John T. Bennett

Trump Takes Putin’s Word for it on Russian Meddling in Elections
Putin says charges against Russians wouldn’t have a ‘fighting chance’ in U.S. courts

Standing alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Donald Trump said Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling into U.S. elections has hurt relations between the U.S. and Russia and has been a “disaster for our country.”

Taking questions from reporters, Putin denied his country had engaged in “so-called interference” and said it had no plans to do so in the future.

Trump, Putin Address Election Meddling Charges in Helsinki
Russian president denies what U.S. agencies have concluded he ordered

Updated 11:26 a.m. | Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the Helsinki summit “a success” and a “very fruitful round of negotiations,” but he said he denied any involvement in meddling in the last U.S. election when pressed by President Donald Trump.

Putin also said he hopes stabilizing Syria could be an example of increased “joint work” between his country and the Trump administration.

A Visit to the Balkans Casts Light on the Divisions in America
Balkan-like partisanship in the U.S. set to get more intense, experts say

SKOPJE, Macedonia — A statue depicting an ancient soldier, thrusting a sword skyward, on horseback, rises in the main square here. Across the Macedonian capital’s famed Stone Bridge is another, of Philip II, urging on his son.

But locals are quick to provide visitors to the Balkan nation this advice: Whatever you do, “do not” refer to the equine-mounted fighter as Alexander the Great. The statue is known simply as “Warrior on a Horse.” For now, at least.

Trump Sets Notably Low Bar for Putin Summit
President also calls European Union a ‘foe’ on trade matters

Updated 10:43 a.m. | President Donald Trump has a message for his critics about his upcoming meeting with Vladimir Putin: Don’t worry, it’ll be fine — just trust me. And, in a stunning remark, he called the European Union a “foe” of the United States on trade matters.

Trump continues to set low expectations for Monday’s summit with Putin amid concerns he could give into the Russian leader’s demands while getting little — if anything — in return. 

Trump Should Cancel Putin Summit Over Indictments, Democrats Say
Schumer: ‘Putin is an adversary who interfered in our elections’

Democrats pounced on special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s indictment of a dozen Russian military officers for their efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election, with some saying Monday’s Donald Trump-Vladimir Putin summit should be canceled.

“These indictments are further proof of what everyone but the president seems to understand: President Putin is an adversary who interfered in our elections to help President Trump win,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said in a statement.

Mueller Indicts 12 Russians for DNC, Clinton Campaign Hacking
Special counsel again targets leading Russian intel agency

Updated 1:23 p.m. | The Justice Department’s special counsel announced Friday the indictments of a dozen Russian military officers involved in Moscow’s effort to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election. And a senior Democratic lawmaker reacted swiftly by accusing President Donald Trump of “dangerous distortions” about the operation.

The indictment accuses the Russians of being heavily involved in hacking computer networks of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign organization. The military officers allegedly broke into those systems — and others in the United States — to plant malicious software, steal emails and nab other documents. To conceal their efforts, Rosenstein said, the Russians used networks “around the world” and paid for that access with Cryptocurrency.

Trump Walks Back Threat to Blow Up U.S.-British Trade Talks
British government ‘is keen’ to trade with its former colonies, May says

President Trump walked back his comments to The Sun newspaper in which he voiced opposition to UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s angling for a so-called "soft Brexit."

“I don’t know what they’re going to do, but whatever you do is fine with me,” he told May. “Just make sure that we can trade together. That’s all that matters.”

Former Ways and Means Aide to Replace Marc Short
Shahira Knight had advised Trump on economic matters

Shahira Knight, a former senior aide on the House’s top tax-writing panel, will become President Donald Trump’s top liaison to Congress, the White House announced Thursday.

Her appointment comes after legislative affairs director Marc Short’s long-expected departure became official Thursday morning. It also comes as Knight will inherit an expected fight over Trump’s second Supreme Court nominee and an expected struggle to pass spending bills after the president vowed to never again sign an omnibus appropriations package like the one he reluctantly made law earlier this year.

Analysis: Trump’s NATO Antics Suggest UK Visit Could Get Cheeky
President questions emerging Brexit plans ahead of summit with Theresa May

President Donald Trump bombarded a NATO summit in Belgium with threats, undiplomatic rhetoric, confusion-sowing statements and false claims. Get ready, United Kingdom, you’re next. And he arrived with plenty of thoughts about Brexit. 

Trump has defended his unique style, which gives even some Republican lawmakers heartburn, by describing it as “modern-day presidential.” So what happened Wednesday and Thursday morning in Brussels might be labeled “modern-day diplomatic.”

Marc Short Creates Another Void in the White House
Trump has ‘highest turnover of top-tier staff of any recent president,’ professor says

White House legislative affairs director Marc Short will leave his post this summer after helping President Donald Trump secure tax cuts, a Supreme Court justice, eliminate part of the Obama-era health law, open the Arctic for energy extraction, and nix a slew of federal regulations.

Short — with his signature shaved head — was the most visible Trump administration official on Capitol Hill, often chatting with reporters as he traversed the hallways going from meetings with leadership and rank-and-file members about the president’s legislative whims and demands. Affable yet firm, Short seemed eager to joust with reporters on cable news, the Hill and even under the blistering summer sun in the White House’s north driveway.

Trump Shifts Tone on NATO, But Says He Could Pull Out Without Congress
Trump says he convinced allies to up spending, but NATO secretary-general stops short of agreeing with that

President Donald Trump was in damage control mode Thursday morning, declaring a tense NATO summit a success even while saying he could withdraw the United States from the alliance without the consent of Congress.

The U.S. commander in chief spent Wednesday and Thursday morning lambasting other NATO members — especially Germany — and turned the annual alliance meeting into a spectacle of ill will amid whispers, including from some GOP lawmakers, that he was working to undermine it. But by midday Thursday in Brussels, Belgium, he was taking credit for allegedly securing pledges from the other leaders to pay more into NATO’s coffers.

Republicans Back From Russia Have Advice for Trump Before Putin Summit
President needs to be prepared and perhaps not alone

Republican senators who recently returned from Moscow have some advice for President Donald Trump ahead of his meeting Monday in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin: Be prepared, be careful and try not to be alone.

“He better know the right Russian psyche,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby. “All he’s got to do is start with Stalin and come on up and see what’s changed.”

Missouri ‘Deserves Better’ Than McCaskill, Pence Says in Kansas City
VP applies pressure on Democratic senator over coming high court vote

Vice President Mike Pence told an audience in Missouri the state “deserves better” than Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, whom he pressured to vote for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

“The Democratic Party has gone farther to the left than ever before. And you only need to look at Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill to see that,” he said during remarks in Kansas City. “Every single Democrat in Congress voted against President Trump’s tax cuts. When it came time to cut your taxes, Sen. Claire McCaskill voted no.”

Trump Opens NATO Summit by Pitching a Fit
Energy deal makes Germany ‘captive’ to Russia, U.S. president says

President Donald Trump took his war of words with America’s allies to a new level Wednesday, telling NATO’s top official Germany is “captive” to Russia due to a recent energy deal. And he called alliance members “delinquent” on their contributions to NATO’s budget.

Before he departed for the alliance summit in Belgium that starts a week-long trip that also features meetings with U.K. leaders and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump said the latter would likely be the “easiest.” He made good on that prediction at the start of the NATO summit, lecturing NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in front of media members.

Doing the SCOTUS Math: Seven Senators, Three Factions, One Crucial Vote
Penn Ave Report: Connecting Congress and the White House at the intersection of politics

Brett Kavanaugh Must Make His Case, Senate Democrats Say
Minority cites standards GOP used for previous nominees like Elena Kagan

As Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh made his first appearances Tuesday on Capitol Hill, several Senate Democrats said the judge had to make his case for their support.

For instance, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont is a senior member of the Judiciary Committee that will oversee Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing. He pressed Republicans to use their own standard for Elena Kagan, now a Supreme Court Justice nominated by former President Barack Obama.

Putin Meeting Might Be ‘Easiest’ of European Swing, Trump Says
President: UK government is in ‘turmoil’ as he heads toward meeting with May and Queen Elizabeth

President Donald Trump on Tuesday called Vladimir Putin “a competitor” when asked if the Russian president is a foe of the United States, adding that his Monday summit with Putin might be the “easiest” one of his trip.

Trump will first huddle with NATO allies in Brussels, and then head to the United Kingdom for meetings with Prime Minister Theresa May and Queen Elizabeth II. Because NATO allies have “taken advantage” of the U.S. and the U.K. government is in “turmoil,” in Trump eyes, he said this: “Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all.”

Trump Taps Brett Kavanaugh For Supreme Court, Rightward Shift in Mind
Schumer: Nominee should disclose personal views on abortion, other issues

President Donald Trump, seeking a rightward shift on the Supreme Court and to force vulnerable Senate Democrats into a tough vote, tapped D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Should Kavanaugh be confirmed by the Senate, it would give the president an early legacy with two high court appointments. Notably, while much about this presidency has been unconventional, how Trump has selected Supreme Court nominees has been routine — aside from the reality television-like flair in announcing them.

Former Sen. Jon Kyl to Guide Supreme Court Nominee Through Confirmation
Arizona Republican was senior member of leadership in the Senate

Former Arizona GOP Sen. Jon Kyl, a former senior member of Senate leadership, will help guide President Donald Trump’s second Supreme Court pick through the chamber’s confirmation process.

“Former Sen. Jon Kyl has agreed to serve as the sherpa for the President’s nominee to the Supreme Court,” Raj Shah, a White House spokesman, said Monday.

Abortion Not Focus of Trump’s SCOTUS Search, Key Adviser Says
Leo breaks with McConnell, says all four finalists would be confirmed by Senate

Abortion rights have not been the focus of interviews with Supreme Court candidates or internal White House debates about whom to nominate, says a key adviser to President Donald Trump who claims each of the four finalists would be confirmed by the Senate.

On the latter point, Leonard Leo, an executive with the conservative Federalist Society who is advising Trump on his second high court pick, broke with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Kentucky Republican reportedly told Trump and White House counsel Donald McGahn last week that Judges Thomas Hardiman and Raymond Kethledge could be confirmed more easily than Judges Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.