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More Comey: I know the moment Trump turned on me

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Another answer that seems suspiciously self-serving. There are various moments between them that are already public record thanks to Comey that might more reasonably explain Trump’s hostility to him than what he claims here. There was Comey resisting his repeated pleading to say publicly that the president wasn’t under investigation in Russiagate. There was also the moment a few weeks before Trump was sworn in when Comey pulled him aside at Trump Tower to let him know that the FBI had information that, ah, the president might be into water sports.

Instead Comey thinks he lost Trump by interjecting at a meeting to let him know that the U.S. government is not, in fact, a thugocracy like Putin’s government is. Go figure that our super-patriot former FBI chief supposedly earned Trump’s hate by challenging him about the importance of democratic norms, precisely the thesis of his new book. Here he is talking about a meeting he had with Trump and others after the Super Bowl last year at which Trump brought up an answer he’d given in his pre-game interview with Bill O’Reilly. O’Reilly asked about detente with Russia and noted that Putin’s a killer, to which Trump replied with his stock MAGA response: “But we’re killers, too. You think our country’s so innocent.” He was proud of the supposed cleverness of that, noted Comey:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So the president wants you to say this was a good answer.

JAMES COMEY: Yeah. In fact, he was telling me it was a good answer and then said– gave me an opening by saying, “You think it was a great answer. You think it was a good answer.” And then he was starting to move on. And I jumped in and I said, “Mr. President, the first part of the answer was fine, not the second part. We’re not the kind of killers that Putin is.”

And when I said that, the weather changed in the room. And like a shadow crossed his face and his eyes got this strange, kinda hard look. And I thought in that moment, “I’ve just done something unusual maybe.” And then (SNAP) it passed and the meeting was over. And, “Thanks for coming in,” and– and Priebus walked me out. It was like–

If only he had said “Yep, America sucks too,” he might still be FBI director today.

Comey doesn’t say when exactly he turned on Trump — presumably when he got fired, given his public silence before that — but the following is a possibility. He’s describing the pre-inauguration briefing here at which James Clapper told Trump and his team that they had high confidence that Russia had interfered in the campaign but had no judgment as to whether that affected the election. According to Comey, the only thing Trump, Pence, etc, were interested in upon learning that was how to spin the information to minimize the impact of it on public perceptions of Trump’s legitimacy:

And then the conversation, to my surprise, moved into a PR conversation about how the Trump team would position this and what they could say about this. They actually started talking about drafting a press release with us still sitting there. And the reason that was so striking to me is that– that’s just not done…

No one, to my recollection, asked, “So what– what’s coming next from the Russians?” You’re about to lead a country that has an adversary attacking it and I don’t remember any questions about, “So what are they going to do next, how might we stop it? What’s the future look like? Because we’ll be custodians of the security of this country.” There was none of that. It was all, “What can we say about what they did and how it affects the election that we just had.”…

I felt this effort to make us all– and maybe this wasn’t their intention, but it’s the way it felt to me, to make us all “amica nostra.” We’re all part of the messaging, we’re all part of the effort. The boss is at the head of the table and we’re going to figure out together how to do this.

The reflexive response to ominous news of foreign meddling by a narcissist who got famous on television was to wonder what it might do to his image? You don’t say.

Coincidentally, WaPo has a worthwhile piece out today about Trump’s tortured relationship with Russia over the first 15 months of his presidency and how he’s increasingly given ground to the many hawks in the West Wing, however reluctantly. He cursed his aides for pushing so hard to have the U.S. take the lead on expelling Russian diplomats over the Skripal poisoning — but he went along. He complained that the U.S. has no business in Ukraine but approved sales of antitank missiles on the theory that that might bring the war there to a quicker end. He bombed Syria three days ago despite Putin’s obvious opposition. Whatever his personal feelings about the hostile measures his administration has taken (“The United States essentially has three Russia policies: the president’s, the executive branch’s and Congress’s,” said one analyst), the fact remains that he’s allowed them to be taken. But even his aides, reportedly, try to steer clear of discussing Russian campaign activities with him knowing that he views that as tantamount to echoing the Democratic line that he didn’t win fair and square. Under the circumstances in January 2017, with liberals chattering about mounting an electoral-college revolt against him because of Russia’s activities and the media trumpeting the fact that he’d lost the popular vote, is it really that strange that Trump’s first reaction to Clapper’s report would have been to worry about his own legitimacy as an incoming president?

Here’s Comey talking about his exchange with Trump about the “killers” in the U.S. and Russia government. He was glad in hindsight that he challenged him, he said, since the hostility from Trump put the DOJ at arm’s-length from the president, which is where it’s supposed to be.

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Wait… so now we’re not declassifying the Carter Page FISA docs?

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On Thursday we were discussing the pending declassification and release of various FISA documents, text messages and FBI notes pertaining to the investigation of Carter Page. At the time I noted that every Democrat in the Gang of Eight was up in arms and demanding some sort of delay so they could review the situation. It didn’t seem as if those protests were going to carry much weight since, in the end, it’s up to the President and his intelligence advisers to determine what material is or isn’t classified. And given Trump’s history of, shall we say… determination on such matters, it sounded like a done deal.

Goes to show how much I know, huh? On Friday, the President turned around and put on the brakes, citing a variety of reasons for further review being required. (Boston Globe)

In a rare retreat, President Trump on Friday reversed himself and said he was no longer demanding that documents related to the Russia investigation be immediately declassified and released to the public.

Taking to Twitter on Friday morning, Trump said that instead of an immediate release, Justice Department officials would review the documents, adding that “in the end I can always declassify if it proves necessary.”

“I met with the DOJ concerning the declassification of various UNREDACTED documents. They agreed to release them but stated that so doing may have a perceived negative impact on the Russia probe. Also, key Allies’ called to ask not to release,” Trump wrote. “Therefore, the Inspector General has been asked to review these documents on an expedited basis. I believe he will move quickly on this (and hopefully other things which he is looking at). In the end I can always declassify if it proves necessary. Speed is very important to me — and everyone!”

So what happened in the past 48 hours to change the President’s mind or at least slow him down? I think we can rule out any concerns about a “perceived negative impact on the Russia probe.” In fact, that one is just laughable. If anything, a negative impact on the Russia investigation would probably just speed the documents out the door. Nobody seems to have much insight on this yet, but let’s just put out a couple guesses, shall we?

One possibility might be that Trump’s finally had a look at the documents himself and doesn’t find them as helpful as he’d been told. Keep in mind that as recently as Tuesday the President admitted he hadn’t even read them himself. He’s been taking the word of senior members like Devin Nunes, who really want those documents out in the public’s eye. If Trump’s legal team looked them over and found them less than helpful (or potentially even hurting his cause?) he might want to slow this train down.

Alternatively, I suppose it’s possible that some foreign allies weighed in and begged him to keep a lid on it. But who? Theresa May? Macron? Is there any way that their governments had their fingers in the pie when the Steele dossier was being shopped around and they don’t want that connection exposed? But since when has Donald Trump worried overly much about stepping on the toes of foreign leaders? Anything’s possible I suppose, but that line doesn’t sound very realistic.

Trump is leaving himself the option of releasing them “later” but that’s not usually his style. If he was ready to go with the disclosure and then put the whole operation on hold overnight, I’m willing to bet there’s something in there which wouldn’t play in his favor. And if that’s the case, “later” may turn out to be never.

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Christine Blasey Ford Hires Andrew McCabe Lawyer Who Was Iran Contra Assoc. Counsel

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The Deep State  push to block the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh just got reinforcements with the hiring by accuser Dr. Christine Blasey Ford of  Michael Bromwich, a lawyer representing fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and whose work in Washington goes back to the Iran Contra investigation where he served as Associate Counsel and prosecuted Oliver North. Bromwich also heads a consulting firm that specializes in crisis and government investigation communications.

Bromwich will be joining Blasey Ford’s current attorneys on the case, Debra Katz and Lisa Banks.

Michael R. Bromwich, image via Twitter avatar.

CNN Justice Department reporter Laura Jarrett, the daughter of Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett, broke the news Saturday afternoon on Twitter, “News – former DOJ inspector general Michael Bromwich has joined Christine Blasey Ford’s legal team. (Note he also represents former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe). He has just resigned from his law firm effective immediately in light of objections within the partnership.” (Robbins, Russell, Englert, Orseck, Untereiner & Sauber LLP)

Jarrett added an image of Bromwich’s statement.


McCabe spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz confirmed the news, “This is true. We are proud to be new members of Team Ford cc:

Bromwich added, “I’m honored to be joining Debra Katz and Lisa Banks in representing Dr. Ford”

Schwartz is COO of the Bromwich Group, a consulting firm founded by Bromwich in 2012. Schwartz’s about page details some of her work for the Bromwich Group’s clients:

 

  • Provided strategic and tactical advice in the face of adverse media coverage;

  • Served as spokesperson for clients dealing with regulatory and congressional investigations;

  • Developed comprehensive communications plans, messaging and materials for large-scale communications initiatives;

  • Built and implemented media, internal, external and online communication and outreach strategies to tell a client’s story and shape public perception of the organization;

  • Created diverse media strategies to complement litigation settlements; and

  • Organized and directed media relations in connection with events.

Bromwich’s Twitter bio reads, “former DOJ IG; Asst US Attorney, SDNY; Assoc. Independent Counsel: Iran-Contra; independent monitor x 4; law enforcement consultant; lifelong Dodgers/Lakers fan” His about page at the Bromwich Group goes into greater detail.

Excerpt:

…Over the course of a career that has spanned more than 35 years, Mr. Bromwich has tackled a variety of challenging assignments. He has been a federal prosecutor, a special prosecutor, an inspector general, the country’s top offshore drilling regulator, the compliance monitor of major public companies and public agencies, and a lawyer who has practiced with some of the most widely-respected law firms in the country. He has been called on countless times – by public corporations, private companies, federal, state, and local governments, cabinet secretaries, and the President of the United States – to deal with issues and problems of the greatest private and public significance. “…

Blasey Ford has agreed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, but her lawyers are still negotiating such details as which day.

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New Cruz ad: Can you believe O’Rourke is siding with the guy who got shot by a cop in his own home for no reason?

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He’s getting creamed for this, justifiably, and not only by liberals. The best part is the presented-without-comment framing, as though O’Rourke had been caught denying the Holocaust or saying something so similarly outlandish that no explanation is needed for why it should offend you.

This is the second time he’s gone after the Democrat over the Botham Jean shooting, one of the most bananas cases of lethal force by a cop you’ll ever encounter. You probably know the facts by now but in case not: A white Dallas police officer came home after a 15-hour shift at work, found the door to her apartment slightly ajar, walked in and saw a man standing in the darkness. Thinking he was a burglar, she pulled her pistol, gave him “verbal commands” to freeze, then fired when he didn’t comply. He died. When she turned on the lights she realized it wasn’t her apartment at all; she had entered the unit directly above her own, which had an identical layout. The “burglar,” a black man, was in his own home, not hers.

This is the cop’s own version of events, let me stress. Neighbors claim they heard a woman yelling “let me in” before the shots were fired and there’s reason to believe that all doors in their apartment complex shut automatically, eliminating the possibility that the cop arrived to find “her” door open a crack such that she could breeze in without meeting resistance from the lock. Even the cop doesn’t claim that the victim, Botham Jean, was doing anything wrong. The narrative that’s *most* favorable to her, her own self-serving account, is that she strolled into another person’s home and ended up blowing him away, falsely believing she was in her own pad and that he was there committing some sort of crime. She’s been charged with manslaughter but the charges may be increased to murder.

And the kicker, as O’Rourke notes in the clip, is that somehow the fact that the dead man had marijuana in his apartment was leaked afterward to the media even though it had nothing to do with the incident. I wrote about that 10 days ago, struck by the fact that left and right seemed to react to the leak the same way. There was bipartisan outrage that a person who’d been gunned down in his own home was now being smeared postmortem as a criminal, apparently to try to make the cop’s actions — which were based on a horrendous misjudgment by her own admission — seem reasonable-ish.

So which part of what O’Rourke said is so outrageous that Cruz thought it would work as-is as an attack ad for his own campaign? What’s the message here? Two possibilities:

1. Anyone who’d take sides against a cop in a shooting, irrespective of the facts, is anti-cop.
2. Anyone who’d take sides against a white cop in the shooting of a black victim, irrespective of the facts, is anti-white.

That’s a very Trump-y message. (Some critics wondered whether it’s a coincidence that the video of O’Rourke that Cruz chose for his ad just happens to involve a cheering black audience, per point two.) A “constitutional conservative” who’s naturally skeptical of state power, which is how Cruz sold himself throughout the tea-party era and beyond, shouldn’t naturally gravitate to white identity politics and mindless respect for armed authority in analyzing a case in which an agent of the state killed an innocent man for no good reason. But this is how Republican politics operates in the Trump era, or at least how Cruz thinks it operates. That’s also why he’s been hammering O’Rourke for defending the NFL players who kneel during the anthem to protest police brutality. Same underlying themes as in this new ad: Blacks are complaining about how they’re being treated by bad white cops and the Democratic candidate sure is eager to side with them. He’s not “one of us.” Which leaves the question hanging in the air: Who’s the “us” he’s talking about? In the NFL example you could say it’s people who respect the flag and the national anthem. Who’s the “us” in this new ad that O’Rourke is supposedly against, though?

Bear in mind that a white cop was convicted of murder in the Dallas area for killing an unarmed black teen just within the past month. Inspired by that and the Botham Jean case, David French wrote recently about how his own view of police shootings has changed over time. He too used to approach it as an “us vs. them” issue, with the cops on one side and the Bad People on the other. It isn’t.

Truth be told, the way I covered this issue in 2015 and much of 2016 shed more heat than light. Here’s what I did. I looked at the riots in Ferguson, Milwaukee, Baltimore, and Charlotte, the extremism of the formal Black Lives Matter organization (which referred to convicted cop-killers as “brothers” and “mama” and said its explicit goal was to “disrupt the western-prescribed nuclear family structure”), and the continued use of debunked claims, including “hands up, don’t shoot,” and I focused on these excesses largely to the exclusion of everything else.

Yes, I used all the proper “to be sure” language — there are some racist cops, not every shooting is justified, etc. — but my work in its totality minimized the vital quest for individual justice, the evidence that does exist of systematic racial bias, and I failed to seriously consider the very real problems that contribute to the sheer number of police killings in the U.S.

To put it bluntly, when I look back at my older writings, I see them as contributing more to a particular partisan narrative than to a tough, clear-eyed search for truth.

That’s the most charitable possibility for what Cruz is after here. The standard “partisan narrative” when a cop shoots an unnamed man is that the left sides with the victim and the right sides with authority. The new ad is merely another way, however cloddish, of signaling to Texas’s Republican majority how left-wing O’Rourke is. Look, he’s pushing the message that Team Blue typically pushes, not the one that Team Red does! He’s not one of us. Which really only circles you back to French’s point: Why should we require someone to defend a cop in every circumstance to qualify as “one of us,” including and especially a case where the cop herself admits she screwed up?

It’s commonly accepted (including by me) that Cruz isn’t really in danger of losing the Texas race. O’Rourke’s giving him a scare and no doubt the final margin will be tighter than most elections in Texas usually are, but Democrats simply don’t have the numbers to pull this off. If that’s so, though, why would Cruz stoop to this? Why take an innocent dead man and use O’Rourke’s justifiable outrage on his behalf and use it as some lowest-common-denominator Trumpian play on race and authority a la Trump’s infamous newspaper ad back in the day about the Central Park Five? It’s no sure thing that populist Republicans will respond well to this ad; like I said up top, they jeered the attempt to smear Jean after his death by leaking that he had weed in his apartment. But it’s unquestionably true that Cruz believes populist Republicans will respond well to it. Who does he think his base is at this point? What lessons did he take about the Republican electorate from his destruction at Trump’s hands in 2016?

My suspicion is that Cruz took the presented-without-comment approach to what O’Rourke said not because he felt it was so outrageous that it didn’t require further comment but rather the opposite. He couldn’t mount a good-faith argument against it but he knows, or believes, that many righties will find something offensive in it — “Beto hates cops,” “Beto hates whites” — so he’s running it up the flagpole for those people to salute. Am I giving him too much credit in suspecting that or not enough?

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