“Lawmakers will say if the president believes Comey lied, Trump himself should come to Capitol Hill and testify under oath about his recollection of events. This is why keeping quiet is oftentimes the best idea. Trump has now created a whole new storyline that is certain to distract Washington for the days and weeks to come.”
“Note that most Republicans yesterday didn’t accuse James Comey of lying — in fact, many of them called him honest and honorable. They just took issue with whether Trump directly asked Comey to drop the Russia investigation.”
Former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony was riveting, even if we already knew most of what he was going to say. The fact that he confirmed it under oath and penalty of perjury is amazing. He called Trump a liar, a defamer of both him and the entire FBI and all its employees and agents, and he testified to all the necessary elements of several counts of obstruction of justice. He admitted to writing memos about his interactions with Trump because he feared Trump would lie about them. It was also striking that none of the senators really challenged Comey’s testimony or recollection of events.
The big news from the testimony:
- Comey suggested that he expects special counsel Robert Mueller to include President Trump’s possible obstruction of justice in his investigation. So now the President is under criminal investigation.
- Comey revealed that that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was more compromised by Russia than we ever knew (more on that below).
- Comey revealed that Michael Flynn was and is under criminal investigation for both lying about his Russian meetings to the FBI and for his contacts with Russia.
- Comey testified that he told both Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that he didn’t want to be left alone with President Trump, yet they took no action to protect Comey or the FBI from Trump’s interference. Both later wrote letters justifying Comey’s firing, making them complicit in any obstruction of justice.
- Comey said he was absolutely convinced that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election, and that their efforts to attack America were ongoing, and yet Trump never expressed his concern that Russia interfered in the election and was more interested in ending the investigation into it.
The Washington Post: Former FBI director James Comey “essentially laid out an obstruction of justice case against President Trump and suggested senior leaders in the bureau might have actually contemplated the matter before Trump removed him as director. Comey did not explicitly draw any legal conclusions. Whether justice was obstructed, he said, was a question for recently appointed special counsel Robert Mueller. But he said Trump’s request to terminate the FBI’s investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn left him ‘stunned,’ and senior FBI officials considered it to be of ‘investigative interest.’”
Jeffrey Toobin: “President Trump appears to be guilty of obstruction of justice. That’s the only rational conclusion to be reached if James Comey’s opening statement for his planned testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, on Thursday, is to be believed. The lurch of the Trump Presidency from one crisis to the next scandal produces a kind of bombshell-induced numbness, but that should not prevent us from appreciating the magnitude of Comey’s statement.”
Benjamin Wittes: “James Comey’s seven-page written statement, released by the Senate Intelligence Committee this afternoon in connection with Comey’s impending testimony tomorrow, draws no conclusions, makes no allegations, and indeed, expresses no opinions. It recounts, in spare and simple prose, a set of facts to which Comey is prepared to testify under oath tomorrow. Despite this sparseness, or maybe I should say because of it, it is the most shocking single document compiled about the official conduct of the public duties of any President since the release of the Watergate tapes.”
After losing her majority in yesterday’s elections, British Prime Minister Theresa May “has struck a deal with the Democratic Unionists that will allow her to form a government,” the Guardian reports.
“It follows extensive talks with the DUP late into the night. Party figures say they have been driven on by their dismay at the possibility of Jeremy Corbyn becoming prime minister.”
The AP notes May’s “plan of calling an early election in the hopes of getting a bigger majority than she enjoyed during the previous parliament backfired in Thursday’s general election.”
Rick Klein: “He accused the president and his top aides of lying. He suggested that the president wanted special treatment in exchange for loyalty. He said he thinks he lost his job because of how he handled the Russia investigation.”
“James Comey served notice that if President Donald Trump operates like a bully, there are powerful people who know how to punch back. The ex-FBI director’s powerful, riveting testimony — delivered under oath before the Senate Intelligence Committee — overflowed with headlines and revelations that will resonate for months or longer.”
“Among the big takeaways: In Comey, Trump has made an enemy who knows the levers of Washington power and has already put in motion forces that are beyond the president’s ability to control.”
Playbook: “Forget what the White House thinks of yesterday’s testimony. We spent the day in the Capitol, talking to Republican members of Congress — the ones that have to vote on President Donald Trump’s agenda — and they were absolutely shocked at how poorly yesterday went for the president. Publicly they say that the president is a political neophyte who is still learning the presidency. But privately, they said James Comey was extraordinarily convincing and Trump’s team absolutely botched their response. They’re all afraid of more shoes dropping.”
“Trump’s political standing on Capitol Hill is growing more and more perilous. Meanwhile, the RNC’s principal rebuttal seemed to be that the Obama administration had a bad day — which is true, but almost entirely irrelevant.”
“Republicans were shocked just how well Comey came across. He didn’t try to jam his viewpoint down the committee’s throat, he was confident but not cocky and admitted, on several occasions, that his impression of his interactions could’ve be faulty, but the evidence otherwise seemed overwhelming to lawmakers.”
Amy Walter: “The latest example of this enthusiasm gap is the drop in the percentage of Americans who identify as Republican. Polling taken in May by Gallup finds 45% of Americans identify themselves as Democrats and 38% identify as Republican. The seven-point gap is the largest recorded by Gallup since April of 2015. With Trump’s overall job rating stalled in the high 30’s to low 40’s and the GOP- controlled Congress yet to rally around (or pass) a significant legislative agenda, it’s not surprising to see fewer Americans identify themselves as a Republican.”
“Think of party identification (do you identify as a Republican, Democrat or independent), like the ‘bandwagon’ effect in sports. The better your team is doing, the more likely that you will follow their games, wear their gear, and proudly tell people you are a fan. But, when your team starts losing, the gear goes back into the closet, the TV is tuned to another program and you give your season tickets away to anyone willing to go to the stadium.”
A new Landmark Communications Poll in Georgia’s 6ht congressional district finds Jon Ossoff (D) narrowly leads Karen Handel (R), 50% to 47%.
Bloomberg: “By neither exonerating nor convicting the president, Comey laid down during his Thursday appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee a road map of questions for special counsel Robert Mueller to follow about Trump’s conduct, a path it could take Mueller months, even years, to follow. At the same time, the head of the panel said its investigation is just getting started, and a second committee may summon Comey to testify.”
“While Republicans hope to move past Comey’s revelations and get back to their agenda, having a president under a ‘cloud’ — Trump’s word — with tarnished credibility, diminished political standing and distractions galore won’t do anything to bring his health care, tax or infrastructure proposals to the finish line.”
New York Times: “Thanks to Mr. Trump’s own actions, the cloud darkened considerably on Thursday and now seems likely to hover over his presidency for months, if not years, to come.”
New York Times: “In all, Mr. Trump watched only about 45 minutes of Mr. Comey’s testimony, the people close to the president said. Much of that time was spent under the eye of his take-charge personal lawyer, Marc E. Kasowitz, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, one of the cabinet members he trusts most. This was by design, with the president’s tacit consent. His aides packed the day with meetings and speechwriting session.”
Former FBI Director James Comey told senators in a closed hearing this afternoon that Attorney General Jeff Sessions may have had a third interaction with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, CNN reports. “The information is based in part on Russian-to-Russian intercepts where the meeting was discussed.”
Aides to President Trump are urging him not to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions despite rifts between the two men, Reuters reports.
“Political and legal advisers inside the White House have told Trump over the past month that firing Sessions would create another political fire storm and make it more difficult to fill key jobs inside his administration, the sources said on the condition of anonymity.”
Said one: “That’s the advice he’s been given. But he might not listen to that advice.”
Jared Kushner is expected to meet with Senate Intelligence Committee staff mid-June, two people familiar with the matter told NBC News.
“Kushner’s meeting would be the first step in an agreement he made with the committee. He’s expected to provide documents and ultimately take questions from the committee’s senators.”
Politico: “Senate Republicans hoping to get the bulk of an Obamacare repeal bill done within the next few days keep finding a new problem for every old one they get closer to resolving.”
“A burst of optimism that they could agree on a more generous version of the House-passed repeal bill was quickly doused by concerns over the cost. An emerging consensus on subsidies to stabilize shaky insurance markets was countered by a threat that crucial abortion restrictions could derail the effort altogether. And looming over it all, lawmakers are still struggling to bridge the deep divide over the future of Medicaid.”