The mess in the US

The mess in the US is looking messier.

The latest news claims that the ‘private memos’ of James Comey contained classified information, and Donald Trump Jr has been more closely linked to Russian interefrence in last year’s election.

The Hill: Comey’s private memos on Trump conversations contained classified material

More than half of the memos former FBI Director James Comey wrote as personal recollections of his conversations with President Trump about the Russia investigation have been determined to contain classified information, according to interviews with officials familiar with the documents.

This revelation raises the possibility that Comey broke his own agency’s rules and ignored the same security protocol that he publicly criticized Hillary Clinton over in the waning days of the 2016 presidential election.

Comey testified last month before the Senate Intelligence Committee that he considered the memos to be personal documents and that he shared at least one of them with a friend.

Comey insisted in his testimony he believed his personal memos were unclassified, though he hinted one or two documents he created might have been contained classified information.

President Trump dived in to that –  Trump on Monday morning tweeted out an angry response: “James Comey leaked CLASSIFIED INFORMATION to the media. That is so illegal!”

But his son Donald trump Jr has been linked more closely to Russian interference in the election.

NY Times: Trump Jr. Was Told in Email of Russian Effort to Aid Campaign

Before arranging a meeting with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer he believed would offer him compromising information about Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump Jr. was informed in an email that the material was part of a Russian government effort to aid his father’s candidacy, according to three people with knowledge of the email.

The email to the younger Mr. Trump was sent by Rob Goldstone, a publicist and former British tabloid reporter who helped broker the June 2016 meeting. In a statement on Sunday, Mr. Trump acknowledged that he was interested in receiving damaging information about Mrs. Clinton, but gave no indication that he thought the lawyer might have been a Kremlin proxy.

Mr. Goldstone’s message, as described to The New York Times by the three people, indicates that the Russian government was the source of the potentially damaging information.

There is no evidence to suggest that the promised damaging information was related to Russian government computer hacking that led to the release of thousands of Democratic National Committee emails. The meeting took place less than a week before it was widely reported that Russian hackers had infiltrated the committee’s servers.

But the email is likely to be of keen interest to the Justice Department and congressional investigators, who are examining whether any of President Trump’s associates colluded with the Russian government to disrupt last year’s election. American intelligence agencies have determined that the Russian government tried to sway the election in favor of Mr. Trump.

And the NY Times now has a copy of the email: Russian Dirt on Clinton? ‘I Love It,’ Donald Trump Jr. Said

The June 3, 2016, email sent to Donald Trump Jr. could hardly have been more explicit: One of his father’s former Russian business partners had been contacted by a senior Russian government official and was offering to provide the Trump campaign with dirt on Hillary Clinton.

He replied within minutes: “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”

Four days later, after a flurry of emails, the intermediary wrote back, proposing a meeting in New York on Thursday with a “Russian government attorney.”

Donald Trump Jr. agreed, adding that he would most likely bring along “Paul Manafort (campaign boss)” and “my brother-in-law,” Jared Kushner, now one of the president’s closest White House advisers.

The documents “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father,” read the email, written by a trusted intermediary, who added, “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

This is now under more investigation.

The Justice Department, as well as the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, is examining whether any of President Trump’s associates colluded with the Russian government to disrupt last year’s election. American intelligence agencies have determined that the Russian government tried to sway the election in favor of Mr. Trump.

Trump Jr has been defending himself via Twitter.

On Monday, Donald Trump Jr. said on Twitter that it was hardly unusual to take information on an opponent.

On Tuesday morning, he tweeted, “Media & Dems are extremely invested in the Russia story. If this nonsense meeting is all they have after a yr, I understand the desperation!”

After being told that The Times was about to publish the content of the emails, instead of responding to a request for comment, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted out images of them himself on Tuesday.

“To everyone, in order to be totally transparent, I am releasing the entire email chain of my emails” about the June 9 meeting, he wrote. “I first wanted to just have a phone call but when that didn’t work out, they said the woman would be in New York and asked if I would meet.”

Both Putin and President Trump have tried to distance themselves.

A spokesman for Mr. Putin said on Monday that he did not know Ms. Veselnitskaya and that he had no knowledge of the June 2016 meeting.

Back in Washington, both the White House and a spokesman for President Trump’s lawyer have taken pains to distance the president from the meeting, saying that he did he not attend it and that he learned about it only recently.

So his sone, his son-in-law and and his campaign boss said nothing to him at the time? And have said nothing to him since, even though it has been a prominent ongoing topic?

The president has denied any collusion with Russia over the election, but he looks like he could sink into the mire.

This draining the swamp thing may take a while yet.

Especially when the Trumps look as murky as anyone else.

UPDATE: Murkier

Trump “did not make…any such recordings”

On May 13 Donald Trump appeared to threaten James Comey by implying their conversations had been recorded:

This prompted a lot of discussion. Trump eventually said he would reveal whether there were any recordings.

Yesterday: Schiff: Subpoenas possible if Trump tapes, Comey memos aren’t turned over

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said Wednesday that subpoenas could be the next step if the White House doesn’t comply with a Friday deadline to hand over information on any tapes of President Donald Trump’s meetings with former FBI Director James Comey.

Half an hour ago:

A bizarre response, six weeks after implying/threatening there were tapes.

Why did Trump make the claim in the first place? It looks like he was threatening Comey.

Why did he take so long to now claim he didn’t make any recordings?

He could have easily clarified as soon as his initial tweet raised questions, but chose to delay a denial that contradicted his initial tweet.

He seems to have deliberately fed a sideshow of his own making.  Whether he is playing trivial or serious games it is unbecoming of a President.

Why should anyone believe the initial tweet, today’s tweet, or any tweet from Trump?

Whether he is bullshitting or bluffing or whatever Trump’s tweets should be seen as flaky as he is.

Comey “so many false statements and lies”

Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication…and WOW, Comey is a leaker!

So sayeth Donald Trump via his Twitter account.

Note the fine print there – “Trump doesn’t answer question on presence of tapes of meetings”.

Trump and his many messengers have been working hard to discredit Comey and his testimony. They are playing to an audience, playing to public opinion, but that may be futile if not counter productive.

The FBI special investigator Robert Mueller should be able to see through the hubris, if he takes any notice at all.

And what about public opinion? A pox on both their houses.

Before the testimony Most say Trump is tampering with Russia investigations

Ahead of former FBI Director James Comey’s eagerly anticipated testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, an ABC/Washington Post poll has found that both he and President Trump have serious credibility issues with the U.S. public.

When asked how much they trust both men on their views of Russian interference in the 2016 election, 36 percent of the public said they trust Comey” a great deal” or “good amount”compared to 21 percent for the president.

According to the poll, 55 percent trust the former FBI director “just some” or “not at all” on Russia.

Trump is seen as even less trusworthy with 72 percent of Americans having some trust in him or none at all when it comes to the matter of interference in the election.

Notably, the poll also found that  56 percent of people think Trump is trying to interfere with the investigation into Russian influence on the election while 61 percent of respondents believe he fired Comey to protect himself rather than for the good of the country.

Rasmussen Reports:  Comey Edges Trump In Voter Trust

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 45% of all Likely U.S. Voters trust Comey more than Trump. Thirty-seven percent (37%) trust the president more, while 18% are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

But as is generally the case these days, there is a substantial partisan difference of opinion. Seventy percent (70%) of Democrats trust Comey more; 65% of Republicans have more faith in Trump. Among voters not affiliated with either major political party, 42% trust the ousted FBI director more, while 33% trust the president more.

It’s a closer call among voters when it’s between Trump and Congress. Forty-one percent (41%) trust the president more, while 43% have more confidence in the average member of Congress. Sixteen percent (16%) are undecided.

The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on June 6-7, 2017 by Rasmussen Reports.

The RCP Trump Approval average is widening to 55.5% disapprove to 39.0% approve.

Comey and the Senate Intelligence Committee

Ex-FBI head James Comey will appear in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee overnight New Zealand time.

Some background from the Wall Street Journal:

Comey Testimony: The Highlights

According to Mr. Comey’s prepared remarks:

  • Donald Trump told him in a private, one-on-one dinner at the White House on Jan. 27: “I Need Loyalty, I Expect Loyalty.”
  • Mr. Comey told Mr. Trump in January he was not personally under federal investigation, to which Mr. Trump responded by asking the FBI chief to “get out” that information.
  • In February, Mr. Trump asked him to ‘let this go,’ referring to any inquiry into former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, who was fired after misleading Vice President Mike Pence over his contacts with the Russian ambassador.
  • Mr. Comey will testify he kept memos documenting his interactions with the president.

WSJ:  Ex-FBI Chief James Comey’s Senate Testimony: Live Coverage

UPDATE

RNZ:  Comey: Trump White House ‘lied’ about the FBI

Mr Comey told a Senate committee they were wrong to denigrate the agency and its leadership.

He was also “confused” by the “shifting explanations” for his sacking, which came as he led a probe into any links between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

Mr Comey said Mr Trump had repeatedly told him he was doing a “great” job.

He told the panel that the White House “chose to defame me, and more importantly the FBI” by claiming the agency was “poorly led”.

“Those were lies, plain and simple. And I’m so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them,” he continued.

“The FBI is honest. The FBI is strong. And the FBI is and always will be independent,” he said in his opening remarks.

Mr Comey said it was a matter of circumstances, the subject matter and the “person I was interacting with”.

“I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting” he told the panel of Mr Trump.

“I knew there would come a day that I might need a record, not just to defend myself, but to defend the FBI,” he said.

But…

…there is no known evidence of collusion and President Donald Trump has dismissed the story as “fake news”.

His spokeswoman Sarah Sanders on Thursday hit back at Mr Comey, saying: “I can definitively say the president is not a liar.”

More from Comey:

During Thursday’s testimony, Mr Comey emphasised that Russia’s political meddling was “not a close call”, adding: “There should be no fuzz on this whatsoever.”

When asked by the Senate Intelligence Committee whether the president tried to stop the Russia investigation he was conducting, Mr Comey said: “Not to my understanding, no.”

During another meeting with Mr Trump, Mr Comey said the president appealed to him to “let go” an investigation into fired national security adviser Michael Flynn and his ties to the Kremlin.

When asked how his FBI colleagues reacted to the president telling Mr Comey that he hoped the investigation into Mr Flynn would be dropped, he said: “I think they were as shocked and troubled as I was.”

“They’re all experienced professionals and they had never experienced such a thing,” he said.

“The conversation turned to what we should do about it and that was a struggle for us.”

He said he it was not for him to say whether Mr Trump’s actions were an obstruction of justice.

He calls Trump’s bluff on tapes.

After US media reported the conversation, the president warned Mr Comey in a tweet, saying he “better hope there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations”.

Mr Comey told the committee he hoped there were tapes, calling on Mr Trump to release them.

“The president surely knows whether he taped me, and if he did my feelings aren’t hurt. Release all the tapes, I’m good with it,” he said.

The White House has refused to say whether any such tapes exist.

After Mr Trump’s tweet about potential tapes, Mr Comey said he realised it was important to release his own account of the story.

Comey leaked information.

He revealed that he asked a “good friend of mine” who is a professor at Columbia Law School to share contents of the memo with a reporter.

Mr Comey added that he asked for the documents to be leaked in order to build pressure for a special counsel.

And as predicted Team Trump is busy countering Comey’s testimony.

Fox News:  Trump disputes key parts of Comey testimony, sources say

President Trump disputes key elements of former FBI Director James Comey’s Senate testimony, sources close to the president tell Fox News.

Minutes before Comey began testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, sources said Trump has reviewed his prepared remarks and disputes claims that he sought “loyalty” from Comey and pressed him to lay off former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

He “did not say it,” a source said, adding, the “language used was not remotely close.”

One of the key details of Comey’s testimony concerns a Jan. 27 dinner where Comey claims Trump told him, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.”

He also said Trump told him in a subsequent meeting that he hoped Comey could “let this go” with regard to any investigation of Flynn.

A White House source also confirmed that Trump’s legal team and senior aides are watching Comey’s testimony from the president’s personal dining room near the Oval Office.

Only the attorneys were expected to be watching.

Yeah, right.

Fox News headlines with:  COMEY UNLEASHED: Ex-FBI boss accuses Team Trump of ‘lies’, suggests Lynch covered for Clinton

Former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before a Senate panel on Thursday could have President Trump’s legal team breathing a sigh of relief since he stopped short of alleging obstruction of justice – but his otherwise scathing comments guarantee the political controversy and Russia-related probes are far from over.

“This is nowhere near the end of our investigation,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., said moments after the hearing’s conclusion.

Comey, in his high-profile appearance before the committee, accused the administration of defaming him and said comments made about his competency “were lies, plain and simple.”

Comey also told lawmakers he decided to document meetings he had with Trump because he was “honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature” of their discussions.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders pushed back on Comey’s comments, telling reporters at a press briefing, “I can definitively say the president is not a liar.”

Comey went further, saying he believes he was fired because of the Russia investigation — and that in a now-famous February meeting, Trump directed him to ease off an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

At the same time, Comey told lawmakers that Trump did not ask him to end the Russia investigation as a whole — a key piece of testimony that Trump’s allies were sure to notice.

Asked again if Trump engaged in obstruction of justice, Comey said, “I don’t know. That’s Bob Mueller’s job to sort that out.”

So this is far from over.

Trump scandal ‘worse than Watergate’

NZ Herald:  Former US intelligence chief ranks watergate less of a scandal than Donald Trump Russia investigation

A former US intelligence chief today ranked Watergate as less of a scandal than the revelations now ripping through the administration of President Donald Trump.

“I think if you compare the two that Watergate pales really in my view compared to what we’re confronting now,” James Clapper told the National Press Club in Canberra.

There even were concerns among US intelligence authorities about forwarding information to the Trump White House, according to Clapper, Director of National Intelligence under President Barak Obama.

Clapper pointed to the possibility of further damaging revelations when James Comey, the former FBI director sacked by Mr Trump, gives evidence on allegations of Russian interference in US politics before a congressional hearing Thursday, Washington time.

The Comey evidence is yet to come, but in a preliminary to his appearance Top intel officials Coats and Rogers say they’ve never been ‘pressured’ on Russia investigations

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers told a Senate panel Wednesday that they would not answer questions about whether President Trump asked them to downplay possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials in last year’s election, but they said they did not feel “pressured” to interfere or intervene in the Russia investigation.

Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee that he did not believe it was appropriate for him to publicly discuss conversations he has had with the president.

“I have never felt pressured to intervene or interfere in any way with shaping intelligence in a political way or in relation to an ongoing investigation,” Coats testified in response to a question from Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va.

Rogers also refused to answer Warner’s questions about his conversations with Trump about the Russia investigation.

“In the three-plus years that I have been the director of the National Security Agency, to the best of my recollection, I have never been directed to do anything I believe to be illegal, unethical, immoral or inappropriate,” Rogers said, adding that he has never felt “pressured” to do so.

This saga is likely to continue for some time yet. Comey’s appearance will be on Friday New Zealand time.

In the meantime there are other potential problems for Trump:  Attorney General Jeff Sessions suggested he could resign amid rising tension with President Trump

As the White House braces for former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony Thursday, sources tell ABC News the relationship between President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has become so tense that Sessions at one point recently even suggested he could resign.

The friction between the two men stems from the attorney general’s abrupt decision in March to recuse himself from anything related to the Russia investigation — a decision the president only learned about minutes before Sessions announced it publicly. Multiple sources say the recusal is one of the top disappointments of his presidency so far and one the president has remained fixated on.

Trump’s anger over the recusal has not diminished with time. Two sources close to the president say he has lashed out repeatedly at the attorney general in private meetings, blaming the recusal for the expansion of the Russia investigation, now overseen by Special Counsel and former FBI Director Robert Mueller.

But sources say the frustration runs both ways, prompting the resignation offer from Sessions.

There seems to be a lot of frustrations and diversions in Trump’s administration, but he and his Fox friends are trying to look positive.

This may or may not be evident here:  Under Trump, regulation slows to a crawl

Before he took office, Donald Trump promised to roll back the reach of the federal government, saying that he would end the “regulation industry” on the first day of his presidency. The effect has been immediate and dramatic: According to data compiled by POLITICO, significant federal regulation since Trump’s inauguration has slowed to an almost total halt.

From Inauguration Day until the end of May, just 15 regulations were approved by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), the White House department that reviews important new federal rules. That’s by far the fewest among comparable periods since recordkeeping began in the 1990s: Ninety-three rules were approved during the same period in Barack Obama’s administration, and 114 under George W. Bush.

The near-total freeze in regulations is likely to keep GOP supporters happy, converting on a long-held conservative dream of a government that stays out of the way. “It’s a reason to celebrate,” said Stephen Moore, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation who informally advised Trump during his campaign.

But rulemaking is the key way a White House shapes policy, and for an administration that has struggled to populate federal agencies and get laws passed through Congress, the rulemaking gap denies the administration its biggest chance to make an impact on how America runs. The slowdown has begun to concern some business groups, who worry that key regulations simply aren’t being issued as expected—and liberals warn it could leave the government playing catch-up with major changes.

Trump has said he will live tweet during Comey’s appearance – good grief!

UPDATE: But he has been preempted with the release already of Comey’s prepared statement:

CNBC:  ‘I need loyalty, I expect loyalty’ — read James Comey’s explosive statement about Donald Trump

  • Former FBI Director James Comey will testify that President Trump told him “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.”
  • “I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed,” Comey says in his prepared remarks to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

 

Letter – Harry Reid to James Comey

BJ Marsh asked me Yesterday to most the text of this letter from Democratic leader to then FBI director James Comey (August 2016).

Sorry I forgot, I blame Fridayitis.

For Al in particular, I have come across this letter from Harry Reed, the Leader of the Democrats in the US Senate. I found its contents quite interesting because it summarises what the basis is of the Democrat’s claim to the “unwitting” contact by Trump with the Russians. It also shows just how important the Seth Rich case, and the claim he was responsible for passing the DNC emails to Wikileaks is to the truth. Reeds letter:

HarryReidLetter1

HarryReidLetter2

For Gezza, I have noted your rebuttal of the evidence surrounding the Seth Rich case from his investigator and considered that alongside other comments and have tentatively concluded that Freeman has been got at by the opposing forces. Also, the Rich extended family’s outspoken representative is a Democrat employed media fixer, an has been completely compromised by his bias.
Al, what doe you think of the strength of the case against Trump presented by the Democrats?

The pressure isn’t off Trump

Trump has headed off on his first overseas trip as president.

But the pressure on him back in the US continues relentlessly, despite him allegedly telling the Russians that his sacking of James Comey had taken the pressure off.

NY Times: Trump Told Russians That Firing ‘Nut Job’ Comey Eased Pressure From Investigation

President Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office this month that firing the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, had relieved “great pressure” on him, according to a document summarizing the meeting.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to the document, which was read to The New York Times by an American official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

Mr. Trump added, “I’m not under investigation.”

The conversation, during a May 10 meeting — the day after he fired Mr. Comey — reinforces the notion that Mr. Trump dismissed him primarily because of the bureau’s investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and Russian operatives. Mr. Trump said as much in one televised interview, but the White House has offered changing justifications for the firing.

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, did not dispute the account.

In a statement, he said that Mr. Comey had put unnecessary pressure on the president’s ability to conduct diplomacy with Russia on matters such as Syria, Ukraine and the Islamic State.

“By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia’s actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia,” Mr. Spicer said. “The investigation would have always continued, and obviously, the termination of Comey would not have ended it. Once again, the real story is that our national security has been undermined by the leaking of private and highly classified conversations.”

Meanwhile yesterday the White House decided to fight back.

That’s hardly likely to dampen down the ongoing fire storm.

One thing that may change over the next few days is the timing of Trump’s tweets (that keep fueling the fire) due to him moving through different time zones.

One thing that doesn’t seem to have changed is the number of embarrassing leaks.

On Fox Charles Krauthammer suggested 5 Things Trump Can Do to Fix White House Turmoil

Charles Krauthammer joined Tucker Carlson tonight to reveal the five pieces of advice he would give President Donald Trump to fix the turmoil that seems to have permeated the White House.

He said Trump needs to spend less effort, time and emotional energy on the various controversies facing his administration, and instead focus on implementing his agenda.

  1. Make an unimpeachable appointment for FBI director.
  2. Stop tweeting.
  3. Go on his scheduled nine-day, five-city foreign trip.
  4. Use the trip to announce a huge shift in U.S. foreign policy, thereby changing the narrative about his administration.
  5. Daily sessions with Dr. Krauthammer.

Tucker asked if Krauthammer believes Trump can follow these recommendations, or at least the first four.

“He doesn’t easily compartmentalize. He doesn’t have that almost kind of psychopathic ability to make distinctions, as Clinton did. I think he gets sort of into everything, and it takes him over,” Krauthammer said. “So, I don’t think he can. But that’s why he needs to see me, probably for an hour a day for several years.”

It is being reported that the frontrunner for the positi0n of FBI director is Joseph Lieberman which is likely to be contentious, not unimpeachable.

Will Trump get over his obsession with tweeting?

He’s away on his trip, and some alternative news is likely to come out of that.

Point 5 is tongue in cheek but Trump really needs an honest and forthright adviser who he will listen to for advice.

BREAKING: Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner ‘person of interest in Russia investigation’

Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has reportedly been identified as a “person of interest” in the ongoing investigation into possible ties between Russia and Donald Trump’s campaign.

The Washington Post said that a senior advisor to Mr Trump had been identified as someone that investigators wanted to speak to. A New York magazine reporter then reported that the person in question was Mr Kushner, who is married to the Mr Trump’s daughter and who flew out of Washington on Friday night to accompany the president on his first official foreign trip.

That’ may may things awkward to deal with both on the trip and back in Washington.

 

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.

US government “under assault and eroding”

James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence, says that America’s founding fathers created three co-equal branches of government with checks and balances, but with Trump as president, that was now “under assault and is eroding.”

Fox News: Clapper: US govt ‘under assault’ by Trump after Comey firing

…Clapper on Sunday described a U.S. government “under assault” after President Donald Trump’s controversial decision to fire FBI director James Comey, as lawmakers urged the president to select a new FBI director free of any political stigma.

“I think, in many ways, our institutions are under assault, both externally — and that’s the big news here, is the Russian interference in our election system,” Clapper said. “I think as well our institutions are under assault internally.”

Clapper spoke following Trump’s sudden firing of Comey last week, which drew sharp criticism because it came amid the FBI’s probe into Russia meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible ties between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign.

Clapper said America’s founding fathers had created three co-equal branches of government with checks and balances, but with Trump as president, that was now “under assault and is eroding.”

Politicians from both sides also have concerns.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said the new FBI director should certainly be someone “not of partisan background” with “great experience” and “courage.” He left open the possibility that Democrats might try and withdraw support for a new FBI director unless the Justice Department names a special prosecutor.

Under rules of the Senate, Republicans could still confirm an FBI director with 51 votes. Republicans hold 52 seats in the chamber to Democrats’ 48.

A new FBI director without wide support from both parties would add to the current problems and concerns.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said promoting an FBI agent to lead the agency would allow the nation to “reset.”

“It’s now time to pick somebody who comes from within the ranks, or is of such a reputation who has no political background at all who can go into the job from Day 1,” the South Carolina Republican said.

“The president has a chance to clean up the mess he mostly created,” Graham said, adding, “I have no evidence the president colluded with the Russians at all, but we don’t know all the evidence yet.”

Only the FBI know all the evidence they have at this stage.

It is certainly very messy, but what are the chances that Trump will tidy up the mess rather than make it worse?

Trump is even blaming his own press team now.

Wall Street Journal: Trump Weighs Shake-Up of Press Team

President blames team for failing to contain Comey controversy and hasn’t ruled out replacing Spicer

President Donald Trump is considering broad changes to his communications team and strategy, which he blames for failing to contain the controversy surrounding his firing of former FBI Director James Comey, according to multiple administration officials.

Among other moves, Mr Trump is again weighing replacing Press Secretary Shaun Spicer.

I’m not sure there will be many people willing to volunteer to take over from Spicer.

Trump has also suggested he may scrap the daily press briefings and hand out a two weekly printed statement instead. The press briefings have been done for about a century and it will raise eyebrows if they are scrapped, but currently they are of little use given how uninformed Spicer and his deputy have been, and/or how quickly the White House story keeps changing.

Trump tapes?

Donald Trump has at best made a threat to James Comey about tapes that don’t exist – a trumped up threat. But if as he implied he taped a conversation between himself and the then FBI director then Trump has created a bigger problem for himself.

It was resistance to hand over tapes that got Richard Nixon into a lot of trouble – for a recap of Watergate see Five Reasons the Comey Affair Is Worse Than Watergate. That points out “It’s always the cover-up, never the crime”.

Trump isn’t at that stage yet but is digging a hole furiously (intended double meaning).

RealClear Politics: Trump Creates Tempest With Tweet About ‘Tapes’

Has President Trump secretly taped conversations in the White House?

Few in Washington would have thought to raise that question at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on Friday, but the president raised the possibility in a tweet aimed at former FBI Director James Comey.

Adding to the intrigue, especially among Democratic lawmakers who asked the White House for explanations, were a string of non-denial, “No comment” answers offered by Trump and his spokesman.

During a week in which some observers likened Trump’s behavior to Richard Nixon, whose abuses of power were captured by a secret taping system that eventually led to his resignation, the president’s mention of “tapes” and then his refusal to deny taping people in the White House was stunning.

“Well, that I can’t talk about. I won’t talk about that,” the president told interviewer Jeanine Pirro of Fox News, known as Judge Jeanine. “All I want is for Comey to be honest. And I hope he will be. I’m sure he will be. I hope.”

“The president has no further comment,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicertold reporters. “The tweet speaks for itself.”

Was the president trying to threaten the man he fired on Tuesday to keep silent? “That’s not a threat,” Spicer said.

But people who may matter don’t see it that way.

Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which is investigating the Russia connections to last year’s election, called Trump’s tweet “extraordinary.”

“If the president has `tapes’ of his conversations with Director Comey, it is because the president himself made them. For a president who baselessly accused his predecessor of illegally wiretapping him, that Mr. Trump would suggest that he, himself, may have engaged in such conduct is staggering,” he said in a statement.

“The president should immediately provide any such recordings to Congress or admit, once again, to have made a deliberately misleading – and in this case threatening – statement,” he added.

Democratic Reps. John Conyers of the House Judiciary Committee and Elijah Cummings of the House Oversight panel said Trump’s rhetoric, tweets and reported actions “raise the specter of possible intimidation and obstruction of justice.” They asked the White House to respond by May 25 to describe the existence of any secret tapes, a taping system and copies of audio recordings.

But they are Democrats and may be thwarted by Republicans.

Trump is well known to have taped conversations as a businessman, but there is concern he has continued those practices as president.

As a New York businessman, Trump was accustomed to safeguarding his public relations and legal interests by taping interchanges with the consent of other parties, including some who taped him simultaneously. Whether Trump imported that practice to his presidency was left unclear on Friday.

Litigious himself, and familiar with being the target of litigation, Trump did not want his words mischaracterized or invented. Taping conversations became a showy form of insurance.

Biographer Gwenda Blair, speaking with RealClearPolitics, recalled that Trump “routinely pulled out his own tape recorder when being interviewed by reporters, including me.”

“I had a tape recorder, but the implication was this was a precaution to make double sure I quoted him accurately,” said Blair, author of “The Trumps: Three Generations of Builders and a President.”

“And clearly it was meant as a pre-emptive and intimidating move,” she added, “as were the boilerplate letters I got from his lawyers threatening me with legal consequences if I wrote anything libelous or inaccurate.”

But threatening someone he has just fired with the implication of having recordings, or have taken recordings of conversations with Comey when he headed the FBI, is seen as dirty business if done by the president.

What is clear is that Trump broached the protection of taped conversations in the context of his firing of Comey. And he has been obsessed with U.S. government surveillance aimed at Russian targets last year that swept some of his associates, including Michael Flynn, into the intelligence net.

In the modern presidency, even the preservation of delicate diplomatic telephone conversations with foreign heads of state involves the use of trained note takers, not audio recordings.

Trump’s campaign team may or may not have colluded with Russians. We may or may not find out definitively whether they did or not.

But Trumps actions in response to ongoing FBI investigations are increasingly raising suspicions about whether he is trying to hide something – or whether he is competent enough to be president.

Whatever may have been done during the campaign, the campaign itself, and the ongoing fallout, is further degrading credibility in US democracy.

And Trump is doing nothing to turn poor perceptions around. He is greasing the slippery slope.