09 June 2017

More Comey

Seth Meyers had a rant on Late Night about Trump and Comey, as did Stephen Colbert:

John McCain engaged in a bizarre and incoherent questioning of former FBI Director James Comey at a Senate Intelligence Hearing on the Trump investigation:

Rico says when the pundits dump on you, you're screwed...

Esquire has a Jack Holmes article about it all:

To the disappointment of an eager nation, defenestrated FBI Director James Comey did not read the opening statement released by the Senate Intelligence Committee aloud this morning. That means the phrase "hookers in Russia" may not be read into the Congressional record today. But Comey made up for that with a barnstorming opening statement, in which he ticked through all of the justifications the Trump administration offered following his firing and explained why none of them made much sense at all.
That included the President's claim that the FBI was "in disarray," and "the workforce had lost confidence in its leader," accusations Comey took as unacceptable slights. "The administration chose to defame me and the FBI," he told the committee. "Those were lies. Plain and simple."
It's nice to hear someone in Washington call a lie a lie. Comey did so again later on, when discussing why he made the decision to document his meetings with Trump in memos:
"I was honestly concerned," the former FBI director told Congress, "that the President might lie about the nature of our meeting."
Comey came to play.

The New Yorker has an article by Jeffrey Toobin:

President Trump appears to be guilty of obstruction of justice. That’s the only rational conclusion to be reached if James Comey’s opening statement for his planned testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee is to be believed. The lurch of the Trump presidency from one crisis to the next scandal produces a kind of bombshell-induced numbness, but that should not prevent us from appreciating the magnitude of Comey’s statement.
The statement, alongside other established facts, doesn’t just lay out evidence; it tells a story. In this tale, the President knows how much power he possesses and dangles it before those who serve him. The FBI director was in the middle of a ten-year term, which was designed to give him some insulation from political pressure, but there was a catch: Trump could still fire him. And Trump clearly knew it, as he repeatedly demanded Comey’s personal loyalty. An early conversation, on 27 January 2017, over dinner in the Green Room of the White House, set the tone: Comey was to answer to Trump, or the FBI director would be gone. As Comey put it, he saw that Trump was trying to set up a “patronage relationship”.
Soon enough, Trump called on Comey’s loyalty. The President was worried about the FBI’s Russia investigation, and he wanted a premature exoneration from Comey. The director hedged, clearly uncomfortable with the demand, but finally told Trump, in rather convoluted ways, that he was not a subject of the investigation, at least not yet.
But the Russia probe continued to worry the President, and soon he had more demands. The climax of Comey’s statement is his cinematic recounting of a meeting with the President in the Oval Office on 14 February 2017. The drama begins after the meeting, when the President instructs the other officials present, including Vice-President Mike Pence, to leave the room. Trump even takes the extraordinary step of asking the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, Comey’s boss, to go, in order to allow the President to speak with the director alone. Trump then shoos Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, out of the Oval Office, too. (When Reince Priebus, the chief of staff, looks in, a while later, Trump also asks him to stay out of the conversation.) This insistence on a one-on-one meeting suggests what prosecutors like to call “consciousness of guilt”. All these high-ranking officials had clearance to hear anything that Trump might want to say to the director, so the fact that the President wanted them out of earshot would seem to indicate that he knew that what he was telling Comey was wrong, that it was, indeed, an obstruction of justice.
When the two men were alone, Comey writes, Trump asked him to help out the just-fired national-security adviser, Michael Flynn. In Trump’s typical scattershot fashion, he started talking about Flynn, but segued to the subject of leaks, before getting back on topic. In the key passage of Comey’s statement, he writes:
The President then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn, saying that “He is a good guy and has been through a lot.” He repeated that Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice-President. He then said, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” I replied only that “he is a good guy”.
This part of Comey’s testimony, if it’s accurate, is a smoking gun. The President is instructing his subordinate to stop an FBI investigation of Trump’s close associate.
Comey told the FBI leadership team about Trump’s outrageously improper request, but he did something more, too. When Comey went to see his direct boss, Sessions, he made an urgent request:
I took the opportunity to implore the Attorney General to prevent any future direct communication between the President and me. I told the Attorney General that what had just happened— him being asked to leave while the FBI Director, who reports to the Attorney General, remained behind— was inappropriate and should never happen. He did not reply.
The language is uncharacteristic for the lawyerly FBI director: he implored his boss to put a stop to the President’s meddling. But Sessions, a more loyal soldier, said nothing.
The most important piece of evidence in the obstruction case against Trump is actually never mentioned in Comey’s opening statement. That evidence is what occurred on 9 May 2017. Comey had not acceded to the President’s request that he cease the investigation of Flynn and the connection to Russia, and he paid the price with his job. Later, Trump all but confessed that he had rid himself of this meddlesome director because of Russia. He told NBC’s Lester Holt, “When I decided to just do it”—to fire Comey—“I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.’ “ The day after the firing, the President boasted to the visiting Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, saying, “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
There is, of course, much more to know about this story. Did Trump use other government officials to try to stymie the Russia investigation? During an Intelligence Committee hearing on Wednesday, senators pressed Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, and Admiral Mike Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency, about their contacts with Trump on the issue; they refused to answer. They may eventually tell what they know as, surely, will others. But the story is now complete in its outline, if not its details, and Trump’s culpability is clear to anyone who cares to look.
Rico says who will rid us of this troublesome President?

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