July 23, 2021, 3:55 pm

TPM Reader JL walks us through the data points …

1. The ferocity of the upsurge, at least as measured by new cases has taken me aback to a large degree. Ashish Jha and Scott Gottlieb are my go to sources and I don’t think they expected to see this kind of upsurge in cases.

2. That said, I think you put your finger the other day on a key issue, i.e., that it’s really hard to know how we should be measuring cases among the vaccinated. The line between mild/asymptomatic and the antibodies did exactly what they were supposed to do but there’s enough Covid particles for a positive PCR test is not just blurry but almost impossible to define.

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-Josh Marshall
July 23, 2021, 3:44 pm

Differential vaccine uptake is clearly playing a dominant in COVID severity across the country. But I also think behavior – including but not limited to masks – is playing a bigger role that some imagine. From TPM Reader RS

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-Josh Marshall
July 23, 2021, 1:51 pm
Tom Barrack, former Deputy Interior Undersecretary in the Reagan administration, and CEO of Colony Capital, delivers a speech on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.

I wanted to bring this story by Josh Kovensky to your attention.

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-David Kurtz
July 23, 2021, 1:12 pm

Some are staying silent. Others think it’s none of your business. A handful are shamelessly promoting anti-vax rhetoric.

Half of House Republicans will not share their vaccination status, or openly refuse to get the shot.

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-Nicole Lafond
July 23, 2021, 12:32 pm

According to Brett Kelman, health care reporter for The Tennessean, the state of Tennessee has completely reversed its decision to discontinue near all forms of adolescent vaccine advocacy. “We put a pause on many things, and then we have resumed all of those,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey. This decision was a huge story little more than a week ago. Now it’s being completely reversed.

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-Josh Marshall
July 22, 2021, 3:09 pm

I thought I was done with poring over COVID case data. Things change.

I took a look at what is happening in the US on a state by state basis. It’s stunning to see. The best metric for prevalence of COVID is number of cases adjusted for population. Specifically, I’m looking at the number of new cases over a seven day period per 100,000 residents. Through this prism the crisis is overwhelmingly concentrated in three contiguous states along the Mississippi River: Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana. Plus Florida.

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-Josh Marshall
July 22, 2021, 1:38 pm
on May 10, 2016 in Washington, DC.

The Justice Department and the White House have been seeking to put some distance between each other since President Biden first took office. But Attorney General Merrick Garland made it official on Wednesday.

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-Nicole Lafond
July 22, 2021, 12:07 pm

Even Joe noticed …

-Josh Marshall
July 22, 2021, 11:09 am

A new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast is now live! This week, while discussing the fate of the bipartisan infrastructure package, Josh and Kate react in real-time to the news that Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected some of Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s picks for the Jan. 6 committee.

Watch below and email us your theme song submissions and questions for next week’s episode.

You can listen to the new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast here.

-Jackie Wilhelm
July 22, 2021, 9:22 am

Interesting and disappointing news that the NYPD uniformed and civilian workforce significantly lags the city’s rate of vaccination. An NYPD spokesperson told the New York Post that 43% of the agency’s workforce has been vaccinated. The city’s rate is 53%. Obviously not all city cops live in New York City. But the vaccination rate in the state overall is even higher – 56%.

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-Josh Marshall
July 22, 2021, 8:51 am

Remember how Arizona’s Maricopa County had to decertify and junk most of its election equipment because it had been compromised by the “audit” folks. Well, now the same thing has happened to a county in Pennsylvania.

-Josh Marshall
July 21, 2021, 2:55 pm

The upshot of McCarthy’s decision to withdraw all his nominees from the Jan 6th committee is that the committee will only include people who want to investigate the insurrection. It would have been a mistake not to allow the Republicans to be represented on the committee. But having refused good faith participation, Republicans not being there is a good thing. It’s good that Liz Cheney is there. It would be good if there were other Republicans who were actually in support of a real investigation were there. But McCarthy won’t allow that. So here we are. This is the best outcome.

-Josh Marshall
July 21, 2021, 2:00 pm

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision this morning to boot the two Jims from her January 6 select committee was quite the power play.

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-Nicole Lafond
July 21, 2021, 10:55 am
MELBOURNE, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES - 2021/05/17: A nurse gives Sherri Trimble, 15, a shot of the vaccine at a vaccination clinic at Health First Medical Centre.On May 12, 2021, the CDC approved the use of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine in 12 through 15-year-old adolescents. Vaccinating this age group is seen as a keyway for middle and high schools to reopen fully by this fall. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

I’ve had a slew of people asking me what’s behind the apparent about face on vaccination and COVID generally from so many rightwing influencers, media luminaries and officeholders. You’ve also sent in a bunch of emails. I’ll be publishing some of them today. I continue to be baffled by the apparent about-face.

The switcheroo is reminiscent of when the rightwing networks started putting out canned statements recanting any suggestion that voting machine companies had rigged the election. Lots of people are saying they may be reacting to some as yet unknown lawsuit. But that really doesn’t add up. Unless I’m really missing something there’s no entity that would have any standing to sue anyone or plausible shot at winning a case. So it really can’t be that.

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-Josh Marshall
July 20, 2021, 4:57 pm

Fox News hosts go full vaccine.

Hannity Monday night: “I can’t say it enough. Enough people have died. It absolutely makes sense for many Americans to get vaccinated. I believe in science, I believe in vaccine science.”

Chris Ruddy, owner of Newsmax, announces Biden is doing a totally awesome job with the vaccines which are great.

After months of stalling Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R) gets vaccinated, calls it “safe and effective.”

Right wing homunculus Ben Shapiro: “Get vaxxed. I did. My wife did. My parents did.”

I think my colleague Nicole LaFond get at the heart of what’s going on here in this passage below.

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-Josh Marshall
July 20, 2021, 3:44 pm
onstage during the 7th Biennial UNICEF Ball on April 14, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California.

This big indictment of Trump confidante Tom Barrack is not anything I had on my dance card for today or any time in the future. But as Josh Kovensky suggests in our first write up of this news Barrack had his hands in all sorts of stuff in the Trump world so legal trouble was never hard to imagine. The investigation people were expecting he’d get in trouble for was the one into the Trump inaugural, that Barrack chaired.

Barrack is the guy who put Trump together with Paul Manafort when Manafort was desperate for the gig. He was also at the center of the feeding frenzy of Gulf governments and plutocrats attracted to the fee-for-service culture surrounding the Trump campaign. Barrack was in the mix in numerous parts of the Trump-Russia story but never quite at the center of it.

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-Josh Marshall
July 20, 2021, 1:58 pm
at FOX Studios on August 31, 2015 in New York City.

It started with “Fox and Friends” host Steve Doocy on Monday morning, urging viewers to get the COVID-19 vaccine because it will “save your life” — all while his co-host Brian Kilmeade hedged that “we’re not doctors” and said the network anchors aren’t going to “go there and give you other medical advice.” (FWIW, Doocy has been a encouraging viewers to get the shot for some time now, unlike some of his co-hosts.)

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-Nicole Lafond
July 20, 2021, 1:42 pm

I made this point yesterday. I wanted to restate it here and add some further points: The best and most equitable path forward is to restrict non-essential public activities to those who are vaccinated or have non-subjective medical reasons for not being vaccinated.

Now, I say this recognizing that in our current political reality this is highly unlikely to happen. Red states won’t do this and rightwing courts will limit our ability to do this at the federal and state level. But it is important to understand and articulate what the right policy is even if it can’t or won’t be implemented fully. You cannot get anywhere without at least knowing where you are trying to go. At present we are in the perverse position of beginning to add new burdens to the vaccinated/responsible population (mask mandates) to make up for the persistent irresponsibility of the non-vaccinated. The social cost of low vaccination rates should be borne as much as possible by those causing the problem, the voluntarily unvaccinated. So restrict non-essential public activities to those who are vaccinated.

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-Josh Marshall
July 20, 2021, 11:28 am

From a TPM Reader …

Watching anti-vaxx harden into a MAGA/GOP loyalty test reminds me, yet again, of an important insight into: Trump’s is a follower of the right-wing irreality, not its leader. And the way we know this to be true is that, if Trump had the power to sway (and not simply surf) the conservative outrage mob, it would have been in his interest to claim credit for developing the vaccines. He can’t because he doesn’t have that ability to do so. Trump is good at getting his name on things that he didn’t build. That’s the best way to understand Trumpism, too.

This isn’t totally right. But there’s a lot in it that is right.

-Josh Marshall
July 20, 2021, 9:03 am

The insider sheets this morning paint Chuck Schumer and Senate Democrats in a pretty tough bind, with Republicans holding most or all of the cards. Schumer is creating a put up or shut up moment for the bipartisan mini-bill by scheduling the first of several votes on the deal for this Wednesday. If Republicans don’t produce 10 votes, either 500 billion or a trillion of ‘hard’ infrastructure falls by the wayside and that in turn endangers the series of compromises that gets all 50 Democratic Senators lined up for the big infrastructure reconciliation package where most of the big progressive priorities are housed.

But this misstates the dynamics at play or rather places the initiative or leverage in Republican hands more than it is. Coverage in the big outfits like the Post seems entirely oblivious to this part of the story and takes Republican stalling tactics at face value, as no more than good faith efforts to write legislative language. Let’s start with the reality that this will be a months long, really complicated process. Democrats have to carry all of it alone with Republicans trying to upend it at every stage. Schumer is pressing forward aggressively now both because Republicans don’t hold the deciding hand here and to ensure that they don’t.

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-Josh Marshall
July 19, 2021, 2:54 pm

Republicans ask for more time to stall bipartisan mini-bill.

-Josh Marshall
July 19, 2021, 1:46 pm

Hardcore Trump rallygoer and bit player insurrectionist quoted in The Washington Post: “It just looked so neat. We weren’t there to steal things. We weren’t there to do damage. We were just there to overthrow the government.”

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-Josh Marshall
July 19, 2021, 1:27 pm

Texas House Democrats venture to D.C. is not only keeping the state from passing restrictive voting laws during the state’s special session. It’s also at least temporarily blocking the state legislature from passing a new law that would further discourage teachers from discussing race and systemic racism in Texas classrooms.

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-Nicole Lafond
July 19, 2021, 11:34 am

We’re now more than two weeks into Donald Trump publicly insisting that the January 6th insurrection was a righteous act and that the federal government must free and/or drop charges against everyone involved. He also continues to demand retribution against the Capitol Police officer who shot Ashli Babbitt while defending Congress was the attack. To date, none of the journalists with access have pressed any congressional Republicans to respond to these demands from the leader of their political party.

Getting or recording responses is a major priority for us this week. If you see any examples in print or electronic media please contact us with details.

-Josh Marshall
July 19, 2021, 11:08 am

The Republican plan in the Senate for months has been to cause delay and create uncertainty. As Democrats got behind a global reconciliation outline last week, Republicans insisted they needed more time to finalize the bipartisan mini-bill. Now Chuck Schumer says it’s got to come to a vote this week. No more delays. We’re live-blogging that story is it unfolds on Capitol Hill.

-Josh Marshall
July 19, 2021, 10:26 am

There’s no longer any question. We’re in the midst of a wave of new COVID infections, driven largely by the highly contagious Delta variant. Little more than a month ago Israel’s daily case count was in the single digits. It’s now crested over 1,000 a day. Great Britain has seen a similar trajectory and cases counts are rising rapidly in almost every US state. And these are only the parts of the world that have the luxury of widely available vaccines. But in those highly vaccinated countries, the chained relationship between infection, hospitalization and mortality has also clearly been broken. So are we heading back to something like we saw in the Spring of 2020 or the winter of 2020-21 or are reacting to infection numbers in a way that is simply outdated in the context of widespread vaccination?

Many public health experts and officials will tell you that this is the point of vaccines: to prevent death and serious illness, not notional infections which may cause no symptoms at all. Indeed, there’s a real debate about what constitutes infection or cases of COIVD. COVID can briefly take hold and reproduce in a person’s nasal cavity and upper respiratory system before being knocked down by effective vaccines. That will produce a positive result on a PCR COVID test. But it’s an open question whether we should be treating that as an infection or a case of COVID for the purposes of setting public policy or judging our success in emerging from the pandemic.

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-Josh Marshall
July 17, 2021, 1:36 pm

I’ve written repeatedly over recent months about the politics of opacity in the Biden era. The debates that are in public are largely performative. The consequential conversations are among Senate Democrats and between Senate Democrats and the Biden White House. They are necessarily confidential and private. People who follow politics closely and feel deeply invested in the outcomes find themselves asked to take things on faith. Why didn’t they get to Wednesday’s milestone in April rather than the middle of summer? Why are Democrats still trying to find bipartisan ‘deals’ Republicans will always renege on.

I wanted to have a conversation with someone up there who can walk us through, at least in general terms, just how all this stuff is working and why it works that way. So yesterday we hosted an Inside Briefing with Sen. Brian Schatz (D) of Hawaii. We talked about all these questions and it provided a lot of helpful context to understand why these work as they do even if you don’t think it’s a good way for them to work. I learned a lot from it and I think you will too.

If you’re a member, you can watch our discussion after the jump.

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-Josh Marshall
July 17, 2021, 10:15 am

From TPM Reader PT

It’s worth pausing every so often to admire (if that’s the right word) the sheer insanity of the pandemic situation in the United States. Specifically: despite the widespread availability of vaccines for Covid; despite the fact that the vaccines are free; despite the fact that they are astonishingly effective at preventing a disease that is frequently fatal and often results in long-term disability; despite the fact that mass vaccination is clearly the only way we’re going to get out of the Covid pandemic that doesn’t involve mass suffering and trauma on an unimaginable scale; nonetheless, the US vaccination campaign is failing.

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-Josh Marshall
July 16, 2021, 1:52 pm
on May 4, 2017 in Washington, DC.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) met with the former president in New Jersey yesterday to discuss the midterms — the second such meeting the two have held since McCarthy announced from the House floor that Trump deserved at least some blame for the insurrection.

[Read More]

-Nicole Lafond
July 16, 2021, 9:08 am

Senate Dems kick off Era of Good Infrastructure Feelings in the Senate. Kate has the story.

-Josh Marshall
x

ComeyWire

Trump Jr. Says Dad Asked Comey About Flynn Probe, Though He Denies Doing So

Donald Trump Jr., executive vice president of The Trump Organization, discusses the expansion of Trump hotels, Monday, June 5, 2017, in New York.  The Trump Organization is launching a new mid-market hotel chain called "American Ideas." The president's son said the new chain will start with three hotels in Mississippi. The president's son says inspiration for the chain came from traveling through America during his father's presidential campaign. The company also says the first of dozens of hotels in another new Trump chain called Scion is under construction in Mississippi, too. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Donald Trump Jr. on Saturday said that his father did speak to fired FBI Director James Comey about his preferred outcome for the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, though President Donald Trump flatly denied doing so.

“When I hear the Flynn comments, you and I know both know my father for a long time. When he tells you to do something, guess what? There’s no ambiguity in it,” Trump Jr. told Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro. “There’s no ‘Hey, I’m hoping. You and I are friends. Hey, I hope this happens, but you’ve got to do your job.’ That’s what he told Comey.”

On Friday, however, the President flatly denied making those remarks to Comey or pressuring him to drop the investigation into Flynn, implicitly or otherwise.

“You said you hoped the Flynn investigation he could let go,” ABC News’ Jon Karl asked Trump during a press conference.

“I didn’t say that,” Trump interrupted.

“So he lied about that?” Karl asked, referring to Comey.

“Well, I didn’t say that,” Trump said. “And I mean I will you tell you I didn’t say that.”

But, he added, “There would be nothing wrong if I did say it, according to everybody that I’ve read today, but I did not say that.”

Trump Jr. on Saturday claimed that “everything that went on in the Comey testimony was basically ridiculous.”

“For this guy as a politician to then go back and write a memo, ‘oh, I felt,’ he felt so threatened, he felt that — but he didn’t do anything!” Trump Jr. said.

Comey’s blockbuster testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, however, prompted Trump to offer to do the same.

Trump Turns Ire At Leakers Against Comey, Suggests There Is More To Come

President Donald Trump, accompanied by Romanian President Klaus Werner Iohannis, speaks during a news conference in the Rose Garden at the White House, Friday, June 9, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

President Donald Trump on Sunday suggested that there are more revelations to come from fired FBI Director James Comey, and questioned their legality.

“I believe the James Comey leaks will be far more prevalent than anyone ever thought possible,” Trump tweeted early Sunday morning. “Totally illegal? Very ‘cowardly!'”

Trump made similar remarks on Friday in another early morning tweet where he labeled Comey a “leaker,” referring to Comey’s decision to share the contents of memos about his conversations with Trump to the press via a friend.

Comey revealed that decision during his testimony on Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee, where he painted Trump as a liar and testified that Trump tried to obtain a loyalty pledge from the former FBI head and pushed him to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Trump on Friday said he was “100 percent” willing to match Comey and testify under oath to contradict Comey’s testimony.

Jeff Sessions Pushes Back On Parts Of Comey’s Testimony

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, right, accompanied by White House press secretary Sean Spicer, left, talks to the media during the daily press briefing at the White House, Monday, March 27, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

A spokesman for Attorney General Jeff Sessions late Thursday pushed back on several aspects of James Comey’s Senate testimony after the former FBI director raised new questions about Sessions’ actions before and after he recused himself from the federal investigation of Russia’s interference in the U.S. election.

Comey’s testimony touched on Sessions at several points. He hinted that the FBI was aware of information that led the bureau to believe Sessions would recuse himself from the Russia probe weeks before he actually did so, and reportedly told senators in a subsequent closed session that Sessions may have met with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. on a third occasion that the attorney general had not disclosed.

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Trump Claims ‘Vindication’ After Comey Rakes Him Over Coals

President Donald Trump announces the approval of a permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline, clearing the way for the $8 billion project, Friday, March 24, 2017, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The morning after former FBI Director James Comey delivered blockbuster testimony in the Senate in which he painted President Donald Trump as a liar and said that the President pressured him to quash a probe into Michael Flynn, Trump published a tweet declaring “vindication.”

Trump published his tweet shortly after 6 a.m. on Friday morning, during the time frame when he typically shares his thoughts on Twitter.

He referenced “false statements and lies,” appearing to accuse Comey of lying under oath.

Trump also labeled Comey a “leaker,” referencing Comey’s decision to get a friend to share the contents of memos about his conversations with Trump to the press, a revelation the former FBI director shared on Thursday during with the Senate Intelligence Committee.

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Is Trump Under Federal Scrutiny NOW? Comey Testimony Leaves Door Open

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)

James Comey testified Thursday that he was “stunned” by requests President Donald Trump made to curtail federal investigations related to Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and thought the President’s remarks were of investigative interest— and it seems other senior FBI officials agree.

Though the ousted FBI director did not go as far as accusing Trump of attempting to obstruct justice, Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee offered the clearest indication yet that the President may already be under scrutiny for exactly that.

Part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s job is to “sort that out,” Comey said, dismissing questions from the assembled senators on whether he personally believed Trump obstructed justice. His testimony made the case for why he felt “sure” that Mueller would look into the multiple one-on-one conversations that Trump requested of his then-FBI director.

Comey says Trump asked him to quash the FBI’s investigation into ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn in one Feb. 14 exchange in the Oval Office. In a March 30 phone call, Comey says Trump requested that he lift the “cloud” that the Russia probe was casting over his administration.

“I don’t think it’s for me to say whether the conversation I had with the President was an effort to obstruct,” Comey said of the Feb. 14 meeting. “I took it as a very disturbing thing, very concerning, but that’s a conclusion I’m sure the special counsel will work towards to try and understand what the intention was there, and whether that’s an offense.”

Importantly, Comey noted that Trump asked other senior officials, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, to clear the room before initiating the conversation about the Flynn probe. He noted those officials hesitated before complying.

“Why did he kick everybody out of the Oval Office?” Comey said. “That, to me as an investigator, is a very significant fact.”

Senior FBI officials briefed on that conversation said it was “of investigative interest” to determine the intent of Trump’s statements about Flynn, Comey testified.

Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe made similar remarks in separate testimony before the committee on Wednesday, telling Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) that it was “accurate” to assume that Comey’s private conversations with Trump either already are or are “likely to become part of a criminal investigation.”

These loaded comments apparently did not trouble Trump’s legal team or his defenders on Capitol Hill, who insisted that Comey’s testimony actually vindicated the President. They noted that, as Trump previously said, Comey confirmed that he informed Trump on three separate occasions that the President was not the subject of a counterintelligence investigation.

Republican lawmakers, the White House and Trump’s own family members also argued that the President was merely looking out for the interest of Flynn, a longtime adviser, and never explicitly ordered Comey to end any investigation. Those defenders neglected to mention that Comey testified that a senior FBI official cautioned him against telling Trump he was not a part of the federal investigation, because that person believed that “inevitably his behavior, his conduct will fall within the scope.”

Whether Trump requested or ordered that Comey drop the investigation into Flynn is an irrelevant semantic distinction. As Comey testified, Trump asked him to swear “loyalty” and repeatedly brought up the status of his job in their conversations, leaving the former FBI director with the impression that his continued tenure at the bureau was “contingent upon how he felt I conducted myself and whether I demonstrated loyalty.”

He did not comply with Trump’s requests and was fired only four months into Trump’s term. By the President’s own admission, Comey was dismissed because of the “Russia thing.”

“I was fired in some way to change, or the endeavor was to change, the way the Russia investigation was being conducted,” Comey testified. “That is a very big deal.”

Schiff: ‘Hard To Overstate The Significance’ Of Comey Testimony

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, speaks after a closed meeting on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, June 6, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee said Thursday that it was “hard to overstate the significance” of fired FBI Director James Comey’s testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), whose committee is leading its own investigation into Russian election meddling, wrote in a statement responding to Comey’s testimony that it “constitutes evidence of an intention to interfere or potentially obstruct at least a portion of the Russia investigation, if not more.”

Read Schiff’s full statement below:

“Today, former FBI Director James Comey testified that the President of the United States demanded his loyalty, and directed him to drop a criminal investigation into his former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn. Director Comey further testified that he believes President Trump ultimately fired him in order to alter the course of the FBI’s Russia investigation. It is difficult to overstate the significance of this testimony.

“These discussions and others took place in one-on-one telephone conversions and meetings initiated by the President, or after the President cleared the room of other people. Director Comey wrote memoranda about his conversations with President Trump because he was worried that the President and his Administration would misrepresent them.

“In my view, this testimony constitutes evidence of an intention to interfere or potentially obstruct at least a portion of the Russia investigation, if not more. It will be important for Congress to obtain evidence to corroborate this testimony — the memoranda, certainly, as well as any tapes, if they exist. We should also interview those around Director Comey at the time of these contacts, to get their contemporaneous impressions of his conversations with the President and to supplement his testimony. Finally, we cannot accept the refusal of Directors Rogers and Coats to answer questions about whether they were asked to intervene with Comey on the Flynn case or any related matter. Similarly, we will need to ask Director Pompeo the same questions. These additional steps are vital to determining the ultimate significance of the President’s actions.”

Dem Senator To Question Sessions Tuesday About Comey Allegations

A routine budget hearing in the Senate next week featuring Attorney General Jeff Sessions took on heightened importance following ousted FBI Director James Comey’s explosive Thursday testimony, which raised questions about what Sessions did both before and after he recused himself from the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

At least one member of the Appropriations Committee, Vice Chair Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), plans to use next week’s budget hearing as an opportunity to grill Sessions about Russia, Comey and President Donald Trump. “I have many important questions for him to answer,” he said in a statement.

[Read More]

Here’s What We Learned From James Comey’s Blockbuster Testimony

Former FBI Director James Comey is sworn in during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Thursday, June 8, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

During his feverishly-anticipated testimony Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee, ousted FBI Director James Comey made a host of major revelations about his handling of President Donald Trump and the federal investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election in the months before he was abruptly fired in May.

Importantly, Comey disclosed new information about actions he took when he became concerned about the Trump administration’s attempts to establish a “patronage” relationship with him and persuade him to drop the FBI investigation into former national security adviser Mike Flynn. Here’s an overview of some of the most significant moments from the hearing, where Comey revealed exactly what steps he took and why he took them.

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Comey Repeatedly Emphasized The Gravity Of Russia’s Election Meddling

Former FBI Director James Comey speaks during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Thursday, June 8, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Throughout his testimony Thursday, former FBI Director James Comey repeatedly stressed the serious implications of Russia’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 election. He argued that the issue of Russian meddling it not about politics, but about the credibility of the American government.

Toward the beginning of the hearing, Comey said that he has no doubt that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 election and that Russian government officials were aware of the meddling.

He later stressed that Russian interference is very real, countering President Donald Trump’s constant dismissals of the Russia probe.

Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) asked Comey about the way Trump has discussed Russia’s election meddling, noting that the President has described Russian interference “as a hoax and as fake news.” In response, Comey stressed that there’s no doubt that the Russian government tried to interfere in the 2016 election and that the conclusion on Russia’s actions is “about as unfake as you can possibly get.”

“There should be no fuzz on this whatsoever. The Russians interfered in our election during the 2016 cycle. They did it with purpose. They did it with sophistication. They did it with overwhelming technical efforts. And it was an active measures campaign driven from the top of the government. There is no fuzz on that,” Comey said.

“It is a high confidence judgment of the entire intelligence community — and the members of this committee have seen the intelligence — it’s not a close call,” he continued. “That happened. That’s about as unfake as you can possibly get and is very, very serious, which is why it’s so refreshing to see a bipartisan focus on that. Because this is about America, not about any particular party.”

Asked if it was a “hostile act by the Russian government,” Comey replied, “Yes.”

Later in his testimony, Comey emphasized that Russia’s attempt to meddle in the election is a threat to the United States and should rise above politics. He delivered a passionate monologue about just how grave a threat Russia’s meddling is to America.

“The reason this is such a big deal is we have this big, messy, wonderful country where we fight with each other all the time but nobody tells us what to think, what to fight about, what to vote for, except other Americans. And that’s wonderful and often painful,” Comey said. “But we’re talking about a foreign government that — using technical intrusion, lots of other methods — tried to shape the way we think, we vote, we act.”

“That is a big deal. And people need to recognize it. It’s not about Republicans or Democrats. They’re coming after America, which I hope we all love equally,” he continued. “They want to undermine our credibility in the face of the world. They think that this great experiment of ours is a threat to them. And so they’re going to try to run it down and dirty it up as much as possible. That’s what this is about. And they will be back, because we remain — as difficult as we can be with each other — we remain that shining city on the hill and they don’t like it.”

The former FBI director also noted that Russia’s attempt to interfere in the 2016 election was part of an ongoing effort targeted at the U.S.

“It’s a long-term practice of theirs. It stepped up a notch in a significant way in ’16. They’ll be back,” he told the Senate Intelligence Committee.

He stressed that the probe into Russian election meddling is also about prevention of future attacks, saying that Russia is not a threat to any one political party, but to the country as a whole.

Comey also addressed some of the details of the the FBI’s investigation into Russian hacking attempts. He said there was a “massive” effort to target government agencies and non-governmental groups, estimating that hundreds, possibly around 1,000, entities were targeted. He also said that the FBI never examined the hardware that was hacked at the Democratic National Committee’s, but that the FBI got the information they needed from a third party.

McCain On His Comey Questions: Maybe I Shouldn’t Stay Up Late For Baseball

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on Thursday reflected ruefully on his questions to fired FBI Director James Comey during an open session of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“I get the sense from Twitter that my line of questioning today went over people’s heads,” McCain said in a statement. “Maybe going forward I shouldn’t stay up late watching the Diamondbacks night games.”

McCain said he wanted to find out whether Comey believed “that any of his interactions with the President rise to the level of obstruction of justice.”

“While I missed an opportunity in today’s hearing, I still believe this question is important, and I intend to submit it in writing to Mr. Comey for the record,” he said.

Trump’s Lawyer: President Didn’t Pressure Comey To Drop Flynn Probe

Marc Kasowitz personal attorney of President Donald Trump  makes a statement following the congressional testimony of former FBI Director James Comey at the National Press Club in Washington, Thursday, June 8, 2017.    (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Responding to fired FBI Director James Comey’s testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee Thursday, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer denied that Trump pressured Comey to drop the federal investigation into ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

“[T]he President never, in form or substance, directed or suggested that Mr. Comey stop investigating anyone, including — the President never suggested that Mr. Comey quote, let Flynn go, close quote,” Marc Kasowitz, Trump’s lawyer, said at a press briefing Thursday, reading from prepared remarks.

He later addressed Comey’s written recollection that the President had asked for his “loyalty.”

“The President also never told Mr. Comey, quote, I need loyalty, I expect loyalty, close quote. He never said it in form, and he never said it in substance,” Kasowitz said.

But, Kasowitz  hedged, “Of course, the Office of the President is entitled to expect loyalty from those who are serving the administration.”

Kasowitz’s focus, it seemed, was on Comey’s admission that he had given his written recollection of a meeting with Trump to a friend of his, and had asked the friend to provide the New York Times with the information.

“[F]rom before this President took office to this day, it is overwhelmingly clear that there have been and continue to be those in government who are actively attempting to undermine this administration with selective and illegal leaks of classified information and privileged communications,” Kasowitz said. “Mr. Comey has now admitted that he is one of these leakers.”

He added later: “We will leave it to the appropriate authorities to determine whether these leaks should be investigated along with all the others that are being investigated.”

Read Kasowitz’s full prepared remarks here.

Comey’s Testimony Casts President Trump As An Untrustworthy Liar

Former FBI Director James Comey’s characteristically measured testimony Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee communicated one fact clearly: he doesn’t think much of the current President of the United States.

Over and over during his three-hour-long appearance, Comey painted Donald Trump as a free-wheeling, habitually untruthful commander-in-chief with little respect for the independence of the FBI.

Trump himself has taken gleeful potshots at Comey, tweeting in the days after he removed Comey as FBI director that he had “lost the confidence” of both Republicans and Democrats and denigrated the “spirit and prestige of the FBI.” He also reportedly told senior Russian officials that Comey was “crazy, a real nut job,” who was insistent on pursuing an investigation into their interference in the 2016 election.

Now a private citizen, and knowing the eyes of Americans all over the country were on his testimony, Comey made his own personal views on Trump explicit.

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Dem Senator: Trump Should Follow Comey’s Example And Testify Under Oath

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) on Thursday said President Donald Trump should match fired FBI Director James Comey and testify under oath and in public.

Following Comey’s appearance in an open session before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Murphy released a statement saying it was “hard to overstate the impact” of Comey’s testimony.

“If the White House’s account differs from what we heard today, the American people deserve to hear the President’s side of the story in a similar forum – under oath and open to the press,” Murphy said.

“It’s hard to overstate the impact of Jim Comey’s testimony today. For the first time, under oath and penalty of perjury, the former FBI Director testified that the president repeatedly pressed him for a pledge of loyalty, and asked him to drop the investigation into illegal activity of a White House staffer at the center of the Russia probe. A couple months later, after neither request was fulfilled, Trump fired him,” said Murphy. “That confirms that media reports aren’t ‘fake news’ – they’re very real and very concerning.”

“Every day, it seems like the walls are closing in on this president. What’s most important is that investigators in the Senate and at the Department of Justice get all the facts and find the truth. If the White House’s account differs from what we heard today, the American people deserve to hear the president’s side of the story in a similar forum – under oath and open to the press,” added Murphy.

Ryan ‘Not Saying It’s An Acceptable Excuse’ That Trump Is ‘New At This’

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) explained fired FBI Director James Comey’s claim that President Donald Trump asked him to drop the federal investigation into ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn by saying that “The President’s new at this.”

“He’s new to government. And so, he probably wasn’t steeped in the long-running protocols that establish the relationships between DOJ, FBI and White Houses. He’s just new to this,” Ryan said, asked about Comey’s testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee at his weekly press conference Thursday.

“You said the President is new at this, he’s not steeped in the long-running protocols,” one reporter followed up later in the briefing. “He has a staff. He has a White House counsel. Why is that an acceptable excuse for him?”

“I’m not saying it’s an acceptable excuse. It’s just my observation,” Ryan said.

“So there’s nothing — is this something that should be corrected?” the reporter asked.

“He’s new at government, and so therefore I think that he — he is learning as he goes,” Ryan responded.

Repeatedly, Ryan said that he now knew why Trump was “frustrated” by stories on Russian meddling.

Still, when pressed, he wouldn’t definitively say whether Trump’s behavior was appropriate.

“I’m not going to comment on these things,” he said, asked for his opinion on the matter. “Because these are all apart of these ongoing investigations and I’m not gonna prejudge this stuff, because what I don’t want to do is — in the middle of a House Intelligence Committee investigation, a Senate Intelligence Committee investigation, and now an independent counsel — is to speculate on the day-to-day intrigue of all of these issues.”

NY Times Looking Into Story Comey Agreed Was ‘Almost Completely Wrong’

The New York Times on Thursday said it is “looking into” reporting that fired FBI Director James Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee is inaccurate.

Sen. James Risch (R-ID) on Thursday cited a February report by the New York Times that members of President Donald Trump’s campaign had “repeated contacts” with Russian intelligence officials before the 2016 election.

“That report by the New York Times was not true. Is that a fair statement?” he asked.

“In the main, it was not true,” Comey replied. “The challenge, and I’m not picking on reporters about writing stories about classified information, is that people talking about it often don’t really know what’s going on and those of us who actually know what’s going on are not talking about it.”

Later in the hearing, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) asked Comey, “Would it be fair to characterize that story as almost entirely wrong?”

“Yes,” Comey replied.

“Did you have at the time that story was published any indication of any contact between Trump people and Russians, intelligence officers, other government officials or close associates of the Russian government?” Cotton pressed.

“That’s one I can’t answer sitting here,” Comey said.

He did not specify how much of the story was inaccurate, or which allegations were untrue.

Comey: Trump ‘Pulled Up Short’ When He Remembered I Didn’t Pledge Loyalty (VIDEO)

Former FBI Director James Comey speaks during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Thursday, June 8, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Fired FBI Director James Comey on Thursday speculated that President Donald Trump came up short in April when he sought leverage to persuade Comey to publicly announce that Trump was not under investigation.

In his prepared testimony released Wednesday by the Senate Intelligence Committee, Comey said Trump told him in April: “I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.”

Comey said he did not respond or ask Trump to clarify.

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Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York who was fired by President Donald Trump, was in the room for Thursday’s hearing with former FBI Director James Comey.

Comey: I Was Fired In Order To Influence Probe Into Russian Election Meddling (VIDEO)

Former FBI Director James Comey is sworn in during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Thursday, June 8, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Fired FBI Director James Comey testified Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee that he thinks he was fired to influence the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“It’s my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation,” Comey said. “I was fired in some way to change or the endeavor was to change the way the Russia investigation was being conducted.”

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Comey: ‘I’m Not Going To Sit Here And Try To Interpret The President’s Tweets’

Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI): “The President tweeted that ‘James Comey better hope that there are no tapes of our conversation before he starts leaking to the press.’ Was that rather unsubtle attempt to intimidate you from testifying and intimidate anyone else who seriously crosses his path of not doing it?”

Comey: “I’m not going to sit here and try to interpret the President’s tweets. To me its major impact, was as I said, it occurred to me in the middle of the night: Holy cow, there might be tapes. And if there are tapes, it’s not just my word against his on the direction to get rid of the Flynn investigation.”

Watch below:

This Is How Comey Says Sessions Reacted To His Ask Not To Be Left Alone With POTUS (VIDEO)

James Comey on Thursday described how Jeff Sessions reacted when he told him that he cannot be left alone with President Donald Trump.

Comey made the comments to Sessions after a Feb. 14 encounter in which he says Trump pressured him to drop an investigation into Michael Flynn, the ousted national security adviser. Comey wrote in his prepared statement that Sessions did not offer a verbal reply to his plea. On Thursday, Comey described Sessions’ body language after he told the attorney general that he and Trump cannot be alone together.

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Comey: Flynn Was Under Investigation For Potentially Misleading FBI (VIDEO)

Fired FBI Director James Comey confirmed that ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was under investigation for potentially misleading investigators.

When Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) first asked about Flynn, Comey noted “I don’t think I can talk about that in an open setting. And again, I’ve been out of government now about a month so I also don’t want to talk about things when it’s now somebody else’s responsibility but maybe in the classified setting we can talk more about that.”

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