One of the interesting themes of these hearings is the question of who controls US foreign policy: the President or the sum of the “interagency” or bureaucratic policy making process. In a narrow sense it is absolutely right that if all the President’s advisors (in the sense of the sum of everyone at State, DOD, the NSC, Intelligence Community, etc) decide on one policy and the President disagrees, the President’s choice governs. This is elementary. And if you listen to the various testimonies no one who has spoken as a witness has said otherwise. But there’s a part of this that bears closer examination. Because it gets at the underbelly of so-called theories of “unitary executive” power.
Alexander Vindman’s occasionally halting delivery, slightly nerdy appearance underscores an impression of an essentially guileless individual. He’s an almost unrealistically novelistic player in this drama.
Vindman’s appearance is a not terribly subtle reminder that the US often needs a continuing flow of immigrants committed to American values to counter balance native born Americans who are eager to betray them.
Folks on the right are focusing on statements from departed NSC Director Tim Morrison’s deposition in which he says he “had concerns about Lt. Col. Vindman’s judgment.” We don’t know a lot about Alexander Vindman. So perhaps there are issues with his judgement. On the basis of the available evidence though I’d take Vindman’s judgment over Morrison’s, in large part because he immediately reported the substance of Trump’s July 25th call with Zelensky to the White House Counsel’s office. Morrison simply recommended access to it be restricted, not that that there was anything wrong with what happened. But there’s an aspect of Vindman’s testimony I’ve been wanting to highlight since I read it soon after its release.
Happy Monday, November 18. Emails from EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland solidify the growing picture of an administration tightly lashed to the Ukraine pressure campaign. Here’s more on that and the other stories we’re watching.
I wanted to flag this brief account by Fareed Zakaria which comes after Matt Shuham’s report from last week about just how close Ukrainian President Zelensky came to delivering the “investigations” Trump demanded. As you’ve likely heard, the announcement was to come on Zakaria’s CNN show, Fareed Zakaria GPS. It got canceled only when the news of the whistleblower complaint was finally going public. It had seemed that the interview was likely scheduled for September 13th and canceled as late as the morning of that day. But according to Zakaria it was only canceled on the 18th or the 19th of September.
This isn’t just a matter of a few days difference.
As details emerge out of the Ukraine impeachment drama, we still have no clear explanation for why members of the Giuliani criminal syndicate were so intent on getting Ambassador Maria Yovanovitch removed from her post in Kyiv. In her testimony, even Yovanovitch seemed genuinely mystified about just why they wanted her out. It is still possible there was something specific about Yovanovitch that made her an obstacle to the criminal enterprises or corrupt business deals of Parnas, Giuliani, Lutsenko or others. But that seems unlikely. We lack specific proof. But here I think is the explanation. It is my guess based on piecing together various bits of information generated so far in the impeachment inquiry.
Yesterday after the Yovanovitch testimony the House Intelligence Committee went into another closed door session to hear from Foreign Service Office David Holmes. This was the surprise witness referred to earlier in the week by Bill Taylor, the one who had allegedly overheard the conversation between President Trump and Gordon Sondland, the day after the July 25th Trump/Zelensky phone call. But Holmes’ opening statement, which got out to the press yesterday evening, turned out to include quite a bit more. It is a very big deal.
You have probably heard that a short time ago Roger Stone was convicted on all counts against him, including false statements, witness tampering and obstruction. On its face this is not surprising. Stone clearly and repeatedly lied to investigators and to Congress. His witness tampering and obstruction were fairly well documented in his own hand. I wanted to take a moment to put this into context — not so much the context of the Russia probe, in which he played a key role, but his own career and storyline trajectory in the recent decades of American history.
Roger Stone has been plotting and running schemes, in addition to helping run some campaigns, for going on half a century. This isn’t so much an accusation as a restatement of Stone’s personal brand. It’s hard to think of anyone of any note in politics — and it’s important to remember that he continued to play at the highest levels until the late 1990s — who more openly or eagerly embraced a reputation for bad acting.
At the risk of re-covering old ground, the gist of what we just heard was this: The President and his personal lawyer, in a purported effort to fight ‘corruption’, teamed up with the most corrupt figures in Ukraine to lead a campaign of vilification against the US Ambassador. All evidence suggests that their deal with this figures – Lutsenko, Shokin, et al. – was that they would get protection from the US (to stay in office, avoid prosecution, etc) in exchange for sweetheart business deals and agreement to intervene on the President’s side in the 2020 presidential election.
One of the subtexts or backdrops to this part of the impeachment drama is something that doesn’t get discussed much explicitly. President Trump would despise Taylor, Kent, Yovanovitch, et al. regardless simply because they are saying things that are damaging to him. Opponents are all bad people. But it goes beyond that. In Trump’s worldview these people are losers. They are reasonably compensated. But working in the Foreign Service you don’t amass any great wealth, even over a lifetime. You also, by design, don’t become famous, unless something goes terribly wrong. To the President, the idea you’d spend your life like that is totally bizarre. You can hear this in all his comments.
Happy Friday, November 15. Former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch will testify this morning in the second public hearing of the impeachment inquiry. Here’s more on that and the other stories we’re watching.
Truly another must-read from the team today. We know the “deliverable” (a Biden investigation announcement) from President Zelensky never got delivered and that has become a key part of the Republican defense. No harm, no foul. But as Matt Shuham explains here Zelensky was no more than 24 hours from recording the interview tarring the Biden’s for “Ukraine corruption” and possibly as little as three or four hours. And what killed it was the chain of events triggered by the whistleblower complaint, the notification to Congress and Trump relenting on releasing the aid since they had in essence gotten caught. Here’s the story.
I can’t recommend this article to you strongly enough. If that’s enough to hear, here’s the link. I have wondered, many of you have asked me, just what the rush of activity was to get Vladimir Zelensky to kick off and publicly announce these investigations. After all, during the key events the US election was well over a year away. The answer comes down to the April election in Ukraine. Trump and Rudy had a deal in place or thought they had a deal in place with the crew around the old President Poroshenko. When Zelensky beat him in a landslide it set off a frenzied, sloppy and ultimate futile effort to get Zelensky to honor the deal. Read it.
Happy Thursday, November 14. Today, both parties will wrestle over the optics war of who “won” the first day of the public impeachment inquiry hearings, featuring top Ukraine diplomat Bill Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent. Here’s more on that and the other stories we’re watching.
Coming off today’s hearing Joe DiGenova and Victoria Toensing appeared on Lou Dobbs show this evening pushing a noxious set of bananas conspiracy theories about George Soros controlling the State Department and the FBI.
Holy Shit! Rudy/Trump confidant DiGenova spouts wild list of bananas conspiracy theories after hearing: "There is no doubt that George Soros controls a large part of the foreign service part of the State Department and the activities of FBI agents overseas who work with NGOs." pic.twitter.com/J7ulAKXvb3
House Intelligence Republicans did a lot of mocking the fact that neither of the “two star witnesses” that Democrats called to kick off their public impeachment proceedings spoke directly to President Trump about his Ukraine pressure campaign.
This is a critical point and I’m surprised it took this long to surface in the hearing, though I’m heartened that it did. The evidence is circumstantial but overwhelming that the White House finally released the aid because they got caught.
This – FINALLY – is the point. Very, very clear that the White House finally released the aid only when the whistleblower report was coming to light and the Intel committee was already starting its investigation! They relented because they finally got caught. pic.twitter.com/GiFbOMBKSE
There have been repeated references to President Zelensky confirming that President Trump never pressured him. It is, as I’ve called it, what amounts to a hostage video since he was literally sitting next to him when he was asked. To refresh your memory, here’s the video they’re referring to.
So just for clarity, here's the 'hostage video' where Zelensky allegedly confirms no one pressured him. This is maybe half of the GOP argument. pic.twitter.com/39L0FTUpMA
Going back to my point that the career diplomats had a hard time getting their heads around the subterranean world of Trumpian conspiracy theories and crazy, it’s notable here that the top State Department official for Russia and Ukraine had never heard of the Crowdstrike conspiracy theory before the July 25th transcript was released.
Back to my earlier point abt diplos having a hard time processing all this, top State official on Russia/Ukraine had never heard of the Crowdstrike/Ukraine was the real culprit conspiracy theory. pic.twitter.com/4PiVMhcwSZ
Slightly separate matter: One of the most fascinating things about this story is how Trump was pre-defending himself about “quid pro quos” while the plot wasn’t even done yet. Almost certainly that is because he knew the WB complaint was already in play at the same time.
Some of this is certainly benignly feigned naivete. But it’s nonetheless striking and I think real how these career diplomats and civil servants had genuine difficulty grasping the nature of the kind of Trumpian and pre-Trump GOP batshittery that those of us who’ve been covering it for years know as second nature.
For their first impeachment hearing, House Democrats have picked a room that is TV ready.
The House Intelligence Committee, a relatively small committee that typically meets in private, is gathering in the cavernous Ways and Means hearing room — an upgrade from its typical hearing space and a world away from the underground secure conference room where all these witnesses have been talking to members up into this point.
On virtually every talk show and daytime cable news discussion of impeachment, I hear the same question: Will the Democrats be able to make the case to the American people? Will they be able to make it clear enough, understandable enough, convincing enough? There’s often a Perils of Pauline tone about how the question is put to this or that guest, with Democrats on the line just as much as Republicans and perhaps hanging on the cusp of failure. Certainly the case can be made more or less well. I myself have pressed the importance of avoiding confounding obscurities like “quid pro quos” in favor of describing clearly what actually happened: an extortion plot to use a foreign power to sabotage a national election in the President’s favor.
But for all this the question itself misstates the situation in a critical way. What’s really being asked is whether Democrats will be able to convince not the American people but Republican partisans and more specifically congressional Republicans. And that is by design an all but impossible standard because they are deeply and unshakably committed to not being convinced.
This is not only the obvious verdict of the last three years. It’s even more clear with the questions which have emerged since September. Congressional Republicans have hopped from one argument to another: from no evidence of wrongdoing, to the wrongdoing is actually fine, to a rearguard action against a corrupt process. The chaos of arguments has zero logic or consistency beyond the simple and overriding one: of refusing to accept that the President did anything wrong no matter what evidence emerges and simply use whatever argument is available to justify that end.
Today’s revelations out of the Roger Stone case put just one more weight on the branch of the Mueller probe’s credibility and probably far more weight than it can bear. Credibility in this context is a very fraught and weighty word. I don’t mean that it was crooked or out to whitewash the President’s actions. It’s all too complicated for anything like that. But we have a simple fact: six months out there is lots of new evidence that Mueller either must have known or could have known but didn’t make it anywhere into the report.
It’s hard not to reach the conclusion that Mueller ended up as what we might call the anti-Starr: determinedly refusing to look at anything not narrowly within the confines of his original brief. Just today we learn that there was at least pretty strong evidence that the President lied in written answers to the Special Counsel’s Office about Roger Stone delivering advance word to the campaign about Wikileaks.
Let me draw your attention to this new article in the Times, the subject of which is the range of rivalries, turf wars and personality conflicts which epitomize the Trump White House and are coming to the fore under the Stress Test of impeachment. One of these is the on-going battle between “acting” Chief of Staff and John Bolton, which flared up overnight when Bolton and his protege told Mulvaney to get his own lawsuit against the President and stop trying to glom on to theirs. Mulvaney complied. He first appeared set to file his own lawsuit before — apparently? — giving up on the whole idea.
But note this passage in the Times article which suggests that Mulvaney is telling colleagues he’s all but unfireable since he knows too much damaging information about President Trump.
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.
Off message here for Trump Jr. Says his father did tell Comey he hoped he let the Flynn investigation go. His dad says that's a lie. pic.twitter.com/oOhaFgZY4a
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.
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.
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.
Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication…and WOW, Comey is a leaker!
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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 Democratsand 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.
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.
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.”
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.
President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, is scheduled to respond to fired FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee at 1:30 p.m. ET. Watch live via NBC News.
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.
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.”
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.”
June 8, 2017, 12:30 pm
Asked if she could find out if there's a taping system at White House, @SHSanders45 quips: "Sure, I'll try to look under the couches."
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.
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.”