offer his campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton, sources with knowledge tell CNN. Cohen is willing to make that assertion to special counsel Robert Mueller, the sources said.
Cohen alleges that he was present, along with several others, when Trump was informed of the Russians’ offer by Trump Jr. By Cohen’s account, Trump approved going ahead with the meeting with the Russians, according to sources.
To be clear, these sources said Cohen does not have evidence, such as audio recordings, to corroborate his claim, but he is willing to attest to his account.
Cohen privately testified last year to two Congressional committees investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. A source familiar with Cohen’s House testimony said he did not testify that Trump had advance knowledge. Cohen’s claims weren’t mentioned in separate reports issued by Republicans and Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee.
Contacted by CNN, one of Cohen’s attorneys, Lanny Davis, declined to comment.
“He’s been lying all week, he’s been lying for years,” said Rudy Giuliani, the President’s attorney, to Chris Cuomo on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time” on Thursday night.
He added, “I don’t see how he’s got any credibility.”
Giuliani also said Cohen is “the kind of witness that can really destroy your whole case” and called Cohen, who was a top Trump Organization attorney for a decade, a “pathological liar.”
“Donald Trump Jr. has been professional and responsible throughout the Mueller and Congressional investigations,” said Alan Futerfas, an attorney for Donald Trump Jr. “We are very confident of the accuracy and reliability of the information that has been provided by Mr. Trump, Jr., and on his behalf.”
According to people who have discussed the matter with Cohen, he has expressed hope that this claim about the Trump Tower meeting will help him reach out to Mueller and possibly lessen his legal troubles. He’s under scrutiny by federal prosecutors in Manhattan after Mueller referred Cohen’s case to them.
The June 2016 meeting was arranged after a publicist who knew Trump Jr. told him in emails — in no uncertain terms — that a senior Russian official “offered to provide the Trump campaign” with damaging information about Clinton, and that the outreach was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” At the time, the Russian operation to covertly boost Trump’s candidacy wasn’t publicly known. Trump. Jr. responded, “if it’s what you say, I love it,” and started to arrange the meeting.
At the meeting, Trump Jr. was joined by his brother-in-law Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign chairman at the time. There were four Russians in the room, including a lawyer with Kremlin ties, a businessman who worked for an oligarch and a lobbyist with old KGB connections.
After news of the meeting broke in July 2017, the Trump team offered misleading explanations and changed their story several times. But one claim stayed consistent: that Trump had no knowledge of the meeting beforehand, wasn’t told about it afterward and first learned about it one year later.
Those denials were repeatedly issued by Trump, his attorney Jay Sekulow, Trump Jr., Futerfas and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. Those people denied that Trump had contemporaneous knowledge of the meeting on more than 15 occasions, according to CNN’s analysis.
Trump said on July 12, 2017, that he “only heard about it two or three days ago.” One week later, Trump repeated that he “didn’t know anything about the meeting” because “nobody told me” about it.
Around that same time, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Sekulow to confirm Trump’s claims that he only recently learned about the controversial meeting. Sekulow’s response: “Yes, I swear.”
But perhaps the highest-stakes denial was given by Trump Jr. in his testimony last year to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“He wasn’t aware of it,” Trump Jr. told lawmakers, referring to his father’s knowledge of the meeting. “And, frankly, by the time anyone was aware of it, which was summer of this year, as I stated earlier, I wouldn’t have wanted to get him involved in it because it had nothing to do with him.”
Trump’s critics have long doubted these denials. They point to a series of phone calls Trump Jr. made to a blocked phone number before and after the meeting. They also note that two days before the meeting, Trump mysteriously announced plans to give a “major speech” about Clinton’s scandals. Trump Jr. says he didn’t get any dirt at the meeting — and the speech never happened.
Even Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist and top Trump campaign official, said the meeting was “treasonous” and speculated that “the chance that Don Jr. did not walk these (Russians) up to his father’s office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero.” Trump Jr. has denied Bannon’s allegation. Bannon’s comments, to author Michael Wolff for his book “Fire and Fury,” triggered the bitter public divorce between Bannon and Trump in early 2018.
Axios reported that Bannon does not have first-hand knowledge about whether Trump Jr. told his father, and Bannon later said his “treasonous” remark was directed at Manafort and not Trump Jr.
Update: This story has been updated with more comments by Rudy Giuliani.
Former White House strategist quoted in Fire and Fury, by Michael Wolff, as saying: Theyre going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV
Donald Trumps former chief strategist Steve Bannon has described the Trump Tower meeting between the presidents son and a group of Russians during the 2016 election campaign as treasonous and unpatriotic, according to an explosive new book seen by the Guardian.
Bannon, speaking to author Michael Wolff, warned that the investigation into alleged collusion with the Kremlin will focus on money laundering and predicted: Theyre going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.
Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, reportedly based on more than 200 interviews with the president, his inner circle and players in and around the administration, is one of the most eagerly awaited political books of the year. In it, Wolff lifts the lid on a White House lurching from crisis to crisis amid internecine warfare, with even some of Trumps closest allies expressing contempt for him.
Bannon, who was chief executive of the Trump campaign in its final three months, then White House chief strategist for seven months before returning to the rightwing Breitbart News, is a central figure in the nasty, cutthroat drama, quoted extensively, often in salty language.
He is particularly scathing about a June 2016 meeting involving Trumps son Donald Jr, son-in-law Jared Kushner, then campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in New York. A trusted intermediary had promised documents that would incriminate rival Hillary Clinton but instead of alerting the FBI to a potential assault on American democracy by a foreign power, Trump Jr replied in an email: I love it.
The meeting was revealed by the New York Times in July last year, prompting Trump Jr to say no consequential material was produced. Soon after, Wolff writes, Bannon remarked mockingly: The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor with no lawyers. They didnt have any lawyers.
Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think its all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.
Bannon went on, Wolff writes, to say that if any such meeting had to take place, it should have been set up in a Holiday Inn in Manchester, New Hampshire, with your lawyers who meet with these people. Any information, he said, could then be dump[ed] down to Breitbart or something like that, or maybe some other more legitimate publication.
Bannon added: You never see it, you never know it, because you dont need to But thats the brain trust that they had.
Bannon also speculated that Trump Jr had involved his father in the meeting. The chance that Don Jr did not walk these jumos up to his fathers office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero.
Special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed last May, following Trumps dismissal of FBI director James Comey, to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 election. This has led to the indictments of four members of Trumps inner circle, including Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Manafort has pleaded not guilty to money laundering charges; Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. In recent weeks Bannons Breitbart News and other conservative outlets have accused Muellers team of bias against the president.
Trump predicted in an interview with the New York Times last week that the special counsel was going to be fair, though he also said the investigation makes the country look very bad. The president and his allies deny any collusion with Russia and the Kremlin has denied interfering.
Bannon has criticised Trumps decision to fire Comey. In Wolffs book, obtained by the Guardian ahead of publication from a bookseller in New England, he suggests White House hopes for a quick end to the Mueller investigation are gravely misplaced.
You realise where this is going, he is quoted as saying. This is all about money laundering. Mueller chose [senior prosecutor Andrew] Weissmann first and he is a money-laundering guy. Their path to fucking Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr and Jared Kushner Its as plain as a hair on your face.
Last month it was reported that federal prosecutors had subpoenaed records from Deutsche Bank, the German financial institution that has lent hundreds of millions of dollars to the Kushner property empire. Bannon continues: It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner shit. The Kushner shit is greasy. Theyre going to go right through that. Theyre going to roll those two guys up and say play me or trade me.
Scorning apparent White House insouciance, Bannon reaches for a hurricane metaphor: Theyre sitting on a beach trying to stop a Category Five.
He insists that he knows no Russians, will not be a witness, will not hire a lawyer and will not appear on national television answering questions.
Fire and Fury will be published next week. Wolff is a prominent media critic and columnist who has written for the Guardian and is a biographer of Rupert Murdoch. He previously conducted interviews for the Hollywood Reporter with Trump in June 2016 and Bannon a few months later.
He told the Guardian in November that to research the book, he showed up at the White House with no agenda but wanting to find out what the insiders were really thinking and feeling. He enjoyed extraordinary access to Trump and senior officials and advisers, he said, sometimes at critical moments of the fledgling presidency.
The rancour between Bannon and Javanka Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump is a recurring theme of the book. Kushner and Ivanka are Jewish. Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state, is quoted as saying: It is a war between the Jews and the non-Jews.
Trump is not spared. Wolff writes that Thomas Barrack Jr, a billionaire who is one of the presidents oldest associates, allegedly told a friend: Hes not only crazy, hes stupid. Barrack denied that to the New York Times.