‘So disgraceful’: Trump lashes out at publication of special counsel questions

President Trump listens during a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week at the White House. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
 May 1 at 11:23 AM 
President Trump lashed out Tuesday at the publication of questions that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III was said to be interested in asking him as part of the Russia probe and possible attempts to obstruct the inquiry.

In a morning tweet, Trump said it was “disgraceful” that the 49 questions were provided to the New York Times, which published them Monday night.

“So disgraceful that the questions concerning the Russian Witch Hunt were ‘leaked’ to the media,” he wrote on Twitter.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

So disgraceful that the questions concerning the Russian Witch Hunt were “leaked” to the media. No questions on Collusion. Oh, I see…you have a made up, phony crime, Collusion, that never existed, and an investigation begun with illegally leaked classified information. Nice!

It appears that the leak did not come from Mueller’s office. The Times reported that the questions were relayed to Trump’s attorneys as part of negotiations over the terms of a potential interview with the president. The list was then provided to the Times by a person outside Trump’s legal team, the paper said.

In his tweet, Trump also falsely asserts that there are no questions about “Collusion.”

 1:10
Trump denies collusion with Russia, over and over

President Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion between his campaign and Russia.

While the questions published by the Times are wide-ranging — and include more related to possible obstruction of justice — the list includes 13 related to possible cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Among those is a query about Trump’s knowledge of any outreach by his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort to Russia “about potential assistance to the campaign.” A court filing this month revealed that Mueller had sought authorization to expand his probe into allegations that Manafort “committed a crime or crimes by colluding with Russian government officials.”

Another question asks about Trump’s knowledge of a June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower between his aides and a Russian lawyer who offered politically damaging information on Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

And another asks what Trump knew about “Russian hacking, use of social media or other acts aimed at the campaign?”

In his tweet, Trump calls collusion “a phony crime” and repeats his claim that none existed. The president also derides Mueller’s investigation as having “begun with illegally leaked classified information,” adding: “Nice!”

That is a reference to notes that former FBI director James B. Comey provided to a friend documenting his interactions with Trump. The president has said that action, which prompted the appointment of a special counsel, amounted to illegally leaking classified information and that Comey should be imprisoned.

Comey, whom Trump fired last year, has said repeatedly that the information was not classified. He and Trump have been sparring over the issue as Comey continues a publicity tour to promote his new book, “A Higher Loyalty,” which portrays Trump as an ego-driven and congenital liar.

In a later tweet Tuesday morning, Trump wrote that it “would seem very hard to obstruct justice for a crime that never happened!”

But that, legal experts, say is a misunderstanding of the law.

“This is flat wrong,” said Randall D. Eliason, a former assistant U.S. attorney who teaches white-collar criminal law at George Washington University Law School.

“The purpose of the investigation is to determine whether a crime was committed, and, regardless of the ultimate answer to that question, it is a separate crime to attempt to obstruct that inquiry,” Eliason said. “It’s also true, of course, that we don’t yet know that the underlying crime ‘never happened.’ ”

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

It would seem very hard to obstruct justice for a crime that never happened! Witch Hunt!

Trump has said previously that he would be willing to have a face-to-face meeting with Mueller or his team, but more recently he has wavered on the prospect.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s new personal lawyer dealing with the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, met with Mueller last week to reopen negotiations for a possible presidential interview.

Giuliani conveyed the ongoing resistance of Trump and his advisers to an interview but did not rule out the possibility, according to people familiar with the talks.

Raj Shah, a White House spokesman, said later Tuesday morning that White House officials are frustrated that much of Mueller’s focus seems to be outside his original aim of investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Appearing on Fox News, Shah said he couldn’t speak to the accuracy of the questions published by the Times. But, he said, “if they are accurate, the overwhelming majority of those questions don’t focus on the underlying premise of this special counsel.”

Comey’s Loyalty Isn’t to the Truth

Vital facts are missing from his accounts of two episodes from the Bush presidency.

Former FBI Director James Comey at a promotional event for “A Higher Loyalty,” in New York City, April 22.
Former FBI Director James Comey at a promotional event for “A Higher Loyalty,” in New York City, April 22. PHOTO: DENNIS VAN TINE/ZUMA PRESS

For 10 days, former FBI Director James Comey has been on a high-profile media tour to promote “A Higher Loyalty.” With more than 600,000 copies sold in the first week, the book leaves competing “resistance” favorites “What Happened” and “Fire and Fury” in the dust. But behind the aw-shucks, I-was-the-only-honest-man-in-the-room persona, Mr. Comey’s book demonstrates his real higher loyalty is to self-aggrandizement.

Consider two episodes from George W. Bush’s presidency. Mr. Comey writes that in 2003 he was drawn into the Valerie Plame investigation when administration officials leaked the identity of “a covert CIA employee,” allegedly as retaliation for a critical op-ed written by Ms. Plame’s husband. Mr. Comey, then deputy attorney general, appointed special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, and writes that he stands by the decision to charge Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, with false statements, perjury, and obstruction of justice. Mr. Libby was convicted in 2007.

But vital facts are missing from Mr. Comey’s account. The most important is that no one revealed a covert CIA agent’s name. Though Mr. Comey refers to Ms. Plame seven times as a “covert agent,” she was not. That’s why Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who revealed Ms. Plame’s name to columnist Robert Novak, was never indicted.

Mr. Comey also fails to note that the star witness against Mr. Libby, former New York Times reporter Judith Miller, recanted her testimony in 2015. She said Mr. Fitzgerald misled her and withheld exculpatory evidence that would have kept her from “unwittingly giving false testimony.” In a rebuke to Messrs. Fitzgerald and Comey, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals cleared Mr. Libby to practice law again in 2016, well before President Trump pardoned him earlier this month.

Then there is Mr. Comey’s account of the March 2004 meeting of President Bush’s Chief of Staff Andy Card and White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales with Attorney General John Ashcroft over reauthorization of a vital post-9/11 intelligence program code-named Stellar Wind.

Here Mr. Comey summons all the melodramatic flair he can muster. In his telling, he and other Justice Department lawyers objected to renewing Stellar Wind unless changes were made. They had won Mr. Ashcroft to their view, but he was hospitalized with acute pancreatitis—so ill that Mr. Comey was made acting attorney general. As he was driven home from work one night, Mr. Comey received an urgent message: Messrs. Card and Gonzales were en route to Mr. Ashcroft’s hospital room “to do an end run” around Mr. Comey. Flashing lights blazing, his SUV moving as if on “a NASCAR track,” Mr. Comey raced to the hospital. His “vehicle screeched to a stop.” He “jumped out and ran up the stairs . . . relieved” to arrive ahead of both Mr. Card and Mr. Gonzales. He took a seat in the darkened room “just to the right of Ashcroft’s bed” and waited for the president’s agents to arrive.

When they did, Messrs. Card and Gonzales were shocked to find the attorney general so ill. Mr. Gonzales explained they’d come seeking Stellar Wind’s reauthorization and, Mr. Comey reports, “willing to work to fix any legal issues.” Mr. Ashcroft momentarily recovered, delivered “a rapid-fire blast,” claiming he “had been misled” about Stellar Wind’s scope and had “serious concerns about the legal basis for parts” of it. The two White House officials beat a hasty retreat. (The program was soon reauthorized with agreed upon changes.) “I felt like crying,” Mr. Comey reports. “The law had held.”

Such high drama! But again, Mr. Comey leaves out critical facts. When Messrs. Card and Gonzales arrived at the hospital, neither they nor the president knew that the attorney general’s authority had rested with Mr. Comey for nearly a week. Justice Department staff later claimed they faxed the White House the news, though you’d think if an attorney general couldn’t perform his duties, his designated successor would personally alert the president or his aides. White House officials don’t even recall Mr. Comey’s presence at Mr. Ashcroft’s bedside. He might have been seated in a dark corner or hiding behind a room divider, but he was a silent observer at best.

Mr. Comey approached Stellar Wind, like many other issues, by assuming not honest differences but venal motives on the part of those with whom he disagreed. This tendency left him inclined to histrionics, such as allegedly telling his security detail “not to permit me to be taken from Ashcroft’s room” if Mr. Card ordered Secret Service to remove him.

“A Higher Loyalty” leaves the impression no one has a higher opinion of James Comey than himself. How difficult to be a white knight in a fallen world!

Mr. Rove helped organize the political-action committee American Crossroads and is the author of “The Triumph of William McKinley ” (Simon & Schuster, 2015).

Courtesy: WSJ

Mr. Comey’s Bad Week

His memos to himself about Trump don’t help his public claims.

Former FBI Director James Comey arrives to speak about his new book "A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership" at Barnes & Noble bookstore, April 18.
Former FBI Director James Comey arrives to speak about his new book “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership” at Barnes & Noble bookstore, April 18. PHOTO: DREW ANGERER/GETTY IMAGES

The James Comey book tour is off to a rocky start. The idea was to sell the former FBI director as the Beltway Boy Scout who stood up to a corrupt Donald Trump. But the more we learn about the events Mr. Comey was involved in, the more his self-styled reputation for truth-telling comes into question.

On Thursday news broke that the Justice Department inspector general has referred Andrew McCabe for potential prosecution after finding that the former FBI deputy director lied to investigators about a press leak. This started a back and forth between Mr. Comey, who said he might be a witness for the prosecution, and Mr. McCabe, each accusing the other of not telling the truth.

Potomac Watch Podcast

Jim Comey’s Private Memos
00:00 / 26:33

The testimony doing the most damage to Mr. Comey’s reputation comes from Mr. Comey himself in the memos he wrote following meetings with President Trump. After months of stonewalling, Justice finally released them to Congress Thursday. Mr. Comey said he told Mr. Trump, “I don’t do sneaky things. I don’t leak. I don’t do weasel moves.” So let’s help readers make a weasel assessment.

• Leaking. Mr. Comey writes in his memos that he told Mr. Trump he didn’t leak. But he later did precisely that when he leaked the memos of his conversations with the President to his friend, Columbia law professor Daniel Richman, on the understanding that the professor would then leak the contents to the New York Times.

• Classification. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the inspector general is now conducting a review because at least two of the memos that Mr. Comey gave Mr. Richman contained classified information, contrary to Mr. Comey’s claim that it was all unclassified.

• Hillary Clinton’s role in the dossier. When Mr. Comey first briefed the President on the Steele dossier, he limited it to the sexual and salacious aspects. He also omitted a point Mr. Trump had a right to know: The dossier was compiled by Christopher Steele on behalf of the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign through the research firm cutout, Fusion GPS.

An earlier House Intelligence Committee report notes that none of the FBI’s applications for a FISA warrant on former Trump campaign associate Carter Page mentioned the links to the DNC or Clinton campaign even though “the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior DOJ and FBI officials.” Presumably that includes Mr. Comey, but why didn’t he tell that to Mr. Trump?

• Michael Flynn . Mr. Comey says Mr. Trump’s request that he “let this go” in reference to Mr. Flynn, his first National Security Adviser, is “evidence” of obstruction. But far from suggesting the President encouraged the FBI director to close his eyes to a crime, the memos make clear Mr. Trump was making the case Mr. Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong.

• Loyalty. In his new memoir, “A Higher Loyalty,” Mr. Comey likens Mr. Trump to a mob boss in his demand for loyalty. But the Comey memos make clear that Mr. Trump raised the issue of loyalty after complaining about leaks and wondering about Mr. McCabe, whom Mr. Trump had criticized during the campaign.

He also had reason to be suspicious: The fact that Mr. Trump had been briefed on the Steele dossier did soon leak—and became the news peg that CNN used to report that the dossier existed, after which BuzzFeed published the entire dossier. Just because Mr. Trump is paranoid doesn’t mean people aren’t out to get him.

We know from Mr. Comey himself that he wanted these memos leaked to the New York Times in hopes of having a special counsel appointed. In that he succeeded. But contrary to his claims, the memos suggest little reason for appointing a special counsel: Far from looking to obstruct an investigation into Russian collusion, Mr. Trump urges Mr. Comey to continue to investigate in hopes that this would show that the ugliest details in the Steele dossier weren’t true.

Mr. Trump’s motives were personal vindication because he feared his wife might believe the allegations, and Mr. Trump should not have made the request. But asking for an investigation to disprove the Steele dossier undermines the charge that Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey to obstruct justice. We don’t know what other evidence special counsel Robert Mueller has, but hanging an obstruction rap on the Comey memos isn’t going to work.

Courtesy: WSJ

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Justice Department Watchdog Probes Comey Memos Over Classified Information

Former FBI director has said he considered the memos, which he gave to a friend to release to media, personal documents

The Justice Department inspector general is conducting an investigation into classification issues related to memos written by former FBI director James Comey.
The Justice Department inspector general is conducting an investigation into classification issues related to memos written by former FBI director James Comey. PHOTO: RALPH ALSWANG/ABC/ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON—At least two of the memos that former FBI Director James Comey gave to a friend outside of the government contained information that officials now consider classified, according to people familiar with the matter, prompting a review by the Justice Department’s internal watchdog.

Of those two memos, Mr. Comey himself redacted elements of one that he knew to be classified to protect secrets before he handed the documents over to his friend. He determined at the time that another memo contained no classified information, but after he left the Federal Bureau of Investigation, bureau officials upgraded it to “confidential,” the lowest level of classification.

The Justice Department inspector general is now conducting an investigation into classification issues related to the Comey memos, according to a person familiar with the matter. Mr. Comey has said he considered the memos personal rather than government documents. He has told Congress that he wrote them and authorized their release to the media “as a private citizen.”

Mr. Comey gave four total memos to his friend Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor who is now a professor at Columbia Law School, people familiar with the matter said. Three were considered unclassified at the time and the one was that was classified contained the redactions made by Mr. Comey.

As FBI director, Mr. Comey had the legal authority to determine what bureau information was classified and what wasn’t. Once he left government, however, the determination fell to other officials. The FBI deemed the memos classified sometime during 2017, one of the people familiar with the matter said.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly accused Mr. Comey of mishandling classified information in a bid to discredit the former FBI director, whom he fired last year. The public feud between the two men has intensified this week, as Mr. Comey has granted several interviews while promoting a memoir that is highly critical of Mr. Trump.

“James Comey Memos just out and show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION. Also, he leaked classified information. WOW! Will the Witch Hunt continue?” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter Thursday.

In interviews, Mr. Comey has called Mr. Trump “morally unfit” to serve in the White House. He and Mr. Richman didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

“A person who sees moral equivalence in Charlottesville, who talks about and treats women like they’re pieces of meat, who lies constantly about matters big and small and insists the American people believe it, that person’s not fit to be president of the United States, on moral grounds,” Mr. Comey told ABC News this month.

The situation around Mr. Comey’s handling of his memos is analogous to the investigation the FBI under his leadership conducted of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016. While serving as secretary of state, Mrs. Clinton used a personal email server rather than a government account. After leaving government, thousands of her emails were determined to have contained classified information.

Mrs. Clinton’s defense was that they weren’t classified at the time she circulated them and were only upgraded to classified later. A small number of her emails were determined to have been classified at the time they were sent. Mr. Comey’s handling of the Clinton investigation drew criticism from both Republicans and Democrats.

Republicans said Mrs. Clinton should have been charged, while Democrats said the investigation was without legal basis and was mishandled—particularly Mr. Comey’s decision to announce shortly before Election Day that he was reopening the probe. Mrs. Clinton lost the election to Mr. Trump.

No charges were ever filed against Mrs. Clinton or her aides and Mr. Comey said that his investigation found no evidence of intent to violate the laws governing the handling of classified information.

As Mr. Comey noted in his statement explaining his decision not to bring charges against Mrs. Clinton, typically the Justice Department doesn’t bring cases concerning mishandling of classified information unless there is some intent. Careless or inadvertent release of classified information is rarely prosecuted.

Mr. Comey’s memos were written contemporaneously to create a record of his interactions with Mr. Trump. He told Congress last year he hadn’t kept written records of his interactions with previous presidents but decided to do so with Mr. Trump because of the “nature of the person.”

Mr. Comey has said he intended to get the information to the public through the media by giving the memos to Mr. Richman—in part to prompt the appointment of a special prosecutor designed to continue the FBI’s investigation without political inference.

“My judgment was, I need to get that out into the public square,” Mr. Comey told Congress last year. “I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter. Didn’t do it myself for a variety of reasons. I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel.”

Those memos formed the basis for Mr. Comey’s testimony in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee last year, in which he accused the president of trying to shut down an investigation into purported Russian interference in the 2016 election. The president has denied trying to thwart the probe.

Mr. Comey’s tactics were successful—special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed shortly after he was fired as FBI director. Mr. Comey’s memos are now part of the wide-ranging probe being conducted by Mr. Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 election, as well into whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice when he fired Mr. Comey last year, allegations that Mr. Trump denies. Russia has denied interfering in the election.

“I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting so I thought it important to document. That combination of things I had never experienced before, but had led me to believe I got to write it down and write it down in a very detailed way,” Mr. Comey told the committee.

The memos were given to Congress this week. They were reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and other media outlets. Much of the material in the memos has been previously disclosed in congressional testimony and Mr. Comey’s book.

Write to Byron Tau at byron.tau@wsj.com and Aruna Viswanatha at Aruna.Viswanatha@wsj.com

Corrections & Amplifications 
President Donald Trump tweeted Thursday about James Comey’s memos. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Mr. Trump tweeted Friday. (April 20, 2018)

Courtesy: WSJ

Donald Trump Just Changed His Story About James Comey’s Firing

He now says it had nothing to do with Russia.

Evan Vucci, left, and Andrew Harnik)/AP Photo

President Donald Trump said Wednesday morning that he did not fire then-FBI Director James Comey because of the bureau’s investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia, contradicting a claim he famously made last year in a nationally televised interview.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Slippery James Comey, the worst FBI Director in history, was not fired because of the phony Russia investigation where, by the way, there was NO COLLUSION (except by the Dems)!

Here’s what Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt last May: “When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.’”

Trump’s comments to Holt came as White House aides were asserting that Comey’s firing was not related to the Russia investigation but was initiated by top Justice Department officials over Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. Things seem to have come full circle.

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Republicans are actively interfering in the Mueller probe to protect Trump

 April 19 at 9:50 AM 

(AFP/Getty Images)

THE MORNING PLUM:

One of the big political questions of the moment is this: Will GOP congressional leaders act to protect special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation against President Trump’s threats to hamstring or kill it?

But in a way, this question, while important, doesn’t really get at the full story here, because its premise is that Republicans are mostly behaving passively toward the Mueller probe, clearing the way for Trump to act if he wishes. In reality, Republicans are, under cover of fake oversight, actively working to interfere in the investigation, on Trump’s behalf.

Here’s the latest on this front: The Post reports that House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte is planning to issue a subpoena for release of the memos that former FBI director James B. Comey has made of his private conversations with Trump, which have been turned over to Mueller.

Those conversations include the ones in which Trump demanded Comey’s loyalty and pressed him to drop the probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, but there is a lot more in those memos we haven’t heard about. They are probably important evidence in Mueller’s efforts to establish whether Trump obstructed justice.

 0:55
McConnell on Mueller: ‘I don’t think he’s going to be removed’

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on April 10 he doesn’t believe special counsel Robert S. Mueller III will be removed from his office. 

The Justice Department is already signaling reluctance to release these memos. Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who oversees the Mueller probe, has already told congressional Republicans that he wants more time to evaluate “the consequences” of giving them to Congress and worries about “publicizing them.”

Does anyone really believe Republicans are motivated by nothing but pure oversight impulses here? There are two other reasons they might want these memos. The first is to deliberately provoke Rosenstein into declining to provide them all — which could create a pretext to hold Rosenstein in contempt of Congress or even for Trump to fire him.

“The Deputy Attorney General should be aware that no matter what he gives to these members of Congress, it will never be enough,” Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told me this morning. “The point is to create a conflict with the Justice Department that would give the president grounds to get rid of Mueller or Rosenstein. They don’t care what damage they do to our institutions to protect the president.” Separately, Schiff is pushing a new bill that would create disincentives for Trump to pardon people involved in the investigation.

The second reason for getting these memos — and let’s not pretend this isn’t perfectly plausible — would be to selectively leak from them, to mislead the public by, say, creating phony impressions of misconduct on Comey’s part that could provide more fodder for Trump and his allies to delegitimize the investigation, possibly manufacturing further pretext to hamstring or kill it. Let me remind you that Republicans already tried a similar caper with the bad-faith-saturated Nunes memo.

Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney and law professor at the University of Michigan, told me that it could be “dangerous to interfere” in this manner with Mueller’s probe. If some info from the memos were to leak, she said, it could tip off other potential witnesses as to what Comey (himself a star witness) might have divulged to Mueller. They might shape their own testimony differently, McQuade said, once they “know the direction of an investigation and know what other witnesses are saying.”

A broader principle is at stake

There is a broader principle at stake here: We want such investigations to be generally insulated from political interference, to protect law enforcement’s integrity and independence. “This could have a chilling effect on Mueller’s team,” McQuade said. “If they know that every decision they make is going to be perhaps exposed to the public, it might change the way they do their work. We want them to be able to act independently, so they can make decisions based on objective facts and without worrying about someone twisting their actions in the eyes of the public.”

The complication here is that Congress, of course, is supposed to exercise oversight over law enforcement. But there comes a point at which this oversight, when exercised in obvious bad faith, crosses over into something else — that is, overt and deliberate political interference — and good-faith observers need to be able to say so. As former Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller put it to me: “The president is working with members of Congress to actively thwart his own Justice Department, because he wants it to stop investigating him.”

By the way: Does anyone think this would be happening if House Speaker Paul D. Ryan didn’t give this effort his tacit blessing? And is there any point at which Ryan, who is now the subject of much discussion summing up how his career will be remembered, will step in and put a stop to it?

 1:40
China is putting tariffs on American products. How does this affect U.S. politics?

China imposed tariffs on 128 U.S. goods on April 2. The move is retaliation for tariffs President Trump announced on Chinese aluminum and steel. 

* FARMERS PUT TRUMP ON NOTICE: The New York Times reports that farmers are warning that they’ll be hit hard by Trump’s trade war with China and that this could make him a one-term president:

Soybeans are America’s second largest export to China, and that country’s proposed 25 percent duties on the crop would hit hardest in states like Iowa, Kansas and Minnesota — where there are highly competitive House races — as well as Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota, whose Senate contests may determine control of the chamber.

As GOP strategist Karl Rove tells the Times, a trade war “would limit Midwestern enthusiasm from our base.” But who can punch this message through Trump’s bubble?

* TRUMP ALLIES FEAR COHEN WILL FLIP: In the wake of the FBI raid on Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s office and home, Politico reports that Trump’s allies are increasingly worried that, faced with jail time, he’ll turn on Trump instead:

Since the raid, the president and his advisers have been singularly focused on the risk of a potential federal prosecution of Cohen, which they view as a much bigger existential threat to the presidency than … Comey …. Trump has regularly ranted to friends and advisers about the investigation into Cohen, according to two other people familiar with the conversations.

Cohen has been at the center of the shadiest of Trump family dealings for many, many years, so how much he knows is really anybody’s guess. But Trump clearly has some inkling.

* HANNITY CONSPIRACY THEORY IS DEBUNKED: Sean Hannity and other Trump allies have claimed Robert S. Mueller III was central to the wrongful FBI imprisonment of four men for a murder they didn’t commit. Nancy Gertner, the judge on the case, debunks the claim:

Based on the voluminous evidence submitted in the trial, and having written a 105-page decision … I can say without equivocation that Mr. Mueller, who worked in the United States attorney’s office in Boston from 1982 to 1988, including a brief stint as the acting head of the office, had no involvement in that case. He was never even mentioned.

This theory has also been pushed by luminaries such as Alan Dershowitz and Rush Limbaugh, the latest sign of how far #Foxlandia will go to shield Trump from accountability.

* TRUMP AND THE CLOUD OF POSSIBLE RUSSIAN BLACKMAIL: Comey says there’s a “non zero” chance Trump could be vulnerable to Russian blackmail. Meanwhile, Trump just pulled back from new Russian sanctions. E.J. Dionne Jr. locates the common thread:

Trump’s repeated flinching on Russian policy feeds suspicions as to why the Kremlin worked to get him elected … and whether Russia’s intelligence services have information to use against him … There is strange justice in the fact that Trump’s behavior played straight into … Comey’s blanket-the-media book tour.  … Until “non-zero” becomes zero — or 100 percent — there is an obligation on the part of the media and government investigators to figure out what in the world is going on here.

There’s also Trump’s constant efforts to frustrate an accounting of what really happened in 2016 and his refusal to organize a serious response to future Russian electoral sabotage.

* TRUMP WOULD NEVER, EVER FIRE MUELLER OR ROSENSTEIN: The president said at a presser in Japan that it’s daft that anyone would ever suggest such a thing:

“They’ve been saying I’m going to get rid of them for the last three months, four months, five months, and they’re still here,” Trump said. “So we want to get the investigation over with, done with, put it behind us.”

Hmmm. Of course, Trump actually did seriously consider firing both of them at different times, and even unsuccessfully ordered it in Mueller’s case.

* AND IN TRUMP WHITE HOUSE, ‘PUBLIC HUMILIATION’ IS TYPICAL: After officials said “confusion” led U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley to announce Russian sanctions that Trump undercut, she said, “I don’t get confused.” CNN’s Jeremy Diamond comments:

Public humiliation is a rite of passage for many top officials in the Trump administration. But when it was Nikki Haley’s turn this week, she fought back … It was a stunning retort in an administration where the typical response to being put down is to slink away quietly … Haley didn’t endure a presidential putdown … none of her colleagues have so publicly bristled at the egg on their faces.

Good for her, we suppose, but the very act of working in this administration is itself deeply self-debasing.

Trump again denounces ‘slimeball’ Comey, lauds Syria strikes

Apr. 15, 2018, 6:38 a.m.

  

  • WHITE HOUSE
  • RUSSIA
Former FBI director James Comey and President Trump
Former FBI director James Comey and President Trump (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty)

President Trump launched a new Twitter fusillade at ex-FBI chief James Comey on Sunday morning, again calling the former top federal law enforcement official a “slimeball” and ridiculing his actions surrounding the federal investigation of Trump’s defeated presidential opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Trump’s tweets included a raft of unsubstantiated allegations against Comey, complete with suggestions that the former FBI director be jailed. Trump also sought to rebut Comey’s claim that he had demanded personal loyalty, insisting in a tweet that “I hardly even knew this guy.”

Comey’s new book, replete with highly unflattering characterizations of Trump, is garnering wide attention in advance of its release. The president’s tweets — which also targeted Loretta Lynch, the attorney general under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama — came hours before a lengthy interview with the ex-FBI head was to air on ABC Sunday night.

In his book, Comey acknowledged that he might have been influenced by the assumption that Clinton would win the 2016 election when he spoke publicly about the investigation shortly before the vote, writing that he feared her presidency would be tainted if he did not fully air allegations against her.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Unbelievably, James Comey states that Polls, where Crooked Hillary was leading, were a factor in the handling (stupidly) of the Clinton Email probe. In other words, he was making decisions based on the fact that he thought she was going to win, and he wanted a job. Slimeball!

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

The big questions in Comey’s badly reviewed book aren’t answered like, how come he gave up Classified Information (jail), why did he lie to Congress (jail), why did the DNC refuse to give Server to the FBI (why didn’t they TAKE it), why the phony memos, McCabe’s $700,000 & more?

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Comey throws AG Lynch “under the bus!” Why can’t we all find out what happened on the tarmac in the back of the plane with Wild Bill and Lynch? Was she promised a Supreme Court seat, or AG, in order to lay off Hillary. No golf and grandkids talk (give us all a break)!

The former FBI chief likened Trump in his book to a Mafia chieftain and asserted that the president is “untethered” to truthfulness. In a later tweet Sunday morning, Trump called Comey a liar for asserting that Trump, in an uncomfortable private dinner, had demanded personal loyalty from him.

Trump also took to Twitter on Sunday morning to complain about media coverage of his use of the term “Mission Accomplished” to describe U.S.-led missile strikes on Syrian military targets in retaliation for an alleged chemical strike on Syrian civilians by forces loyal to President Bashar Assad. The phrase is widely associated with former President George W. Bush’s premature 2003 claim of victory in the Iraq war.

In praising the raid carried out in concert with Britain and France, Trump wrote “Mission Accomplished” is “such a great Military term, it should be brought back.”

Courtesy: Los Angeles Times

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