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First Read's Morning Clips: Obstruction of Justice?

A roundup of the most important political news stories of the day
Justice Dept Finds FBI Abuse Of Patriot Act Provision
The seal of the F.B.I. at the bureau's headquatersin Washington.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images file

TRUMP AGENDA: An investigation into the president himself, WaPo reports

The big development in the Russia probe, from the Washington Post: “The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said. The move by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate Trump’s conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation, which until recently focused on Russian meddling during the presidential campaign and on whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Investigators have also been looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates, officials said.”

More, from the Wall Street Journal: “Mr. Mueller’s team is planning to interview Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers as part of its examination of whether Mr. Trump sought to obstruct justice, the person said. The special counsel also plans to interview Rick Ledgett, who recently retired as the deputy director of the NSA, the person added. While Mr. Ledgett was still in office, he wrote a memo documenting a phone call that Mr. Rogers had with Mr. Trump, according to people familiar with the matter. During the call, the president questioned the veracity of the intelligence community’s judgment that Russia had interfered with the election and tried to persuade Mr. Rogers to say there was no evidence of collusion between his campaign and Russian officials, they said.”

Trump’s tweet this morning: “They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice.”

From NBC News: “If true, the expanded scope of the probe is a turning point, and raises several legal implications: An FBI inquiry of the Comey firing makes it more likely Rosenstein could be a witness, and thus potentially meet the parameters for recusing himself from overseeing Mueller's investigation… An obstruction inquiry reviewing Comey's firing makes it more likely that other government officials involved in that act, or related activity, could face legal exposure… As always, an FBI inquiry can be closed without charges, or lead to charges against a person or persons as determined by the prosecutor. Federal employees may face criminal charges while in office.”

And there’s this note, from POLITICO: “Paul Manafort is at the center of an FBI investigation into ties between President Donald Trump’s team and the Russians, but that hasn’t stopped him from doing business with international figures and companies, partly by claiming continued access to Trump, according to people familiar with his dealings. Manafort in recent weeks has either consulted or worked with a Chinese construction billionaire looking to expand his business overseas and a telecommunications firm interested in regulatory approval from governments in Asia and the Middle East, as well as an investment fund claiming links to the Chinese government, according to documents and interviews.”

Steve Scalise remains in critical condition after yesterday’s shooting.

NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald notes how some Republicans are blaming the shooting on incitement by Democrats.

Washington hopes to use the moment to strive towards unity, as POLITICO notes, but big changes aren’t likely.

Gabby Giffords, in the Washington Post: “We will all need courage to speak to one another and actually listen; to put aside partisan political differences and talk with one another, not yell or call names. We can stand shoulder to shoulder and say differences will not prevent us from working toward solutions. We are Americans; it’s in our nature to work toward a better, safer union.”

Overshadowed by yesterday’s violence: The Senate has overwhelmingly voted to blunt Trump’s power to reduce Russian sanctions. (Vladimir Putin is blaming the move on “domestic political problems in the U.S.”)

From Leigh Ann Caldwell and Benjy Sarlin: “The Senate is closing in on a health care bill that could affect coverage for tens of millions of Americans and overhaul an industry that makes up one-sixth of the economy. Only one problem: Almost no one knows what’s in it. In a striking break from how Congress normally crafts legislation, including Obamacare, the Senate is conducting its negotiations behind closed doors. The process began five weeks ago, after the House passed its version of health care reform, with a small working group of 13 senators that included no women. The opaque process makes it impossible to evaluate whether there are any significant changes coming to health care. There are no hearings with health experts, industry leaders, and patient advocacy groups to weigh in where the public can watch their testimony or where Democrats can offer amendments.”

OFF TO THE RACES: “Albatross”

GA-6: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “President Donald Trump now hangs around Karen Handel’s neck like an albatross, turning an easy GOP claim on the Sixth District into a nail-biter. There is simply no disputing the situation. With a standard-issue president in the White House, Handel might still be in a runoff, but it would be with another, lesser Republican, or a penniless Democrat whose name wouldn’t be Jon Ossoff. Yet Trump isn’t the only burden the former secretary of state carries as the contest heads into its final days. The other weight around her neck is the American Health Care Act of 2017 – the House Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.”

Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King is campaigning for Ossoff.

An important bloc in next week’s election? Asian-American voters.

NJ-GOV: Chris Christie is now New Jersey’s least popular governor ever, with just 15 percent approval.

VA-GOV: Corey Stewart has conceded. From the Richmond Times-Dispatch: “Acknowledging in a phone interview that he ‘didn’t win this battle,’ Stewart said he’ll support Gillespie this fall in a general election matchup against Democratic nominee Ralph S. Northam, the current lieutenant governor who won his party’s nomination Tuesday to succeed departing Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Stewart, the chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, said he had not spoken to Gillespie directly, but said he hopes to meet with Gillespie to explain that ‘people are looking for a fighter.’”