“I Faced Great Pressure Because Of Russia, That’s Taken Off”
The New York Times reported this afternoon, the President made those comments during his Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and Ambassador Kislyak, the day after he fired Comey, Trump also made a point of informing the Russian pair “I’m not under investigation.”
What’s shocking about this is Trump’s buddy-buddy tone with the Russians, especially at a time when the President’s been trying to prove he’s not in any kind of super-cozy relationship with them or their leader. (The content of the conversation itself just underscores what’s already pretty clear: Trump and Comey were not on the best of terms. And Trump isn’t the first President to use colorful language in the Oval Office.)
The source: notes of the meeting compiled by an American official who was there. That meeting came the day after Trump fired Comey.
The White House did not initially dispute the Times’ account. Press Secretary Sean Spicer said “Comey had put unnecessary pressure on the president’s ability to conduct diplomacy with Russia.”
Shortly after the Times story broke, the Washington Post reported Comey accepted an invitation to appear at an open hearing at the Senate Intelligence Committee. That will happen after Memorial Day. As we’ve mentioned before, if Comey is out for revenge, getting huge ratings (which he almost certainly will) should infuriate Trump, perhaps as much as anything he might have to say.
“Because Believe Me, There’s No Collusion”
At a news conference that wasn’t really supposed to be about Trump’s early morning Tweets, but couldn’t really not be, (our heart goes out to the visiting President of Colombia), Trump once again called the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller to investigate possible Trump campaign/Russia ties a “witch hunt.” Watch this clip for proof Trump hasn’t lost his touch: weaving a few seconds of content into a couple of minutes of obfuscation and blather.
Interesting to us, is the return of the phrase “believe me” which the President hasn’t tossed around much recently, but he frequently used on the campaign trail to punctuate a lie or emphasize a promise we’ve now learned he had no intention of keeping.
Trump was also asked if he requested fired FBI Director James Comey to back off of former national security adviser, and Trump pal, Michael Flynn. Trump’s answer to this was more direct.
Trump elaborated on his firing of Comey, saying: “When I made that decision, I actually thought that it would be a bipartisan decision. Because you look at all of the people on the Democratic side, not only the Republican side, that were saying such terrible things about Director Comey.”
Trump did not make mention of his second Tweet, which referred to “all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration.”
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein Goes Before House Today, After Closed-Door Senate Session
The main detail coming out of the unusual all-Senate briefing, was that Rosenstein knew Comey was going to be fired before he wrote the memo suggesting he be fired. Initially, the White House spun the story as the President acting on Rosenstein’s advice, until Trump admitted he was going to fire Comey anyway.
Surprise! It’s Your New FBI Director!
President Trump, who loves surprises, indicating he’s digging into his bag of faded political stars from the past for his new FBI Director. No, not Rudy Giuliani, but almost: White House sources say Trump’s top pick right now is former Connecticut Senator and Al Gore running mate, Joe Lieberman. One immediate issue: Lieberman currently works for Trump’s top litigation lawyer. Although Lieberman served as a Democrat, he might be called a DINO (Democrat-In-Name-Only…did we just come up with that?) and is reviled by many in his party due to his unflinching support of the Iraq War (which Trump has also repeatedly called a huge disaster) and his cozying up to the insurance giants Connecticut is famous for during Obamacare negotiations.
20/20 Hindsight: Weird Dynamic Publicly Evident Between Trump And Comey
Friend of the former FBI director, and Brookings Institution fellow, Benjamin Wittes, took the unusual step of outing himself as the principal source of a New York Times article. That article discussed a post-inauguration phone call from Trump to Comey in which the President asked when the FBI would announce he was not personally under investigation. Wittes also spoke with PBS and described an extremely uncomfortable dynamic between Trump and Comey from Day One.
Take another look at that so-called “hug”. It is a great study in body language (and spoken language too: Trump kicks it off by exclaiming “he’s become more famous than me!”)
Only problem: that doesn’t look like a hug to us at all. More a meek handshake and pat on the back. Let’s leave the hyperbole to the other guys and stick to the facts. Please!
On Any Other Week This Would Be A Bombshell. Now It’s Just Another Detail
McClatchy reporting that one of the first decisions made by former national security adviser Michael Flynn “conformed to the wishes of Turkey” and happened right after Flynn pocketed half a million dollars from Turkey to represent its interests. The decision involved a plan that was hatched during the Obama administration to enlist Kurdish militia in Syria to help fight ISIS. Turkey views those same Kurdish forces as a threat, and has been bombing them. Flynn held off on the U.S. operation, which was only recently put back in motion.
Under-covered Story Of The Week: Turkish President’s Bodyguards Beat Up Protestors On DC Streets
Given everything else going on this week, a visit by Turkish strongman Recep Erdogan, was barely noticed, even though it normally would’ve been big news. Especially since the U.S. recently announced it will move ahead with a long-simmering plan (see above) to arm Kurdish militia in Syria, the same Kurdish militia Turkey calls “terrorists.” Trump is fond of Erdogan, calling him recently to congratulate him on consolidating power in Turkey and giving himself the ability to remain president for life, if he wants. Following his meeting with the President, Erdogan and his entourage ran into protesters outside the Turkish embassy, whom they brutally attacked. Daily Caller has an account of what happened, and video. John McCain said if he was President, he’d throw the Turkish ambassador out of the country.
Trump Wanted To Sweep In, Land Atop An Ancient Desert Monument In Israel
But Israeli officials said his helicopter would damage the UNESCO protected site, known as Masada. They gave permission for him to land next to it, but not on it. So Trump cancelled. Wrong “optics”, we guess. Trump’s scheduled speech at the ancient fortress, most famous for resistance by Jewish rebels against a long siege by the Romans, was long-touted as one of the most dramatic moments of Trump’s upcoming trip to the Mideast.
We Take A Look At Far-Right Media (So You Don’t Have To…)
We were curious how pro-Trump bloggers and commentators were justifying the week’s many Trump blunders and bombshells. Here’s a smattering of what we found:
• The “Deep State” is to blame
• It’s Democrats still freaking out Hillary lost
• It’s biased media making up ‘unnamed’ sources and refusing to cover ‘real’ stories like the murder of DNC employee who was alleged Wikileaks source
• It’s because Trump is fighting for ‘real’ Americans and “the swamp” can’t stand that
• Iran-Contra was much worse and you didn’t see anyone impeaching Reagan
• And they love Eli Lake’s (in our opinion ridiculous) opinion piece in Bloomberg about how Mueller’s appointment is actually great for Trump, giving him a chance to refocus.
But one theme consistently emerged above all others: Everybody hates Comey. Variations on this include:
• Comey was terrible at his job
• Comey was divisive and imperious
• Comey kicked up dust wherever he went
• Comey left everything he touched in a shambles
• Comey’s firing should be cheered from all sides
• We will be far better off without him
President Trump hit on this exact same theme at his news conference. Well, now you should have a pretty good idea how we feel about you, Mr. President.
Finally, A Brief Goodbye To The Guy Who Invented Modern Far-Right Media, Then Called It ‘Fair And Balanced’
Roger Ailes, the disgraced former Chairman of Fox News, and political operative, died at the age of 77 from a blood clot caused by a fall. Politico had one of the better obits we could find.
Ailes’ death reminds us that, well, everybody dies. And while ideas can certainly live on, the ultimate reality of mortality may be a greater safeguard against scoundrelism than anything written into the Constitution.
Help Spread The Word
If you are enjoying our daily The Chaos Report emails, feel free to forward and share it with your friends. They can sign up to get the daily email here.