Ex-FBI boss gets slap-around
No one's coming to lock him up. But the Justice Department's inspector general concluded that former FBI Director James Comey broke the bureau's rules after his firing by Donald Trump by arranging for the news media to get his accounts of unsettling meetings with the president on the Russia investigation.
“By not safeguarding sensitive information obtained during the course of his FBI employment, and by using it to create public pressure for official action, Comey set a dangerous example," IG Michael Horowitz's report said. The report also criticized Comey for keeping the government documents — his memos about the Trump meetings — at home and for not telling the bureau to whom he had given them even after he became aware that some contained classified information.
But the report also found that contrary to accusations by Trump, among others, the material Comey shared with the media through an intermediary was not classified. The Justice Department declined to prosecute him. But Trump appeared to find the report stinging enough.
"Perhaps never in the history of our Country has someone been more thoroughly disgraced and excoriated than James Comey in the just released Inspector General’s Report. He should be ashamed of himself!" Trump tweeted.
Comey, who has said his goal was the appointment of a special counsel, offered no regrets. Noting he was cleared of leaking classified info, he tweeted, "I don't need a public apology from those who defamed me, but a quick message with a 'sorry we lied about you' would be nice." To those who predicted he'd go to jail for being "a liar and a leaker," Comey shot back: "Ask yourselves why you still trust people who gave you bad info for so long, including the president."
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Horowitz's report showed that because of Comey, "the nation was forced to endure the baseless politically motivated, two-year witch hunt." A Trump ally, Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, predicted other Justice probes will produce "several more ugly and damning rebukes of senior DOJ and FBI officials regarding their actions and biases toward the Trump campaign of 2016.”
But Obama-era Justice spokesman Matthew Miller tweeted, “The IG has basically faulted Comey for speeding on his way to tell the village that a fire was coming.” The special counsel, Robert Mueller, found Trump's firing of Comey and his attempts to put the brakes on the Russia investigation were among 10 potential obstructions of justice. Democratic-led House committees continue to investigate.
Why a pause on Ukraine aid?
Trump is seriously considering a plan to block $250 million in military assistance to Ukraine, a move that would please Russian President Vladimir Putin but likely prompts a bipartisan uproar from members of Congress, CNN reported.
The Pentagon, which was asked to review the package, concluded the aid should continue, a senior Defense Department official told Politico.
At the White House, seeking to explain the pause in aid, a senior official said Trump believed that "when it comes to foreign assistance that U.S. interests abroad should be prioritized and other foreign countries should also be paying their fair share.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) suggested another motive, noting that Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani has been lobbying Ukraine to push an investigation involving Joe Biden's son, Hunter. "Trump is withholding vital military aid to Ukraine, while his personal lawyer seeks help from the Ukraine government to investigate his political opponent," Schiff tweeted. "It doesn't take a stable genius to see the magnitude of this conflict."
Janison: OD on deregulation
When the titans of the fossil-fuel industry are more worried about their carbon footprint than the government is, it's a sign that the Trump administration is pushing deregulation to the outer limits.
Yet that's what's happening. Newsday's Dan Janison writes that Shell's U.S. president is the latest to oppose a proposed rollback of environmental rules for oil and gas producers to curb methane leaks from new facilities. BP also has warned that voluntary actions “are not enough to solve the problem,” which can hurt the companies' images as well as the environment, though smaller operators are looking at looser rules more favorably.
Trump is taking to task automakers who are making deals to reduce emissions in new vehicles, following the lead of California's regulators instead of Trump, who wants easier standards. "Car companies should know that when this Administration's alternative is no longer available, California will squeeze them to a point of business ruin," Trump complained.
Joe's hero story not exactly so
Joe Biden told a vivid story to New Hampshire voters about visiting Afghanistan as vice president and pinning a Silver Star on a hero Navy captain who didn't want the medal because the comrade he retrieved under fire had died.
The Washington Post examined the story and found Biden had conflated at least three events, getting wrong the time period, the location, the heroic act, the type of medal, the military branch and the rank of the recipient, as well as his own role in the ceremony.
There is another — and true — story of Biden pinning a Bronze star on a soldier who also tried to save a dying friend in Afghanistan and was reluctant to receive the medal. Biden rarely tells that story, the Post said.
Campaigning in South Carolina, Biden said he hadn't read The Washington Post story. But he told an interviewer from The Post and Courier of Charleston that he said nothing "that wasn't the essence of the story."
Heavens can't wait
Trump marked the return of the U.S. Space Command at a Rose Garden ceremony on Thursday, moving the country one step closer to establishing a sixth branch of the military, the "Space Force," reports Newsday's Laura Figueroa Hernandez.
The new command will be tasked with coordinating all military and intelligence operations in space, including defending U.S. satellites in orbit. Those efforts were previously handled by the Defense Department’s Strategic Command. The original Space Command was established in the 1980s but dissolved after the 9/11 attacks led to a shift in priorities.
"The dangers to our country constantly evolve and so must we,” Trump said. His "Space Force" plan still requires congressional approval.
Democratic debate lineup set
Ten candidates made the cut for the next Democratic presidential debate. That made the field manageable enough to contain it to a single night — Thursday, Sept, 12 — but will also be an endurance contest, lasting three hours from 8 to 11 p.m. on ABC.
The podium positions, determined by polling numbers, will literally set the stage for some of the potential one-on-one confrontations that debate-watchers have been waiting for. Biden, situated in the center, will have Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders next to him.
Also to appear are Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Andrew Yang, Beto O'Rourke and Julián Castro.
Among those on the outside looking in will be Bill de Blasio, Tom Steyer, Tulsi Gabbard and Marianne Williamson.
Westerhout out of West Wing
Madeleine Westerhout, who was Trump's longtime personal assistant, has been forced out of the job. Sources told The New York Times she indiscreetly shared details about the president’s family and the Oval Office operations she was part of during a recent off-the-record dinner with journalists.
What else is happening:
- With Hurricane Dorian threatening Florida, Trump canceled planned weekend trip to Poland to mark the 80th anniversary of the start of World War II. Vice President Mike Pence will go in his place.
- A federal judge in Washington on Thursday turned back an attempt by House Democrats seeking Trump's tax returns to fast-track its suit against the Treasury Department and IRS. "It may be appropriate to expedite this matter at some point, but not now," the judge said.
- While more than half the House Democrats favor an impeachment inquiry, their eagerness varies. The Associated Press plotted their views on a spectrum ranging to impeach "right now" to "reluctant but supportive." Those who haven't called for an inquiry fall into "wait and see" and "never ever" camps.
- Trump said he plans to pull 5,000 U.S. troops out of Afghanistan and U.S. negotiators are "getting close" to a deal with the Taliban but “who knows if it’s going to happen.” He spoke on Fox News Radio.
- The Trump administration unveiled new rules that will make it harder for children of some immigrants in the military to obtain citizenship if the kids were born outside the country while the parents were serving abroad.
- A Trump Republican challenger, Joe Walsh, isn't ruling out running on a third-party ticket. He was interviewed by RealClearPolitics.