• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Subscribe
  • RSS

Comey Firing Driven By Trump’s Frustration Over Russia Investigation

James Comey Donald Trump

As I noted yesterday, in the immediate aftermath of the President’s surprise Tuesday afternoon decision to fire F.B.I. Director James Comey, it has become rather apparent that there is a wide gap between the official White House and Justice Department explanations for why Comey was fired and what really motivated that firing. By the official account, Comey was fired because of long-standing doubts about her performance that dated back to his July 2016 press conference announcing that the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server would be closed without prosecution and then his subsequent letter in October, just over a week before Election Day, that the investigation was being reopened due to the discovery of new emails on a laptop shared by Clinton aide Huma Abedin and her husband Anthony Weiner, who had come to the Bureau’s attention due to allegations that he had been engaged in an online exchange of a sexual nature with an underage girl that allegedly include Weiner sending her explicit photographs of himself. As has become clear since Tuesday afternoon, though, it is clear that there was much more to the story than this.  As reporters dig further into the truth, it’s becoming more and more apparent that it was President Trump’s building frustration over the fact that he cannot make the allegations regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election and contacts between Trump associates and Russian officials go away, and that this is what made up the primary motivation for his decision to fire Comey, with the official story being little more than an effort to come up with a post hoc justification for a decision that the President had already made.

The latest bits of evidence in this regard comes from a team of reporters at The Washington Post that reports on the behind the scenes events that led to the decision to fire Comey, and lends credence to the idea that it was the Russia investigation, not the purported reasoning in the memorandum prepared by Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein that focused on Comey’s actions in July 2016 regarding the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server:

Every time FBI Director James B. Comey appeared in public, an ever-watchful President Trump grew increasingly agitated that the topic was the one that he was most desperate to avoid: Russia.

Trump had long questioned Comey’s loyalty and judgment, and was infuriated by what he viewed as the director’s lack of action in recent weeks on leaks from within the federal government. By last weekend, he had made up his mind: Comey had to go.

At his golf course in Bedminster, N.J., Trump groused over Comey’s latest congressional testimony, which he thought was “strange,” and grew impatient with what he viewed as his sanctimony, according to White House officials. Comey, Trump figured, was using the Russia probe to become a martyr.

Back at work Monday morning in Washington, Trump told Vice President Pence and several senior aides — Reince Priebus, Stephen K. Bannon and Donald McGahn, among others — that he was ready to move on Comey. First, though, he wanted to talk with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, his trusted confidant, and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, to whom Comey reported directly. Trump summoned the two of them to the White House for a meeting, according to a person close to the White House.

The president already had decided to fire Comey, according to this person. But in the meeting, several White House officials said Trump gave Sessions and Rosenstein a directive: to explain in writing the case against Comey.

The pair quickly fulfilled the boss’s orders, and the next day Trump fired Comey — a breathtaking move that thrust a White House already accustomed to chaos into a new level of tumult, one that has legal as well as political consequences.

(…)

In the weeks leading up to Comey’s firing, Trump administration officials had repeatedly urged the FBI to more aggressively pursue leak investigations, according to people familiar with the discussions. Administration officials sometimes sought to push the FBI to prioritize leak probes over the Russia interference case, and at other times urged the bureau to investigate disclosures of information that was not classified or highly sensitive and therefore did not constitute crimes, these people said.

Over time, administration officials grew increasingly dissatisfied with the FBI’s actions on that front. Comey’s appearances at congressional hearings caused even more tension between the White House and FBI, as Trump administration officials were angered that the director’s statements increased, rather than diminished, public attention on the Russia probe, officials said.

In his Tuesday letter dismissing Comey, Trump wrote: “I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation.” People familiar with the matter said that statement is not accurate, although they would not say how it was inaccurate. FBI officials declined to comment on the statement, and a White House official refused to discuss conversations between Trump and Comey.

The New York Times has its own behind the scenes account of the events leading up to Tuesday afternoons sudden firing:

Mr. Comey’s fate was sealed by his latest testimony about the bureau’s investigation into Russia’s efforts to sway the 2016 election and the Clinton email inquiry. Mr. Trump burned as he watched, convinced that Mr. Comey was grandstanding. He was particularly irked when Mr. Comey said he was “mildly nauseous” to think that his handling of the email case had influenced the election, which Mr. Trump took to demean his own role in history.

At that point, Mr. Trump began talking about firing him. He and his aides thought they had an opening because Mr. Comey gave an incorrect account of how Huma Abedin, a top adviser to Mrs. Clinton, transferred emails to her husband’s laptop, an account the F.B.I. later corrected.

At first, Mr. Trump, who is fond of vetting his decisions with a wide circle of staff members, advisers and friends, kept his thinking to a small circle, venting his anger to Vice President Mike Pence; the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II; and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who all told him they generally backed dismissing Mr. Comey.

Another early sounding board was Keith Schiller, Mr. Trump’s longtime director of security and now a member of the White House staff, who would later be tasked with delivering the manila envelope containing Mr. Comey’s letter of dismissal to F.B.I. headquarters, an indication of just how personal the matter was to the president.

The chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, who has been sharply critical of the F.B.I., questioned whether the time was right to dismiss Mr. Comey, arguing that doing it later would lessen the backlash, and urged him to delay, according to two people familiar with his thinking. Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, at one point mulled similar concerns, but was supportive of the move to the president.

The Justice Department began working on Mr. Comey’s dismissal. Attorney General Jeff Sessions instructed his deputies to come up with reasons to fire Mr. Comey, according to a senior American official. On Monday, Mr. Trump met with Mr. Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein. White House officials insisted Mr. Sessions and Mr. Rosenstein were the ones who raised concerns about Mr. Comey with the president and that he told them to put their recommendations in writing.

At the same time, he signaled his thinking on Twitter, essentially calling for the investigation into the Russian meddling to be halted. “The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?” he wrote on Monday afternoon.

There are more details in both reports, and both make clear that it was the Russia investigation, Trump’s growing frustration over the daily reports about it, and the fact that Comey and the Bureau clearly weren’t relenting in their pursuit of the investigation were the primary motivation behind the decision to fire Comey. This conclusion would seem to be further bolstered by multiple reports that, when he met with the President on Monday, Sessions was essentially tasked with the job of coming up with reasons to fire Comey, no doubt reasons that had nothing to do with the ongoing Russia investigation since explicitly citing that as a reason for firing would be politically untenable. Other reports in the past several days have cast doubt on other parts of the Administration, such as Trump’s claim in his letter to Comey that Comey had told him on three separate occasions that he was not a target of an investigation. Such a conversation would, of course, be an entirely improper thing for Comey to do regardless of whether or not Trump himself were a target, and sources close to Comey have told reporters that the President’s claim is nonsense. It’s also being reported that Comey refused a request that he give the White House a preview of the testimony he would ultimately give when he appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, something which reportedly “infuriated” the President. Additionally, we’ve learned that Comey had been asking for additional resources for the Russia investigation in the days before his firing and that Trump had reportedly told Rosenstein and Sessions to come up with reasons to fire Comey. All of this lends credence to the conclusion that it was Russia, not the Clinton investigation or anything that related to it, that led to Comey’s firing and that the White House’s attempts to say otherwise are little more than an effort to justify the decision.  Whether this is evidence of a conscious cover-up of wrongdoing by Trump and the people around him, or simply a short-tempered President lashing out at critics and a media that isn’t focusing on the things he thinks they should be focusing on is unclear at this point. What we can say, however, is that the evidence that has been made public so far makes it clear that these matters need to be investigated to the fullest extent both by law enforcement and by Congress, and that any effort by the White House to impede or short-circuit those investigations should be resisted.

Related Posts:

About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    No doubt we’ll soon hear from our local Trump apologists admitting sheepishly that they bought and defended Trump’s line of transparent bullshit. Trump himself now contradicts what they were saying just yesterday. So. . . yeah, I’m sure the usual Trumpies will be along any moment now. . .

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  2. Hal_10000 says:

    Whether this is evidence of a conscious cover-up of wrongdoing by Trump and the people around him, or simply a short-tempered President lashing out at critics and a media that isn’t focusing on the things he thinks they should be focusing on is unclear at this point.

    My money would be on the latter. Trump has convinced himself that there’s nothing to this Russia scandal, despite the problems of Manafort, Flynn and Stone (as well as business exposures for others within his admin, including himself). The more he thinks about it, the more he rages. And so he gets rid of Comey thinking that will get rid of the problem.

    That’s not the scary part, though. The scary part is that no one within his Administration persuaded him that this was a bad idea. They all clearly knew it — reports are that even Bannon understood the danger of firing Comey. Spicer spent that night hiding in the foliage. But either he wouldn’t listen or they gave up and complied. It does not bode well. I really don’t understand why so few people are willing to stand up to this doofus.

    (Also of note: Trump had a meeting with a Russian official and is now mad that the Russian press took pictures. This is a supposed genius who can’t even outwit a photographer).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  3. SenyorDave says:

    @Hal_10000: I really don’t understand why so few people are willing to stand up to this doofus.

    It is like an eight year old is president. And one who is immature for his age.

    I’m starting to think its like the episode of The Twilight Zone where the little boy is all powerful and punishes people for doing things he doesn’t like. Maybe Bannon and others think Trump will wish them into the cornfield or turn them into a jack-in-the-box if they make him mad.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  4. Scott says:

    Here is another reason:

    His belief that the Director (and by extension, the FBI) should have personal loyalty to him. If he believes this, then that is a frightening insight into his psyche.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 0

  5. michael reynolds says:

    I think the mistake is believing that this is about collusion with Russian efforts to get Trump elected.

    I am convinced that is only a secondary crime, fallout from the underlying crime is money-laundering. We know Trump casino took a very, very, very forgiving attitude to money-laundering. We know the Trump lads said they were relying on Russian money. Which means Trump knows perfectly well if he’s been staying afloat with Russian cash, and every single action he has taken, AND the actions he has not taken, are evidence of an awareness of guilt.

    Money-laundering leads to Russian blackmail, which leads to election tampering in favor of a Russian asset (Trump), which leads to cover-up. Follow the money. With Trump it is always about money.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 33 Thumb down 0

  6. Scott says:

    I really don’t understand why so few people are willing to stand up to this doofus.

    I think that is about to change. There won’t be any impeachment but I think Trump will be reduced to a figurehead.

    There is an old phrase: You cannot be a leader if you cannot be a follower. He has never had to follow and it shows.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  7. Scott says:

    Money-laundering leads to Russian blackmail, which leads to election tampering in favor of a Russian asset (Trump), which leads to cover-up. Follow the money. With Trump it is always about money.

    The American people are about to get a lesson on the intersection of Russian organized crime in NYC, Russian oligarchs, and Putin.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  8. Moosebreath says:

    @Hal_10000:

    “The scary part is that no one within his Administration persuaded him that this was a bad idea.”

    And even afterwards, very few Republicans, and none in leadership, are willing to come out and say this was wrong and we need to be sure that an independent investigation takes place, whether by independent counsel or by bi-partisan Congressional panel.

    They should change their party’s name to Banana Republicans.

    @Scott:

    “His belief that the Director (and by extension, the FBI) should have personal loyalty to him. If he believes this, then that is a frightening insight into his psyche.”

    And that of his enablers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  9. Argon says:

    Such a conversation would, of course, be an entirely improper thing for Comey to do regardless of whether or not Trump himself were a target, and sources close to Comey have told reporters that the President’s claim is nonsense.

    This is a standard operating procedure for this Administration. Trump is simply grinding through officials who won’t validate his blatant lies. It says a lot about Session’s character that he seems to be getting along with the President.

    We’ll have to come up with a new acronym for this: Person Of No Integrity, or PONI. So many PONIES in the White House and Congressional leadership these days.

    Aside: I honestly can’t see any long term down-side for people resigning from this Administration. So I wonder why so many stay.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  10. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Comey is only the beginning. It’s going to get far, far, worse.
    Read this interview from The Economist.
    http://www.economist.com/Trumptranscript
    http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/05/trump-explains-economics-to-the-economist-hilarity-ensues.html
    https://www.vox.com/2017/5/11/15622900/trump-economist-interview
    It’s fwcking scary how completely ignorant this guy is, and how easily he is manipulated.
    If nothing is done this is going to be a shit-show of a Presidential Term.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  11. Stormy Dragon says:

    My personal suspicion is that, given Trump’s involvement in New York real estate and the New Jersey casino business, that what he’s trying to conceal is not ties to the Russian government, but ties to Russian organized crime.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 0

  12. Mikey says:

    @Scott:

    His belief that the Director (and by extension, the FBI) should have personal loyalty to him.

    This is the worst, to me. The Director–in fact, all FBI agents and professional staff–swear an oath to defend the Constitution, not the President. For Trump to demand–even expect–this kind of personal fealty from any of them is reprehensible.

    It’s also why the conservative trope “run the government like a business” is bunk. In business, yes, there are personal loyalties. But in government, the loyalty is to the Constitution, the nation, and the law.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 0

  13. CSK says:

    If Bannon and Priebus were against canning Comey, then Ivanka and Jared must have been in favor of it.

    @SenyorDave:

    “It’s a Good Life.” Great episode, based on a short story by Jerome Bixby that later won a bunch of awards.

    That’s an absolutely perfect comparison to make, by the way: Trump and the monster kid.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  14. michael reynolds says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    Bingo.

    Manafort is a money-launderer for the Russian mob, and Trump casino was fined 10 million for failing to address money-laundering. This is at its root a money-laundering case, which is why Trump is willing to risk obstruction charges. Trump is very likely personally guilty of multiple felonies in connection with money-laundering, and quite likely Jared is as well.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  15. charon says:

    @Moosebreath:

    And even afterwards, very few Republicans, and none in leadership, are willing to come out and say this was wrong and we need to be sure that an independent investigation takes place, whether by independent counsel or by bi-partisan Congressional panel.

    They are high on their own supply. They either get their news from Fox or the Daily Caller, or they mostly associate with people who do. It isn’t just GOP voters in the bubble of epistemic closure, it’s the pols themselves as well. They have no clue how this plays outside the bubble.

    Besides, people like McConnels wife are invested in the Trump administration.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  16. charon says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    There is no real difference, the Russian government is in bed with Russian organized crime.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  17. Yank says:

    Trump himself now contradicts what they were saying just yesterday.

    It is hilarious how people still want to carry water for this guy. He routinely undermines their credibility every time he opens his mouth.

    I mean I get why people like Stone, Conway, Bannon etc. do it since Trump is their only ticket to the dance. But why the hell do people like Pence, Spicer etc. do it? Those people still had some sort of future within the GOP, so why take a bullet for Trump?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  18. James Pearce says:

    @charon:

    They have no clue how this plays outside the bubble.

    I’d revise this to move away from ignorance towards apathy. It’s not that they don’t know. They don’t care.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  19. Franklin says:

    Ha, just noticed Trump called Comey a showboat and a grand-stander. I don’t think I even need to mention the color of the kettle.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  20. Yank says:

    @charon: Disagree, the GOP knows this doesn’t look good. All of them remember how the corruption narrative in 2005 hurt them in the mid-terms in 2006. The GOP is trying to protect their agenda. McConnell and Ryan both know if that this Russia scandal would completely derail Healthcare and tax reform.

    It is sad, but gutting the safety net and cutting taxes is more important to the GOP then protecting or democracy and social institutions.

    Hopefully, history will not be kind to these assholes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  21. Scott says:

    @Franklin: It’s always projection. Lying Ted, Crooked Hilary, Little Marco. All projection.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  22. Hal_10000 says:

    Trump on TV said he was going to fire Comey regardless of the recommendation. Everyone who spent two days defending him was just thrown under the bus.

    Last year, Warren Meyer said the GOP had chained itself to a suicide bomber. It’s still true.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 0

  23. CSK says:

    Latest Trump stunt: A framed, poster-sized reproduction of the electoral map (the one he handed copies of to Reuters reporters) is being hung in the WH. I do not know where, but perhaps they’ll be taking down a portrait of Washington or Jefferson or Lincoln to accommodate it.

    Seriously, Trump’s insecurities know no bounds. This makes him very, very dangerous.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  24. Moosebreath says:

    @Yank:

    “It is sad, but gutting the safety net and cutting taxes is more important to the GOP then protecting or democracy and social institutions.”

    Sad is not the word I would use.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  25. Scott says:

    @CSK: Need map pins for the Trump properties. I bet they are mostly in the Blue counties.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  26. Tyrell says:

    “It’s all for nothing. All for nothing”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  27. Moosebreath says:

    And the White House gives up the game:

    “The White House said Thursday that removing FBI Director James Comey from his post may hasten the agency’s investigation into Russian meddling.

    “We want this to come to its conclusion, we want it to come to its conclusion with integrity,” said deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders, referring to the FBI’s probe into Moscow’s interference in last year’s election. “And we think that we’ve actually, by removing Director Comey, taken steps to make that happen.””

    They truly are Banana Republicans.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  28. CSK says:

    @Scott:

    Of course they are.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  29. Pete S says:

    @Argon: I believe that:

    Trump may have asked Comey 3 times if the FBI was investigating him. Highly improper but probably not the worst thing Trump did that hour.

    Then when Comey looked at him with a “what’s wrong with you” look on his face but said nothing, to Trump that was “3 times he did not tell me I was being investigated”.

    Which is really the same as “3 times he did tell me I was not being investigated”. Only 1 word is in a different place, so really it means the same thing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  30. JohnMcC says:

    @Tyrell: Is that a quote from ‘Ecclesiastes’?

    “Meaningless. Meaningless, says the Teacher….What do people gain for all their labors at which they toil under the sun?”

    Very heavy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  31. KM says:

    OT but relevant: Trump wants the goddamn steam back in the Navy

    It sounded bad to me. Digital. They have digital. What is digital? And it’s very complicated, you have to be Albert Einstein to figure it out.

    It’s not even fwcking digital. Rollercoasters use similar tech for god’s sake for nearly a decade now. This is why Comey got fired. This moron thinks like a freaking toddler. Stupid simplistic solutions to complex problems. “I don’t understand it, go back to the way it was” “Comey won’t make this Russia stop. Make the bad man go away and they’ll stop talking about me”

    God help us all if he ever has to make a life-or-death decision for us.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  32. michael reynolds says:

    @Hal_10000:
    And where are @MBunge and @Guarneri and @Jack and the rest to admit they repeated a lie?

    This is the proof, as if any were needed, than none of them has an ounce of intellectual integrity.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  33. CSK says:

    @michael reynolds:

    That’s because there is no way to support Trump intellectually. None. He has no coherent political philosophy, nor indeed anything resembling a plan to “make America great again.” He’s a creature of impulse who blurts out whatever random reaction (notice I didn’t say thought) crosses his brain at any given time. He says whatever he thinks will meet with crowd approval at any given moment. He does whatever the last person who spoke to him in flattering fashion wants him to do. He sees no problem with contradicting himself three times in the course of one afternoon. He’s id and cerebellum, with very little cerebrum.

    The only two consistent motivating forces in Trump’s life are the desire for self-glorification and the desire for vengeance against those with the temerity to question him.

    The people who love Trump love him because he’s a boor and a boob–not an “elite.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  34. James Pearce says:

    @michael reynolds:

    And where are @MBunge and @Guarneri and @Jack and the rest to admit they repeated a lie?

    Hopefully watching Goodfellas again. You know, to remind themselves that it starts with “Hey, let’s rob Lufthansa” then goes to “Don’t buy anything” and ends up all the way over at “When they found Carbone in the meat truck, he was frozen so solid it took two days to thaw him out.”

    When you’re a gangster, all accomplices are future victims.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  35. Mikey says:

    @KM:

    God help us all if he ever has to make a life-or-death decision for us.

    He is, may the gods preserve us, the President. It goes without saying he will have to make such decisions.

    The only question is how many people will end up dead when he does.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  36. Stormy Dragon says:

    @KM:

    OT but relevant: Trump wants the goddamn steam back in the Navy

    He probably thinks “steam catapault” means they run on coal.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  37. gVOR08 says:

    @Scott: @Moosebreath:

    His belief that the Director (and by extension, the FBI) should have personal loyalty to him. If he believes this, then that is a frightening insight into his psyche.

    And to his utter ignorance/indifference to how our government works.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  38. Hal_10000 says:

    So … Trump admitted to Lester Holt that he fired Comey over the Russia investigation. Just flat out said it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  39. MarkedMan says:

    I know Trumpmdoesnt drink, but he talks and thinks like someone who’s been an alcoholic for 50+ years. Maybe it’s prescription drugs? He does have an awful skeezy doctor…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  40. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Hal_10000:

    It’s like watching a drunk you detest steer his car towards a bridge. You know, on some level, that you should probably intervene – if only for moral reasons – but you just don’t want to miss the chance to rid yourself of the person.

    So you just munch your popcorn and wait for the kaboom instead.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  41. JohnMcC says:

    @Hal_10000: Sarah Sanders made a straightforward declarative statement at today’s presser. I’ll paraphrase — ‘we want the Russia investigation brought to a quick end with integrity and we think dismissing Director Comey made that likely.’

    Add that to the Lester Holt interview (I haven’t read the TimeMagazine interview or the Economist one) and put it all together in a stew pot called “obstruction of justice” and it would fit right in there.

    This is a story moving with incredible speed because the Trump people are so much more stupid than the Nixon version.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  42. David M says:

    So after the Lester Holt and Economist interviews, is it really fair to ask Trump to participate in his own defense? I’m not sure he’s actually competent.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  43. Modulo Myself says:

    The Holt interview is incredible. What else will Trump admit to in an interview? Nixon fought to keep his own confessions secret, and Trump’s like I’ll just tell them what I am thinking.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  44. MarkedMan says:

    Can any of the lawyers pitch in here? Did Trump just admit to obstruction of justice?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  45. Aelio says:

    Today I pictured a lot of FBI agents offering to help in the Russian investigations. I think Trump didn’t like it that Comey was more good-looking than him. Also more confident than him.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  46. Modulo Myself says:

    @MarkedMan:

    What’s he obstructing? It’s made up, a total hoax. The Leader says so.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  47. Mikey says:

    @Aelio:

    I think Trump didn’t like it that Comey was more good-looking than him. Also more confident than him.

    And taller. Although, at 6 feet 8 inches, Comey is taller than just about everyone.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  48. Mikey says:

    I knew it.

    In a Private Dinner, Trump Demanded Loyalty. Comey Demurred.

    As they ate, the president and Mr. Comey made small talk about the election and the crowd sizes at Mr. Trump’s rallies. The president then turned the conversation to whether Mr. Comey would pledge his loyalty to him.

    Mr. Comey declined to make that pledge. Instead, Mr. Comey has recounted to others, he told Mr. Trump that he would always be honest with him, but that he was not “reliable” in the conventional political sense.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  49. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @MarkedMan:

    To be blunt, I could make that case, and I haven’t been a litigator in a long time. A 1L could make that case. What he said was pretty much the textbook definition of obstruction, along with official misconduct and a few other delightful federal felonies.

    It’s honestly almost as if the guy wants to get tossed out of office.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  50. Jake says:

    Ha ha so true

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=skYdAYPaU1k

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 5

  51. Hal_10000 says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Also, there doesn’t have to be an underlying crime for an obstruction of justice charge. The obstruction itself is a crime. See Libby, Scooter.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  52. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Just off the top of my head (these are the ones that I can still remember without doing more research):

    Obstruction

    18 U.S.C. 1505

    18 U.S.C. 1512(c)(2)

    These are similar, but given that the interference is affective to two separate proceedings, I would apply 1512(c) to his attempt to obstruct the FBI investigation, and by association apply 1505 to his related attempt (by derivative consequence) to interfere with the congressional investigation

    False Statements

    18 U.S.C. 1001 – Self explanatory

    Predicate to obstruction

    18 U.S.C. 1341 Mail Fraud

    18 U.S.C. 1343 Wire Fraud

    He utilized both the mail and the broadcast media in furtherance of his attempt by conveying his § 1001 false statements through both mediums (his letter to Graham and his televised statements). Note that the letter to Graham could also be treated as a false statement to Congress, invoking inherent contempt if they really wanted to get creative.

    If this is pursued and he tries to destroy / hide evidence, in come:

    18 U.S.C. 1519 Destruction / alteration / falsifying of records

    18 U.S.C. 2232(a) Destruction / removal of property

    There is also the potential that this money laundering thing goes somewhere. If so, that’s RICO, and it starts getting really nasty:

    18 U.S.C. 1956 – Laundering of monetary instruments

    18 U.S.C. 1957 – Monetary transaction in property derived from money laundering

    along with their associated civil (18 U.S.C. 981) and criminal (18 U.S.C. 982) forfeiture statutes

    We can also rope in his underlings, via

    18 U.S.C. 4 (Misprision of felony) and potentially 18 U.S.C. 371 (Conspiracy).

    That’s just off the top of my head. Give me a productive investigatory report and a few hours to comb the USC and it would get a great deal more interesting.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  53. michael reynolds says:

    @HarvardLaw92:
    This is why we love you, HL.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  54. Jen says:

    @Aelio:

    I think Trump didn’t like it that Comey was more good-looking than him. Also more confident than him.

    And taller. Good grief, I had no idea Comey is that tall!

    The White House is denying the “loyalty dinner” story…which is hilarious given this President’s history of fealty requirements.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  55. Scott says:

    If you want to travel down a bad memory lane, just read Article One of the Articles of Impeachment for Richard Nixon.

    http://watergate.info/impeachment/articles-of-impeachment

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  56. Mikey says:

    @Jen:

    The White House is denying the “loyalty dinner” story…which is hilarious given this President’s history of fealty requirements.

    And the fact pretty much anyone who isn’t a Kool-Aid swilling Trumpist is going to believe the guy who ran the FBI before they do a White House that’s been nothing more than a lie factory from day one.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  57. Moosebreath says:

    And meanwhile, Trump’s morning tweet, threatens Comey with releasing tapes of their conversations if he leaks to the press.

    I suspect we will soon see a subpoena for the full tapes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  58. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Moosebreath:

    It’s like deja vu! :-)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  59. Bob@Younsgtown says:

    @Moosebreath: How would it benefit Comey to “leak to the press”, when all Comey has to do is testify at hearings?

    If their are “tapes” , Trump better make sure there are no “18 minute gaps”.

    It’s been suggested that Trump could try to invoke executive privilege to protect conversations between himself and Comey. However IMO, Trump blew that opportunity by discussing the conversations on national television.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  60. wr says:

    @Stormy Dragon: “what he’s trying to conceal is not ties to the Russian government, but ties to Russian organized crime.”

    You say that like they’re two separate things…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  61. wr says:

    @Jen: “And taller. Good grief, I had no idea Comey is that tall!”

    You must have seen that same clip they kept running on MSNBC. And I’m glad I’m not the only person in the world shallow enough to think that. I always heard that Trump was a tall guy, but Comey towered over him…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  62. pylon says:

    @wr:

    Trump is a an average to tall person, but he has “little man’s syndrome” for some reason. Maybe it’s his hands. Comey being bigger probably scared him to death.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  63. Moosebreath says:

    And in other news, Trump’s lawyer confirms that Trump’s tax returns have no income from Russia “with very few exceptions”.

    Yet another declaration against interest.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  64. Argon says:

    “Income” is a very fungible concept in complex finance. Much like box office hits often have trouble returning any ‘profit’.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  65. pylon says:

    As a lawyer, I am intrigued by this statement in the Trump lawyer letter: “there is no equity investment by Russians in entities controlled by Trump or debt owed by Trump to Russian lenders.” There’s a subtle distinction between “entities controlled by Trump” and “debt owed by Trump”.

    I’m pretty sure Trump has no personal debt to anyone – he wouldn’t have arranged it that way. But that statement leaves open the distinct possibility that entities controlled by Trump have Russian debt.

    It’s also quite possible that Russian investment or loans were made through companies incorporated elsewhere (even US ones). Trump wouldn’t be above hiding behind that technicality.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  66. JohnMcC says:

    @wr: I forget where I ran across this nugget so cannot vouch for its accuracy but I read somewhere that Pres Trump is 6′ 1″ but wears shoes with platforms that add an inch to his height. This was in reference to his obvious discomfort at going down steps. It’s interesting to see him come down the stairs from AF1, clutching the handrail and looking down carefully as he places his feet one-by-one and pausing at the landing that usually is there. It’s one strong contrast with Pres Obama who dashed up and down the stairs with some alacrity and grace.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  67. DrDaveT says:

    @Moosebreath:

    And in other news, Trump’s lawyer confirms that Trump’s tax returns have no income from Russia “with very few exceptions”.

    LOL. Seriously!?

    As always, Monty Python is relevant:

    Dear Sir, I am glad to hear that your studio audience disapproves of the last skit as strongly as I. As a naval officer I abhor the implication that the Royal Navy is a haven for cannibalism. It is well known that we have the problem relatively under control, and that it is the R.A.F. who now suffer the largest casualties in this area.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  68. pylon says:

    @pylon: Further to my above post, I see the actual text of the lawyer’s letter is more specific on my first point. It doesn’t address the second though.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  69. Mikey says:

    @Moosebreath:

    And in other news, Trump’s lawyer confirms that Trump’s tax returns have no income from Russia “with very few exceptions”.

    Seen on Twitter: “Bill Clinton was entirely faithful to Hillary, with very few exceptions.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  70. teve tory says:

    Driving through Kansas yesterday I caught the tail end of a radio show. “Well there you have it, our callers are pretty much unanimous. Everybody still supports Our President, despite what the democrats are trying to do to him.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  71. Mikey says:

    @teve tory: And this is why it is so damned difficult to maintain any hope at all.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  72. michael reynolds says:

    @JohnMcC:
    He has to be careful to avoid slipping on his own slime trail.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  73. rachel says:

    @JohnMcC:

    Sarah Sanders made a straightforward declarative statement at today’s presser. I’ll paraphrase — ‘we want the Russia investigation brought to a quick end with integrity and we think dismissing Director Comey made that likely.’

    I think it will, but not remotely in the way they expect.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  74. Moosebreath says:

    @rachel:

    I think that only works if you remove the word “quick”. An ending with integrity is likely to be slow and painful.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  75. rachel says:

    @Moosebreath: No, I think dismissing Comey is going to bring the end faster than otherwise would have happened. Do you think the FBI is going to passively accept this attack on a member of their tribe? I don’t. Trump has made it personal to them, and they are going to look for payback every way they can get it.

    That’s not even mentioning that lunatic Hold interview and those Comey-aimed tweets where Trump continues to add insult to injury.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  76. Moosebreath says:

    @rachel:

    “Do you think the FBI is going to passively accept this attack on a member of their tribe? I don’t. Trump has made it personal to them, and they are going to look for payback every way they can get it.”

    While I don’t disagree with you, I don’t see why this will make the endgame anything other than slow and painful. Do you think it will push Trump onto a course which ends this quickly? If so, how? And why?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  77. wr says:

    @JohnMcC: You’d think he’d be used to the shoes by now… I hate to give Trump anything, but I’m willing to believe that the difference in stair-speed has more to do with the two-decades difference in their ages…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  78. Mikey says:

    @wr: And the fact Obama is slim and fit, while Trump…well, I don’t know how much he actually weights, but “he looks like 250 pounds of chewed bubble gum” is probably close to accurate.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  79. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @pylon:

    Let’s just say that certain Russians and Ukrainians seem to buy an awful lot of (still empty) apartments in Trump buildings

    And they always seem to pay below market for them

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0