The Note: Reality closing in on Trump with grand jury investigation

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • A new development, and maybe a new phase: Special counsel Robert Mueller impaneled a grand jury in Washington, D.C., a few weeks ago, allowing Mueller’s team to issue subpoenas in its Russia probe. The White House said Thursday that it was unaware of the development.
  • War on leaks: Attorney General Jeff Sessions holds a briefing today on how the Justice Department is cracking down on leaks of classified material following the publication of transcripts of President Trump‘s private phone calls with two world leaders.
  • Private chats: Transcripts of Trump’s phone calls with the leaders of Mexico and Australia were obtained and published yesterday by The Washington Post. Highlights: Trump urges Mexico’s Pena Nieto to stop publicly saying he won’t pay for the wall, and tells Australia’s Turnbull the refugee resettlement deal is “stupid.”
  • Trump and Congress leave DC with much left open-ended: The president heads to Bedminster, New Jersey, for 17 days for his first extended vacation in office.
  • THE TAKE with ABC News’ Rick Klein

    “There were no Russians in our campaign.” That’s President Trump’s latest line in claiming innocence, and it may actually be honest enough to pass any grand jury’s test. For all the president has lost over this wild last fortnight – a chief of staff, a press secretary, a communications director, a health care bill – it’s the impaneling of a grand jury’s scrutiny that figures to prove the biggest development, ensuring an investigative slog where shifting stories and misleading statements may lead to criminal charges. The Justice Department’s new war on leaks will serve as a public and private counter to the Russian investigation – giving Trump backers something else to focus on, and discouraging the kinds of leaks that push Robert Mueller’s investigation in new directions. But, as always, the scrutiny will come back to the president, his family, and his inner circle. Outside institutions have delivered a consistent message to the president: words matter. Trump will try to make it about Democrats, Congress, biased investigators and his many opponents. It’s hard to imagine a grand jury caring about any of that.

    WEST VIRGINIA FALLOUT

    And then there were 15. President Trump may have unprecedented, historically low approval ratings, but Democrats have been unable to capitalize on that fact. Last night’s announcement from West Virginia’s governor brought their party to a new low. Democrats now only…

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