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Fed up with his team, Trump pulls defenders off the field

President Donald Trump, in red cap, arrives at

President Donald Trump, in red cap, arrives at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., on Sunday, May 14, 2017. Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Brendan Smialowski

Quiet before storm?

Maybe they were grateful for the day off. Not only had President Donald Trump taken a wrecking ball to the explanation his staff and Vice President Mike Pence had put out for the firing of FBI Director James Comey, but he also fed suspicions about his motives in interviews and tweets that followed.

“Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace noted the White House refused to make anyone available to discuss Comey’s dismissal. The same was so for all five major Sunday news shows, though Kellyanne Conway showed up on Fox News Channel’s “Media Buzz” to complain about news coverage.

Conway taunted reporters for not breaking news of Comey’s firing before it was announced -- an odd comment considering Trump’s rage at “leaks.”

The Comey fiasco was fresh evidence of the president’s penchant for self-sabotage (see “Muslim ban” and the Trump Tower wiretap accusation) -- and for blaming others for what goes wrong.

Trump wouldn’t commit in a Fox News interview to keeping Sean Spicer as press secretary. White House sources told Axios that the president -- “frustrated, and angry at everyone” -- is mulling a “huge reboot” that could dump Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, chief strategist Steve Bannon and counsel Don McGahn, too.

The take-away: Comey won

Comey comes out an instant winner on a psychic level for the way his dismissal played out, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.

Comey can boast that his actions alienated the top figures of both major parties during the same election -- and still had to be taken seriously. He made his parting points in full sentences without whining, pointing fingers or making wild accusations.

Institutions at risk

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Sunday that U.S. democratic institutions are “under assault” from President Donald Trump, reports Newsday’s Emily Ngo and David M. Schwartz. He asserted the Russians see the firing of Comey as “another victory.”

Trump and White House officials have often cited a Clapper comment in March that he saw no evidence of collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

But Clapper, who appeared in two Sunday interviews, said his comments weren’t “exculpatory” -- he didn’t even know before leaving office that the FBI was investigating that question.

And then came Jeff...

One noteworthy area of consensus that emerged despite last year's political polarization centered on reducing the nation's prison population. But former Sen. Jeff Sessions' leap to attorney general may well stop change in its tracks.   

Let’s go to the tapes

Trump’s tweet that “Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations” has both Republicans and Democrats in Congress ready to put on the headphones.

“If there are tapes of” Comey’s conversations with Trump -- especially related to the Russia investigation -- then “they need to be turned over,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), a former federal prosecutor, said “it’s probably inevitable” that such recordings would need to be handed over to Congress.

Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), vice chair of the intelligence committee, said the tapes “absolutely” would be subpoenaed.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that if such tapes exist, “the president should turn them over immediately.” And if not? “He should apologize to both Jim Comey and the American people for misleading them.”

Poll: Need independent probe

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found 78 percent of Americans support an independent commission or special prosecutor to investigate Russia’s involvement in the 2016 elections, while just 15 percent would leave it to Congress.

As for Comey’s firing, 38 percent disapproved, 29 percent approved and 32 percent hadn’t formed an opinion. Trump’s job-approval rating is 39 percent.

According to the news organizations, the poll was conducted via telephone from May 11-13 with 800 adults -- including nearly half on cellphone -- and has an overall margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Still fans; maybe not BFFs

For now, many Long Islanders who voted for Trump say they are pleased with him so far and are willing to give him more time to fulfill his agenda. “We as a nation need to chill out and give him a chance,” said Stacey Bishop of Southold.

But Trump voters interviewed by Newsday’s Carol Polsky weren’t uncritical on all he’s done, said or tweeted.

Some didn’t like how he fired Comey (“a little ham-handed” said Roger Eltringham of Garden City). Others want a moderate policy to immigration and there is concern over whether his approach will make health care coverage better.

“Ask me again in a year,” Bishop said.

What else is happening

  • Freshman Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) is trying to buck the polarization in the House by reaching out to Republicans to “get things done.” That has brought down the wrath of progressives, writes Newsday’s Paul LaRocco.
  • Much was made of Rudy Giuliani's recent appointment to a Trump task force on cyber-security, but since a massive ransomware attack began to play out last week, the ex-mayor's presence in any emergency White House meetings has yet to be noticed.
  • Trump sent out his Happy #MothersDay tweet to first lady Melania and “all of the great mothers out there” after arriving at his Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia. It was the 15th consecutive weekend that he spent time at a Trump business property.
  • Trump’s star power has boosted attendance for some charity events at Mar-a-Lago since Election Day, according to a Washington Post analysis. Trump’s club also made more money, because its charges are based on the number of guests.
  • Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates finds merit in Trump’s “disruptive” foreign policy — especially on North Korea. “We’ve had three administrations follow a pretty consistent policy toward North Korea, and it really hasn’t gotten us anywhere,” Gates said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
  • The self-inflicted chaos of the past week has stoked concerns about how the Trump White House will handle a real crisis, Politico reports.
  • By 48 percent to 23 percent, Americans say that the Trump-backed health care legislation recently passed by the House is a bad idea, according to the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
  • Callista Gingrich, the wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, is the White House choice to be the next ambassador to the Vatican, pending clearance from the Office of Government Ethics, CNN reports.

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