clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Vox Sentences: The Trump Show gets a Very Special Counsel

Vox Sentences is your daily digest for what's happening in the world, curated by Dylan Matthews and Dara Lind. Sign up for the Vox Sentences newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday, or view the Vox Sentences archive for past editions.

My friends, there have been some DEVELOPMENTS.

My counsel's special (so special)

Robert Mueller, the new special counsel. Andrew Burton/Getty Images
  • Finally, we have a special counsel to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia and attempts to interfere with the FBI: former FBI Director Robert Mueller.
  • Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller (who led the bureau from 2001 to 2013) late Wednesday. This is not a formally independent counsel, like Kenneth Starr was in the Clinton investigations; the statute authorizing independent counsels has expired. This is an ordinary special counsel, like the ones during Watergate or appointed to investigate the Valerie Plame scandal in the Bush administration. [NYT / Rebecca Ruiz]
  • In his order, Rosenstein states, “If the Special Counsel believes it is necessary and appropriate, the Special Counsel is authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters.” [DocumentCloud / Department of Justice]
  • The appointment came as some Republicans started to turn on Trump, following the revelation late Tuesday that the President asked FBI Director James Comey to halt an investigation into former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
  • House Oversight Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz sent a letter to the FBI's acting director requesting "all memoranda, notes, summaries, and recordings referring or relating to any communications between Comey and the President," saying that the New York Times's report about the Flynn request "raise[d] questions as to whether the President attempted to influence or impede the FBI's investigation as it relates to Lt. Gen. Flynn." [House Oversight Committee]
  • Chaffetz then clarified that he is willing to use his subpoena power to get the memo where Comey recorded that Trump tried to interfere. [Washington Post / Amber Phillips]
  • Chaffetz’s terminology — “influence or impede” — is very close to the legal definition of obstruction of justice in the federal criminal code, which bars any "endeavor to influence, obstruct, or impede" "any pending proceeding … before any department or agency of the United States." Jimmy Gurulé, a criminal law expert who served in both Bush administrations, says, “If the allegations are true, President Trump has committed a serious federal crime.” [Vox / Dylan Matthews]
  • And Chaffetz isn’t the only Republican turning on Trump. Justin Amash, a House Republican from Michigan and frequent libertarian thorn in the side of leadership, said that if the allegations about Flynn interference are true, they're grounds for impeachment. When Mother Jones reported that Amash was the first Republican to suggest impeachment, a spokesperson for Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) angrily wrote in to insist that Curbelo was first to float impeachment. Republicans are literally fighting about who’s more interested in impeachment. [Mother Jones / A.J. Vicens]
  • If Mueller concludes that Trump has committed a crime, impeachment would be the logical next step; when Starr concluded the same about President Clinton, the next step was impeachment proceedings. But there are also some legal experts who think that Mueller himself would have the power to indict the president in federal court. [Vox / Dylan Matthews]
  • Mueller would certainly, however, have the power to indict aides to Trump.
  • So far, Republican leadership in Congress hasn’t openly broken with the president. But the Washington Post has obtained a recording from last year, during the presidential race, in which House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (the No. 2 Republican in the House) says that Trump is getting money from the Russian government. [Washington Post / Adam Entous​]
  • A spokesperson for Speaker Paul Ryan insisted, "This entire year-old exchange was clearly an attempt at humor." Perhaps special counsel Mueller can determine if that’s true.

Turkey comes to the US and smacks around protesters like it’s home

  • Guards for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoǧan assaulted several anti-Erdoǧan protesters outside the Turkish Embassy in Washington Wednesday night. Nine people were taken to the hospital with injuries; at least one was reportedly in serious condition. [Washington Post / Victoria St. Martin and Martin Weil]
  • DC police have made two arrests, and are reportedly scrutinizing video footage to determine whom else to arrest and charge in the assault.
  • Police Chief Peter Newsham said that his officers had had a “dicey” time breaking up the confrontation, because the guards were armed. This is an understatement. It was dicey because it is fundamentally weird, in America, for the president’s guards to beat up protesters. [Washington Post / Peter Hermann and Perry Stein]
  • (In Turkish official media, the protesters were portrayed as Kurdish “supporters of terror” who courted the assault by refusing to go away.) [AP]
  • This is the third time Erdoǧan’s guards have gotten physical with others during a visit to the US. Last year, they tackled a protester outside the Brookings Institution when Erdoǧan made an appearance there. And in 2011, a guard allegedly assaulted a UN security officer. [Commentary / Noah Rothman]
  • Back in Turkey, of course, this sort of thing isn’t unusual — Erdoǧan has become increasingly authoritarian in tone and power over his presidency, especially after a failed coup attempt last year. [Vox / Sam Ellis]
  • What distinguished this visit, though, is that Erdoǧan was here to meet with President Trump, who has praised him effusively — including congratulating him on the results of a constitutional referendum that critics said abetted Turkey’s slide into authoritarianism. [Vox / Yochi Dreazen]
  • Trump’s apparent affinity for strongmen (like Erdoǧan and the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte, as well as Russia’s Vladimir Putin) is worrisome as a matter of foreign policy. But it’s also true that if Trump were to try to lecture Erdoǧan or anyone else on human rights, it might be seen as hypocritical. [Politico / Michael Crowley​]

“Javier didn’t die. The narco-government assassinated him.”

Emilio Espejel/LatinContent/Getty Images
  • On Monday, the journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas, who reported on crime and cartels, was assassinated by a group of men who shot him while driving. [CNN / Sarah Faidell]
  • Valdez Cárdenas was a 2011 recipient of the International Press Freedom Award, given by the Committee to Protect Journalists to honor journalists who do their jobs at the risk of their personal safety. [Committee to Protect Journalists]
  • The weekly newspaper he wrote for and helped found, Riodoce, minced no words in blaming trafficking organizations for his death: “We don’t know from where, what family, nor which organization gave the order. But it was them.” [Riodoce]
  • Not everyone has been as brave (or foolhardy). A regional newspaper in Juarez shut down after the murder of one of its journalists — essentially giving the criminals what they wanted, but also allowing its employees to survive when it couldn’t guarantee their safety otherwise. [NPR / Colin Dwyer]
  • It’s the fifth time in 90 days that a reporter has been killed in Mexico, where the government continues to be unable to prove it’s capable of protecting citizens from criminal organizations (or to eradicate the corruption within government that allows them to thrive). [Breitbart Texas / Ildefonso Ortiz and Brandon Darby]
  • President Enrique Peña Nieto has tried to pour money into security. But this is shaping up to be the most violent year for the country since he came into office in 2012. [InSight Crime / Deborah Bonello]
  • In case you’re wondering: A Mexican journalist tried to flee to the US to seek asylum earlier this year. In keeping with Trump administration policy for asylum seekers, he was placed in detention. [Texas Tribune / Julian Aguilar​]



  • “This is fandom of the sort you see with any under-appreciated futuristic sci-fi movie, but with a meditative queer drama set in the 1950s. It is, essentially, internet obsession for grownups.” [Wired / Angela Watercutter]
  • “Political turmoil rocked the nation’s capital again on Tuesday evening as politicians from both parties responded to President Trump’s — you know what, never mind. This is a story about ducks.” [NYT / Liam Stack]
  • “We parked a 17-foot motor boat in a lagoon about 800 feet from the back lawn of The Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach and pointed a 2-foot wireless antenna that resembled a potato gun toward the club. Within a minute, we spotted three weakly encrypted Wi-Fi networks. We could have hacked them in less than five minutes, but we refrained.” [ProPublica / Jeff Larson, Surya Mattu, Julia Angwin]
  • “As graphic design hubs go, we tend to think of big cities like New York or countries like Germany. But Western Michigan?” [Fast Company / Diana Budds]
  • “In short: Yes, the two of them continue to eat shit.” [MEL / Miles Klee]

Watch this: The surprising pattern behind color names around the world

Why so many languages invented words for colors in the same order. [YouTube / Christophe Haubursin, Amanda Northrop]

Read more

The US is terrible at investigating politicians. Blame the Constitution.

Philadelphia just set the national example in the fight against mass incarceration

Caffeine overdose is extremely rare — but here’s how it can happen

This bird poop GIF shows Google is sweating the details of its self-driving cars

The inescapable unicorn trend, explained

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.