From The Washington Post — Written by Aaron Blake — Image courtesy of Reuters / Carlos Barria
President Trump and former House speaker Newt Gingrich have both now admitted, for all intents and purposes, that Trump’s ruse about possible White House tapes was meant to influence James B. Comey’s public comments. In an interview Friday with Fox News, Trump congratulated himself for the ploy.
“Who knows, I think his story may have changed,” Trump said. Asked whether his strategy was smart, Trump said, “It wasn’t very stupid; I can tell you that.”
But was it just political subterfuge, or was it something that could haunt Trump in his ongoing obstruction of justice investigation? Some have even suggested it could amount to witness tampering.
Meanwhile, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, also nodded in the direction of potential witness tampering on Thursday, after Trump revealed he had no tapes.
“If the president had no tapes, why did he suggest otherwise? Did he seek to mislead the public? Was he trying to intimidate or silence James Comey?” Schiff asked. “And if so, did he take other steps to discourage potential witnesses from speaking out?”
From The Washington Post — Written by Kathleen Parker — Image Courtesy of Getty
According to James B. Comey, Trump hoped that the then-FBI director would find a way to drop his investigation of ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn and help blow away “the cloud” concerning the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia. When Comey didn’t, Trump changed Comey — right out of a job.
“You’re fired,” the apprentice-president bravely conveyed to Comey via the very news media he so abhors, except when he doesn’t. Was Trump’s “hope” a “direction,” as Comey testified Thursday that he took it to mean? As in, The Don hopes ol’ Jimmy does the “right” thing? Or was it simply hope? As in, good golly, I hope it doesn’t rain this weekend?
If one were a young child, one might go for the weather-forecast interpretation — because what child wants it to rain on his or her parade? If one were an adult with full knowledge of the president’s pre-political history and the common sense of an investigator, one might reasonably conclude that the hoper in chief was making a strong suggestion, the ignoring of which could have dead-horse-in-your-bed consequences.
Comey, obviously, smelled a dead horse.
Opinion from The Washington Post — Written by Greg Sargent —
Now that James B. Comey’s testimony to Congress has painted a picture of President Trump’s contempt for the rule of law that’s far more forceful and persuasive in its dramatic details than Republicans ever bargained for, the new and emerging GOP defense is that Trump is a political and procedural naif. He merely needs to learn the rules. This line of obfuscation requires pretending that many of the events of the past six months never happened.
But this spin from Republicans has a significance that runs deeper than merely revealing the absurd lengths to which they’ll go to protect Trump from political and legal harm. More urgently, their new line unwittingly reveals the degree to which Trump’s abuses of power and assault on our democracy have depended all along upon their tacit and willful complicity — and, perhaps worse, it leaves little doubt that this enabling will continue, with unforeseen consequences.
This strategy takes various forms. Paul Ryan casts Trump’s interactions with Comey as a mere matter of inexperience. “The president’s new at this,” Ryan says, adding that Trump “probably wasn’t steeped in the long-running protocols” that under our system establish law enforcement’s independence from the White House. Others ground the argument in Trump’s business past or affection for the theatrics of disruption. “He’s used to being the CEO,” insists one House Republican. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) adds that Trump is merely being “crude, rude and a bull in a china shop.”
But Republicans making this argument are dishonestly feigning naivete about much of what we’ve seen from Trump since the beginning of his presidency. The problem with the idea that Trump merely needs to learn the rules is that we have a large pile of evidence showing that Trump is deeply convinced that the rules should not apply to him.
President Trump’s declaration that the Thursday testimony of former FBI director James B. Comey was a “total and complete vindication” despite “so many false statements and lies” was the sort of brashly triumphant and loosely-grounded-in-reality statement we’ve come to expect from the commander in chief. It was news that came out a bit later, news about plans to file a complaint against Comey for a revelation he made during that Senate Intelligence Committee hearing meeting, that may end up being more damaging to the president.
CNN and Fox first reported that Trump’s outside counsel, Marc Kasowitz, plans to file complaints with the inspector general of the Justice Department and the Senate Judiciary Committee about Comey’s testimony. At issue was Comey’s revelation that he provided a memo documenting a conversation with Trump to a friend to be shared with the New York Times.
The nation’s top intelligence official told associates in March that President Trump asked him if he could intervene with then-FBI Director James B. Comey to get the bureau to back off its focus on former national security adviser Michael Flynn in its Russia probe, according to officials.
On March 22, less than a week after being confirmed by the Senate, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats attended a briefing at the White House together with officials from several government agencies. As the briefing was wrapping up, Trump asked everyone to leave the room except for Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
The president then started complaining about the FBI investigation and Comey’s handling of it, said officials familiar with the account Coats gave to associates. Two days earlier, Comey had confirmed in a congressional hearing that the bureau was probing whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 race.
After the encounter, Coats discussed the conversation with other officials and decided that intervening with Comey as Trump had suggested would be inappropriate, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal matters.
From ABC News — Written by Mark Levine
In the dead of winter several months ago — before either one officially joined the Justice Department — Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein met to discuss replacing James Comey as FBI director. Then in a February meeting at the White House, Rosenstein and President Donald Trump further “discussed” Comey’s “deeply troubling” and “serious mistakes,” Rosenstein wrote in his now-infamous letter recommending that Comey be fired.
But it turns out Rosenstein and Sessions never discussed such concerns with one key person: Comey himself.
Specifically, according to sources familiar with the matter, at no point in the weeks and months before Comey’s termination did Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein or Attorney General Sessions tell Comey they were uneasy about his leadership or upset over what Rosenstein later called Comey’s “mistaken” decision to announce the results of the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server last year.
The failure to flag any such concerns to Comey before terminating him is part of what makes the former FBI director feel so blindsided. It’s also part of the story he’s planning to tell lawmakers next week when — barring a last-minute schedule change — he testifies publicly for the first time about his axing, and about alleged collusion between Trump associates and elements of the Russian government to influence last year’s presidential election.
As one source put it: He’s “angry,” and he wants the public to understand why.
A disputed Russian intelligence document obtained by the FBI during the 2016 election influenced the Bureau’s then-director, James Comey, to personally announce the end of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server last summer, the Washington Post reports. The existence of the document has been confirmed by CBS News.
Comey’s July 2016 announcement that the FBI would not recommend that charges be brought against Clinton while still criticizing her for maintaining a private email server was characterized as unprecedented at the time. Typically, when an FBI investigation ends without charges, the Bureau and the Department of Justice (DOJ) do not comment on the matter.
But Comey felt that it was best for him to personally explain the Bureau’s reasoning to reporters. And part of the reason for that decision, current and former officials told the Post, is the existence of a document alleging that then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch had assured the Clinton campaign that she would limit how far the FBI investigation into the email server went.
The FBI, however, deemed the document — supposedly an analysis conducted by Russian intelligence — to be bad intelligence. The Americans mentioned in the document insisted they did not know each other and had never spoken, and there was no evidence to back up its veracity. The person who had supplied the document, officials told the Post, had provided intelligence in the past that the Bureau could not corroborate.