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.
Trump warned of endless investigations of Clinton. Instead, the focus is now on him
Endless investigations. The biggest scandal since Watergate. Coverups. An inability to govern. A possible constitutional crisis. These were all arguments that Donald Trump made against Hillary Clinton in the closing days of the 2016 presidential election. But now with the Washington Post reporting overnight that special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, it’s worth recalling the rhetoric Trump used in the final two weeks of the ’16 presidential campaign.
October 28 in Cedar Rapids, IA
“As you’ve heard, earlier today the FBI after discovering new emails is reopening their investigation into Hillary Clinton… The investigation is the biggest political scandal since Watergate and it’s everybody’s hope that justice at last can be delivered.”
November 2 in Miami, FL
“If Hillary Clinton were to be elected, it would create an unprecedented and protracted constitutional crisis. Haven’t we just been through a lot with the Clintons, right?”
November 2 in Orlando, FL
“Hillary is likely to be under investigation for many years, probably concluding in a criminal trial.”
November 4 in Atkinson, NH
“She'll be under investigation for years. She'll be with trials. Our country, we have to get back to work.”
November 4 in Wilmington, OH
“Hillary has engaged in a criminal massive enterprise and cover-ups like probably nobody ever before.”
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November 5 in Reno, NV
“There's virtually no doubt that FBI Director Comey and the great, great special agents of the FBI will be able to collect more than enough evidence to garner indictments against Hillary Clinton and her inner circle, despite her efforts to disparage them and to discredit them. If she were to win this election, it would create an unprecedented constitutional crisis. In that situation, we could very well have a sitting president under felony indictment and ultimately a criminal trial.”
November 5 in Denver, CO
“Her current scandals and controversies will continue throughout her presidency and we will make it honestly, look, it's gonna be virtually impossible for her to govern. Now, the Republicans have talked very tough and the Democrats. It's gonna be just another mess for another four years, folks. A mess. We've got to get back to work, right? I mean, we have to get back to work.”
November 6 in Minneapolis, MN
“First thing you should do is get rid of Clinton. Hillary Clinton will be under investigation for a long, long time for her many crimes against our nation, our people, our democracy, likely concluding in a criminal trial.”
November 6 in Moon Township, PA
“The investigations into her crimes will go on for a long, long time. The rank and file special agents at the FBI won't let her get away with these terrible crimes, including the deletion of 33,000 emails after receiving a congressional subpoena. Right now, she's being protected by a rigged system.”
Everything you need to know about the reported obstruction-of-justice investigation
According to MSNBC’s Ari Melber, the Washington Post’s report — followed up by others — means the inquiry is no longer just an investigation into the Trump campaign’s past actions; it’s now a possible criminal investigation into the president himself. Trump tweeted 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.” Here’s all of the reporting in one place:
- “The obstruction-of-justice investigation of the president began days after Comey was fired on May 9, according to people familiar with the matter.” — Washington Post
- “Five people briefed on the interview requests, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said that Daniel Coats, the current director of national intelligence, Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, and Rogers’s recently departed deputy, Richard Ledgett, agreed to be interviewed by Mueller’s investigators as early as this week.” — Washington Post
- “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.” — Wall Street Journal
- "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.” — MSNBC’s Ari Melber
- “The F.B.I.’s gathering information about the possibility of a crime does not necessarily mean prosecutors are building a case against the president. In the early stages of investigations, F.B.I. agents typically want to gather all the facts. Agents then present those facts to prosecutors, who decide whether they want to take the case.” — New York Times
- “A former senior official said Mr. Mueller’s investigation was looking at money laundering by Trump associates. The suspicion is that any cooperation with Russian officials would most likely have been in exchange for some kind of financial payoff, and that there would have been an effort to hide the payments, probably by routing them through offshore banking centers.” — New York Times
Will anything change — long term — after yesterday’s horrific baseball shooting?
Yesterday’s shooting of Republican lawmakers at a baseball practice was horrific and terrifying. President Trump put it very well after the shooting: “Congressman [Steve] Scalise is a friend, and a very good friend. He's a patriot and he's a fighter. He will recover from this assault. And, Steve, I want you to know that you have the prayers not only of the entire city behind you, but of an entire nation… America is praying for you and America is praying for all of the victims of this terrible shooting.” But the Boston Globe’s Matt Viser raises a smart question: Will the shooting change anything, in the long run, about our politics? “A congresswoman was shot in the head six years ago. Our political dialogue got worse, not better,” Viser observed. “Let’s hope this time something changes.” Exactly. The congressional baseball game takes place at 7:00 pm ET.
At 11:00 am ET, President Trump will give remarks at the White House on his apprenticeship initiatives… And at 2:00 pm ET, he participates in an investiture ceremony for Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.
Senate GOP health bill remains shrouded in secrecy
NBC’s Benjy Sarlin and Leigh Ann Caldwell: “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.”
Corey Stewart concedes to Gillespie, says he’ll support the GOP nominee
“A day after coming shockingly close to pulling off an upset in Virginia’s GOP gubernatorial primary, Trump-style firebrand Corey Stewart conceded defeat while warning that Republican nominee Ed Gillespie will have to “fight” to win over Stewart voters for the general election,” the Richmond Times-Dispatch writes. “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.”