We’re getting more clarity on where Republicans are ending up after a bruising, punishing 36 hours. Republicans are now reportedly debating whether to push for an independent prosecutor or commission, two demands Democrats have made for weeks or months but which almost all Republicans have heretofore refused. They seem almost universally to be calling to see the Comey memos and hear from Comey himself as soon as possible. Wanting to hear more from Comey – either from his memos or his testimony is an obvious position for Republicans since it covers all the possible bases and leaves freedom to maneuver as the situation becomes more clear. They’re not condemning or defending. They just want to hear more. They can interpret that as condemnation or defense later, as more facts reveal themselves. The upshot of tonight, I think, is that Republicans collectively decided to get out of the way. They’re not attacking Trump. But they’re also no longer standing in the way or blocking more investigations. For now at least they seem to saying: you’re going to need to handle this on your own.

UNITED STATES - MAY 9: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., talks with reporters before the Senate Policy Luncheons in the Capitol on May 9, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

We are, to put it mildly, in a weird, liminal moment. The Times Comey blockbuster is less than three hours old, now confirmed in its essentials by a handful of other publications. The White House released a statement which amounted to a flat denial. But so far, with the exception of that first response contained in the written statement, there’s been radio silence from the White House.
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President Donald Trump meets Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Oval Office of the White House, Tuesday, May 16, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

With the latest revelation – that President Trump straight up asked James Comey to end the Flynn investigation – this is starting to feel like a prize fight where one boxer just took three straight punches to the head. It’s hard to know how much longer this can go on. But I suspect the answer is this: a lot longer.

We talk a lot about smoke and fire. But this isn’t smoke. This is the fire. It’s not clear to me what more we need to know. The only question is whether we decide to put it out or just let it keep burning. As I said above, I bet we’re going to let it burn for quite a while longer.
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President Donald Trump XXXX Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan xxxx at the White House, Tuesday, May 16, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

We now have a report that the allied intelligence service whose intelligence President Trump shared with Sergei Lavrov was an Israeli intelligence agency. My best guess was Jordan. Shows what I know.

What is remarkable about this is that reports in the Israeli press from January said that US intelligence officials had warned their Israeli counterparts about sharing intelligence with President Trump because of fears he might share such intelligence with Russia.

Really.
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Thanks to everyone who signed up for Prime last week. With the news crisis, not to mention the arguable national crisis of the Comey firing, I wanted to be sure I and the whole team could focus entirely on the news. How could I have guessed that in the accelerating Trump New Normal, there’s a new shocking news story/national crisis to kick off each week? No one could have guessed! Anyway, we’ve now signed up 720 new subscribers so far this month. That puts us in shooting distance of our goal of 1000 new subscribers this month and our goal of 10,000 new subscribers by the end of 2017. Our annual sign up drive kicks off next month. Get a head start now! Just click right here. And thanks!

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster speaks during a briefing at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, May 16, 2017. President Donald Trump claimed the authority to share "facts pertaining to terrorism" and airline safety with Russia, saying in a pair of tweets he has "an absolute right" as president to do so. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

We were just watching General McMaster’s press conference – which has taken the place of Sean Spicer’s briefing today. The key take away is that McMaster is essentially conceding the accuracy of last night’s reporting (first from the Post and later confirmed by other outlets) but saying that in the context it was okay. It was appropriate. Notably, when it comes to specifics, he is hiding behind classification to refuse to give further answers.
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A few moments ago Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared on cameras and gave a response to the Lavrov blockbuster which captured in two or three sentences the essential cynicism of the current Republican position on the moral and strategic implosion of the Trump presidency.
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This one I can really only capture in images.

Note that Trump is not only confirming the essence of the Post story. He has already seized upon the constitutional and legal fact that as President if he shares information it means he decided to declassify it.

Note: If the text isn’t quite legible, click the title to go to the full page version of this post.

President Donald Trump meets with Russian Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, in the White House in Washington, Wednesday, May 10, 2017. At right is Russian Ambassador to USA Sergei Kislyak. President Donald Trump on Wednesday welcomed Vladimir Putin's top diplomat to the White House for Trump’s highest level face-to-face contact with a Russian government official since he took office in January. (Russian Foreign Ministry Photo via AP)

Despite nominal denials from the White House, it seems clear that The Washington Post blockbuster about President Trump’s meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak is accurate and may even understate what transpired last week. Numerous other news organizations have now independently verified the Post’s report.

Why did this happen exactly?
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The Washington Post has just dropped a major story on what went down in that Trump/Sergei Lavrov Oval Office meeting last week. According to the Post, in that meeting, Trump went “off script” and provided Lavrov and Ambassador Sergei highly classified intelligence on the inner workings of the Islamic State. This is a move – if it occurred as described – that would likely gotten any other government official fired and possibly indicted. 
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FBI Director James Comey testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 3, 2017, before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing: "Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation." (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

It was reported on Friday that James Comey has declined to testify before the Senate unless he can do so in open session (and presumably only in open session). The motivation seems pretty clear: Comey wants his version of events aired in public and not kept under wraps or (the bigger issue, I think) subjected to the interpretations of senators who discuss the testimony with the press.

But this is a good moment to discuss a broader issue about Comey, which I think this illustrates.
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Barry Strauss is Professor of History and Classics, Bryce and Edith M. Bowmar Professor in Humanistic Studies at Cornell University, and a military and naval historian and consultant. Barry will be in The Hive Thursday May 18th at 1 PM EST for a chat about leaders of the ancient world, and corporate leadership in today’s world. Submit your questions below at any time or feel free to join us on Thursday! If you’d like to participate but don’t have TPM Prime, sign up here.

Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump listens to a question during an interview after a rally in Virginia Beach, Va., Monday, July 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

President Trump’s personal tax lawyers have now provided a letter, released by the White House today, which in essence says President Trump has no financial ties with Russia. There have been reports in recent days that the President’s tax lawyers were preparing such a letter, in part for Sen. Lindsey Graham. The letter is dated March 8, more than two months ago. How that comports with its release today and what we’d been led to believe about its recent preparation, I have no idea. But I wanted to share a few thoughts on what the letter does or doesn’t mean.
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As is no surprise, we’re now hearing the first accounts of James Comey’s recollections of his interactions with the President. Today, President Trump (not terribly plausibly) claimed that Comey three times assured him he was not under investigation. The first assurance came in a private dinner; the next two came in phone conversations. Comey’s version, not surprisingly, differs from Trump’s. But just as interesting as the recollections is the date.
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Yesterday I let you know, flatly and deliberately, about the importance of our 2017 Prime sign up goal and how, candidly, it would be no end of help to me if people who are considering signing up could sign up now. Since this would help me focus on writing about the Comey firing and possible, subsequent, collapse of the American republic. You came through! 229 new subscribers signed up yesterday! Thank you. That is just a decent dent in the 10,000 new subscribers we need to sign up by the end of 2017. But it’s a great number for a single day. So thank you. Bigly. Want to sign up now? Click right here. Better reading experience, major karmic boost.