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.

Trump warns Comey and attacks media

The Donald Trump sacking of FBI Director James Comey is escalating after the reasons for the termination have kept changing, and Trump appears to be unhappy with the bad press.

The sacking is said to be because he was getting increasingly irate with Comey and with media coverage of investigations into Russian collusion with Trumps presidential campaign.

Now Trump seems to be getting even more irate with the media for covering the debacle.

  • Then the President came for the media.
  • Then the President came for the FBI.
  • Then the President came for the media again.

CBS News: Sean Spicer faces first White House briefing since Comey’s firing

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Friday is giving his first briefing since President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, as questions about the timing and reasoning behind Mr. Trump’s shocking decision mount.

Mr. Trump suggested Friday morning over Twitter that maybe “it would be best to cancel” the White House press briefings, after Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders gave an account of the decision to fire Comey that was in direct conflict with what Mr. Trump said later.

Spicer has been at the Pentagon fulfilling his Naval Reserve duty, and was supposed to continue work at the Pentagon Friday, but was called back to the White House. The president suggested, again over Twitter, that because he’s such “a very active President,” that his surrogates can’t speak for him “with perfect accuracy.”

The White House has claimed Mr. Trump fired Comey because he lost the confidence of rank-and-file FBI employees and because of a Tuesday recommendation from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to fire Comey over his handling of the Clinton email investigation.

But Mr. Trump himself has contradicted initial statements (as well as his own termination letter of Comey), claiming he was going to fire Comey regardless of any DOJ recommendation and that when he decided to fire Comey, he thought of the “made-up” story about his connections to Russia.

Earlier this year, the president also asked Comey to pledge his loyalty. Comey responded that he could promise that he’d be honest with him.

Mr. Trump’s account of the dinner differs from Comey’s, and earlier Friday, he tweeted that Comey had “better hope that there are no ‘tapes.‘”

Comey was leading the investigation into Russian election meddling.

Fox News: It was all Trump’s decision: POTUS changes White House narrative on Comey firing

When President Trump sat down with Lester Holt yesterday, he essentially altered the version of James Comey’s firing that his top aides have been pressing in public.

“I was going to fire regardless of recommendation,” he told the NBC anchor. The recommendation in question was a two-page memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who had been on the job for two weeks.

Rosenstein is “highly respected,” Trump said, “he made a recommendation, but regardless of recommendation I was going to fire Comey” (who he called a “showboat” and a “grandstander”).

At Wednesday’s press briefing, Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked: “So it’s the White House’s assertion that Rod Rosenstein decided on his own, after being confirmed, to review Comey’s performance?”

“Absolutely,” she replied. “And I think most of America had decided on their own that Director Comey was not the person that should be leading the FBI.”

But if the president asked for a review to buttress a move he planned to take anyway, then Rosenstein’s letter isn’t the crucial document that was being advertised.

Sanders told ABC’s Jon Karl yesterday she hadn’t had the chance to ask the president that question about whether he had already made up his mind. “Nobody was in the dark…You’re trying to create this false narrative,” she said.

None of this affects the core question of whether the president acted properly in canning his FBI director. But it does underscore that the administration’s rollout of this controversial decision has been shaky.

The media narrative has moved on to whether the White House is engaging in some kind of coverup, with newspaper accounts challenging some of the administration’s key points.

And that is upsetting Trump, further raising suspicions that he is trying to hide something.

NY Times: Trump Warns Comey and Says He May Cancel Press Briefings

President Trump on Friday warned James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director he fired this week, against leaking anything negative about the president and put the news media on notice that he may cancel future White House briefings.

In a series of early-morning posts on Twitter, Mr. Trump even seemed to suggest that there may be secret tapes of his conversations with Mr. Comey that could be used to counter the former F.B.I. director if necessary. It was not immediately clear whether he meant that literally, or simply hoped to intimidate Mr. Comey into silence.

“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter.

Mr. Trump appeared agitated over news reports on Friday that focused on contradictory accounts of his decision to fire Mr. Comey at the same time the F.B.I. is investigating ties between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia.

A self inflicted train wreck by Trump. It was only a matter of time before his reactive behaviour and ego would escalate – at least this is happening on internal matters and not in the Far East or the Middle East.

The presidency could be in a state of failure, but Foreign Policy goes further and asks Is America a Failing State?

We have the tin-pot leader whose vanity knows no bounds. We have the rapacious family feathering their nests without regard for the law or common decency.

We have utter disregard for values at home and abroad, the disdain for democracy, the hunger for constraining a free press, the admiration for thugs and strongmen worldwide.

We have all the makings of a banana republic. But worse, we are showing the telltale signs of a failing state. Our government has ceased to function. Party politics and gross self-interest has rendered the majority party oblivious to its responsibilities to its constituents and the Constitution of the United States.

On a daily basis, Republicans watch their leader violate not only the traditions and standards of the high office he occupies, but through inaction they enable him to personally profit from the presidency, promote policies that benefit his cronies and his class to the detriment of the majority of the American people, and serially attack the principles on which the country was founded — from freedom of religion to the separation of powers.

Is it that bad? It is looking increasingly like that.

Trump has had staunch supporters but some of those must be starting to wonder whether he is unfit for purpose.

 

The sense of chaos in US politics

If President Trump thought that firing FBI director James Comey would bury his Russian problem he seems to have been mistaken.

Washington Post: Why Trump’s efforts to shake his Russia problem only make it worse

New questions are arising in the wake of his sudden decision to can FBI Director James B. Comey, along with revived calls for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the question of Russian influence in last year’s election and the Kremlin’s connections to Trump’s presidential campaign.

“The only thing that is guaranteed right now is that the sense of chaos will continue, not only in law enforcement but also in Congress,” said GOP strategist Kevin Madden, a veteran of Capitol Hill and the Justice Department. “Every single lawmaker in the House and Senate is going to be pressured to take a stance.”

Of course, the surest way to end the controversy would be through a credible investigation that comes to a definite conclusion about the methods and extent of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and whether it involved improper dealings with people close to Trump.

White House officials maintain that Comey’s firing had nothing to do with his agency’s Russia investigation but, rather, with his handling of the probe into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Yet Trump’s letter terminating Comey alluded to the questions surrounding his own administration (“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation …”) and made no mention of the FBI director’s much-criticized decisions involving Clinton.

Fox News: McCabe says FBI call not to prosecute Clinton angered some agents, defends Comey

New Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe acknowledged for the first time in public testimony Thursday that some agents were angry with the 2016 decision not to prosecute Hillary Clinton – while also defending ousted Director James Comey’s overall standing at the bureau.

“I think morale’s always been good, but there were folks within our agency that were frustrated with the outcome of the Hillary Clinton case and some of those folks were very vocal about those concerns,” McCabe testified.

While he noted the anger over that decision, he also pushed back on White House claims that Comey had lost confidence from rank-and-file staff in the agency.

“I can tell you also that Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day,” he testified, adding that many staff held a “deep, positive connection” with him.

That won’t help Trump or the White House. Neither will Trump by the sounds of his reaction.

Fox News: Trump: Comey a ‘grandstander,’ ‘showboat’

That’s rather ironic coming from Trump.

President Trump on Thursday called fired FBI Director James Comey a “showboat” and “grandstander” who Trump intended to fire regardless of any recommendation from the Justice Department.

Trump, speaking to NBC News, gave his first in-depth remarks since the stunning ousting of Comey on Tuesday evening.

“Look he’s a showboat, he’s a grandstander,” Trump said. “The FBI has been in turmoil. You know that, I know that. Everybody knows that. You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil – less than a year ago. It hasn’t recovered from that.”

Trump said he had planned to fire Comey for some time, but “there’s no good time to do it by the way.”

So Trump has taken responsibility for the firing, after initially implying he was acting on the advice of the Justice Department.

And Trump isn’t helped by his media staff. It’s hard to know how long the hapless Sean Spicer will keep trying to defend the mess without having any idea what trump will himself come out with.

And this lame diversion won’t help either: Kellyanne Conway Implies Anderson Cooper’s Eye Roll Was Sexist

On Tuesday, Kellyanne Conway made a triumphant return to the airwaves to discuss the circumstances around President Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey. When Anderson Cooper showed her several clips of then-candidate Trump praising Comey, Conway responded with, “You’re conflating two things that don’t belong together.” She went on to discuss Trump’s strategy in Michigan…

…conflating two things that don’t belong together…

— at which point Cooper rolled his eyes dramatically:

Conway responded to the eye roll on Thursday during an appearance on Fox & Friends. And naturally, she linked it to sexism.

“Hillary Clinton is in search of sexism as a lame excuse for why her disastrous candidacy and campaign lost six months ago,” she said. “[But] I face sexism a lot of times when I show up for interviews like that.”

She went on, “Could you imagine … having a male anchor on the network roll eyes at Hillary Clinton [or at] a female spokesperson for President Obama or President Bill Clinton? I think not.”

It wasn’t her gender that he rolled his eyes at.

 

More on Comey’s firing

President Donald Trump controversially fired FBI director James Comey yesterday – see Comey termination.

There’s been many concerns about how Comey has handled a number of things, particularly investigations into Hillary Clinton’s emails, his intervention and then withdrawal just before last November’s election, investigations into alleged collusion between people involved with Trump’s campaign and Russians, and a leak plagued FBI.

It’s ironic that Trump praised Comey strongly during his campaign but a key justification for his sacking is his handling of Clinton’s email investigations last year.

Many questions have been raised about the timing of this sacking, as they should be.

In his ‘you’re fired’ letter to Comey Trump said:

“It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission.”

Two things will be critical if public trust and confidence is to be restored.

First and foremost, the new director of the FBI will need to be seen as non-partisan and independent, so who is appointed to the job will be critical if confidence is going to be restored.

Second, the ongoing investigation into Russian collusion with Trump associates and with his campaign must continue, and must be done independently of the FBI director appointed by Trump.

Otherwise a dysfunctional looking FBI will become a farce, and Trump’s presidency will have serious credibility problems of it’s own to deal with, and potentially legal and constitutional problems.

Some of the wide range of coverage:

Wall Street Journal: Comey’s Deserved Dismissal

President Trump fired James Comey late Tuesday, and better now than never. These columns opposed Mr. Comey’s nomination by Barack Obama, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation Director has committed more than enough mistakes in the last year to be dismissed for cause.

The Daily Beast: ‘Smell of Watergate’ Hits Trump’s White House

Firing the FBI director leading the investigation into his campaign’s possible collusion with an adversarial foreign power is big stuff, the biggest shock President Donald Trump has delivered in his short, shock-filled presidency.

“It really does have the smell of Watergate,” says historian Robert Dallek. “It just raises suspicion this is a Nixonian president trying to cut off this investigation or at least delay it.”

The potential is there to find evidence of collusion that could be termed traitorous, says Dallek. “If he were so clean and without any kind of compromise in this situation, he’d let the investigation go forward and urge a special prosecutor to take over. Instead, he’s giving every sign of a coverup.”

The letter Trump sent to FBI Director James Comey said, in effect, “thanks for exonerating me” three times (like so many Trump claims, the only sign it’s so is that Trump said it)—and then fired him. But Trump can’t abolish the position, and whoever he appoints will have to be vetted and confirmed by the Senate.

Maybe Trump and his coterie of yes-men ignorant of history think he can name a loyalist.

The Federalist: 6 Quick Takeaways From Trump’s Firing Of FBI Director Comey

1) Comey Was Not Good at His Job

2) The Firing Was Done from a Position of Strength

3) It’s Reasonably Not Just the Clinton Probe

4) Democrats Have Been Begging for This, Only to Denounce It

5) This Is Not a Coup. Get a Hold of Yourself

6) Investigations Will Continue

For alternative facts and alternative reality:

RCP: Kellyanne Conway vs. Anderson Cooper on James Comey Firing: “You’re Looking At The Wrong Set Of Facts”

In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Kellyanne Conway discusses President Donald Trump firing of FBI Director James Comey. Conway said the president’s decision “is not a coverup” and “had nothing to do with Russia.”

Comey termination

The US train wreck has taken a congtroversial turn with the ‘termination’ of FBI Director James Comey’s contract. Comey found out part way through a speech to FBI staff in Los Angeles.

Sean Spicer announced”

ComeyTerminationSpicer

Trump’s letter:

ComeyTerminationTrump

There’s some bizarre stuff there.

Time will tell whether this is the threat to the integrity of the US democracy that some claim or not, but it has some aspects of real concern.

Questions have been raised about what really prompted the sudden sacking.

More will no doubt come out about this.

RNZ have a summary: James Comey’s shock dismissal – what we know so far

More important for the US is what they don’t know yet.

Deputy Rosenstein’s recommendation letter:

ComeyTerminationRosenstein

Attorney General Session’s letter:

ComeyTerminationSessions

Comey: no evidence supporting Trump’s wiretap accusations

FBI Director James Comey has just appeared before the House Intelligence Committee.

On Donald Trump’s tweeted accusations that then-President Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower during the presidential election campaign:

“I have no information that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI”.

He also said that that the Justice Department had also looked for evidence to support Trump’s  allegation and couldn’t find any.

And the Director of the National Security Agency Mike Rogers strongly denied allegations repeated by the Trump administration that he’d asked GCHQ to spy on Mr Trump.

Comey declined to say whether the FBI was investigating the potential leak of classified information related to now resigned National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, but said that such a leak would be taken very seriously.

Comey  confirmed that the FBI was investigating if Russia had meddled in the presidential election, including investigating possible links between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

The official presidential Twitter account responded:

BBC Live: FBI: No evidence Obama wiretapped Trump

Summary

  1. FBI director Comey confirms investigation into alleged Russian meddling in US election and any Trump links
  2. The law enforcement chief says there is no evidence to support Trump’s claim that Obama wiretapped Trump
  3. The Trump administration says ‘nothing has changed’ and ‘there is NO EVIDENCE of Trump-Russia collusion’
  4. The NSA’s head strongly denies Trump administration claims that he asked Britain’s GCHQ to spy on Trump
  5. Democrats and Republicans, meanwhile, trade barbs at Senate hearing on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch

FBI Director James Comey confirmed that the FBI was investigating any possible co-ordination between the Trump campaign and Russia’s alleged efforts to influence the election outcome.

US intelligence chiefs have previously said only that they believed Russia aimed to favour Donald Trump’s candidacy.

Comey also said neither the FBI nor the Department of Justice had evidence to support Trump’s claims that his predecessor Barack Obama wiretapped his phones ahead of the election.

And the Director of the National Security Agency Mike Rogers strongly denied allegations repeated by the Trump administration that he’d asked GCHQ to spy on Mr Trump.

Rogers said that would violate both US law and international spy agreements.

Chris Wallace at Fox News:

Wallace said it was “pretty startling” to hear the FBI director confirm that the Trump campaign – including President Trump – is under FBI investigation.

He added that Comey also said that the FBI has “no information” to support Trump’s claims that he was wiretapped by the Obama administration during the presidential campaign.

“It’s been a bad day for the Trump White House,” Wallace said.