President Trump’s associates have been indicted. Can Trump himself emerge unscathed?

Early Monday, the very first charges were issued in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Three former Trump campaign officials were indicted in the probe: Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, and two lesser-known Trump associates Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos.

So what are the details of the charges against these men? Are these indictments proof that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to sway the 2016 election?

Today’s episode delves into the latest developments in the Mueller investigation and answers a new, critical “Can He Do That?” question: Now that several of his associates have been indicted, can Trump himself emerge unscathed from Mueller’s investigation?

National security reporter Matt Zapotosky answers these questions on this break-in episode of “Can He Do That?” Listen to the full episode below.

 Each week, “Can He Do That?” examines the powers and limitations of the American presidency, focusing on one area where President Trump is seemingly breaking precedent. We answer the critical questions about what today’s news means for the future of the highest office in the nation.

Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.

The Washington Post and Live Nation will bring the “Can He Do That?” podcast to a live audience at the Warner Theatre on Nov. 7. In this live taping, political reporters Bob Woodward, David Fahrenthold and Karen Tumulty will join host Allison Michaels to review the past year in President Trump’s White House and the biggest moments that made people wonder “Can He Do That?” Tickets can be purchased now at Live Nation. Attendees are eligible to receive a free 30-day Basic Digital subscription to The Washington Post.


John Kelly refuses to apologize for false attacks on Florida congresswoman

White House chief of staff John F. Kelly speaks at the White House media briefing on Oct. 19. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly said Monday he would not apologize for the false attacks he leveled against Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.) this month when he sought to defend President Trump for his handling of a condolence call to the widow of a fallen soldier.

On Oct. 19, in a rare appearance at the White House media briefing, Kelly attacked Wilson as an “empty barrel” and accused her of grandstanding at a public event two years ago in Florida by taking credit for securing federal funding for a new building.

Video of the event soon released by the Florida Sun Sentinel showed Wilson did no such thing. Rather, she used her speech to praise the two slain FBI agents in whose memory the building was named. Wilson accused Kelly of “character assassination,” and members of the Congressional Black Caucus demanded that Kelly apologize.

In an interview to be broadcast Monday night, Fox News Channel host Laura Ingraham asked Kelly whether he had something to apologize for.

“Oh, no,” Kelly replied. “No. Never. Well, I’ll apologize if I need to. But for something like that, absolutely not. I stand by my comments.”

Kelly suggested that he may have been accusing Wilson of grandstanding in a private discussion, as opposed to in her public speech, although his comment to Ingraham was vague.

“I’ll go back and talk about before her comments and at the reception afterwards,” Kelly said. “Again, it was a package deal. Don’t want to get into it.”

Kelly went on to say that Myeshia Johnson, the widow of fallen Sgt. La David Johnson, has acted within her rights to speak out publicly about Trump’s handling of his condolence call.

“As far as the young widow goes, she has every right to say what she wants to say,” Kelly told Ingraham. “But it’s the politicization of something that was so from the heart.”

Ingraham’s interview — one of Kelly’s rare public appearances — delved into a range of other topics, including the removal of Confederate and other historical monuments, an issue that has animated Trump in recent months.

Ingraham asked Kelly about a historic church in Alexandria, Va., where former president George Washington worshiped, deciding to remove plaques memorializing both Washington and Confederate general Robert E. Lee because they were considered intolerant.

“Well, history’s history,” Kelly said. “And there are certain things in history that were not so good and other things that were very, very good. I think we make a mistake, though, and as a society and certainly as individuals, when we take what is today accepted as right and wrong and go back 100, 200, 300 years or more and say what those, you know, what Christopher Columbus did was wrong.”

Kelly added: “Human history, our culture is an evolving thing. There will be 100 or 200 years from now people that criticize us for what we do, and I guess they’ll tear down, you know, statues of people that we revere today. I think it’s dangerous. … I think it’s just very, very dangerous and it shows you what, how much of a lack of appreciation of history, and what history is.”


Gold Star father Khizr Khan knocks White House chief of staff on military condolence controversy

Muslim American Khizr Khan, whose son Humayun was killed while serving in the U.S. Army, offered Republican candidate Donald Trump his copy of the Constitution during a speech at the Democratic convention. (The Washington Post)

Khizr Khan, the Gold Star father who lambasted Donald Trump at last year’s Democratic National Convention, on Sunday criticized the now-president’s chief of staff for his handling of the controversy over Trump’s military condolence calls.

Khan said John F. Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general, had “made the situation even worse” by defending Trump and joining him in attacking Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.) after she criticized Trump’s call to the widow of one of four service members killed in an ambush in Niger.

“Instead of advising the president that restraint and dignity is the call of the moment, former general Kelly indulged in defending [the] behavior of the president and made the situation even worse,” Khan said during an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “Our political leaders, elected by the people, are deserving of equal dignity and equal respect instead of being maligned on misstated facts. And that was beyond the call of the moment.”

During an appearance before reporters Thursday, Kelly called Wilson an “empty barrel” and falsely claimed that she had taken credit for securing funding of a federal building in a 2015 speech.

Khan, who is promoting a new book, also criticized Kelly’s handling of Trump’s response to a deadly melee in Charlottesville at a gathering organized by white supremacists in August.

“I was shocked — I was shocked —to see citizen Kelly standing next to the president when … the president could not have the proper words to condemn the attack on the blessed city of Charlottesville, Virginia, by neo-Nazis,” said Khan, a resident of Charlottesville.

Khan’s son Humayun Khan was killed in Iraq in 2004. While speaking at the Democratic convention last year, the elder Khan challenged Trump, at one point saying, “You have sacrificed nothing and no one.” He also held up a pocket-size copy of the U.S. Constitution, asking whether Trump had read it.

Kelly is also a Gold Star father. He lost a son, Robert M. Kelly, in Afghanistan seven years ago.


McConnell: Bannon, others gunning to knock off GOP incumbents are ‘specialists at nominating people who lose’

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) criticized former White house chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon on Sunday morning talk shows. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Sunday sharply criticized former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon and others trying to knock off Republican incumbents as “specialists at nominating people who lose.”

McConnell appeared on two Sunday morning talk shows and was asked about Bannon’s efforts to find primary opponents for all but one of the Senate Republicans running for reelection next year. McConnell argued that the kind of candidates Bannon and others are supporting will not have the broad appeal needed to win general elections in some of those states.

“The kind of people that are supported by the element that you’ve just been referring to are specialists in defeating Republican candidates in November, and that’s what this interparty skirmish is about,” McConnell said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Our goal is to nominate people in the primaries next year who can actually win” in the general election.

McConnell went on to say that the effort of Bannon and others “isn’t going to help President Trump achieve his agenda. He needs a Republican Senate and a Republican House to confirm judges, to pass legislation that is important to him and to the country.”

Since leaving the White House in August, Bannon has argued that many GOP incumbents are standing in the way of Trump achieving the nationalist agenda that swept him into the White House. Part of Bannon’s stated goal is to oust McConnell from his leadership post.

On Fox, McConnell was also asked whether he thought his low job approval numbers nationally would be a drag on other Republican senatorial candidates and hurt the party’s prospects of winning the Senate.

“I’m not going to be on the ballot in any of these states, and I don’t think the candidates who are running need to take a position on me,” McConnell said. “The people in those states are interested in what the candidates can do for them and for the country. Trying to cook up an issue like this is irrelevant.”

Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” McConnell played down infighting between Trump and congressional Republicans, emphasizing what he called a shared agenda on a tax overhaul, judicial appointments and deregulation.

“I think he’s getting a lot more done than he’s giving everybody credit for,” McConnell said of Trump. “I think his appointments, as I’ve said earlier, are absolutely changing the country. The optimism about the economy is picking up. It’s related to the people he’s put in positions at various key places in the federal government. It’s related to the Supreme Court appointments and all the judges that we’re confirming.”

McConnell said he’s “not particularly concerned” about recent criticisms the president has lodged against the Senate GOP’s inability to advance his priorities.

“We’re thrilled to have somebody in the White House who supports what this House and Senate Republican majority has been wanting to have an opportunity to do for a long time. And so I refused to get diverted off on the various comments that maybe made at one time or another,” the majority leader said.


Trump says Russian-bought Facebook ads were ‘tiny’ compared with U.S. ‘fake news’

President Trump, flanked by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, speaks during a Cabinet meeting at the White House on Monday. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

President Trump on Saturday downplayed the significance of Russian-bought Facebook ads, which leading lawmakers investigating election meddling have said were intended to influence last year’s campaign and divide Americans.

“Keep hearing about ‘tiny’ amount of money spent on Facebook ads,” Trump said on Twitter, before taking aim at U.S. television networks. “What about the billions of dollars of Fake News on CNN, ABC, NBC & CBS?”

Trump later wrote that Facebook was on the side of Democrat Hillary Clinton, not him. “Crooked Hillary Clinton spend hundreds of millions more on Presidential Election than I did,” Trump tweeted.

Keep hearing about “tiny” amount of money spent on Facebook ads. What about the billions of dollars of Fake News on CNN, ABC, NBC & CBS?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 21, 2017

Crooked Hillary Clinton spent hundreds of millions of dollars more on Presidential Election than I did. Facebook was on her side, not mine!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 21, 2017

During a visit to Washington last week, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg acknowledged that the company made mistakes during the 2016 campaign, including selling more than $100,000 in ads to a Russian company linked to the Kremlin.

The House and Senate intelligence committees are reviewing the Facebook ads as they attempt to investigate matters related to Russia’s bid to help elect Trump president.

“Their aim was to sow chaos,” Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, recently said. “In many ­cases, it was more about voter suppression rather than increasing turnout.”

A batch of more than 3,000 Russian-bought ads that Facebook turned over to Congress included some promoting African American rights groups, including Black Lives Matter, and others suggesting that these same groups pose a rising political threat. Other ads highlighted support for Democrat Hillary Clinton among Muslim women.

Also on Twitter on Saturday afternoon, Trump weighed in again on another Russia-related topic: an intelligence dossier that alleged ties between Russia and Trump’s presidential campaign.

The compendium of information about Trump, much of it unproved, was produced by a former British intelligence agent last year, mostly before Trump won the 2016 election. Officials have said the FBI has confirmed some of the information and rejected other parts, and they caution that it may be impossible to verify or disprove the rest.

“Justice Department and/or FBI should immediately release who paid for it,.” Trump said.

In a tweet earlier this week, Trump suggested that the FBI might have had a role in paying for dossier.


Trump pledges at least $430,000 of his own money to help cover aides’ legal costs related to Russia probes

President Trump listens to Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló at a meeting in the Oval Office on Thursday. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

President Trump plans to spend at least $430,000 of his personal funds to help cover the mounting legal costs incurred by White House staff and campaign aides related to the ongoing investigations of Russian meddling in last year’s election, a White House official said.

The Washington Post reported last month that the Republican National Committee had spent roughly that amount to pay lawyers representing Trump and his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., in the multiple investigations.

The White House official said Trump’s pledge is not meant as a reimbursement to the RNC, but that it does not preclude Trump from doing that at a later time or for increasing the amount available for his aides.

The official requested anonymity to discuss the president’s plans, first reported by Axios, because Trump is not prepared to make a formal announcement.

President Trump says the “real” Russia story involves a deal on U.S. uranium mines under the Obama administration struck when Hillary Clinton ran the State Department and not the “hoax” collusion story. (Reuters)

The arrangement drew immediate criticism from Walter Shaub, the former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, who suggested on Twitter that it is rife with potential conflicts.

“A potential witness or target of an investigation (and boss of investigators) paying for legal fees of other potential witnesses or targets?” Shaub wrote.

A potential witness or target of an investigation (and boss of investigators) paying for legal fees of other potential witnesses or targets?

— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) October 21, 2017

The White House official said many issues remain to be resolved, including how the money will be accessed and who can request it. The White House’s and campaign aides’ legal costs are expected to balloon well beyond what Trump is putting forward.

Russian meddling — and other related issues — are being investigated by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III as well as House and Senate committees.

The RNC reported last month that it paid $100,000 to Trump’s personal attorney John Dowd and $131,250 to Jay Sekulow, another member of his legal team.

The party is also covering the mounting legal costs for Donald Trump Jr., spending nearly $200,000 on lawyers who helped him prepare for testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Those payments included more than $166,000 to attorney Alan Futerfas.

The RNC is using a pool of money stockpiled for election recounts and other legal matters to pay the costs of Trump and his son.

RNC officials concluded that it is permissible for the party to pay for the president’s legal fees, according to a person familiar with the conversations. Separately, party and administration officials are working to determine whether executive branch staff members could have their legal fees defrayed by the RNC or private legal defense funds.

The information about the interactions has been provided to congressional committees as well as special counsel Robert S. Mueller as they investigate whether Trump associates coordinated with Russian efforts to interfere in the U.S. election, according to people familiar with the inquiries. (The Washington Post)

Matea Gold contributed to this story.


Trump calls Rep. Wilson ‘wacky,’ stoking the controversy over condolence calls

President Trump on Saturday took fresh aim on Twitter at the “wacky” Florida congresswoman who criticized him over a military condolence call, stoking a controversy that has dogged his presidency for nearly a week, with many questions still unanswered.

The president’s tweet was the latest volley in a White House effort to discredit Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.), a friend of the family of one of four service members killed in an ambush in Niger. And it came on the day that hundreds of people streamed to a church in suburban Fort Lauderdale for the funeral of the soldier, Sgt. La David Johnson.

Myeshia Johnson, widow of U.S. Army Sergeant La David Johnson, who was among four special forces soldiers killed in Niger, sits with her daughter, Ah’Leeysa Johnson and son Le David Johnson Jr. at a graveside service in Hollywood, Fla., on Saturday. (Joe Skipper/Reuters)

“I hope the Fake News Media keeps talking about Wacky Congresswoman Wilson in that she, as a representative, is killing the Democrat Party!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

The tweet capped off a week that began with Trump falsely claiming that past presidents didn’t call Gold Star families and that he called the families of “virtually everybody” killed in action during his presidency.

On Saturday, the White House declined to spell out how many families Trump had actually called, though administration officials have acknowledged that he did not personally phone all of the more than 20 personnel who have been killed in hostile actions.

Roll Call reported Friday that Trump’s comment in a radio interview about calling “virtually everyone” sent White House aides scrambling to gather an up-to-date list of those who had been killed, aware of the fact that Trump had overstated his claim.

Citing an internal Defense Department email, the report said that the executive secretary to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis provided the White House with information about how each service member had died and contact information for his or her survivors.

“The White House ensured that the President had contacted all families of soldiers killed in action that had been presented to him through existing protocols,” deputy White House press secretary Raj Shah said in a statement Saturday.

Earlier in the week, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders suggested that some families might not have been contacted yet because of the time required to complete those protocols. Aides also acknowledged that not every “contact” was a phone call from the president.

The controversy over Trump’s handling of condolence calls has largely overshadowed Trump’s legislative agenda, including his promise to deliver “massive” tax cuts.

In a separate tweet Saturday morning, Trump complained that the mainstream media had not done enough to cover the passage of a budget by the U.S. Senate, a move that will make it possible for a tax-cut package to be approved without Democratic support.

Within the hour, however, he started tweeting about the condolence controversy.

Besides the attack on Wilson, Trump retweeted the message of a Twitter user who suggested that the media was focusing so heavily on the congresswoman to deflect attention from a story Trump has said is undercovered: the purchase of U.S. uranium mines by a Russian-backed company in 2010.

The agreement was reached while Hillary Clinton led the State Department, and some investors in the company had relationships with former president Bill Clinton and donated to the Clinton Foundation.

“People get what is going on!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Those tweets came a day after a video emerged showing that White House chief of staff John F. Kelley had made false claims about Wilson.

Kelly was highly critical of Wilson for listening in on Trump’s call to the widow of Johnson and also for her role in a 2015 dedication ceremony for a federal building that was named for two slain FBI agents.

Speaking to reporters Thursday in the White House briefing room, Kelly said he had been “stunned” to hear Wilson claim credit at the ceremony for securing the funding for the building.

A video of her speech at the ceremony showed Wilson did not take credit for securing the money. She instead spent about two minutes of a nine-minute speech recalling the effort that she led in Congress to name the building for the agents, whom she praised effusively in her remarks.

On Friday, Sanders stood by Kelly’s comments and cautioned a reporter that it would be “highly inappropriate” to get into a debate with “a four-star Marine general” over whether he misstated facts.

During interviews Friday, Wilson accused Kelly of lying about her.

“He can’t just go on TV and lie on me,” she said on CNN. “I was not even in Congress in 2009 when the money for the building was secured.”

In an interview with Fox Business Network taped Friday, Trump accused Wilson of debasing Kelly by suggesting that the chief of staff had defended the president at Trump’s insistence, to keep his job.

“When she made that statement, I thought it was sickening, actually,” Trump said. He added that Kelly is “doing an incredible job” and said the general, who had listened in on his call with Johnson, was “offended” that Wilson would make it public.


Stephen Bannon takes fierce aim at George W. Bush in wake of speech seen as critical of President Trump

Former chief White House strategist Steve Bannon slammed former president George W. Bush on Oct. 20, saying the 43rd president embarrassed himself in a speech that was critical of President Trump. (Reuters)

Former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon served up a searing attack Friday night on former president George W. Bush, saying Bush “didn’t understand anything he was talking about” in a speech the day before that was widely seen as a rebuke of Donald Trump’s presidency.

“He embarrassed himself,” Bannon said in a dinnertime address at the convention banquet of the California Republican Party. “The speechwriter wrote a highfalutin speech. It’s clear he didn’t understand anything he was talking about. … He has no earthly idea whether he’s coming or going, just like it was when he was president of the United States.”

Bannon — who has declared war on the Republican establishment since leaving the White House — went on to apologize to any “Bush folks” in the audience before asserting that “there has not been a more destructive presidency than George Bush’s.”

Conservatives have been critical of Bush’s presidency for spending increases and an expansion of foreign entanglements.

Bannon’s broadside was prompted by a rare political speech that Bush delivered Thursday in which he warned of threats to U.S. democracy and a decay of civic engagement.

At a New York forum sponsored by the Bush presidential center, Bush offered a blunt assessment of a political system corrupted by “conspiracy theories and outright fabrication” in which nationalism has been “distorted into nativism.”

“We’ve seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty,” Bush said during a 16-minute address at “The Spirit of Liberty” event. “Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone and provides permission for cruelty and bigotry. The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them.”

Bush did not mention Trump by name, and former aides emphasized that his message echoed words he has spoken before. But the fact that a former president was sounding the alarm about American values and the United States’ role in the world at a time when Trump has unsettled allies abroad and provoked intense political backlash at home injected Bush’s remarks with greater urgency.

At a White House briefing Friday, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “Our understanding is that those comments were not directed towards the president.”

David Nakamura contributed to this report.


‘Bing, bing, bing’: Trump reveals his thinking behind firing off all those tweets

President Trump speaks with Gov. Ricardo Rosselló of Puerto Rico during a meeting in the White House on Thursday. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

President Trump has a ready weapon in hand to return fire when he feels under attack.

“When somebody says something about me, I am able to go bing, bing, bing and I take care of it,” the president said.

Trump, of course, was talking about Twitter, which has become a staple of his presidency.

In a revealing few minutes in a larger interview with Maria Bartiromo of Fox Business Network, Trump repeatedly said he might not have been elected without his use of social media and explained why he finds it such an appealing outlet.

“You have to keep people interested also,” Trump said. “You know, you have to keep people interested.”

Bartiromo asked Trump if some of his unscripted tweets get in the way of the larger message his administration is trying to sell.

Trump acknowledged that he has friends who tell him not to use social media. But, he said, it’s a very useful tool to counter “fake news” and respond to critics.

“I can express my views when somebody expresses maybe a false view that they said I gave,” Trump said.

He also marveled at how quickly some television networks put his tweets up on the screen for their viewers to see.

“Tweeting is like a typewriter,” Trump told Bartiromo. “When I put it out, you put it immediately on your show. I mean the other day, I put something out, two seconds later I am watching your show.”

Trump — whose tweets sometimes contain spelling errors and randomly capitalized words — also relayed that he thinks he is well-suited for the medium.

“You know they are well-crafted,” he said of his tweets. “I was always a good student. I am like a person that does well with that kind of thing. And I doubt I would be here if weren’t for social media, to be honest with you. Because there is a fake media out there, I get treated very unfairly by the media.”

Segments from the interview, recorded Friday, are scheduled to start airing on Sunday morning.



White House press secretary: It’s ‘highly inappropriate’ to question a 4-star Marine general

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Oct. 20 defended Chief of Staff John F. Kelly’s attacks on Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.) and called it “highly inappropriate” to debate with “a four-star Marine general.” (Reuters)

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told a reporter Friday that it would be “highly inappropriate” to get into a debate with “a four-star Marine general” over whether he misstated facts.

At issue was the appearance Thursday of White House chief of staff John F. Kelly, a retired Marine general, before the media in which he robustly defended President Trump’s call earlier this week to the widow of a soldier killed in Niger.

Kelly was highly critical of Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.) for listening in on the call with the widow and also for her role in a 2015 dedication ceremony for a federal building that was named for two slain FBI agents.

On Thursday, Kelly said he had been “stunned” to hear Wilson claim credit at the ceremony for securing the funding for the building.

A video of her speech at the ceremony showed Wilson did not take credit for securing the money. She instead spent about two minutes of a nine-minute speech recalling the effort that she led in Congress to name the building for the agents, whom she praised effusively in her remarks.

Pressed on the discrepancy Friday by veteran CBS News correspondent Chip Reid during the daily news briefing, Sanders said that Wilson had “also made quite a few comments that day that weren’t part of that speech and weren’t part of that video that were also witnessed by the many people who were there.”

Asked by Reid what those comments were, Sanders characterized them as “exactly” what Kelly had described during his appearance in the briefing room Thursday.

“There was a lot of grandstanding,” Sanders said. “He was stunned that she had taken the opportunity to make it about herself.”

“Can he come out here and talk about this at some point?” Reid asked.

“I think he addressed that pretty thoroughly yesterday,” Sanders said.

Reid persisted: “Well, he was wrong yesterday in talking about [Wilson] getting the money.”

“If you want to go after General Kelly, that’s up to you,” Sanders said. “I think that if you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general —”

“That would be great if he would come out here and do it,” Reid interjected.

Sanders then finished her sentence, saying, “that’s highly inappropriate.”

Earlier in the day, during an appearance on CNN, Wilson accused Kelly of lying about her.

“He can’t just go on TV and lie on me,” Wilson said. “I was not even in Congress in 2009 when the money for the building was secured.”

Later Friday, Sanders issued a statement seeking to clarify her remarks.

“Of course everyone can be questioned,” she said, “but after witnessing General Kelly’s heartfelt and somber account, we should all be able to agree that impugning his credibility on how to best honor fallen heroes is not appropriate.”