Whew, never a dull moment is an understatement. An extraordinary week.
All Things James Comey … and other news of the week.
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CLASSIC NEW YORKER cover — A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words , here is next week’s cover … drawn by Barry Blitt, shows James Comey as that United passenger dragged off the plane by Jeff Sessions in a cop uniform with Trump in the background.
TRUMP DECIMATES WHITE HOUSE’S ENTIRE JAMES COMEY NARRATIVE theSkimm I “Yesterday, President Trump took the mic to explain why he fired FBI Director James Comey. The guy who took over at the FBI also had a few things to say. 10 SECONDS. REMIND ME. Earlier this week, Trump fired Comey. BFD. At first, he said he did this at the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the deputy attorney general. They all agreed that Comey had lost trust within the FBI over how he handled the Hillary Clinton email investigation. AND…? When Comey was fired, he was also in the middle of an investigation into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to tip the US election in his favor. WHAT’S TRUMP SAYING NOW? That he’d already decided to fire Comey before hearing from the AG and Deputy AG. This contradicts the White House’s original version of events. Trump also said that he was thinking of “this Russia thing with Trump” when he made the call, deciding that it was “a made up story.” WHAT’S THE FBI SAYING? Yesterday, Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe testified in front of the Senate committee investigating the Russia drama. He also contradicted the White House’s original story, saying that actually Comey had “broad support within the FBI” when he was fired. He also said the Russia investigation is “highly significant” and will continue.”
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“[I]n fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.” – President Donald Trump in interview with NBC’s Lester Holt
How did Fox News cover the Comey firing? The Times wrote that the attitude on Fox toward Comey’s firing was almost “celebratory.” The Post noted that Fox and other conservative outlets were “closing ranks” behind Trump on the subject. Slate said the network was covering it from “an alternate reality.”
CHAOS Politico “The White House first said Donald Trump fired James Comey after the Justice Department recommended he do this. Then Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt he would’ve fired him either way, calling Comey a showboat. Press Aide, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said this of firing Comey and the Russia investigation: “Look, again, the point is, we want this to come to its conclusion. We want it to come to its conclusion with integrity. And we think that we’ve actually, by removing Director Comey, taken steps to make that happen.” Trump seemed to contradict Sanders by telling Holt that firing Comey “might even lengthen out the investigation.” Sanders also said she has spoken to “countless” FBI agents who were happy with Trump’s decision to dismiss Comey. Other officials outside the White House said Comey was well respected in the bureau. ZERO PERCENT NYT national security reporter, posts on Facebook: “I have covered the FBI for more than a decade. The chance of ‘countless’ agents calling the White House to complain about their director — and being routed to the deputy White House press secretary — is precisely 0 percent.”
PALACE INTRIGUE …TRUMP’S ATTEMPT TO FIX THE COMEY CRISIS MADE IT WORSE Politico “As much as the Trump team wants the Comey flap to go away, it appears this controversy is going to be here to stay for some time. And doing press interviews that contradict his own White House staff just gives the story more legs.
5 QUESTIONS ABOUT JAMES COMEY’S FIRING ANSWERED Politico Magazine: Click here for answers to the following: 1. What happens to Comey’s documents and to investigative files already gathered? Can they be destroyed? 2. What happens with the Russia investigation until a new director is confirmed FBI agents will continue doing their job. 3. Can a new director ‘kill’ the Russia investigation? 4. Can a new director do anything to stall the investigation? 5. What is the morale of the agency, and how will that affect what happens going forward?
SLIMING ROSENSTEIN WSJ “Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein pressed White House counsel Don McGahn to correct what he felt was an inaccurate White House depiction of the events surrounding FBI Director James Comey’s firing, according to a person familiar with the conversation. Mr. Rosenstein left the impression that he couldn’t work in an environment where facts weren’t accurately reported … The deputy attorney general objected to statements by White House aides citing Mr. Rosenstein’s critical assessment of Mr. Comey’s job performance to justify the firing.”
WaPo “Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee and a top member of the Intelligence Committee, said she has read [DOJ’s Rod] Rosenstein’s memo three times. She remains incredulous, she said, that he wrote it – and that it may have served as the basis for Comey’s firing. She pointed to the second page, which is filled with quotes from opinion pieces and news clippings about former Justice Department officials critiquing Comey’s handling of the Clinton investigation. ‘That surprised me, that a guy as highly prized as Rosenstein, on the basis of legal talent, professionalism in the department, would pull things out of a newspaper and quote them, in terms of somebody else’s opinion of Comey.'” Click Here to read Rosenstein’s memo to Trump, Session’s memo to Trump and Trump’s dismissal letter to Comey.
@realDonaldTrump … “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
WaPo “In his tweet, Trump appears to suggest that he may have recordings of his communications with Comey. It is unclear if such tapes exist, however. The White House did not immediately respond to questions about whether Trump had in fact taped his conversations with Comey.Trump’s tweet about Comey was likely a reaction to a NYTs report, published Thursday night, detailing a one-on-one dinner Trump had with Comey shortly after the inauguration. The report said that Comey has told associates that Trump twice asked Comey during their conversation to pledge his loyalty to him, something the FBI director declined to do.Trump put the word tapes in quotation marks, indicating that perhaps there may be a record of some kind if not an actual audio or video recording.He used a similar construct in two of his March 4 tweets accusing President Barack Obama, without any evidence, of wiretapping his campaign offices. Trump put the words “wires tapped” in quotation marks, which White House press secretary Sean Spicer later argued meant surveillance activities more broadly as opposed to physical wiretapping. NIXONIAN Trump’s tweet drew immediate comparisons to President Richard Nixon’s practice of taping his private conversations in the Oval Office. Presidential historian Michael Beschloss tweeted, “Presidents are supposed to have stopped routinely taping visitors without their knowledge when Nixon’s taping system was revealed in 1973.”
And in another two tweets … “As a very active President with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy!” “Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future ‘press briefings’ and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy???” (huh?)
IN CASE YOU’RE WONDERING “White House briefings and press conferences provide substantive and symbolic opportunities for journalists to pose questions to officials at the highest levels of the U.S. government. That exercise, conducted in full view of our republic’s citizens, is clearly in line with the spirit of the First Amendment. Doing away with briefings would reduce accountability, transparency, and the opportunity for Americans to see that, in the U.S. system, no political figure is above being questioned.”
– JEFF MASON, president of the White House Correspondents Association
THE RUSSIANS WaPo “President Trump’s meeting Wednesday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was always going to be a bit awkward, image-wise. When Trump abruptly fired FBI director James B. Comey on Tuesday, he made the optics of his meeting with Lavrov even more delicate. But he didn’t stop there.,,, Trump also met unannounced with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, who accompanied Lavrov to the Oval Office. The White House failed in its official readout of the session to mention Kislyak’s inclusion, and American journalists were not permitted to observe the meeting or even photograph the attendees before private talks, which is common. BUT, BUT, BUT Russian foreign ministry photogs were allowed into the oval office. All photos from the event are credited to Russian news agency TASS. The Hill “The White House is reportedly furious over photos that were taken during Trump’s huddle with Lavrov and Kislyak. An administration official told The Washington Post that the White House was misled about the true role of a Russian photographer at the event. The photographer reportedly worked for Russia’s state-owned news agency Tass but was described as Lavrov’s official photographer. “We were not informed by the Russians that their official photographer was dual-hatted and would be releasing the photographs on the state news agency,” the administration official said. Just a reminder … Kislyak is at the center of the controversy over possible ties between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia.” Stunning.
HASN’T THE GOP HAD ENOUGH? Check out conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin’s piece in today’s WaPo. Click here.
WHO IS ANDREW MCCABE? Politico “Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe rebuffed the White House on several fronts Thursday, lauding his fired predecessor, James Comey, even as President Donald Trump was calling Comey a “showboat.” “Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day,” McCabe said at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on worldwide threats. He added that Comey had not lost the confidence of rank-and-file FBI agents, contradicting a claim by the White House. NYTs…Mr. McCabe’s standing up to a temperamental president who has repeatedly smacked the bureau like a political piñata won over at least some F.B.I. agents who had viewed Mr. McCabe as overly cautious.” McCabe also pledged to alert the Senate Intelligence Committee if there is any political interference in the bureau’s Russia investigation.
Witnesses at the hearing also included Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart and director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Robert Cardillo. The panel’s top Democrat, Mark Warner of Virginia, asked each of them whether they concurred with the intelligence community’s January assessment that Russia sought to sway the election toward Trump. Each said they did.
FBI WON’T CONFIRM TRUMP-COMEY TALKS “Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe won’t confirm President Donald Trump’s account that fired director James Comey told him he wasn’t under investigation. McCabe testified. … In his letter Tuesday firing Comey, Trump said Comey had told him three times that he was not under investigation.”
WIN FOR ENVIRONMENT CNN … the Senate defeated Wednesday an attempted GOP-led rollback of an Obama-era methane gas rule.The rule, which was finalized under President Barack Obama in November, would require oil and gas companies to actively plug leaks of natural gas while scaling back their practice of intentionally venting or burning the gas in order to extract more profitable crude oil.The drilling industry, however, supported Republicans’ efforts to overturn the rule, saying it would undo the costly regulation, which is viewed as a threat to jobs and operations. TICK-TOCK As the clock ticked down toward the final hours that the Senate could use the Congressional Review Act with a simple majority — the deadline wasThursday — Republicans failed in a procedural vote to turn back the Bureau of Land Management regulation. In the end, three Republicans crossed the aisle to side with Democrats, handing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a rare legislative defeat by just one vote, 49-51. Democrats united against the measure and were joined by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine and John McCain of Arizona. Graham and Collins had publicly opposed the repeal, but McCain was a surprise “no” vote.
VOTER FRAUD COMMISSION Politico “President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday creating a commission to examine voter fraud and voter suppression, after repeatedly claiming, without evidence, that fraudulent voting constitutes a major and ongoing problem in the United States….Vice President Mike Pence will serve as the commission’s chairman, and controversial Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach will serve as its vice chairman.”
Five-to-One Negative – Review of the House GOP recently passed Healthcare Bill.
-Source Quinnipiac University
TAX REFORM — The House Ways and Means Committee holds its first hearing May 18. Don’t expect a lot out of this — just broad-brush talk about what Republicans want when it comes to overhauling the tax code. And pushback from Democrats about their plans.
TRUMP ‘STEAMED’ AT CARRIER CATAPULT Politico “President Donald Trump says he wants the Navy to scrap the new electromagnetic catapult system developed for its next- generation aircraft carriers and go back to using steam to launch aircraft. “Trump told Time Magazine, in a new interview released Thursday, that when he recently toured the USS Gerald Ford, the first in the new class, he was troubled by what he heard about the so-called EMALS system developed by General Atomics. It has been among a series of new technologies that have led to substantial delays and cost overruns on the carrier, which is being built by Huntington Ingalls Shipbuilding…
“‘It sounded bad to me,’ Trump continued in the Time interview. ‘Digital. They have digital. What is digital? And it’s very complicated, you have to be Albert Einstein to figure it out. And I said – and now they want to buy more aircraft carriers. I said, ‘What system are you going to be’ – ‘Sir, we’re staying with digital.’ I said, ‘No, you’re not. You going to goddamned steam. The digital costs hundreds of millions of dollars more money, and it’s no good.’
“The Navy says it was taken aback by the comments.”