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Most Brilliant Take On Comey’s Testimony By Far: “The Predator-In-Chief”


Nicole Serratore has written for today’s New York Times what is probably the most acute and disturbing assessment of former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate yesterday regarding his interactions with Donald Trump, and it is a take I am ashamed to admit I never saw coming. But it is devastating:

As I listened to James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, tell the Senate Intelligence Committee about his personal meetings and phone calls with President Trump, I was reminded of something: the experience of a woman being harassed by her powerful, predatory boss. There was precisely that sinister air of coercion, of an employee helpless to avoid unsavory contact with an employer who is trying to grab what he wants.

The parallels she draws between the behavior of a sexual predator/harasser and the behavior Trump exhibited to Comey in attempting to dissuade him from expanding his investigation into Trump’s Russian dealings are inescapable:

On Jan. 27, Mr. Comey received a last-minute dinner invitation from the president, and then learned it would be “just the two of us.” On Thursday, Mr. Comey revealed that he had had to break a date with his wife in order to dine with Mr. Trump. Already, something about this “setup” made him “uneasy.”

He froze: “I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed.”

Trump sitting there, one-on-one with Comey, smugly insisting on “loyalty,” raises the creepy apparition of any male boss in a position of power who desires “an arrangement” with an unwilling female subordinate. The fact that Comey is a full-grown man–the head of the FBI, no less– doesn’t detract from the comparison. The intimidation, the hint of emotional blackmail–this is exactly the behavior of a well-practiced sexual harasser. There are no significant distinctions in attitude, in method, not even in nuance, and Serratore effectively shows that the interactions that resulted between Comey and Trump are identical to the classic interactions between the  harasser and the harassed:

During that interminable, awkward dinner, Mr. Comey struggled to convince Mr. Trump of the danger of “blurring” boundaries. But Mr. Trump was not deterred and returned to the subject of the loyalty he must have. There you hear the eternal voice of the predatory seducer: the man who knows how hard he can make it for a woman to refuse his needs.

Comey’s attempts to “explain” his behavior—his regret that he couldn’t have been “stronger”– also echo the self-blaming language of the harassment victim. Even the Republican Senators’ haranguing questioning of Comey raises eerie echoes of the way victims of sexual assault are treated by all- male bodies sitting in judgment:

During his testimony, Mr. Comey was asked why he had not responded more robustly, why he had not told Mr. Trump that he, the president, was acting inappropriately or reported his behavior immediately to others in authority.

Where have you heard that before?  Why didn’t you fight him off? Did you encourage him?

Comey’s efforts to extricate himself from Trump’s insistence on “loyalty” –his attempt to reach some “safe” compromise by offering up “honesty” instead—suggests nothing so much as a woman attempting to extricate herself from a wholly uncomfortable situation, in which the balance of power is tilted grossly against her. Even Comey’s efforts to physically hide himself out of Trump’s field of vision (“behind the curtains”) in their later interactions reveals a disturbing similarity to the responses many women are forced to make to unwanted and unwelcome coercion.

Serratore just doesn’t let up in this piece. By the time you are finished reading it, you will either be wholly convinced, or you will remain forever clueless as to what millions of women in this country have experienced day in and day out.  Even Trump’s final interaction with Comey, immediately before he fired him, is analogous. 

In their final exchange, on April 11, Mr. Trump told the F.B.I. director, “I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.” On May 9, having rebuffed the president, Mr. Comey was fired.

It’s gross. It’s creepy. It’s what Trump is.

Ryan says Trump is just ‘new at this’ and doesn’t understand that he’s obstructing justice


House Speaker Paul Ryan demonstrated two things Thursday: popular vote loser Donald Trump is not fit to be president, and Ryan is not fit for his own job. While fired FBI Director James Comey was delivering his blistering testimony regarding the Trump/Russia investigation, including the fact that as far as Comey was concerned Trump telling him to lay off of the Mike Flynn was an order, Ryan was giving his regular press briefing. And dismissing obstruction of justice because Trump is just ignorant about what the president does and how all this works.

Comey says Pence was aware of Flynn problems as early as the transition, which means Pence lied


Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) just pulled Vice President Mike Pence into the heart of the Russia investigation, asking former FBI Director James Comey whether Pence was aware of the concerns about Mike Flynn’s Russia connections both prior to and during his brief tenure in the administration—that is during the transition. Which Mike Pence directed.

Comey: “My understanding is that he was.”

That undermines Pence’s claim that he was totally ignorant of Pence’s Russia ties and that Flynn had lied to him about it. That supposed lie, remember, was the justification Trump gave for firing Flynn.

Sign the petition: Release transcripts of White House recordings

Nomination Of Christopher Wray As FBI Chief Is Middle Finger To FBI; & He’s Involved With Russia

Donald Trump announced Wednesday morning (over Twitter, naturally), his nominee for FBI Director, Christopher Wray, none other than Chris Christie’s Bridgegate attorney, and a partner in a law firm that represents Russian oil companies. This from The New York Times:

The president revealed his decision in an early-morning tweet without alerting members of Congress in advance. It came on the eve of a blockbuster congressional hearing scheduled for Thursday in which James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director he ousted abruptly last month, was to testify about what he interpreted as improper attempts by Mr. Trump to pressure him.

Hours after the Twitter post, the White House followed up with an official statement in which Mr. Trump called Mr. Wray “an impeccably qualified individual,” citing his role in major fraud investigations and antiterrorism efforts at the Justice Department after the 9/11 attacks.

“I know that he will again serve his country as a fierce guardian of the law and model of integrity once the Senate confirms him to lead the F.B.I.,” Mr. Trump said in the statement.

Let’s take a look at this “fierce guardian of the law,” and “model of integrity,” shall we? Here’s what the ACLU says. Again, from NYT:

“Christopher Wray’s firm’s legal work for the Trump family, his history of partisan activity, as well as his history of defending Trump’s transition director during a criminal scandal makes us question his ability to lead the F.B.I. with the independence, evenhanded judgment, and commitment to the rule of law that the agency deserves,” said Faiz Shakir, the national political director of the American Civil Liberties Union, referring to Mr. Christie and the Bridgegate case.

Mr. Shakir said Mr. Wray would also have to “come clean about his role” in legal justifications for the use of torture during the Bush administration after the 9/11 attacks.

The “impeccably qualified individual” has as his biggest credit, besides being Christie’s scandal lawyer, a whopping two years service as head of the criminal division of the Justice Department from 2003 to 2005. And what do FBI agents say about this? Here’s what former FBI Director Ron Hosko told The Daily Beast:

“Unfortunately, the timing of this nomination—if this is what you call it, nomination by tweet—the timing of it looks as political as anything else today, because this was obviously timed to take a little bit of light and heat out of tomorrow’s show,” Hosko told The Daily Beast. “The first step in this president’s dealing with what could be the next FBI director is politics on display, day one, moment one.”

A retired FBI agent concurred.

“He’s trying to deflect,” the retired agent said. “Given the fact that you fired Comey, you should have a replacement named within a week or so. This has gone on for what, a month?”

“It’s a joke,” he added. “It’s an insult to every FBI agent, current and former.

So we’ve got  two years relevant experience, Trump partisan, and torture advocate to run the FBI, an entity consisting of 40,000 agents stationed worldwide. Right. And here’s something else that’s interesting, are you ready for this? He’s got Russian connections of his own. Russian oil company connections, to be precise. USA Today gives us details:

The most troubling issue that Wray may face is the fact that his law firm — King & Spalding — represents Rosneft and Gazprom, two of Russia’s largest state-controlled oil companies.

Rosneft was prominently mentioned in the now infamous 35-page dossier prepared by former British MI6 agent Christopher Steele. The dossier claims that the CEO of Rosneft, Igor Sechin, offered candidate Donald Trump, through Trump’s campaign manager Carter Page, a 19% stake in the company in exchange for lifting U.S. sanctions on Russia. The dossier claims that the offer was made in July while Page was in Moscow.

Rosneft is also the company that had a $500 billion oil drilling joint-venture with Exxon in 2012, when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was Exxon’s CEO. However, the deal was nixed by President Obama in 2014, when he imposed the sanctions that crippled Russia’s ability to do business with U.S. companies. The lifting of sanctions by the Trump administration would enable Exxon to renew its joint venture agreement with Rosneft, and the law firm of King & Spalding could end up in the middle of the contract negotiations between those two companies.

And you think that representing Rosneft, and having that conflict of interests is bad?  It gets worse. More from USA today:

The law firm’s representation of Gazprom raises even more serious conflict issues for Wray. Gazprom was a partner in RosUkrEnergo AG (“RUE”), which is controlled by Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash. He is under federal indictment in Chicago for racketeering charges, has had numerous financial dealings with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, and is generally considered to be a member of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.

Can you believe it? And even if Wray didn’t personally work on these matters while at King & Spaulding, as a partner he and all of the other partners of the law firm have an actual or potential conflict of interest, which would prevent them from undertaking any representation of another client whose interests are clearly adverse to these two Russian oil companies. These conflict of interest rules still apply even after the lawyer leaves the law firm in question. So to bottom line it, we may have an “impeccably qualified” nominee who, in all reality, is probably going to have to recuse himself  from an FBI investigation of Kremlin Gate for ethical reasons. And since he would be operating in his capacity as Director of the FBI, it’s not difficult to imagine that a recusal or worse yet, a failure to even acknowledge a conflict of interests could seriously compromise the validity and objectivity of any investigation by the FBI.

Remember the talk of “a cloud” hanging over Trump due to Comey not wanting to publicly exculpate him from any wrongdoing vis a vis Kremlin Gate? The cloud over Christopher Wray is nuclear winter by comparison. This man cannot be confirmed by the Senate as our next FBI Director. No way.

Democrats to file suit against Trump over his ongoing violations of Constitution’s emoluments clause

A reminder that underneath all the questions about Russia and tax returns and white nationalists and take-your-pick, the heart of the Trump-Pence administration remains a big ol’ grift.

Dozens of House and Senate Democrats plan to sue President Donald Trump in the coming weeks, claiming he is breaking the law by refusing to relinquish ownership of his sprawling real-estate empire while it continues to profit from business with foreign governments.

The lawsuit follows months of threats from Democratic lawmakers that Trump, by refusing to sell off his companies or place them in a blind trust, is in ongoing violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause — which prohibits the president from accepting gifts or payments from foreign governments — and might face consequences.

Whether or not anything comes of it in the Republican-controlled Congress—hint: they don’t give a damn—the fact remains that Donald Trump is not allowed to accept cash from foreign governments by the U.S. Constitution itself and yet he’s doing it anyway. He attempted to dodge this inherent lawbreaking by claiming his business would be tracking those payments and donating them away again; as soon as anyone bothered to check up on that, however, the company said that no, they were not in fact doing that because it would be a horrible bother. So he is violating the Constitution, and in the absence of any single individual Republican lawmaker finding some integrity squirreled away in a closet the rest of America is reduced to filing suit against the sitting president in an attempt to compel him to stop.

This would be a different lawsuit from the one that has already been filed by several businesses who say they’re being hurt by competing Trump companies’ grifts. As for the question of legal standing:

“Members of Congress we say have standing because the emoluments clause says without the permission of Congress, you can’t accept any gift, etc., etc., from a foreign state,” Nadler said. “We are injured by being denied our right to vote on this, that’s our standing.”

Again, there’s no legitimate reason for Republicans to be turning a blind eye to these grifts. They’re doing that purely because they consider the party agenda they want Trump to sign to be more important than whether he’s broken any laws. Since we’re in the middle of living it, it’s difficult to wrap the national psyche around just how deplorable a notion that is. When this is all finally over, though, there are going to be a lot of new names added to the history books—and what the books have to say about each of them won’t be kind.

As Comey Bolsters “Obstruction” Case, Prospects of Trump Impeachment Rise


On the heels of fired FBI Director James Comey’s “unprecedented” and “devastating” testimony on Thursday, in which he accused the White House of “lies” and said President Donald Trump exerted a “chilling effect” on the FBI’s Russia probe, calls for impeachment proceedings to begin have reached a fever pitch.

Comey’s testimony, declared Indivisible in a statement, “confirms that Donald Trump tried to obstruct justice. That is an impeachable offense. Impeachment takes time but we need to start the process now. It’s time to call for impeachment hearings.”

“[The Comey testimony] confirms that Donald Trump tried to obstruct justice. That is an impeachable offense.”
MoveOn.org issued its own recommendation to the U.S. Congress, noting “it
is now clear that Trump’s effort to use the powers of the presidency to interfere with an ongoing investigation of whether, how, and why a foreign power tried unlawfully to undermine our electoral process is exactly the kind of fundamental abuse of power that the founders believed is an impeachable offense—a ‘High Crime or Misdemeanor’ under our Constitution.'”

On several occasions during Thursday’s hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Comey himself addressed the question of whether Trump abused the power of his office by expressing his “hope” that the FBI would end its investigation into the conduct of retired general and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

“I don’t think it’s for me to say whether the conversation I had with the president was an effort to obstruct,” he told Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC). “I took it as a very disturbing thing, very concerning. But that’s a conclusion I’m sure the special counsel will work toward, to try and understand what the intention was there and whether that’s an offense.”

While Comey expressed his belief that Trump’s comments on the Flynn investigation—which were allegedly made during a one-on-one dinner conversation with the former FBI director—amounted to “a direction,” Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) questioned whether expressing “hope” for an outcome amounts to obstruction.

But analysts quickly shot down Risch’s argument, noting that the legal definition of obstruction of justice is not limited to an explicit order. As constitutional scholar at least two federal courts of appeals have found that ‘I hope’ statements, when spoken by a defendant with potential sway over the statement’s target, can constitute obstruction of justice.”

Hermel concluded:

None of this is to suggest that indictment or impeachment is imminent. What this does suggest is that Comey’s testimony—combined with Trump’s reported request that Coats intervene in the Flynn investigation, Coats’s nondenial of that report, and the president’s subsequent firing of the FBI chief—makes the case that Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice quite a bit more plausible than it was when the week began.

“The key question,” former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti concluded in an interview with CNN, “is whether the president acted with corrupt intent.”

A growing number of Americans, according to recent opinion surveys, believe that he did. A Washington Post/ABC poll published prior to Comey’s testimony found that 61 percent of the American public believes “Trump fired Comey to protect himself rather than for the good of the country.”

All of this—the arguments of lawmakers, legal scholars, and former prosecutors in conjunction with Comey’s account and surging public outrage—amounts to an overwhelming cumulative case in favor of initiating the impeachment process.

At the very least, argued Public Citizen in a statement released shortly following the Comey hearing, an independent commission should be established.

“The calls for answers have only become louder and the questions more urgent,” the statement noted. “We must better understand the potential interference by Russia in the 2016 presidential race and what collusion may have occurred between members of the Trump campaign and foreign nations. We also need to understand how and if the president’s foreign entanglements and conflicts are jeopardizing our nation’s security…and if the firing of Comey should be considered obstruction of justice in a criminal or constitutional sense.”

Two Dumb Trump Tweets Are Eating His Presidency Alive


Donald Trump, a YouTube comment section who became a real boy and was recently elected President of the United States, is an avid Twitter user. Trump, who is dumb, likes to share his various dumb thoughts with the world via often ill-advised and dumb tweets. His staff, many of who are also dumb, are at least smart enough to know that Trump’s dumb tweets are often counterproductive and make the job of enabling the Republican Party to rob their own supporters blind all that much more difficult. Trump’s dumb tweets have become such a problem that it was recently rumored that a team of outside attorneys would vet Trump’s dumb tweets before he actually tweeted them.

Comey on Russia: ‘They’re coming for America’—but Trump didn’t give a damn about it


Perhaps the most damning part of former FBI Director James Comey’s entire testimony on Thursday came when Sen. Joe Manchin asked him if the president ever showed any “concern or interest or curiosity” about what the Russians did during the election. Not really, Comey responded. Other than during the intelligence community’s initial briefing of Trump on the Russian meddling, Comey said:

The ‘cloud’ over Jeff Sessions grows darker with new reports of a third Russian meeting


Information about Jeff Session’s contacts with the Russians and his role in the decision to fire former FBI director James Comey has come out in dribs and drabs, but one thing is now crystal clear: There’s a lot more to that story and it will almost certainly come out before this is all over.

Just after Comey delivered his public testimony Thursday, he briefed senators privately, revealing a possible third undisclosed meeting between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Surgey Kislyak.

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This is likely the same meeting that surfaced in a CNN report last week saying that congressional investigators were looking into a possible Sessions-Kislyak meeting during Donald Trump’s April 27, 2016, foreign policy speech at the Mayflower. Sen. Al Franken also said last week that he had reason to believe” Sessions and Kislyak may have had a more extensive interaction at the event than was previously thought to be the case.

Perhaps, Comey’s intriguing public testimony about Sessions’ role in the Russia imbroglio is exactly what prompted senators at Thursday’s closed-door briefing to tease out the details. In writing, Comey alluded to “expecting” that Sessions would recuse himself from Russia-related investigations “two weeks” before Sessions actually did so. That means Comey and his FBI colleagues had reason to believe Sessions was somehow tainted when it came to the Russia probe.

Comey only thickened the plot at the hearing Thursday when he told lawmakers:

We also were aware of facts that I can’t discuss in an opening setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic.”

But Sessions’ behavior in relation to interactions between Comey and Trump was also strange, according to Comey’s descriptions. When Trump asked Comey to stay behind following an Oval Office meeting in mid-February involving Sessions and several aides, Comey said that Sessions (and Jared Kushner!) “lingered” by his chair until Trump again signaled he wanted to speak with Comey alone. The suggestion is that Sessions may have had a sense that something not so kosher was about to happen.

Even though Comey testified that he didn’t ultimately tell Sessions about Trump’s request that he lay off the Flynn investigation, he did ask Sessions to “prevent any future direct communication” between him and Trump, noting that his one-on-one with Trump had been “inappropriate.” According to Comey, Sessions said nothing in response:

He did not reply.

That’s strange. The natural inclination in that situation would be to ask, “What happened?” Sessions apparently didn’t. He may have had his reasons for not doing so, but that’s the point: Why wouldn’t you ask? It’s not logical unless you don’t want to know the answer for some reason.

Of course, Comey’s description of Sessions  isn’t the first time the attorney general’s behavior has seemed odd. The timeline of Sessions’ confessions on his first two interactions with Kislyak doesn’t add up either: On Jan. 10, Sessions first testified that he “did not have communications with the Russians;” on Feb. 13, Michael Flynn resigned over his contact with the Russian ambassador; on Feb. 14, Comey’s Oval Office meeting with Trump took place. Yet, even with all this Russia scandal swirling around the White House, Sessions didn’t update the record on his false testimony to a Senate panel concerning his own interactions with Kislyak until March 6, almost two months after giving sworn testimony otherwise. That’s a mystery that grows more glaring with each new revelation.

On top of all that, Comey isn’t the first public official to decline to answer questions about Sessions’ actions. When Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein met behind closed doors with senators several weeks ago, he also dodged Democrats’ questioning about Sessions’ role in the decision to fire Comey.

“In each instance I think [Rosenstein] made it clear to us, he felt this had the danger of going too far and getting into information that Bob Mueller might need,” [Sen. Dick] Durbin said on MSNBC.

Both Rosenstein and Comey knew something about Sessions they didn’t feel at liberty to say. Their silence speaks volumes, even if we don’t yet have all the details.

Did Trump collude with Russia? Comey: ‘I don’t think I should answer in open setting’


GOP Sen. Tom Cotton had a burning question for James Comey:

“Do you believe Donald Trump colluded with Russia?”

Comey had an answer Cotton didn’t exactly like:

 “It’s a question I don’t think I should answer in open setting.”

Comey said that the FBI didn’t have an open investigation into Trump when he left the agency but added, “That’s a question that will be answered by the investigation, I think.”
That potentially signals that special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating possible collusion between Trump and Russia.
Cotton immediately pivoted to statements by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) that she wasn’t aware of evidence that Trump colluded with Russia. Just guessing that both Comey and Mueller know a little more about possible Trump-Russia collusion than Feinstein does, and Comey doesn’t want to corrupt that investigation in any way.