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Vox Sentences: “This deal will make me look terrible”

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Mueller gets a grand jury; Trump's phone calls with the Australian prime minister and the Mexican president leak out; tensions escalate between the US and Iran over a missile launch.


A big, beautiful grand jury

Alex Wong/Getty Images
  • A big development in the ongoing Trump/Russia investigation: Special counsel Robert Mueller has reportedly impaneled a grand jury in Washington, DC, to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election. [WSJ / Del Quentin Wilber and Byron Tau]
  • There’s a lot of legal jargon here, but grand juries are important in criminal investigations because they empower investigators to get key documents, put witnesses under oath, and potentially seek an indictment (a formal charge in a criminal proceeding). [WSJ / Del Quentin Wilber and Byron Tau]
  • This is important because it signals that Mueller’s investigation is ramping up, and could be moving into the realm of potentially charging people with crimes. [Vox / Alex Ward]
  • Investigators have issued grand jury subpoenas in regards to the June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and a Russian lawyer. [Reuters / Karen Freifeld]
  • Investigators apparently are homing in on Trump’s financial dealings in Russia, which is something the president has warned is a “red line” that he does not want them to cross. [CNN / Evan Perez, Pamela Brown, and Shimon Prokupecz]
  • They are also looking hard at whether Trump obstructed justice when he fired FBI Director James Comey. Some high-ranking FBI officials could be considered witnesses in that investigation, as well. [Vox / Murray Waas]
  • Trump’s favorite phrase for the investigation is a “witch hunt,” and there's been lots of speculation that the president could get so incensed with its continuation that he might just fire Mueller. [NYT / Maggie Haberman and Michael Shear]
  • But the grand jury, and a new Senate bill that would require a judge to sign off on any Justice Department move to fire the special counsel, means that Mueller isn't in this alone. [The Hill / Jordan Cairney]

Turnbull-ish

Nathan Edwards/Newspix/Getty Images
  • Right after he took office, President Trump was dogged by a story about an explosive phone call he had with one of the United States’ closest allies, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, over an Obama-era refugee deal that Trump called “dumb.” [Washington Post / Greg Miller and Philip Rucker]
  • Now the full transcripts of Trump’s phone conversation with Turnbull, as well as one with Mexican Prime Minister Enrique Peña Nieto, have leaked. [Washington Post / Greg Miller, Julie Vitkovskaya, and Reuben Fischer-Baum]
  • They reveal a strong desire on Trump’s part to keep his campaign promises to build a wall and keep immigrants out of the US. The transcripts also show Trump worrying aloud about appearing weak on those issues. [Washington Post / Greg Miller]
  • In Trump’s conversation with Turnbull, the breaking point came when the Australian prime minister brought up a deal he made with the Obama administration to resettle refugees waiting in Australian camps. [Australian Broadcasting Corporation / Zoe Daniel]
  • The Australian government forces those refugees to stay in offshore detention centers, often under horrible conditions. [Vox / Dara Lind]
  • Trump repeatedly told Trumbull the deal was a bad look for him because he had just tried to put a ban on refugees from seven Muslim-majority nations. The refugees still would have gone through the usual US vetting process — something Trumbull tried to explain, with little success. [New York / Jonathan Chait]
  • When it came to the call with Peña Nieto, Trump’s main concern appeared to be the Mexican president’s refusal to pay for a wall on the southern border. Trump actually took more of a conciliatory approach, saying he understood money for the wall would have to come from somewhere else, but he insisted Peña Nieto stop publicly defying him. [Washington Post / Greg Miller]
  • The contents of the leaks are intriguing, but the leaks themselves are even more so. An entire transcript of the conversation between two world leaders has never gotten out before, and the implications for national security are severe. [The Atlantic / David Frum]

Iran and the US are squaring off over a rocket launch

Stringer/AFP/Getty Images
  • Tensions are growing between the United States and Iran over a recent space missile launch in the latter country.
  • Last week, Iran tested a rocket capable of launching satellites into orbit. Though the test was for the country’s space program, it renewed fears over Iran’s ballistic missile capabilities. [Reuters]
  • The United States and its European allies were quick to condemn the launch as a violation of a UN Security Council resolution that prohibits the country from conducting such launches. [NYT / Rick Gladstone]
  • However, the tests do not violate the Iran-US nuclear agreement negotiated by the Obama administration. In that deal, the US agreed to relax economic sanctions on the country in order to get Iran to scale back its nuclear capabilities. [NYT / Rick Gladstone]
  • Trump recently reauthorized the nuclear agreement, but he has made it clear he does not like the deal and has been looking for ways to say the country hasn’t been holding up its end of the bargain. [Washington Post / Ishan Tharoor]
  • The US seized on the latest missile test, slapping sanctions on an Iranian organization that works on ballistic missiles. [Al Jazeera]
  • But Iran also has grounds to complain about the US not holding up its side of the bargain, as Trump has been actively encouraging Middle Eastern countries not to trade with Iran. This is also a violation of the deal as negotiated by the Obama administration. [Vox / Zeeshan Aleem]

Miscellaneous

  • Bees may have been dying at alarming rates, but there's finally some good news: They're making a comeback. [Bloomberg / Alan Bjerga]
  • Members of a Norwegian alt-right group are apparently very bad at distinguishing burqa-wearing women from empty bus seats. [The Guardian / Jon Henley]
  • The government knew it was releasing dangerous chemicals into the air when it burned hazardous waste; it just didn’t realize how much, according to a new report. [ProPublica / Abrahm Lustgarten]
  • Anthony Scaramucci isn’t the only one whose marriage was destroyed by Donald Trump. [Refinery29 / Elizabeth Kiefer]
  • So far, the biggest policy changes out of Washington are quiet rollbacks of Obama-era energy and environmental regulations. With all the drama coming out of the White House, they're not getting much attention. [Axios / Amy Harder]

Verbatim


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