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A fuming Trump continues his intervention in the Mueller probe

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump listens during a roundtable discussion on the First Step Act on Nov. 26, 2018, in Gulfport, Mississippi.Alex Brandon / AP

WASHINGTON — Hours before departing for Argentina to attend the G-20 summit — where trade with China, Putin and Saudi Arabia are all important topics — President Donald Trump has been tweeting this morning about … the Russia probe.

“Did you ever see an investigation more in search of a crime? At the same time Mueller and the Angry Democrats aren’t even looking at the atrocious, and perhaps subversive, crimes that were committed by Crooked Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. A total disgrace!”

“When will this illegal Joseph McCarthy style Witch Hunt, one that has shattered so many innocent lives, ever end — or will it just go on forever?”

The tweets, in fact, are just the tip of the iceberg of the ways in which the president of the United States has intervened in, criticized, thwarted, and potentially obstructed an investigation that involves him, his family and his 2016 presidential campaign. Consider:

  • Trump dumped his attorney general (because he recused himself from the Russia probe) and inserted a Mueller critic to be acting attorney general;
  • When asked why he retweeted an image of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein behind bars, Trump replied, “He should have never picked a special counsel”;
  • He admitted firing former FBI Director James Comey over the Russia investigation ("When I decided to [fire Comey], I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story,” he told NBC’s Lester Holt);
  • And Trump dictated the misleading statement on his son’s Trump Tower meeting with Russians.

Add up all of these actions — and they’re not an exhaustive list — and you see a president who’s actively intervening in an investigation that involves him.

A Russia/WikiLeaks/Trump timeline from 2016

Confused by all of the recent statements that Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi have made about the Russia investigation? Trying to make sense of Corsi’s joint defense agreement with Trump’s legal team? Overwhelmed by Trump’s tweets and all of the news about Paul Manafort?

Well, here’s a timeline to make sense of Russia’s intervention in the 2016 campaign, the WikiLeaks releases and how Trump seized on them.

March 19, 2016: Russian hackers gain access to Clinton Campaign Chair John Podesta's emails.

April 2016: Russian intelligence gains access to the computer networks at the DNC and DCCC.

June 9: Donald Trump Jr. — along with Jared Kushner and former campaign chair Paul Manafort — meets with Kremlin-connected lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.

July 6: An organization — presumably WikiLeaks — strategizes on the release of the hacked DNC emails with Russian intelligence: "On or about July 6, 2016, Organization 1 added, 'if you have anything hillary related we want it in the next tweo [sic] days prefable [sic] because the DNC [Democratic National Convention] is approaching and she will solidify bernie supporters behind her after. The Conspirators responded, "ok … i see.' Organization 1 explained, 'we think trump has only a 25% chance of winning against hillary … so conflict between bernie and hillary is interesting.'" (Mueller indictments, July 13, 2018)

July 21: GOP convention concludes with Trump giving his speech accepting the Republican nomination.

July 22: WikiLeaks releases stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee.

July 24: DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigns from fallout over the DNC emails.

July 25: Democratic convention begins.

July 27: Trump asks Russia for assistance in the 2016 election: "If you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing."

July 27: Russian intelligence, for the first time, tries to gain access to Hillary Clinton's emails/server. "[O]n or about July 27, 2016, the Conspirators attempted after hours to spearphish for the first time email accounts at a domain hosted by a third-party and used by Clinton's personal office," per Mueller's July 2018 indictments.)

Aug. 15: A Trump campaign associate — presumably Roger Stone — communicates with Russian intelligence, "On or about August 15, 2016, the Conspirators, posing as Guccifer 2.0, wrote to a person who was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump, 'thank u for writing back … do u find anyt[h]ing interesting in the docs I posted.” (July 2018 indictments)

Aug. 21: Roger Stone tweets, "It will soon [be] the Podesta's time in the barrel" (Stone later said he was referring to both Podesta brothers, John and Tony, in the Panama Papers.)

Oct. 3: Donald Trump Jr. exchanges direct messages with WikiLeaks in the fall of the 2016 election: "Hiya, it'd be great if you guys could comment on/push this story," WikiLeaks wrote Trump Jr. "Already did that earlier today," Trump Jr. responded. "It's amazing what [Hillary Clinton] can get away with." (The Atlantic)

Oct. 4: WikiLeaks' Julian Assange says his organization will publish emails related to the 2016 campaign.

Oct. 7: Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence release a statement directly saying that Russia is interfering in the 2016 election.

Oct. 7: WikiLeaks begins releasing Clinton Campaign Chair John Podesta's emails on a daily basis, until the end of the 2016 campaign.

In the final month of the 2016 election, Trump mentions WikiLeaks some 140 times, per NBC’s count.

Oct. 31 in Warren, Michigan: "Did you see where, on WikiLeaks, it was announced that they were paying protesters to be violent, $1,500? ... Did you see another one, another one came in today? This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove."

Nov. 2 in Orlando, Florida: "WikiLeaks just came out with a new one, just a little a while ago, it's just been shown that a rigged system with more collusion, possibly illegal, between the Department of Justice, the Clinton campaign and the State Department."

Nov. 4 in Wilmington, Ohio: "Boy, I love reading those WikiLeaks."

The 2020 race is beginning to heat up

Now that the dust has finally settled on the 2018 midterms — NBC News has just one uncalled House contest remaining — we’re all clear to start focusing on the emerging 2020 presidential contest. And guess what? The early 2020 action on the Democratic side is already beginning to ramp up.

At 3:30 p.m. ET today at American University in D.C., Elizabeth Warren delivers a speech outlining her vision for a “progressive foreign policy.” This speech comes a day after a UMass-Amherst poll showed Warren trailing Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders in a hypothetical New Hampshire primary field. (New Hampshire, of course, is right next door to Warren’s Massachusetts and Sanders’ Vermont.)

Then next week, on Tuesday, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg — who spent millions for Democratic candidates in the 2018 midterms — heads to Des Moines, Iowa, where he’ll discuss a screening of his new film on climate change.

Also on Tuesday, Tom Steyer — who also spent big bucks on the 2018 midterms — holds a town hall in Chngarleston, South Carolina, to discuss voting rights. Last Sunday, Steyer said on “Meet the Press” that he hadn’t yet made a final decision on a 2020 run.

And then on Saturday, Dec. 8, Cory Booker travels to New Hampshire for a “post-election victory celebration.”

Over the past two years, we’ve resisted reporting on/speculating about/polling the 2020 race, because the midterms came first. Well, the midterms are over. And the activity for the upcoming Democratic presidential primaries and caucuses is already beginning.

What is going on in NC-9?

“The state board of elections Tuesday refused to certify the results of the 9th Congressional District election after one board member cited what he called ‘unfortunate activities’ in the eastern part of the district,” the Charlotte Observer reports. “It’s unclear what those activities involved or what the failure to certify might mean. The board discussed the matter in closed session. Republican Mark Harris defeated Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes.”

More from WSOC-TV: "The board is investigating potential absentee ballot ‘irregularities’ in the 9th Congressional District. Elections board spokesman Patrick Gannon confirmed probe details Wednesday, the day after the board voted to push back a decision on the 9th District until at least Friday. Gannon separately said a board investigator took absentee ballot request forms and ballot envelopes from Bladen County, partially in the district. Bladen elections board Chairman Bobby Ludlum said the investigator took "several" mail-in ballot envelopes right after Election Day.”

The uncalled House races of 2018 (one)

CA-21 (NBC retracted its call of Republican David Valadao as the winner)

Democrats are currently at +39 under NBC’s count, and they’d be at +40 if they end up winning CA-21.

Democrats nominate Pelosi for speaker

NBC’s Rebecca Shabad and Alex Moe: “House Democrats on Wednesday nominated Nancy Pelosi as speaker, paving the way for her to be elected to the top post in January.

Pelosi, who previously served as the first woman speaker from 2007 to 2011, prevailed in the closed-door Caucus vote as Democrats held their leadership elections for next year, despite a long-simmering insurgency against her bid — a rebellion that appeared to crumble in the days leading up to the vote.”