COMEY … “I Take The President At His Word” … Takeaways: James and the Giant Speech … From Teapot Dome to Watergate … There Is No $110B Saudi Arms Deal … Health Insurance Markets … Is Dodd-Frank Dead? … Swamp Hotel … NEW Civic Engagement Tools By Facebook: Constituent Badges … and other news of the week.
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… “[T]here should be no fuzz on this whatsoever. The Russians interfered in our election during the 2016 cycle. They did it with purpose. They did it with sophistication. They did it with overwhelming technical efforts. And it was an active-measures campaign driven from the top of that government. There is no fuzz on that.”
… “I’ve seen the tweet about the tapes. Lordy, I hope there are tapes.”
“I TAKE THE PRESIDENT AT HIS WORD.”
Axios “Game on! It’s war — with more ammunition for both sides after [Thursday’s] mesmerizing testimony by fired FBI Director Jim Comey. In a morning-long Capitol Hill appearance marked by a theatrical precision that had workers around the country glued to their screens, Comey was happy to twist the knife: “I take the president at his word, that I was fired because of the Russia investigation.” Unspooling startling detail, Comey bluntly described how he engineered a dramatic leak to The New York Times, and ascribed his damaging in-the-moment memos to his “gut feel” that he needed to “protect” the FBI.
Trump’s lawyer, litigator Marc Kasowitz, quickly responded with a combative statement accusing Comey of lying about Trump’s demand for loyalty — “never said it in form, and he never said it in substance” — and of disclosing classified information in a way that “appears to be entirely retaliatory.” (NOTE: The Comey memo was not a classified doc.) The buzz: Is the flat denial by Trump’s lawyer that he said something Comey attributed to him during the Green Room dinner (“I need loyalty”) a clue that there aren’t tapes?
DON’T LOSE SIGHT Axios “There is no way to spin away this was a very dark and damning day for Trump. The head of the FBI testified he so distrusted his own president and White House that he took detailed notes of his conversations to prove he felt pressure to drop an investigation of collusion with the Russians. He then felt so strongly he leaked those notes to the press to force a special prosecutor.
Be smart: This wasn’t the end but the beginning of a long, agonizing process for the Trump White House. What they fear most is the probes into central figures around Trump, and what happens when investigators dig into the context for so many meetings with the Russians.
Highlights and Quotes. Click Here.
WEST WING FEAR MUELLER WAY MORE THAN COMEY: They were fairly relaxed after this morning. This is a team that’s acclimatized over many months to a highly abnormal working environment. Some staff have become so numb to negative news stories that they’ve taken to asking reporters how bad new stories are “on a scale of one to ten.” The down side of today is more fog — and the fog spawns the ugliness that freezes Washington and infects the national debate. WHAT’S NEXT? The back-to-back appearances set in motion months — perhaps years — of partisan back-and-forth that threatens to swamp Trump’s legislative agenda.
A BUDDY MOVIE GONE BAD Rich Lowry “… It’s a tale of a bureaucratically agile and self-serving careerist matched against an institutionally ignorant and self-serving outsider. One is careful, memorializing every conversation and calculating his every more; the other is blundering around in the dark – and eventually blows the whole thing up.”
TAKEAWAYS FROM JAMES AND THE GIANT SPEECH
1. Comey considers Trump a liar.
2. The cloud is growing, not lifting.
3. New mysteries …what Comey declined to answer.
4. Collateral damage … to a slew of others, including AG Sessions, former AG Loretta Lynch and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein.
5. Partisanship reigns …. it took virtually no time for partisans to retreat to their corners and begin sniping at one another over the meaning and import of what Comey said.
– How deeply wounded Comey was by the way he was fired.
– Comey testified that he arranged the leak of his private conversations with Trump after the president tweeted a threat at Comey. … Imagine how much the public would never have known if Trump hadn’t canned Comey.
– Comey told senators in a closed hearing [after his public testimony] that Attorney General Jeff Sessions may have had a third interaction with Russia’s ambassador to the US.”
– Comey’s senior FBI colleagues were as troubled as he was by the President’s private comments.
– The former FBI director admits he was less than brave in the moment when he alleges the President made his request about easing off the Flynn probe.
– Rs & Ds on the Intelligence Committee appear to find Comey testimony credible.”
NO, YOU’RE THE LIAR
@RealDonaldTrump … Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication…and WOW, Comey is a leaker!
-Trumps first tweet after Comey testimony, this morning at 6:10 am.
Step back and assess the contradictory things Trump is asking us to believe (Ezra Klein):
- Trump’s first point is that Comey is a liar (and, since he was testifying under oath before the Senate, a perjurer). It is not just Trump making this case. White House staff have said that Trump, among other things, never asked for Comey’s loyalty, and that the ex-FBI director is making his story up. No one really believes this, but then, that’s not the point.
- Trump’s second point is that even though Comey is a liar trying to frame Trump, his testimony is believable as a complete and total vindication for Trump, though what Trump is being completely and totally vindicated of is unclear.
- Trump’s third point is that Comey “is a leaker.”
“Can you imagine getting fired, and then the next thing you know, you get to trash talk your boss in front of the whole world. It’s like a dream come true.”
– Jimmy Kimmel
FROM TEAPOT DOME TO WATERGATE .. A HISTORY LESSON ON CONGRESSIONAL HEARINGS Politico Magazine “James Comey’s testimony joins the pantheon of dramatic congressional moments … “This isn’t the first – and it won’t be the last – time that congressional testimony captured the nation’s imagination. From the Army-McCarthy hearings of 1954 to the Iran Contra hearings in 1987, House and Senate committees have held ordinary citizens in rapt attention. … Comey’s testimony is in this sense an absolutely American phenomenon.” Click Here for Article.
“Notwithstanding anyone’s statements to the contrary, you did not initiate any physical contact with me, and I had no right to assault you, I am sorry for what I did and the unwanted notoriety this has created for you. I take full responsibility.”
– Recently Elected Congressman Gianforte (R-MT) apologizes for ‘assault’ in a letter addressed to Ben Jacobs, the reporter he assaulted. AND promises to give $50,000 to press freedom group.
THERE IS NO $110 BILLION ARMS DEAL TO SAUDI ARABIA Last month President Trump visited Saudi Arabia and announced that he had concluded $110 Billion arms deal with the kingdom. Only problem is that there is no deal. Many thousands of American jobs? Not.
“There is no $110 billion deal. Instead, there are a bunch of letters of interest or intent, but not contracts. Many are offers that the defense industry thinks the Saudis will be interested in someday. So far nothing has been notified to the Senate for review. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the arms sales wing of the Pentagon, calls them “intended sales.” None of the deals identified so far are new, all began in the Obama administration.”
I CAN’T HEAR YOU Politico “Two of the nation’s top intelligence officials refused to say Wednesday whether President Donald Trump asked them to intervene in or downplay the FBI’s ongoing Russia investigation, though they said they have never felt pressure to act inappropriately. Testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, NSA Director Mike Rogers and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats repeatedly stonewalled when asked about news reports that Trump asked each of them to downplay or refute the FBI’s probe, which is examining whether Trump’s associates colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election. Both men insisted they’d never felt pressured to do anything improper, but they parsed their words carefully and stopped short of outright denials that Trump had asked them to undermine the FBI’s probe.”
HEALTH INSURANCE MARKETS Roll Call Senate Republicans are weighing a major move to help stabilize the insurance markets created by President Barack Obama’s. … The chamber’s counterpart legislation to the House-passed bill to repeal and replace the 2010 health law could include up to $30 billion in funding to help the shaky individual insurance exchange. That would be divided into $15 billion each year, the Republican aide said. Most of that money would be directed toward funding the law’s so-called cost-sharing subsidies, which help reduce health care costs for lower income people. The White House has left the insurance industry questioning if those payments will continue.”
McCONNELL BASKS IN GOP VICTORY ON COURTS Roll Call “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Friday said the current vacancies in the U.S. court system will allow President Donald Trump to have the longest impact on the future of the country and vowed to continue to push through his nominees.”
HOUSE PASSES SWEEPING BANK DEREGULATION BILL – VOTES TO KILL DODD-FRANK. NOW WHAT? CNN Money “House lawmakers on Thursday advanced the “crown jewel” of the GOP-led regulatory reform effort, effectively gutting the Dodd-Frank financial regulations that were put in place during the Obama administration. The Republican bill, called the Financial CHOICE Act, passed the House 233-186 along party lines. The bill seeks to undo significant parts of the 2010 financial reform law. Crafted by House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling, the bill passed despite vehement objections by Democrats to preserve the sweeping law aimed at preventing another financial crisis and protecting American consumers.
Hensarling’s bill would give the president the power to fire the heads of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a consumer watchdog agency created under Dodd-Frank, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, at any time for any — or no — reason. It also gives Congress purview over the CFPB’s budget, meaning lawmakers could defund the agency entirely.
SO WHAT’S NEXT? Now the bill’s destiny will be in the hands of the Senate. Senate Republicans will likely seek to craft their own companion measure to overhaul the Dodd-Frank regulations. Chairman of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), … has set his own target of early 2018 to pass major bank reform legislation. 60 VOTES Unlike the House, Republicans will need to sway at least eight Democrats to pass a regulatory reform bill to cross the 60-vote threshold. GOP senators currently hold 52 seats in the Senate. Those who closely follow the debate believe there’s no chance Hensarling’s bill would pass the Senate as is. Rather, they expect the upper chamber to advance a separate regulatory relief bill of their own. Senate Republicans will have two options to advance President Trump’s promise to dismantle the “horrendous” Dodd-Frank law.
1. They could try to pass a regulatory relief bill through reconciliation, which only requires a 50-vote majority to pass the Senate. That would likely mean a smaller number of limited changes to the Dodd-Frank Act rather than a major single legislative package.
Or 2. they could leave the 2010 regulatory reform law intact and put the onus on regulators, like the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., to rewrite some of the rules. Any changes to the Dodd-Frank regulations, however, require the approval of those in top regulatory posts at three bank regulatory agencies — the Fed, the FDIC and the Comptroller of the Currency — several of which the president has yet to nominate. Trump has yet to fill three open slots on the Fed board, including a new regulatory czar.”
COMEY’S SUCCESSOR AXIOS “President Trump tweeted his selection as his new FBI director: Chris Wray, 50, a litigation partner at King & Spalding in D.C. and Atlanta, who was President George W. Bush’s assistant attorney general overseeing the Criminal Division. Wray represented Chris Christie in Bridgegate.
NYTs “F.B.I. Nominee Seen as Shield Against Politics … “a safe, mainstream pick from a president who at one point was considering politicians for a job that has historically been kept outside of partisanship. … “a veteran Washington lawyer who is more low key and deliberative than either Mr. Mueller or Mr. Comey but will remain independent. … Wray will not tolerate meddling, his friends say.”
IN CASE YOU ARE IN DC … THE SWAMP HOTEL: How Trump’s D.C. outpost became a dealmaker’s paradise for diplomats, lobbyists and insiders,” “The hotel] is the new town square in Donald Trump’s Washington. Tourists perch on the blue velvet sofas in the lobby, snapping cell-phone pictures as power players stream across the dark marble floors and cream carpets: international businessmen, Republican operatives, wealthy donors, foreign diplomats, former Trump campaign aides, the occasional Administration official. That’s partly because a President who once promised to ‘drain the swamp’ of influence peddling now owns the city’s newest bog.”
WHAT ARE ‘CONSTITUENT BADGES? Axios “Facebook is rolling out a product that will let lawmakers (or, more likely, their staffers) see what articles are popular with people who live in their districts. The company says it will help lawmakers better respond to the issues their constituents are focused on. WHY IT MATTERS? It’s the latest civic-engagement move from the company, which has grappled with its place in the political landscape. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE: The company is letting users get “badges” that show they are a constituent of a certain lawmaker. It will appear next to comments on that official’s page. It also added a targeting option for lawmakers to more precisely reach people in their district with posts. (pretty cool)
“I am not a woman, so I don’t have bad days.”
– Russian President Vladimir Putin in a recent interview. How charming.