Preview Of Fired FBI Director’s Senate Testimony Goes Significantly Further Than What We Knew Before
It’s a written transcript of the statement fired FBI Director James Comey is planning to make as part of his testimony today before the Senate Intelligence Committee. The hearing is scheduled for 10 AM EDT.
In it, Comey confirms a lot of what’s leaked out since Trump fired him about a month ago: that the President, on several occasions, asked Comey to back off investigating former national security adviser Michael Flynn. And that Trump demanded a statement of loyalty, Comey demurred, and instead promised honesty.
But the statement goes significantly further: contending Trump expressed displeasure not only because Comey would not let the Flynn investigation go, but also because Comey did not do anything to publicize the fact Trump himself was not under investigation. Comey talks about the President’s repeated and strange references to “a cloud” that was impairing his ability to govern, and how Trump wanted the FBI director to “lift the cloud” by getting word out to the public that he was not under investigation.
Of course, now the word is out. And the detail was immediately seized upon by Trump’s team. Newly-hired personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz saying the President “feels completely and totally vindicated.” (It is notable the response did not come by Tweet.) And as of the time of publication of this newsletter: dead silence from Trump himself. That’s right, no early morning Tweets today.
Meanwhile, Comey’s close friend and Lawfare editor Benjamin Wittes calls the statement “the most shocking single document compiled about the official conduct of the public duties of any President since the release of the Watergate tapes.” And Buzzfeed says there are 18 key revelations in the Comey doc.
One other notable preview piece that we unfortunately kind of agree with, is from New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait, who argues Trump supporters have the view that “any evidence of crimes he has committed is actually evidence of crimes committed against him.” (Hence their obsession with leakers, not the content of leaks.) He further argues that Conservatives are true insurgents, and Trump is, so far, delivering beyond their wildest dreams: abandoning all his centrist notions, while doubling down on policies favored by the radical right-wing. So obstruction be damned: there’s no way they’ll shut him down now.
Intelligence Chiefs Stonewall Committee On Questions About Trump’s Requests
Appearing before the same committee that will hear Comey’s testimony, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, and National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers both refused to discuss in detail private conversations they’d had with President Trump.
When asked about a Washington Post story that Trump asked Coats if he could ask Comey to back off the Flynn/Russia investigation, Coats replied, “I don’t believe it’s appropriate for me to address that in a public session.”
Similarly, Rogers stated “I’m not going to discuss the specifics of any conversations with the President of the United States”.
Here’s a heated exchange between the two of them and Maine Independent Senator Angus King:
Senate Moves On Stricter, More Permanent Russia Sanctions
A group of key Senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are moving very quickly to beef up sanctions against Russia by piggybacking on an already existing bill meant to crack down on missile tests by Iran. The idea of writing Russia sanctions into that bill represents a big change for congress, which until now had left the management of sanctions, by-and-large, to the White House.
Turkey Comes To Qatar’s Aid, Complicating U.S. Role In Mideast Dispute
Turkey is moving to show support to Qatar by putting troops there, and is also expected to help with food and water supplies after Saudi Arabia and its allies abruptly cut off trade and diplomatic ties earlier in the week. President Trump, in a series of Tweets, came down squarely on the side of the Saudis, saying when he visited the Mideast last month, everyone was pointing fingers at Qatar as a source of funding for terrorism. But he’s also a big fan of Turkey’s now-leader-for-life Recep Erdogan, so it’ll be interesting to watch how the brinkmanship on all sides plays out from here. The dangerous situation is compounded by the fact that 11,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Qatar and our airbase there is considered crucial to the recently-launched attack on the Syrian ISIS stronghold of Raqqa.
UK Elections: Stronger Backing For Brexit, Or Backlash?
Voting is in progress this morning in Britain. Polls in Britain are open much later than they tend to be in the U.S., so the earliest possible time for results will be around 5 PM EDT, with more substantial returns by 8 or 9.
Here’s a very comprehensive look at what to expect hour-by-hour.
And here’s a look at the issues in the “snap election.” Mainly that Conservative Prime Minister May is looking for stronger backing of a hard-line approach to the European Union as she continues Brexit negotiations. Who’s best equipped to handle terrorist threats in light of recent attacks in Manchester and London is also a major issue. Labour opponent Jeremy Corbyn questioning the Conservatives’ cuts in funding to police and security apparatus, and also May’s background as chief of counter-intelligence.
The BBC has a good primer for non-Brits on key issues and the positions of each party.
Kansas Governor Slammed By His Own Party Over Failed Policies, So Now He Might Go Work For Trump
In a powerful repudiation to some of the same kinds of economic policies President Trump is trying to implement nationwide, Kansas’ Republican controlled House and Senate rebelled against their own governor, Sam Brownback. By wide margins, they overturned his veto of a law reversing the drastic tax cuts that were the hallmark of his governorship. The money will be used to patch a huge hole in the state budget, and fund schools. Brownback has continually argued that trickle-down economics does work, it’s just nobody’s ever given it enough time.
In the wake of this legislative knock-out, The Wichita Eagle speculates the governor may not serve the rest of his term in office, and take a job with the Trump Administration instead.
“I Do Not Support A Livable Wage”
Those words from Republican congressional candidate Karen Handel, during a debate with Democrat John Ossoff, in a closely-watched and painfully-expensive special election in Georgia. The two are vying for the seat vacated by Republican Tom Price, who became Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human services. You can watch the exchange here (and try to figure out how deep a hole she’s dug for herself):
National media picked up on Handel’s fumble and asked the question today: will it matter? To which we answer: why is this even a question? Of course it will. We always remember Paul Manafort’s sage axiom: “He [or she] who is in the spotlight on election day will lose.” Some respected political analysts don’t agree with us: pointing to polls showing only 3% of voters in the special election remain undecided. But an Ossoff victory won’t come from winning over undecideds: he needs to discourage large numbers of Republicans from voting at all. And a statement like this could go a long way toward achieving that. We’d also imagine it’ll be in almost every single TV ad he runs from here until votes get counted June 20th.
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