Comey versus Trump continues

One of the most troubling accusations against President Donald Trump has come via an alleged memo written by then FBI directory James Comey. The White House denies the implication.

Fox News: White House disputes explosive report that Trump asked Comey to end Flynn probe

The White House grappled late Tuesday with the political ghost of James Comey, as an explosive new report said a memo written by the ousted FBI chief claimed President Trump once asked him to end the probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

The White House sharply disputed the report, as Democrats seized on it as potential proof of “obstruction” of justice.

According to The New York Times the memo quoted Trump as saying he hoped Comey could “let this go” with regard to Flynn.

The Times said Comey wrote the memo shortly after an Oval Office meeting on Feb. 14, the day after Flynn resigned from the Trump administration. The paper acknowledged it had not seen a copy of the memo, but said a Comey associate read parts of it to a reporter over the phone.

The memo was presented as the clearest evidence yet that Trump tried to influence the Justice Department and FBI probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign and alleged links to Trump’s associates.

But the White House rejected the characterization that the president tried to shut down an investigation.

“[T]he President has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn,” an official said. “The President has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies, and all investigations. This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the President and Mr. Comey.”

Washington Post: The guy who predicted Comey’s memos thinks the former FBI director may be trying to take down Trump

News broke Tuesday evening that then-FBI Director James B. Comey had written notes in February indicating that President Trump had asked him to end an investigation of former White House national security adviser Michael T. Flynn.

It was big news to the rest of us. To Matthew Miller, it was as predicted.

Q: You were pretty prescient in noting that the Comey memos would come back to bite Trump — saying “stay tuned.” How widely known are Comey’s note-keeping habits? Is it exceptional in some way?

MILLER: I don’t think it’s exceptional either for an FBI director or for anyone at the FBI or at the Justice Department. If they have a conversation with someone where the other person raises something inappropriate, it’s a pretty standard practice to then write a memo to the file, basically, putting that down.

Q: What kinds of things are usually in these notes? Is it a pretty straight recounting of the conversation, or will they also include things like, ‘Well, I think this may have been illegal?’

MILLER: I think it completely depends on the conversation and the person you’re having it with. It’s a very different thing if someone outside the Justice Department calls you and asks you to find out the status of an investigation, and you tell them no. That’s one thing — versus the president of the United States telling you to quash an investigation. In the orders of magnitude of wrongdoing and impact, they’re two very different things.

Something that’s important here is that it was inappropriate for Trump to have any conversations with Comey about the status of this case — let alone to make the kind of request that we now know he did.

Q: So that would definitely raise a red flag for Comey.

MILLER: Yeah. And Comey — he might have had two motives here. One is, when you’re put in this situation, you want to make a record, so if the other side ever tells their story, you can pretty clearly demonstrate with contemporaneous records that you acted appropriately.

I keep wondering — something in the back of my head keeps saying to me — maybe Comey was actually trying to build an obstruction-of-justice case against the president here.

…but if you’re trying to build an obstruction-of-justice case, you might want the president to keep talking, because everything he does is digging a deeper legal hole for himself.

Q: And that would be, ostensibly, a reason for him not to resign after that first conversation, as some people have suggested he should have.

MILLER: That’s exactly right. You have to remember, the president in that letter firing Comey said, ‘You told me three times I wasn’t under investigation.’ We have no idea if that’s true or not. But I think it’s also a little bit of a red herring, because the president’s campaign is under investigation.

Q: A lot of this could come down to how much Comey wants to fight this battle with the president. Is there anything in his past that leads you to believe he would willingly and proactively want that fight?

MILLER: Yes. Look, there’s one thing I agree with the president on: That Comey is a showboat. You just look at his actions in the [Hillary] Clinton case, where he made himself the central player when there was no reason for him to be the central player. That aside, his entire history shows that he likes to be at the center of attention. You look at the Ashcroft bedside incident where that unfolded in one of the most dramatic congressional hearings in history. And it was pretty clear at the time that that hearing had been pretty well planned by Comey and by Preet Bharara — to uncover real wrongdoing by the Bush administration — but also to present Comey in a very favorable light.

All of this seems to be having affect on Republican support for trump.

Real Clear Politics: GOP Mood on Hill Darkens in Wake of Comey Memo Story

Even before the latest report about President Trump exploded across Washington on Tuesday, congressional Republicans were troubled.

When the president abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey, the timing was “troubling,” multiple Republican lawmakers agreed. So, too, was the president’s tweet threatening to reveal “tapes” of his conversations with Comey. Ditto the president’s reported disclosure of highly classified intelligence to Russian officials during an Oval Office meeting.

If Republican lawmakers had seemingly settled on a rote response to Trump’s outrage du jour, however, on Tuesday they faced a new shock: a New York Timesreport detailing an alleged exchange in which Trump urged Comey…

“I keep using ‘troubling,’ but troubling is an understatement,” Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters.

More Republicans now seem to agree.

As the news rippled across Capitol Hill on Tuesday, the mood among GOP lawmakers was one of “concern,” said Sen. John McCain. At a dinner later Tuesday where he received an award, McCain said Trump’s scandals are “reaching the point where it’s of Watergate size and scale,” according to reports.

A shift among Republicans was immediately visible. Whereas GOP lawmakers had previously pressed the White House to provide answers and explain fresh scandals, party lawmakers are now beginning to take action themselves.

In a letter Tuesday to Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz requested “all memoranda, notes, summaries, and recordings referring or relating to any communications between Comey and the president.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, meanwhile, told reporters that he is inviting Comey to testify publicly before the Senate judiciary subcommittee that Graham chairs. “I don’t want to read a memo,” Graham said. “I want to hear from him.”

The sharp turn by Republicans suggested “they are increasingly shaken,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat. “How could they not be?”

In recent weeks, regular chaos emanating from the White House has left Republican lawmakers in a permanent defensive crouch. The crush of new developments, often without warning, has felt like “drinking from a fire hydrant at times,” Sen. Tim Scott, a South Carolina Republican, told CNN this week.

On Tuesday morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell attempted to nudge the administration. “I think we could do with a little less drama from the White House on a lot of things so that we can focus on our agenda,” McConnell told Bloomberg News.

“Every day they need to call in political ServPro to vacuum and clean the damage that’s occurring,” lamented one Republican strategist who has worked with the administration.

That was before the Comey memo story broke.

By Tuesday evening, in light of the latest Times report, some House Republicans were no longer merely troubled. Rep. Mark Sanford, a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, said the actions ascribed to the president “would be more than deeply troubling” if true. King, although skeptical of the Times’ reporting, said the president’s actions “would have been a crime, the way it’s being reported.”

The reported contents of Comey’s memo opened a “new chapter of scandal and controversy in this country,” said Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Florida Republican who hails from a swing district.

This story is likely to continue to trouble Trump and Republicans as it seems likely Comey will need to testify.

Public opinion also seems to be darkening, with the RCP average disapproval of Trump reaching a record 55.0%, with 39.9% approval.

RCPTrump2070517

How Trump handles this growing dissatisfaction and concern will be a key to how his presidency progresses.

Trump may be looking forward to getting out of the country for his first trip abroad as president. He may or may not be looking forward to meeting the Israelis.

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36 Comments

  1. Corky

     /  May 18, 2017

    This is make or break time for the media and Trumps critics. They know they’re finished if they can’t make something stick. Putin has probably put the state secret leak to bed, and it’ll go the same way as the Alfred Ngaro affair. Comey’s case my invoke a special prosecutor to investigate these claims,but I’m betting before then another clanger made by Comey will come to light.

    But the way I see things Trump has served his purpose. He has changed America and the media. They just don’t realise it yet. They will once a new president is in office.

    Meanwhile Comey will be watching with interest…what to name his book: Sacked? The President and I? Impeached.: My Story.? Last Day At The Office?

    swf2rmotp

    Reply
  2. Fox News: Comey cracks Republican wall: GOP pols voice concerns on Trump ‘drama’

    The cascade of controversies buffeting the White House is starting to rankle high-profile Republicans, who are voicing concerns about how the daily drama is impacting the GOP agenda on Capitol Hill.

    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/05/17/comey-cracks-republican-wall-gop-pols-voice-concerns-on-trump-drama.html

    Reply
    • Brown

       /  May 18, 2017

      Like ruffling GOP feathers is a bad thing? This is what conservative voters wanted.

      Reply
  3. Reply
  4. David

     /  May 18, 2017

    Silly old GOP have been waiting a decade to get stuff done and now they have the chance they turn inward, fools. They should be getting on with sorting the mess out that is the US tax system and healthcare as well as many other long neglected issues, if they think turning on Trump will play well back in their districts they are mistaken, its pretty clear outside of the bubble the American voter gives not one shit what the washington media get excited about but they do want their government to get their act together.

    Reply
    • David

       /  May 18, 2017

      The GOP never had any intention of getting stuff done. If they had, they would have had a full legislative agenda ready to roll, and they don’t even have the beginning of one.

      Reply
  5. Alan Wilkinson

     /  May 18, 2017

    Presumably Trump’s tweet about tapes was in response to knowledge Comey was making this accusation. Surprising no-one is making the connection.

    The other strange fact is this purports to have been said AFTER Trump fired Flynn. Seems highly unlikely.

    Reply
  6. PDB

     /  May 18, 2017

    Comey is the one under pressure – if Trump asked him to shut the investigation down he should have taken that information directly to the investigation committee as soon as the approach was made which he didn’t. If he thought Trump wasn’t serious, or it didn’t happen then he is guilty of spreading false information. Either way he comes out looking inept and/or dishonest.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  May 18, 2017

      I think Comey is a self-serving manipulator rather than inept. Typical swamp denizen.

      Reply
      • David

         /  May 18, 2017

        “I think Comey is a self-serving manipulator rather than inept. ”

        It’s more likely he is both than one or the other.

        Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  May 18, 2017

          Maybe. Time will tell.

          Reply
        • Gezza

           /  May 18, 2017

          I think he wasn’t sure what to do at the time of the President’s remarks about Flynn, but he may have been concerned he could again get sucked in to some later vortex. So he wrote & dated a cover-your-ass memo recording an exchange of an oral-only conversation with an amateur political boss used to expressing & getting his wishes met or else – which might have later been necessary for self-defence . I had a small file of 6 such memos when I left my department.

          Reply
          • PDB

             /  May 18, 2017

            Serious misconduct by Comey if that is the case Gezza – the only thing he could have done was to report Trump’s approach ASAP.

            Reply
            • Gezza

               /  May 18, 2017

              Maybe. You write those memos when the people you are supposed to report them to are likely going to automatically defend your boss and do their damndest to discredit you. But with Comey, who knows PDB? The FBI is obviously a bear-pit. And from what I’ve been reading here today, Comey obviously IS a scheming showboat.

            • PDB

               /  May 18, 2017

              Anyone can write what they like in a memo of a private conversation between themselves and another – if it was a third party taking notes it might hold some water.

            • Gezza

               /  May 18, 2017

              It’s more a case of documenting it as soon as possible while it’s fresh in your mind. If you do it by email to yourself you have a verifiable date in case someone argues that it may have been wriiten after the SHTF & post-dated. Yes, it’s certainly challengeable, but any documentary evidence is a step up from testimony just from memory some time later, unless it’s contradicted by other, better evidence.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  May 18, 2017

              The issue is always what was said that wasn’t documented. Context omitted.

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  May 18, 2017

            There have been more manipulative interpretations. Here is one of them. I read another yesterday but can’t locate it now:

            http://nypost.com/2017/05/17/james-comey-learned-his-j-edgar-hoover-lessons-well/

            Reply
    • Gezza

       /  May 18, 2017

      @ Alan – Re: your “Hoover lessons” article.

      Yes, very interesting Al, but did you also read this article, linked alongside that one?

      “Right now, the very best you can say about Donald Trump is that he stinks at this whole president thing — in large part because he keeps creating trouble for himself and entirely on his own.

      Yes, the media are against him. Yes, the Democrats want his scalp. But everyone inclined to indulge President Trump in his self-pity about how he’s being badly treated by others in Washington and badly served by his own staff is ignoring the basic facts of the political situation he is bungling at present like no one has bungled it before.

      Instead, it’s his own party that’s on the defensive. It’s his own party that is terrified of acting. It’s his own party that cannot make sense of what he wants. They can do many things for him and he can do many things for them and they don’t and he doesn’t because he’s too busy lighting fires on which he then pours gasoline.

      Let’s just say Trump was talking casually about a guy he thought was a good fellow whom he was compelled to fire but whom he still liked and didn’t want to see hurt. That would be nice, right? It would also be a sign that Trump is a fool.

      What, did Trump think Comey just fell off a turnip truck and wouldn’t be taking notes on what Trump said to him? Did he think Comey had climbed to the top of the greasy pole without possessing the classic survival skills of a successful bureaucrat? And, having had this conversation with Comey, what on earth would then lead Trump to fire the man with whom he had had such a stupidly casual conversation about a sensitive investigation?

      STOP TALKING.

      It’s only 117 days into a presidency that is supposed to last, at a minimum, 1,460. But after the gobsmacking self-inflicted wounds of the past two days, it doesn’t seem unreasonable for the first time to wonder whether he’s already served a majority of the days he’s likely to serve.

      Trump is a septuagenarian, and it’s said that people of his age do not change. Maybe not. But he doesn’t have a choice. He’d better change. He’d better holster the guns with which he is shooting himself almost daily in the feet. He’d better splash some cold water on his face, take a good hard look in the mirror, and realize he’s going to go down in history as a monument to failure unless he wises up and pronto.

      He’d better save himself, because ain’t nobody else gonna save him.”

      http://nypost.com/2017/05/17/trumps-presidency-facing-monumental-failure-unless-he-wises-up-pronto/

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  May 18, 2017

        Also, for those who’ve never worked in a government bureaucracy, making & filing notes of what was discussed in a business or policy meeting with anybody is pefectly normal behaviour & in numerous is even required of you if there is no other person keeping official notes or minutes. Those discussions are a matter for which there is supposed to be a record. Bj you mght like to comment?

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  May 18, 2017

          * numerous situations*

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  May 18, 2017

            ‘turnip truck’-another nice expression. I hadn’t heard that one, although I had heard of people being assumed to have rolled off the latest cabbage truck that drove through town.

            A Victorian one was variations on someone having an estate in Greenland 😀

            Reply
  7. PDB

     /  May 18, 2017

    The Justice Department has appointed Robert S. Mueller III, the former F.B.I. director, to serve as a special counsel to oversee its investigation into Russian meddling in the election, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein announced on Wednesday.

    Reply
  8. Zedd

     /  May 18, 2017

    Mr T needs to realise that personal Credibility counts, to maintain public support/belief.. his has now dropped so low, there is open talk of ‘impeachment’ proceedings being considered.. regardless of his warped view, he IS actually accountable; for his words/actions ! :/

    Reply
    • Corky

       /  May 18, 2017

      President Trumpy is on to it, Zedd% He will fight Liberal Fascists like you to the end.
      God speed, Mr President.

      Reply
  9. Gezza

     /  May 18, 2017

    Reply
  10. Gezza

     /  May 18, 2017

    An Al Jazeera news item on the Comey /Flynn/ Trump Campaign /Russian contacts/ involvement in the US election state of play mentioned that, in addition to the FBI investigation into this, there are four other separate Congressional enquiries into these allegations as well. A google search has turned these up:

    Congress
    In Congress, meanwhile, at least five standing committees and one subcommittee are in various stages of investigations into Russian interference in the U.S. election and reported contacts between Trump associates and Russian officials. Among them:

    * The Senate Intelligence Committee, with jurisdiction over 17 intelligence agencies. Initially focused on Russian hacking and misinformation efforts during the election, it has since been broadened to cover what committee members have described as contacts between Russian officials and the U.S. political campaigns.

    * The Senate Judiciary Committee, with oversight over the Department of Justice and the FBI, is carrying out its own investigation.

    * The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, chaired by Russia hawk Lindsey Graham, announced in early February plans to investigate Russian meddling. The panel has jurisdiction over the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, as well as the FBI.

    * The House Intelligence Committee, charged with oversight of 17 intelligence agencies, is investigating “intelligence or counter-intelligence issues” involving Russia and the election.

    * The House Judiciary Committee, with oversight over the Department of Justice, is conducting its own investigation

    * The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the Congress’s main investigative committee with government-wide oversight jurisdiction, is looking into leaks of classified information about Flynn and his contacts with Russia.

    Other Congressional committees such as the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held hearings about the Russian hacking allegations last summer. Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, wrote to the White House last month seeking information about Flynn’s contacts with Russia.

    Unbelievable! Only in America, surely?

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  May 18, 2017

      Anything for a chance to pontificate for the cameras.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  May 18, 2017

        I dunno how the hell anybody gets any work done ! No wonder the whole freaking apparatus is leaking like a bloody sieve. There must be a whole army of poor bastards forever sifting through documents & emails trying to work out who’s allowed to see what, & at what level, & what can be given out, and what’s gotta be redacted etc etc. Must be stuff getting left in photocopiers & backed up shredding rooms all over the show. They’re probably all just pleading for it to end.

        Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  May 18, 2017

          It won’t end until the public get bored with it and the media can’t make money from it.

          Reply

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