Lot of stuff in this interview from earlier this afternoon with Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti. He tells us more about threats of physical violence that have been used to keep her silent, other “Trump surrogates” who’ve been involved in leveling those threats and spreading false information about Stormy. We also get into Michael Cohen’s tactics, his history of strong-arm tactics and more. Listen here on the site or on iTunes or Google Play. This is a Josh Marshall Podcast Extra. Listen and remember to subscribe. It helps us no end if you subscribe on iTunes or Google Play.
This is a White House press pool report from a few moments ago …
Since it’s a quiet day — albeit with heightened anticipation — I will point out the flurry around National Security Adviser HR McMaster’s brief appearance outside the West Wing a bit ago. He was escorting guests out of the West Wing entrance, near the stakeout area. Tara Palmeri of ABC News caught up with him. Per her tweet, he said, “Everybody has got to leave the White House at some point.” She asked if he was leaving sooner rather than later, and he said, ‘I’m doing my job.” Then he walked back inside.
We just recorded a podcast interview with Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti. We went into more depth on the physical threats Daniels’ has allegedly received to stay quiet, Stormy’s former lawyer, other “Trump surrogates” allegedly spreading rumors and threatening her. There’s a lot there. We expect to post this “Extra!” episode in about an hour. If you’re already subscribed on iTunes or Google Play to The Josh Marshall Podcast, it’ll show up on your device the moment it’s uploaded. Takes a bit longer to show up there if you’re not already subscribed. Stay tuned.
This is shocking and yet not at all surprising. Trump officials working with outside activists to purge undesirables from the State Department staff and foreign service. The activists in this case – David Wurmser, among others – are among the worst of the worst. We’ll be digging out of under this wreckage and corruption for years. Give this a read.
Yesterday, after news broke that Rex Tillerson had been fired and replaced by Mike Pompeo, I heard some voices reassuring themselves that unlike many in the Trump world Pompeo is fairly hostile to Russia. At least, they say, he views Russia through a more traditional Republican prism. This raises a general point that is critical and we all must address. We don’t need more hostility toward Russia or more hawkishness. What we need is an un-compromised policy toward Russia. Most specifically, we need an uncompromised President, something we currently do not have.
TPM’s Tierney Sneed is now back in our Washington office after a week in Kansas to cover the trial in which Kris Kobach — one of our era’s great opponents of voting rights – defended another voter suppression law he helped spearhead. First, I want to thank Tierney as well as editors David Kurtz and Zack Roth, who together have many years of collective experience covering this critical issue. TPM was one of only a handful of non-local news organizations there to cover it in full. Thanks to you for the many kind emails we got over the last week for the coverage.
I wanted to take a moment to note that when you join TPM Prime this is where your subscription fees go. They go of course to paying almost half of all of our salaries and all the miscellaneous other expenses of running TPM. You get access to the Prime-only articles, fewer ads, the Hive, RSS feeds and all the rest. But your subscriptions especially make possible efforts like this — sending a reporter across the country for a week to cover a key trial, the output of which may not pay off in purely monetary terms but is critical to our mission as an organization. (You can see our live coverage here and Tierney’s recent feature stories here.) That shapes how we’re able to run the whole organization today — a freedom and ability to deliver which is scarce in this era in which ad-only publications find themselves in a tightening financial vise.
So if you’re a member, thank you! You make this possible. If you’re not yet a member, please consider clicking here and joining us today. It’s easy, quick, just 14 cents a day. If you’d like to do still more, you can purchase one or more subscription credits or FIN credits which we then provide at no cost to readers in financial need or to students, respectively. These help power TPM even further and make it possible to give the full TPM experience to still more readers. Join us!
This is paragraph four from Allegra’s latest report on the domestic violence arrest of white nationalist leader/idiot Matthew Heimbach. I knew it couldn’t be as simple as just abusing his wife. It seems like he was attacking both his wife and her father because he, Heimbach, was having an affair with her mother and his wife.
The white nationalist leader is married to the step-daughter of Matt Parrott, the Traditionalist Worker Party’s chief spokesman. Per the police report, Heimbach attacked both Parrott and Heimbach’s wife, Brooke Heimbach, after the pair confronted Matthew Heimbach about an affair he was carrying out with Matt Parrott’s wife, Jessica Parrott.
Episode #4 of The Josh Marshall Podcast is out. TPMer Allegra Kirkland sits in for the vacationing David Taintor as my co-host and we talk to Joan Walsh about Michael Cohen, Stormy Daniels, the #metoo movement, 2016 and 2018 and a bunch more. I discuss my reporting about what Stormy Daniels told 60 Minutes and Allegra and I discuss an earlier Michael Cohen strong arm incident which sheds some light on the ‘intimidating’ behavior Daniels’ lawyers claim in her lawsuit. Listen to Episode #4 here or on iTunes or Google Play and please subscribe.
We have what is probably the final data for tonight. (Actually, see below. Maybe not.) Almost all the final election day votes were reported just a short time ago. Those ballots brought Connor Lamb’s lead to just under 100 votes. But then a short time later, Allegheny County reported its absentee ballots. Those came in overwhelmingly for Lamb, leaving him with an 847 vote lead. The remaining counties are all red counties and all plan to count their absentee votes tomorrow. It looks hard for Saccone to make up that margin. But it’s definitely possible.
The latest we heard is that one of those counties may count their absentee ballots tonight, just because it’s so close. If that happens, we might have a pretty clear sense tonight of who won. Stay tuned.
Late Update: Watching the number crunchers whose opinions I most respect, the consensus seems to be that Lamb wins, absent sole counting error as yet unknown.
Lamb (D) should expect a pretty healthy boost from uncounted absentees. Why? 1) They've historically skewed Dem 2) More than half of them are from Allegheny Co. (despite Allegheny only being ~43% of #PA18). pic.twitter.com/SAth8WtnY0
10:39 PM: The final point seems to be this. There are estimated to be 6k or 7k absentee ballots that are being counted. Wasserman, who I flagged below, says these tend toward Democrats in this district. Those could be more decisive than the remaining outstanding election day votes. Also, two of the counties in the district won’t count their absentee votes until tomorrow. It sounds like there’s a decent chance we’ll *largely* know the outcome by about midnight eastern. But it’s possible we won’t really know until tomorrow. Sad.
10:31 PM: This is from Cook Report/538’s Dave Wasserman. Could be key. “It’s been reported that there were about 6-7k absentees cast in #PA18. In the past, absentees have run slightly more Dem than the overall vote and I don’t believe they’ve been counted yet. They may matter here.”
10:24 PM: Lamb is up by just 500 +/- votes with 97% precincts reporting.
10:14 PM: We are now at 96% of precincts reporting. Connor Lamb, the Democrat, has a lead of about 900 points. The remaining votes pretty clearly favor Saccone. But it’s not clear that it’s enough to put him into the lead. There just aren’t many votes left. I’m not sure there’s any way to get a clearer prediction than that. I will note a few key caveats about this entire race. This district won’t exist in November. It will be replaced by a more Democrat-friendly district. There’s already been a huge shift in the Democrats’ favor since 2016. For tonight, though, a win is a win is a win. But we don’t know who the winner is.
9:46 PM: Damn, this is close. And the late numbers are pushing Saccone toward a tie. Most number counters don’t seem to have the precinct granular data to know where we’re really at.
9:37 PM: We’re at just past 9:30. It’s exceedingly close with an ever so slight advantage – maybe – for Democrat Connor Lamb. The Times “needle”, which I mentioned below, is the night’s first casualty. It was struggling. Then one county stopped reporting precinct data. At that point the whole enterprise is flying blind. So they shut it down. Honestly, I feel their pain (in the web production/publishing sense). So where is this? Lamb seems to have the inside track. It’s very close but Saccone isn’t quite at the margins he needs to be. There are enough votes outstanding, though, that he can expand those margins. You’d rather be Lamb than Saccone. But it’s close. Real close.
This is from almost a half hour ago. It was from when things were leaning a bit against Republican Saccone but not by much. This is Jason Miller, longtime Trumper who may return to the White House soon. He was on CNN as the designated Trump. It’s a good illustration of how it works in Trump world. It’s never about Trump. If you lose you were barely even a Republican and certainly not remotely associated with Trump.
9:11 PM: One possible explanation for the uncertainty and conflicting signals is that Lamb is over-performing in many key areas but Saccone seems to be over-performing in his own state legislative district. In other words, a couple or more than a couple conflicting trends.
9:05 PM: So I follow the NYT “needle” very closely. It’s a great widget and is often very predictive. It’s sort of an automated version of the way an experienced election watcher can look beneath the total results and tell you where things are going by look at individual precincts. That “needle” has swung heavily in Saccone’s favor in the last 20 minutes or so. But the numbers crunchers I watch aren’t convinced things have moved that far in Saccone’s favor. Unclear. Less bullish for Lamb than it looked a half hour ago. But we need to see more.
8:58 PM: The tide seems to have shifted in Saccone, the GOPers, favor. Still early. But more uncertain now than it was.
8:45 PM: We’re at a quarter to nine. The top line current results show an overwhelming lead for Lamb, the Democrat. But that’s meaningless. The early results are from counties that favor Dems. What’s not meaningless is that Lamb seems to be exceeding the margins he needs in key precincts. It’s not by big margins but by meaningful ones. And that pattern seems to be showing up in a lot of places. Cautious optimism warranted for Dems. Of course, still need to see more.
8:39 PM: We’re only seeing fragmentary bits of data. But these aren’t necessarily tiny in given precincts and counties where we have historical benchmarks. And Lamb seems to be running a bit ahead of the margins he needs. Could easily go either way. And it almost certainly will be close either way. But room for some very cautious and early optimism for Dems.
8:30 PM: Finally some results. Only a thousand votes though. Meaningless 4 point margin for Lamb. More notably: a single precinct in Allegheny County and it’s a 20% swing in the Dems favor.
8:14 PM: I’m watching an Applebee’s commercial with Melissa Ethridge’s ‘Come to My Window’ and it’s really tragic.
8:09 PM: Quick Josh cheat sheet. PA Secretary of State election results website. The state always collects and reports results at a slightly different pace than AP (the source of almost everyone else’s data. Not better or worse. But different pace and order. Good to watch. Here’s my list of election numbers crunchers I watch on Twitter.
8:06 PM: Okay, let’s do this. Okay, we still have no results.
7:31 PM: We’re a half hour out. What’s your prediction?
One last glimpse at the racially tinged amateur hour that Kris Kobach seems to have put on in defending his strict voter registration law:
ACLU lawyer Dale Ho cross-examined Jesse Richman, a witness for Kobach, about the methodology in a controversial study Richman produced showing significant rates of non-citizen voting. In the study, Richman coded certain respondents who had “foreign”-sounding names, for weighting purposes.
After going over some of the names Richman coded as foreign — two respondents with the last name Lopez were coded as foreign, and three Lopezes were not — Ho asked Richman how he would code the name “Carlos Murguia.” Richman said he’d probably code the name as “foreign.” Ho pointed out that Murguia is a federal judge in the same courthouse in which the trial is taking place. Richman admitted he wasn’t aware of that.
Last Friday I mentioned that 60 Minutes might find the Stormy Daniels interview they recorded last week more embarrassing for the President than they have a stomach for. Yesterday I noted, based on my own reporting, that Daniels apparently claimed in her interview with Anderson Cooper that the President sometimes liked to be treated in a humiliating or denigrating fashion by Daniels during their sexual encounters. I’m told there’s also a matter of details. Now comes more evidence that CBS seems to be slow-rolling the interview.
We have an unfolding dispute over just how Rex Tillerson was fired and what warning or explanation he was given. The AP reports that John Kelly told Tillerson over the weekend to expect a Trump tweet about him but not that it would be the announcement that he’d been fired. Other reports say Kelly told Tillerson over the weekend that he needed to resign of be fired. Meanwhile, Steven Goldstein, Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs put out word that Tillerson had received no explanation or notification about his termination. Goldstein himself was promptly fired by the White House after that statement.
One thing that has jumped out to me about the Daniels story is that she seems to have much better representation now than she did in October 2016. Back then her lawyer was Keith M. Davidson, a lawyer who apparently came her way through her then-manager, Gina Rodriguez. I had read earlier that he was a go-to lawyer for Rodriguez who is known for repping people who come to fame through scandals of various sorts. When I read the agreement, I couldn’t help but note that it reads as almost comically adverse to Daniels and for what in the context seemed like a relatively small sum of money.
My assumption was she had a low rent lawyer who either wasn’t that good or didn’t care. But then I noticed something this evening. In the final days of the 2016 campaign, The Wall Street Journalpublished a story about Karen McDougal, a former Playboy Playmate who claimed she had an affair with Trump and sold her story to The National Enquirer for $150,000. But the story never ran. They treated it as a ‘catch and kill’ story, buying it up to cover it up. So who represented McDougal? Keith M. Davidson.
“You’re not here to advocate, you’re not here to trash the advocate, you’re not here to argue with me.”
That was Judge Julie Robinson just now, upbraiding Kobach witness Jesse Richman, for interrupting her and the ACLU’s lawyer, Tierney Sneed reports.
Richman is the “expert” whose study of non-citizen voting was cited by the White House to support Trump’s false claim that he would have won the popular vote if it weren’t for millions of illegal votes.
We just finished recording this week’s episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast. We had a special guest, Joan Walsh. We talked about the Stormy Daniels’ story among other topics, including the 2016 election. But I wanted to flag one point we discussed in this episode that I’ve learned over recent days. What Daniels told 60 Minutes is more damaging than people may realize.
It sounds like voter fraud huckster Hans von Spakovsky’s claims about rampant illegal voting were given the thorough debunking they deserve by the ACLU’s Dale Ho during the trial over Kansas’s proof of citizenship law Friday.
We have another nugget of news on the Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels front. Cohen says he got the money to pay Daniels from a home equity line of credit. “The funds were taken from my home equity line and transferred internally to my LLC account in the same bank,” he told ABC News. Fair enough. I have no reason to reject that claim. But this raises a key point about Michael Cohen. He’s just Trump’s lawyer. He may make a good salary. But he’s not a plutocrat himself who has six figure sums he can toss out like you or I might spend a hundred bucks. But as we’ve discussed before with Michael Cohen, that’s not really true. He appears to be a very, very wealthy man.
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.”