WASHINGTON — There are two things on many minds in Washington today.
One is the NCAA basketball tournament (which begins this afternoon). And two is the POSSIBLE release of the Mueller report (which has many reporters and pundits on active watch — though we’ve been here before).
The president of the United States sure has been acting like someone who thinks something might be coming on the Mueller front — given his tweets about the special counsel, his bizarre feud with George Conway and his even stranger beef with the late John McCain (over the Steele dossier).
And if the Mueller report is coming out soon, here are our 10 questions we hope the special counsel will answer:
- Will anyone else be charged for allegedly not telling the truth to Congress (Donald Trump Jr., Erik Prince)?
- Was there kompromat? Was President Donald Trump compromised by his business dealings with Russia (including the Trump Tower Moscow)?
- Did Paul Manafort really share 2016 polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik (who has ties to Russian intelligence)? And if so, what did Kilimnik do with it?
- Who at the Trump campaign directed Roger Stone to get information about upcoming WikiLeaks disclosures against the Clinton campaign?
- Did anyone in Trump’s orbit help WikiLeaks analyze/organize/curate its email dumps?
- Did Trump know about the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer? And when did he know it?
- Do Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates fit into this investigation?
- What about the NRA?
- Will the president of the United States be subpoenaed?
- Why has the president — throughout it all — obfuscated, attacked and misdirected as much as he has? In other words, why has he acted like somebody who has something to hide?
How Trump has worn down the GOP
As for Trump’s beef with the late John McCain, GOP reactions like Sen. Johnny Isakson’s, R-Ga., are the exception. (“It’s deplorable what he said,” Isakson said of Trump.)
The more standard response has been from the likes of Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. — pain and acceptance.
"I think the president's comments about Sen. McCain hurt him more than they hurt the legacy of Sen. McCain," Graham said in South Carolina yesterday, per NBC’s Frank Thorp. "I'm going to try to continue to help the president."
More Graham: "I've gotten to know the president, we have a good working relationship, I like him, I don't like it when he says things about my friend John McCain."
And: "A lot of people are coming to John's defense now that called him crazy and a war-mongerer, so it's kind of interesting to see the politics of how this dispute's being used to bash Trump by people who were against both Trump and McCain."
If you wanted an example of how Trump has worn down the GOP, this is it.
Talking about foreign interference in an election
The White House announced yesterday that Trump will host Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu next week in Washington (March 25-26).
Why that meeting is raising eyebrows: Netanyahu’s re-election is two weeks later, on April 9.
It is unprecedented for an American president to be playing as active a role in a foreign election as Trump is for Netanyahu, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell observes.
And embracing Trump is a good political bet for Netanyahu in his race against Benny Gantz. The American president is popular in Israel — due to the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.
Netanyahu’s upcoming to visit isn’t the only example of how Trump and the GOP are trying to help the prime minister in his upcoming election.
2020 Vision: Beto’s blitz
Beto O’Rourke has been an official candidate in the 2020 race for one whole week now. (It seems longer than that, right?)
And in those seven days, O’Rourke has campaigned in Iowa (three days), Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire (where he’s been since Tuesday night).
The expectation is that he will keep this pace going for the foreseeable future. Can the rest of the Democratic field keep up?
Not having a day job + not having to hold fundraising events (with the small-dollar donors giving money to his campaign) = a lot of time to spend on the campaign trail.
On the campaign trail today
Beto O’Rourke continues to stump in New Hampshire, hitting Portsmouth, Manchester and Laconia … Tulsi Gabbard also is in the Granite State ... And Howard Schultz holds events in Colorado.
Tweet of the day
Data Download: The number of the day is … within the margin of error.
Within the margin of error.
That’s the context that Bernie Sanders left out when he tweeted poll results from Emerson College yesterday showing him with 51 percent to Trump’s 49 percent in a head-to-head contest.
“@realDonaldTrump, take note. The American people will no longer tolerate a government which only works for the billionaires and massive corporations,” he tweeted.
First of all, that’s not a clear lead, it’s a tossup race against a president who — in the same poll — also only had a 43 percent approval rating. Is that really a fact worth highlighting?
Second, the same poll also showed similar head-to-head margins against Trump for *nearly* every other possible Democratic contender.
And third, there was one clear Democrat in the poll who did appear to have a general election lead against Trump — but it wasn’t Sanders. Joe Biden was the only Democrat leading Trump outside the margin of error, with 55 percent to Trump’s 45 percent.
Note: Emerson College’s polling methodology generally doesn’t meet the standards of NBC News.
The Lid: School Daze
Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at something that Americans actually agree on, regardless of party! (Spoiler alert: It’s about the college admissions process.)
ICYMI: News clips you shouldn’t miss
New Zealand is banning military-style rifles six days after the mosque attacks in Christchurch.
American Bridge is launching a $50 million plan to target Trump among white working-class voters in the Midwest.
Charles Kushner has an op-ed in the Washington Post defending his family and its business.
New data from Navigator Research shows just how different Fox News-viewing Republicans are than everyone else.
But how will Rupert Murdoch’s son — now the leader of Fox Corp. — deal with Trump?
Other news that’s out there…
Trump agenda: Ignore and move on
Companies are learning to ignore Trump’s Twitter targeting.
The Trump administration is rolling out its new policy of requiring asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while awaiting court hearings.
The Pentagon has opened an investigation into its acting secretary’s alleged promotion of Boeing, his former employer.
To fund his ticket’s re-election, Mike Pence is going after donors who have been outspoken against Trump.
Clarence Thomas broke his three-year silence during arguments at the Supreme Court.
Trump wants Robert Kraft to come to the White House for a celebration of his team’s Super Bowl win despite his involvement in a prostitution bust.
Yet more polling shows a public that’s at least partly confident in the Mueller probe.
2020: Kamala’s play for the Lone Star State
Kamala Harris is making a play for delegates in Texas.
Our own Ben Kamisar checked in with Mike Gravel.