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Vox Sentences: All the Predisent’s Men

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Special counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly investigating Trump for obstruction of justice; Theresa May fields more criticism after fatal London blaze; DC police issue arrest warrants for Turkish bodyguards.


A firing that backfired

Alex Wong/Getty Images
  • It’s been about a week since President Trump tweeted he was “vindicated,” after former FBI Director James Comey testified he had told Trump he wasn’t under investigation in connection to Russian meddling in the 2016 election. [Donald Trump via Twitter]
  • And for much of this year, Trump himself wasn’t under investigation. But he is now, according to a new report from the Washington Post.
  • Special counsel Robert Mueller, who is now heading up the FBI investigation, is reportedly widening his inquiry to look at whether Trump committed obstruction of justice by firing Comey last month. [Washington Post / Devlin Barrett, Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima, and Sari Horwitz]
  • Obstruction of justice happens when someone tries to impede or stop a federal investigation by threatening or coercing investigators. If Mueller’s team decides there’s enough evidence to mount a case, they must demonstrate intent — that Trump knew full well what he was doing by telling Comey to stop investigating former NSA Director Michael Flynn. [Cornell Law School / Wex Legal Dictionary]
  • Up until this point, the FBI probe has been focused on Russian interference into the 2016 election, and whether any Trump campaign officials colluded with the Russians. But now the focus is shifting more toward Comey himself, and what exactly happened before Trump fired him. [Washington Post / Devlin Barrett, Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima, and Sari Horwitz]
  • Mueller reportedly plans to question key members of Trump’s intelligence staff, including Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, head of National Security Agency Adm. Michael S. Rogers, and former NSA Deputy Director Richard Ledgett, to see if they know more about the circumstances behind Comey’s firing. [NYT / Michael Schmidt and Matt Apuzzo]
  • Trump also publicly stated he would “100 percent” be open to testifying under oath as part of Mueller’s investigation. [NBC / Ali Vitali]
  • He could have other ideas; Newsmax CEO and Trump friend Chris Ruddy made waves this week when he said the president is seriously considering firing Mueller, complaining the special counsel has “real conflicts.” But so far, Trump has not made any moves to do so. [PBS Newshour / Judy Woodruff]
  • Mueller has assembled a star team, including James Quarles, who worked on the Watergate investigation. Trump, one the other hand, is being represented by his lawyer Marc Kasowitz (of “predisent” fame). [Vox / Rebecca Tan and Alex Ward]
  • In response to the news, the Republican National Committee quickly distributed a list of talking points to try to poke holes in the Washington Post report, calling the leaks coming out of the FBI and the special counsel the real crime, and drawing parallels to the lack of an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails under former AG Loretta Lynch. [Philip Rucker via Twitter]
  • Trump had a characteristically Trumpian response, calling Mueller’s probe a “witch hunt” and “phony” today. [Donald Trump via Twitter​]

Tories in trouble

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
  • After a massive fire killed 17 people and consumed an apartment building yesterday in London, British Prime Minister Theresa May and her government are facing a fresh barrage of criticism.
  • May has ordered a public inquiry into the incident, as questions were raised about what officials knew about safety conditions at the apartment tower before the fatal blaze. [NYT / Dan Bilefsky]
  • Labour Party politicians have accused Tory ministers of not heeding prior warnings about fires at other apartment complexes in London, or putting recommended safety measures in place. [The Guardian / Frances Perraudin and Matthew Weaver]
  • May was already in a precarious spot politically, having just suffered the results of a bruising snap election where the rival Labour Party picked up plenty of seats and robbed May’s Tories of a decisive majority. [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
  • May called the snap election in hopes of picking up a large Conservative majority in Parliament, so that she would be able to better negotiate Brexit, but her party was left with fewer seats than they had before. [BuzzFeed / James Ball]
  • Brexit negotiations are starting on Monday, when Britain and the European Union will start negotiating the cost of the UK’s exit and new trade partnerships. [BBC]
  • May is clinging to power by a thread, with help from the socially conservative and traditionalist Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (also known as the DUP). The Tories and DUP are still in talks about what their alliance will look like, and the final deal will likely include financial aid for Northern Ireland, as well as assurance of no referendum on unifying Northern Ireland (which is part of the UK) with the Republic of Ireland (an EU member). [The Guardian / Alan Travis]
  • But even the DUP is asking May to pump the brakes on Brexit, favoring a “soft” exit rather than the clean break she is proposing. In the wake of last week’s election, they’re not the only ones. [Washington Post / Griff Witte and Karla Adam​]

Erdo-wanted

Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
  • Police in Washington, DC, issued arrest warrants for 12 men in Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoǧan’s security detail after they beat up Kurdish protesters last month during a visit to the US capital. [BuzzFeed / John Hudson]
  • DC Police Chief Peter Newsham told reporters today that in 28 years on the force, he has rarely encountered such violence in the city. [Vox / Sarah Wildman]
  • Authorities have already arrested two American nationals who were involved in the incident, but the rest of the men are already back in Turkey. This complicates the chance of a case going forward, as it’s unlikely the Turkish government will extradite them to the United States or cooperate with DC prosecutors. [Washington Post / Peter Hermann and Dana Hedgpeth]
  • The initial incident was captured on video and showed men in suits punching, kicking, and choking male and female protesters outside the Turkish ambassador's residence. It also showed Erdoǧan step out of his car and calmly watch the melee unfold. [NPR / Doreen McCallister]
  • While this type of political violence is rare in the US, it’s nothing new for Erdoǧan, whose security guards have been involved in clashes in other countries including Ecuador. In fact, after the DC incident, the Turkish ambassador released a statement blaming it on the protesters. [NPR / Doreen McCallister]
  • Inside Turkey, Erdoǧan has also been quite active cracking down on free speech and protests, especially after a failed coup attempt last year. Many Turkish journalists have been jailed, and citizens who are critical of the president on social media can face criminal charges. [Vox / Sarah Wildman]
  • And Erdoǧan is only getting more powerful, after a recent Turkish referendum in April ended the country’s parliamentary system. However, the country was very divided on the issue; the vote was nearly split in half. [The Economist]
  • There are still signs of protest in Turkey; Kemal Kilicdaroglu, an opposition leader and former journalist, is leading hundreds of supporters on a march between Ankara and Istanbul, protesting the government’s crackdown and jailing of civil servants and reporters. [NYT / Patrick Kingsley​]

Miscellaneous

  • After the housing crash, one of Donald Trump’s close friends bought 31,000 homes, let them fall into disrepair, and rented them out to families without fixing them up and making them safe. [Reveal / Aaron Glantz]
  • Climate change and warming oceans are pushing deadly pathogens farther north, even up to the Arctic Circle. [National Geographic / Craig Welch]
  • Dentistry in the US is so expensive that many Americans in the Southwest are traveling across the border to get their teeth cleaned. That’s led to “Molar Town” — essentially, a huge concentration of dentists in one tiny Mexican border town. [BuzzFeed / John Stanton]
  • An astonishing number of Americans think brown cows make chocolate milk — 16.4 million, to be precise. [Washington Post / Caitlin Dewey]
  • Researchers at Facebook trained chatbots to communicate and negotiate with machine learning. Then, unprompted, the bots started developing their own language. [The Atlantic / Adrienne LaFrance]

Verbatim

  • “Like cheese in France or cars in Germany, climate change is a business in the Netherlands.” [NYT / Michael Kimmelman]
  • “Odds are Jenner never even met the person who told her followers to ‘spice things up with massages,’ but Xue thinks he or she was surely fired for it — and replaced quickly. Because while ghostwriting for the new era of fame is fraught with potentially public missteps like this one, it's a fast-growing industry attempting to keep up with massive demand.” [Marie Claire / Amanda Montell]
  • “It really was just dumb luck. I’ve never killed an animal with my bare hands. I’m a vegetarian. It was self-defense.” [Rachel Borch to Bangor Daily News / Alex Acquisto]
  • “Picture a fleet of 80 boats. Its mission: to locate large schools of pregnant rays that are migrating into the Chesapeake Bay to give birth. When viewed from above, the rays create a brilliant work of art—a living mosaic gliding beneath the water’s surface. When such a mosaic is found, contestants fire a barrage of arrows at close range, killing as many rays as possible.” [Hakai Magazine / Jared Lloyd]
  • “I think the public expects international financial banks to lose billions in nefarious ways. But learning that the American checking account has been co-opted has insidious wrinkles. This is supposed to be one of the most trusted things in the world.” [Isaac Boltansky to Vanity Fair / Bethany McLean]

Watch this: How fan films shaped The Lego Movie

The 2014 film was an animation feat — but it was built on the legacy of homemade fan movies. [YouTube / Christophe Haubursin and Morgan Cardiff]


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