Former FBI Director Holds A Pretty Powerful Hand Right Now. But Will He Play It?
Early indications would signal yes.
• Comey turned down an invitation to testify tomorrow at a closed-door session of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Is this part of a strategy? Or an indication he just wants to think on it a bit? Either way, we believe this is exactly the right move; details of a private meeting would only come out as leaks and could be easily refuted.
• When Trump related details of his dinner with Comey to NBC’s Lester Holt, a second, almost completely opposite recollection attributed to Comey “associates” surfaced quickly in the New York Times. That triggered Trump’s tweet threatening Comey with a release of “tapes” that may or may not exist.
• People close to Comey indicate he will appear in an open hearing that will be televised. As Brookings Institution Senior Fellow and Comey friend Benjamin Wittes discusses in this Slate podcast, now that he’s fired, Comey will be much freer to discuss a wide range of topics. And that could become a bigger problem for Trump than when Comey had less freedom to talk as FBI Director (not that it stopped him from talking about Hillary, but that’s a whole other story….)
The applicable segment starts at about 11:15 and runs 5 minutes or so. We contend Comey wouldn’t really even have to say much at all. All he has to do is get huge ratings, which he certainly will. (Even Fox wouldn’t be able to come up with an excuse not to carry live.) And that alone should make Trump’s blood boil.
• The biggest potential pitfall? Miscalculating the importance of moving fast. Everything about this administration is constantly accelerating. Comey himself is a good example: transformed from somebody everybody was at least a little angry at, to martyr in a matter of hours.
The White House seems aware of this and is racing to announce a replacement for the FBI director before the President leaves on his first overseas trip at the end of the week. Potential replacements were paraded in and out of the Justice Department for interviews this weekend, like they were contestants on The Bachelor. The only red flag so far among interviewees: District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson, who as director of the U.S. Marshals oversaw the disastrous Ruby Ridge siege. However, Trump has shown an affinity for appointees with colorful nicknames, and he’s got one: “Hang ‘Em High Harry.”
Powerful People Saying Powerful Stuff
Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara (who Trump fired) calling for a special counsel and asking the question: “are there still public servants who will say no to the president?”
And Harvard Constitutional Law Professor Laurence Tribe arguing “Trump must be impeached.”
North Korea: A Big Step Closer To Being Able To Hit U.S. Mainland
North Korea today claiming a missile it just test-launched can carry a large nuclear warhead, and can hit the U.S. Unlike its two previous missile tests, this one didn’t fail immediately after launch, instead flying 430 miles, before landing about 60 miles off Russia’s East Coast. The Washington Post reports the recent launch has changed the minds of some aerospace engineers who thought North Korea was about 5 years away from having an ICBM that could reach the U.S. mainland. Now they say it’s more like 1 year. And it almost definitely already has the capability to hit the U.S. Territory of Guam. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said the U.S. will continue to “tighten the screws” on North Korea, and the launch reflects Kim Jong-un is “in a state of paranoia…incredibly concerned about anything and everything around him.”
The Biggest Trade Threat To The U.S. That You Might Not Know About
Others speculate the timing of North Korea’s launch might’ve been calculated to impress a huge gathering of regional leaders in Beijing this weekend. China wants to make it clear it’s prepared to embrace globalization at a time when the U.S. seems to be shedding it off. And President Xi kicked that effort into gear by pledging $124-billion to the building of a modern-day Silk Road; which might include new rail links between China and Europe and other infrastructure and trading projects. The newly and inexplicably re-named Belt and Road Initiative (previously called One Belt, One Road) drew participants including Russia’s Vladimir Putin, as well as a delegation from North Korea. India was noticeably absent. The Times of India referring to the initiative as “little more than a colonialist threat.”
“No Publicity Is Bad Publicity” Kushner/China Version…
Remember the Kushner family real-estate scheme to offer Chinese investors a path to U.S. citizenship in exchange for a 500-thousand dollar investment in a troubled development in Jersey City, NJ? And how it backfired? Apparently all the negative publicity is turning into a major selling point. According to the South China Morning Post, Chinese investors are now more, not less, interested in participating in the project. The theory being all the controversy has made it virtually risk-free, assuming the Kushner family, and by relation, Trump, doesn’t want to risk what now would be a very public and embarrassing failure.