Revenge of the G-man
Donald Trump never did get his loyalty pledge from James Comey. Eleven months after Trump fired the FBI director, Comey’s book is coming out, depicting a “forest fire of a presidency” led by a congenital liar who built “a cocoon of alternative reality that he was busily wrapping around all of us.”
Comey scorches Trump as an unethical leader, devoid of human emotion and driven by personal ego, in his book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership,”
His encounters with Trump, Comey said, gave him “flashbacks to my earlier career as a prosecutor against the Mob. ... The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview” and a “code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth.”
The Trump demand for his “loyalty,” Comey said, was reminiscent of a “Cosa Nostra induction ceremony.”
The book stays away from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, but indirectly takes on Republicans who do little while Trump and his allies try to discredit federal prosecutors and the FBI.
“It is also wrong to stand idly by, or worse, to stay silent when you know better, while a president brazenly seeks to undermine public confidence in law enforcement institutions that were established to keep our leaders in check,” said Comey.
Comey: Russia under the shrug
Comey recounted his surprise at how Trump and his team reacted when intelligence chiefs presented their findings on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“They were about to lead a country that had been attacked by a foreign adversary, yet they had no questions about what the future Russian threat might be,” Comey writes.
Trump did have one question: “You found there was no impact on the result, right?” James R. Clapper Jr., then the director of national intelligence, replied there was no finding one way or the other.
At a later meeting with Comey, Trump was recounting a TV interview during which the president complimented Vladimir Putin, and — upon being told Putin was “a killer” — replied, “We’ve got a lot of killers. ... Our country’s so innocent?”
Trump asked Comey: “You think it was a great answer, right?” Comey said: “We aren’t the kind of killers that Putin is.” Trump’s eyes changed, his jaw tightened and the meeting ended, Comey said.
Comey: Trump’s dossier freakout
Comey writes that Trump raised with him the possibility of investigating — and disproving — the infamous Russian dossier allegation that the Kremlin taped him watching a pair of Russian prostitutes urinate on his bed in a Moscow hotel suite.
“It bothered him if there was ‘even a one percent chance’ his wife, Melania, thought it was true,” said Comey. Trump returned to the subject several times during the coming months, asking what Comey could do to “lift the cloud.’ ”
Comey: Hillary’s emails
Hillary Clinton and her allies contend she would have won the election had Comey not announced in the final weeks a reopening of the emails investigation.
Comey said his decision may have been subconsciously influenced by the widespread assumption that Trump would lose. Consequently, “my concern about making her an illegitimate president by concealing the restarted investigation bore greater weight.”
Comey said he took a bigger personal role as the public face of the investigation rather than deferring to then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch because of still-classified information that, while “unverified,” would “undoubtedly have been used by political opponents to cast serious doubt” on her independence.
Lordy, are there tapes?
Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal attorney and fixer, sometimes taped conversations with associates, and that has allies of the president worried that such recordings were seized in this week’s FBI raids, The Washington Post reports.
It is unknown whether Cohen taped conversations between himself and Trump, the story said.
The feds are examining Cohen’s role in facilitating payments to bury the stories of affairs with Trump by two women, porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.
The Post also reports investigators are looking at Cohen’s dealings with a bank that gave him loans using assets from his taxi-medallion business as collateral.
Citing the criminal investigation, Cohen’s lawyers notified a federal court in California they will be seeking a stay in the Daniels lawsuit to protect his Fifth Amendment rights.
Scraping TPP from his shoe?
As a candidate, Trump stomped all over the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact as “another disaster done and pushed by special interests who want to rape our country.” One of his first acts as president was to withdraw from it.
But as Trump tries to take on China over trade — a battle that puts American agricultural interests at particular risk — a group of farm-state lawmakers suggested to him the U.S. would gain leverage if it joined hands with Beijing’s competitors. (That was a key original argument by TPP advocates.)
Trump “looked right at Larry Kudlow” — his top economic adviser — “and said, ‘Larry, go get it done,’ ” according to Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.)
It may be easier said than done. Eleven other nations, including Japan and Canada, finalized a revised version of the trade pact last month. But Trump said it “might be easier to join now,” according to Sasse.
Trump also had a second-thoughts-Thursday on Syria. A day after his “Get ready Russia” tweet, Trump returned to the subject on Twitter with: “Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all!”
Even as the U.S. and allied governments seemed growingly confident that the Russian-backed Syrian regime was responsible for a deadly chemical-warfare attack on civilians, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned such a retaliatory attack carried the risk of spinning out of control.
Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said later, after Trump met with Mattis and other national security officials: “No final decision has been made.” Trump was to speak late in the day with French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May. See Newsday’s story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.
The swamp from 35,000 feet
A former deputy to Scott “The Sky’s The Limit” Pruitt says the EPA chief pushed to fly on an airline not on the government’s approved list so he could accrue more frequent flyer miles, The New York Times reports.
Kevin Chmielewski, removed as the EPA deputy chief of staff after objecting to the binge-spending of taxpayer funds, said Pruitt — wanting to travel to particular destinations and make weekend visits to his home in Oklahoma — told staff to “find me something to do” so the trips would count as official travel.
Pruitt also insisted on staying in luxury hotels that were costlier than allowed by government standards, Chmielewski — a former Trump campaign aide — told a group of Capitol Hill Democrats.
What else is happening
- CIA director Mike Pompeo teetered on a tightrope at his Senate hearing to be confirmed as Secretary of State. Questioned about Trump’s reported request in March 2017 that he ask Comey to stop the Mike Flynn investigation, Pompeo said, “I don’t recall what he asked me” — but added that he’s never been asked to do anything “remotely improper.”
- Pompeo was firmer in distancing himself from a Trump tweet blaming tensions with Russia on the Mueller investigation, Pompeo said “Russian bad behavior” is the cause.
- Mueller’s office and Trump’s legal team are now proceeding with strategies that presume Trump will not agree to an interview by the special counsel, NBC News reported.
- A lawyerly sounding tweet under Trump’s name said, “I have agreed with the historically cooperative, disciplined approach that we have engaged in with Robert Mueller.” There was a Trumpian touch too: “(Unlike the Clintons!)”
- That tweet also said, “I have full confidence in Ty Cobb, my Special Counsel, and have been fully advised throughout each phase of this process.” The likely context was unsolicited advice from exiled aide Steve Bannon to fire Cobb and stop cooperating.
- Trump met with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in an encounter White House aides hoped would cool tensions over the Mueller investigation, but it didn’t seem to work, Bloomberg News reported.
- Eight months before giving McDougal $150,000 for her affair story, but not publishing it, the National Enquirer made a $30,000 payment to a former doorman at Trump World Tower near the UN who told of a “rumor” that Trump fathered a child with an employee there.
- Condo prices at Trump Tower have dropped 30% per square foot compared with an 8% fall in comparable properties on Manhattan’s midtown East Side, Reuters reports, citing stats from CityRealty.com.