Comey don’t play that
FBI director James Comey doesn’t like when officials do things that he finds “extremely careless.” Just ask Hillary Clinton.
Now it’s Donald Trump who may be headed for a showdown with the G-man in chief after tweeting — with no evidence — an accusation that President Barack Obama ordered his phone at Trump Tower tapped in the homestretch of the 2016 campaign.
To Comey, that amounts to a false insinuation that the bureau broke the law, The New York Times reported, citing senior American officials as sources. CNN, ABC News, The Washington Post and other news organizations said their sources confirmed the story.
It’s the attorney general, not the president, who signs off on applications for wiretap warrants.
Comey privately called on the Justice Department to reject Trump’s claims, the Times report said. The stakes are enormous: To do so would put top U.S. law enforcement officials in the position of disputing the president’s truthfulness.
On ABC's "Good Morning America," White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked if Trump accepted Comey's assertion. She replied "I don't think he does."
Further complicating the situation: Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from all matters related to the investigations of connections between Russian election meddling and Trump’s team.
There are few senior officials left at the Justice Department who can make the decision to release the statement that Comey wants, The Times said.
Call for backup
A day after Trump’s tweetstorm and declaring “This is Nixon/Watergate,” there was still no evidence to support the extraordinary allegation. So press secretary Sean Spicer asked Congress to go find it.
“Reports concerning potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election are very troubling,” a Spicer statement said.
“President Donald J. Trump is requesting that as part of their investigation into Russian activity, the congressional intelligence committees . . . determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016.”
The attribution to “reports” and the hedge-word “potentially” are indicators the Trump press shop wasn’t fully embracing the boss’ charge as gospel, apparently based on speculation in right-wing media outlets such as Breitbart.
“Potential” was a word that deputy press secretary Huckabee Sanders kept falling back on during an interview on ABC’s “This Week.”
See Emily Ngo and David M. Schwartz’s story for Newsday.
One way or another, he’s bugged
A close friend of Trump, CEO Christopher Ruddy of the conservative Newsmax media group, said he spoke to Trump on Saturday and hadn’t seen the president so angry in a long time.
“When I mentioned Obama ‘denials’ about the wiretaps, he shot back: ‘This will be investigated, it will all come out. I will be proven right.’ ”
The president was upset over the latest round of Russia connection reports and the abrupt decision by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from Russia matters after news he had failed to disclose campaign-time meetings with Moscow’s ambassador.
The rules of tap
If Trump or his campaign’s team or associates were tapped — legally — it’s not something he’d want to shout about.
Officials must meet a high bar to tap the phone of an American citizen on American soil, especially if that person is a political candidate, Politico explains.
The FBI would need to get the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to agree there is probable cause that someone is committing a crime or colluding with foreign intelligence services.
“If it’s true, it’s even worse for the president. Because that means that a federal judge . . . has found probable cause that the president, or people on his staff . . . have probable cause to have broken the law or to have interacted with a foreign agent,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
However, Obama’s former director of national intelligence James Clapper said on the same program that “there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president.”
The take-away: Running of bulls
Trump used Wall Street as a punching bag during the campaign, but since the election, the financial industry has been feeling no pain.
There has been a measured giddiness in the stock market as the new president moved to lift regulations on banks imposed after the financial crisis as well as propose tax cuts and visions of massive military and infrastructure-spending plans, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.
More broadly, businesses have been the winners from moves by the Trump administration and the GOP-controlled Congress to delay, suspend or reverse more than 90 regulations, The New York Times reports.
Trump said he’s no longer managing his businesses, but he still owns them, and politics is paying dividends.
Sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric took notes and made contacts during their time on the campaign trail that are boosting plans to expand hotel properties to a broader mix of cities.
“I got to see a lot of those markets on the campaign” and “I met people along the way that would be awesome partners,” Donald Jr. told The Washington Post.
A bleaker view of a Trump hotel enterprise emerges when examining the construction of an empty namesake tower in Azerbaijan. The oligarchs he worked with have ties to Iran's Revolutionary Guard, according to a new piece in the New Yorker.
What else is happening:
- Trump called for an end to “trivial fights” in last week’s speech to Congress, but that doesn’t include his feud with Arnold Schwarzenegger, who replaced him on “Celebrity Apprentice.” Tweeted Trump: “he was fired by his bad (pathetic) ratings, not by me.”
- Sessions greeted guests at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, where he attended meetings Saturday, the Palm Beach Post reports.
- To the GOP faithful, Trump can at least brag he's under attack from the leader of Communist Cuba. Among other things he blasted Trump as pushing "an extreme and egotistical trade policy."
- An administration official said a Trump order approving two pipeline projects and requiring the use of American-made steel won’t apply to the Keystone XL oil pipeline — despite his prior statements that it would — because the steel has already been delivered, The Wall Street Journal [pay site] reported.
- Trump has been planning to issue his revised travel ban on immigration from some Muslim-majority countries on Monday. It has been postponed before.
- Trying to have it both ways, the president tells his public that the travel ban won't be substantially changed while his lawyers tell the courts otherwise.
- Vice President Mike Pence criticized The Associated Press for including his wife’s personal email address in a story about his efforts to block release of his emails as Indiana governor. The AP said it removed Karen Pence’s AOL address from subsequent stories after learning it was still active.