President Trump Proves National Security Clearances Are Not A High Priority To Him

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and top aide Jared Kushner should “absolutely” have his security clearance suspended, Rep. Mike Quigley told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in an interview Wednesday afternoon.

Appearing on “The Situation Room,” the Illinois Democrat said Kushner “shouldn’t have clearance at this point,” echoing a letter from House oversight committee ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings and citing a “whole series of activities,” including “concerns about Mr. Kushner’s activities prior to the Inauguration.”
Cummings’ letter criticized the White House for allowing fired national security adviser Michael Flynn to keep a security clearance despite concerns raised by then-acting Attorney General Sally Yates that he could be vulnerable to blackmail based on intelligence assessments that she reviewed; the letter raised “parallel concerns” about Kushner’s security clearance over previously undisclosed calls to Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak and undisclosed meetings Kushner had with Kislyak and the CEO of Vnesheconombank, a state-run Russian bank under US sanctions.
In his letter, Cummings cited an executive order requiring employees to have their security clearance preemptively suspended if they are suspected of being a national security risk.
“In general, when there are credible allegations that employees may be unfit to continue accessing classified information, security clearances are supposed to be suspended while the allegations are investigated,” Cummings wrote in the letter, sent June 21.
A spokeswoman for House oversight committee Chairman Trey Gowdy declined comment on the letter Wednesday.
The White House declined to offer comment on Wednesday about Democrats’ requests to look into Kushner’s security clearance.
“I will have to get back to you on that,” spokeswoman Lindsay Walters told reporters aboard Air Force One.
In his interview with CNN, Quigley indicated there were additional concerns about Kushner’s security clearance, referencing “a whole series of activities that I can’t get into at this point in time, but they raise concerns about his judgment and his ability to keep our nation’s secrets.” When pressed by Wolf Blitzer, Quigley said, “I can’t get into details, because some of those things were also discussed in classified settings.”
Kushner arrived in Israel earlier Wednesday, where he’s scheduled to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in an attempt to negotiate a peace deal, a role Quigley also questioned.
“Look, I like that we are always moving forward on peace deals. This is exactly what our country should do,” Quigley said. “First of all, he is wholly unqualified to make those efforts. Second, to what Mr. Cummings was referencing — that’s what I was referencing — he shouldn’t have clearance at this point.”

U.S. Senate Votes Near Unanimously (98-2) For Russia, Iran Sanctions

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)

U.S. Senate votes near unanimously for Russia, Iran sanctions

By Patricia Zengerle | WASHINGTON

The U.S. Senate voted nearly unanimously on Thursday for legislation to impose new sanctions on Russia and force President Donald Trump to get Congress’ approval before easing any existing sanctions on Russia.

In a move that could complicate U.S. President Donald Trump’s desire for warmer relations with Moscow, the Senate backed the measure by 98-2. Republican Senator Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, were the only two “no” votes.

The measure is intended to punish Russia for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region and support for Syria’s government in the six-year-long civil war.

If passed in the House of Representatives and signed into law by Trump, it would put into law sanctions previously established via former President Barack Obama’s executive orders, including some on Russian energy projects. The legislation also allows new sanctions on Russian mining, metals, shipping and railways and targets Russians guilty of conducting cyber attacks or supplying weapons to Syria’s government.

“The legislation sends a very, very strong signal to Russia, the nefarious activities they’ve been involved in,” Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said as lawmakers debated the measure.

If the measure became law, it could complicate relations with some countries in Europe. Germany and Austria said the new punitive measures could expose European companies involved in projects in Russia to fines.

The legislation sets up a review process that would require Trump to get Congress’ approval before taking any action to ease, suspend or lift any sanctions on Russia.

National flags of Russia and the U.S. fly at Vnukovo International Airport in Moscow, Russia April 11, 2017.REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
Trump was especially effusive about Russian president Vladimir Putin during the 2016 U.S. election campaign, though his openness to closer ties to Moscow has tempered somewhat, with his administration on the defensive over investigations into Russian meddling in the election.

Putin dismissed the proposed sanctions, saying they reflected an internal political struggle in the United States, and that Washington’s policy of imposing sanctions on Moscow had always been to try to contain Russia.

The bill also includes new sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile program and other activities not related to the international nuclear agreement reached with the United States and other world powers.

UNCERTAIN PATH IN HOUSE

To become law, the legislation must pass the House of Representatives and be signed by Trump. House aides said they expected the chamber would begin to debate the measure in coming weeks.

However, they could not predict if it would come up for a final vote before lawmakers leave Washington at the end of July for their summer recess.

Senior aides told Reuters they expected some sanctions package would eventually pass, but they expected the measure would be changed in the House. The Trump administration has pushed back against the bill, and his fellow Republicans hold a commanding 238- to 193-seat majority in the chamber.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson questioned the legislation on Wednesday, urging Congress to ensure that any sanctions package “allows the president to have the flexibility to adjust sanctions to meet the needs of what is always an evolving diplomatic situation.”

Previously, U.S. energy sanctions had only targeted Russia’s future high-tech energy projects, such as drilling for oil in the Arctic, fracking and offshore drilling. They blocked U.S. companies such as Exxon Mobil, where Tillerson was chairman, from investing in such projects.

The new bill would slap sanctions on companies in other countries looking to invest in those projects in the absence of U.S. companies, a practice known as backfilling.

Also included for the first time are discretionary measures the Trump administration could impose on investments by companies in Western countries on Russia energy export pipelines to Europe.

The Senate also voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to add provisions to the bill allowing the U.S. space agency NASA to continue using Russian-made rocket engines and the 100 senators voted unanimously for an amendment reaffirming the U.S. commitment to the NATO alliance.

(Additional reporting by Tim Gardner; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Tom Brown)

Putin says Russia ready for constructive dialogue with USA

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)

Putin says Russia ready for constructive dialogue with USA

(Commentary: the issue, the problem, is not the people of Russia or the U.S. it is and has been the Leaders of the two countries who have caused all of the current issues that separate our nations. There is no excuse for the people and the leaders of our two nations not to be best of friends, both countries would benefit greatly if our leaders would quit acting so ignorantly toward each other.)(TRS)

President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday Russia was ready for a constructive dialogue with the United States.

“We do not view USA as our enemy,” Putin said during his annual question-and-answer session with Russian citizens. Moscow and Washington can cooperate on issues including the non-proliferation of weapons and the Syria crisis, he added.

(Reporting by Polina Nikolskaya and Maria Tsvetkova; writing by Polina Devitt; editing by Maria Kiselyova)

Hillary Clinton, Jeff Sessions and America’s Secret Slave System

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE ROOT’ NEWS)

Hillary Clinton, Jeff Sessions and America’s Secret Slave System

Gerald Herbert/APImages

Contrary to popular belief, slavery was never outlawed in the United States.

This statement is not a debatable, half-twisted analysis or a cynical opinion. It is a fact. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution does not outlaw slavery, it only prohibits slavery in certain situations. It is entirely constitutional to turn drug dealers, gangbangers and thugs into slaves. It is perfectly legal for corporations to use legions of slaves to increase their profit and pass them along to shareholders. Even though it seems like the opposite of freedom, America is totally cool it.

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States Of America

When Hillary Clinton stood at Keene University and called black men “superpredators” in January 1996, it was only a few days after the New Year’s Day release of her book It Takes a Village. In the book, Clinton spoke about her days in the Arkansas governor’s mansion and the longstanding tradition of using convicted felons as free labor.

Clinton could relax and have her dark-skinned dishwashers clean the mayonnaise residue off her finger-sandwich plates because Arkansas is one of the few states that still uses prison labor without compensating the prisoners. She was cool with it, though—except when she was forced to send “back to prison any inmate who broke a rule.” Clinton lovingly referred to the felons as “emotional illiterates,” which is a little demeaning, but apparently not as much as the ones she hadn’t locked up yet, whose powers allowed them to grow into “super predators.”

America has the largest prison population in the world. According to the Washington Post, about half of the 1.6 million people in state or federal prisons are black, even though African-Americans make up roughly 13 percent of the population. “Black Americans were incarcerated in state prisons at an average rate of 5.1 times that of white Americans,” The Guardian reported last year, “and in some states that rate was 10 times or more.” Even when convicted of the same crime as whites, black convicts, according to a 2014 study (pdf), were even more likely to serve time in private prisons.

The untold, secret story of America’s criminal-justice system is that there are large corporations benefiting from free black labor, and under the Trump administration, business is booming.

The Profit in the Policy

In August 2016, former President Barack Obama announced a push by his administration to end the federal use of private prisons. This directive sent private-prison stocks into a downward spiral. One of the first decisions Jeff Sessions made as the current attorney general under President Donald Trump was to reverse this order. The second move by the Sessions-led Department of Justice was to end the Obama administration’s practice of not seeking mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenses. When the DOJ released the memo rescinding this policy, private-prison stocks soared to an all-time high.

Perhaps Sessions’ decision was based on Republican ideals of “law and order.” Maybe it was because all conservatives believe private companies do a better job at running prisons than the government (data shows they don’t).

However, it might be because Jeff Sessions’ investment portfolio is filled with thousands of dollars in private-prison stock. It’s likely because GEO Group Inc. and CoreCivic, two of the nation’s largest private-prison operators, gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to Trump’s fundraising efforts.

The New Slaves

There are prisons and companies all across the country who use free or barely-paid prison labor to make a profit. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, these prisoners make between 12 cents and $1.14 an hour. Some of the products and companies that benefit from this slave labor include:

This list doesn’t include the states, like Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas, which don’t pay prisoners at all for labor. Places like Angola State Prison are known for the cruel and inhumane treatment of their prisoners, forcing them to live in tents and work for free.

In February, immigration detention center detainees filed suit against GEO, the private-prison operator that made it rain on the Trump campaign. According to the lawsuit, the corporation used as many as 50,000 federal detainees to work for free, or for as little as $1 a day, even threatening some with solitary confinement for refusing to work as a slave.

As harsh as this sounds, there will be more. With the DOJ’s directive to use mandatory minimums and the renewal of the war on drugs, slavery will make a comeback under the Trump administration.

But this is all legal and constitutional. No one argues that these prisoners aren’t slaves—or even that blacks are more likely to endure this indentured servitude. The only argument for this system of slavery is that it is profitable. It remains a stain on the American flag because we live in an oligarchy. The only reason it exists is because without it, the multibillionaires at Honda, Microsoft and McDonald’s might have to live life as regular, run-of-the-mill billionaires. How else is Jeff Sessions supposed to line his pockets with the bloody dollar bills he’s earned off the backs of the oppressed?

Slavery is still legal in the U.S. because there is apparently one thing that has always trumped freedom, equality and justice: White people’s money.

… and to the Republic, for which it stands, with liberty and justice for all.

Michael Harriot is a staff writer at The Root, host of “The Black One” podcast and editor-in-chief of the daily digital magazine NegusWhoRead.

  • Oh, so we’re back to taking a dump on Hillary now? Hillary’s whitesplaining of felon labour in the nineties is not even close to the level of Jeff Sessions essentially deciding that a child with a bag of weed should get the maximum possible sentence. Not the same level. Not even close. Hillary was whitepeopling back in the nineties as a first lady of Arkansas and FLOTUS. But unfortunately most white Dems were back then. Hell, even Obama was slow to right the wrong of felon labour. (August 2016? Seriously? After 8 years? C’mon) As the culture changed, so did Hillary. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions remained in the past, however. Equating Sessions and Hillary is unfair.

  • I remain confused about one thing and I’m hoping someone can clarify. When the 13th Amendment is brought up, are we saying that there’s a problem with using prisoners for labor as a general concept, or is it because of the fact that people are imprisoned unjustly in the first place and it therefore becomes de facto slavery? Meaning that I don’t oppose the death penalty on a general moral principle, I oppose it because there’s no way in our society we can be sure we’re not executing an innocent person. Is it the same here or is there something I’m still missing?

John McCain Says U.S. Global Leadership Was Better Under Obama Than Trump

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM)

John McCain Says U.S. Global Leadership Was Better Under Obama Than Trump

11:20 AM ET

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said in a new interview that America’s standing in the world was better under former President Barack Obama than it is now under President Donald Trump.

McCain, Obama’s 2008 opponent who remained a vocal critic during his presidency, asked by The Guardian whether U.S. standing in the world was better under Obama. “As far as American leadership is concerned, yes,” McCain said.

He was also critical of Trump’s Twitter attacks against London Mayor Sadiq Khan following the recent terrorist attack in the city.

Pathetic excuse by London Mayor Sadiq Khan who had to think fast on his “no reason to be alarmed” statement. MSM is working hard to sell it!

McCain said Trump sent the message to the United Kingdom that, “America does not want to lead.”

 

“They are not sure of American leadership, whether it be in Siberia or whether it be in Antarctica,” McCain said.

D.C. and Maryland to sue President Trump, alleging breach of constitutional oath

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

D.C. and Maryland to sue President Trump, alleging breach of constitutional oath

Attorneys general for D.C. and Maryland say they will file a lawsuit against President Trump on June 12, alleging that he violated anti-corruption clauses in the Constitution by continuing to retain ownership of his company as president. (Amber Ferguson/The Washington Post)
June 12 
Attorneys general for the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland say they will sue President Trump on Monday, alleging that he has violated anti-corruption clauses in the Constitution by accepting millions in payments and benefits from foreign governments since moving into the White House.The lawsuit, the first of its kind brought by government entities, centers on the fact that Trump chose to retain ownership of his company when he became president. Trump said in January that he was shifting his business assets into a trust managed by his sons to eliminate potential conflicts of interests.

But D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D) and Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) say Trump has broken many promises to keep separate his public duties and private business interests. For one, his son Eric Trump has said the president would continue to receive regular updates about his company’s financial health.

The lawsuit, a signed copy of which Racine and Frosh provided to The Washington Post on Sunday night, alleges “unprecedented constitutional violations” by Trump. The suit says Trump’s continued ownership of a global business empire has rendered the president “deeply enmeshed with a legion of foreign and domestic government actors” and has undermined the integrity of the U.S. political system.

“Fundamental to a President’s fidelity to [faithfully execute his oath of office] is the Constitution’s demand that the President … disentangle his private finances from those of domestic and foreign powers. Never before has a President acted with such disregard for this constitutional prescription.”

The suit could open a new front for Trump as he navigates investigations by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and congressional committees of possible collusion between his associates and the Russian government during the 2016 presidential campaign.

If a federal judge allows the case to proceed, Racine and Frosh say, one of the first steps will be to demand through the discovery process copies of Trump’s personal tax returns to gauge the extent of his foreign business dealings. That fight would most likely end up before the Supreme Court, the two said, with Trump’s attorneys having to defend why the returns should remain private.

“This case is, at its core, about the right of Marylanders, residents of the District of Columbia and all Americans to have honest government,” Frosh said. To fully know the extent of Trump’s constitutional violations “we’ll need to see his financial records, his taxes that he has refused to release.”

Racine said he felt obligated to sue Trump in part because the Republican-controlled Congress has not taken the president’s apparent conflicts seriously.

“We’re getting in here to be the check and balance that it appears Congress is unwilling to be,” he said.

The constitutional question D.C. and Maryland will put before a federal judge is whether Trump’s business ownership amount to violations of parts of the Constitution known as the foreign and domestic emoluments clauses.

What you need to know about Trump and the Emoluments Clause
D.C. and Maryland plan to sue President Trump for violating a little-known constitutional provision called “the Emoluments Clause.” (Video: Jenny Starrs/Photo: Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

To guard against foreign countries gaining sway over the new republic’s ambassadors in the late 1700s, drafters of the Constitution prohibited any “Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust” from accepting “any present, Emolument, Office or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”

In another part of the Constitution, framers sought to prevent a president from favoring one state over another, forbidding him from receiving any gift or emolument from a state and instead, only the compensation approved by Congress.

The lawsuit, to be filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, will be the latest and most significant legal challenge to Trump over the issue of emoluments. The first was filed in January by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a D.C.-based watchdog group. In March, a D.C. restaurant sued Trump, alleging the new Trump International Hotel in D.C. benefits from unfair advantages because of its close association with the president. And last week, a group of Democratic members of Congress said they plan to file suit soon. Each, however, has faced legal hurdles over standing to sue the president.

In the Trump administration’s most detailed response yet, the Department of Justice filed a 70-page legal brief on Friday arguing the CREW lawsuit should be dismissed. The administration said Trump’s businesses are legally permitted to accept payments from foreign governments while he is in office. The filing held up the lack of past complaints — going all the way back to farm produce sold abroad by George Washington — to assert that market-rate payments for Trump’s real estate, hotel and golf companies do not constitute emoluments as defined by the Constitution.

Racine and Frosh, however, argue Trump’s violations are on scale never seen before and that both D.C. and Maryland are being adversely affected by the Trump hotel near the White House.

After hiring staff and holding events to cater to foreign diplomats, the Embassy of Kuwait held an event at the hotel, switching its initial booking from the Four Seasons. Saudi Arabia, the destination of Trump’s first trip abroad, also booked rooms at the hotel through an intermediary on more than one occasion since Trump’s inauguration. Turkey held a state-sponsored event there last month. And in April, the ambassador of Georgia stayed at the hotel and tweeted his compliments. Trump himself has appeared at the hotel and greeted guests repeatedly since becoming president.

As a result, the hotel may be drawing business away from the taxpayer-owned D.C. convention center and one in nearby Maryland subsidized by taxpayers, Frosh and Racine argue.

Norman Eisen, who served as the chief White House ethics lawyer for President Barack Obama and is CREW’s board chairman, said jurisdictions such as the District and Maryland are among the “most perfect plaintiffs” to sue over emoluments because they have a coequal say in making sure the Constitution is being enforced.

“In the emoluments clauses, we have these ancient air bags that were placed in the Constitution by the framers that are now being deployed,” said Eisen, who has been advising the District and Maryland on their suit. “Trump is the framers’ worst-case scenario; a president who would seize office and attempt to exploit his position for personal financial gain with every governmental entity imaginable, across the United States or around the world.”

On the domestic side, the suit alleges Trump has received unconstitutional financial favors from the U.S. government. It says the U.S. General Services Administration, which handles federal real-estate, wrongly allowed Trump’s company to continue to lease the Old Post Office building, where Trump built his D.C. hotel, even though a clause in the contract said no elected official could remain on the lease.

The GSA initially said Trump would have to fully divest from the hotel after the election. But after Trump proposed increasing GSA’s budget, the suit says the agency issued a letter saying Trump was in full compliance.

The suit also alleges that Trump is violating domestic emoluments by creating a situation in which states feel compelled to compete for Trump’s favor, perhaps by offering zoning exemptions, waivers or other benefits to help his businesses.

After initially saying the Trump organization would not pursue new deals while he was in office, Trump’s sons announced last week that the company would begin building a network of new hotels in mostly red states that he won in last year’s election.

The suit by D.C. and Maryland says the two jurisdictions are faced with an “intolerable dilemma” to either go along with the Trump Organization getting special treatment, including possible lost local revenue or “deny such requests and be placed at a disadvantage vis-à-vis states and other government entities that have granted or will agree to such concessions.”

The District and Maryland file the suit at great peril, Racine and Frosh allege, because the two have a disproportionately large percentage of federal workers and could be acutely affected by federal budget cuts that Trump could seek as retribution.

But Maryland argues that it has special standing to sue. As one of the original states that approved the Constitution, Maryland gave up a clause in its own state declaration that had required its governors not to take any gifts from foreign governments or other states.

“This case represents another storm, not just a dusting of snow, but a blizzard of trouble for Trump,” Eisen said. “Who better than governmental actors to say our deal was, our fundamental democratic bargain was, we would get a president who would follow the Constitution.”

Racine and Frosh say that unless Trump is reined in under the emoluments clause, Americans can never be certain that “underlying his travel ban, withdrawal from the Paris Accord climate deal or proposed tax cuts” that he is acting in the country’s best interest and not his own.

Strict adherence to the emoluments clauses, D.C. and Maryland argue, “ensure that Americans do not have to guess whether a President who orders their sons and daughters to die in foreign lands acts out of concern for his private business interests; they do not have to wonder if they lost their job due to trade negotiations in which the President has a personal stake; and they never have to question whether the President can sit across the bargaining table from foreign leaders and faithfully represent the world’s most powerful democracy, unencumbered by fear of harming his own companies.”

The suit seeks an injunction to force Trump to stop violating the Constitution, but leaves it up to the court to decide how that should be accomplished.

So, The Habitual Lying President Says He Will Testify Under Oath That He Is Not A Liar

 

Folks, this is not an article that pleases me to have to write about, yet pretty much everyone in the ‘wired world’ will know that what I am going to say is the truth. Most everyone knows that it is a trait of almost all (I’m being nice) American politicians to have a forked tongue. Last November in the elections the American people were basically given a choice between two people that were well known for being very crooked and habitual liar’s. There really was no way to win if the voter was looking for an honest, non-habitual liar to be our leader. The DNC rigs their side of elections via using the so-called ‘Super Delegates’ to make sure that who they want and only whom their party leaders want will be their Candidate for President. I honestly believe that if the DNC leadership had acted in a Constitutional manner that Bernie Sanders would have not only beaten out Ms. Hillary, he would have quite easily beaten out Mr. Trump last November. So, in a sense I do blame the DNC for Mr. Trump sitting in Our Oval Office.

 

Today’s New York Times headline says that Mr. Trump will testify under oath that he is not a liar but that former FBI Director James Comey is. I personally believe that it is Mr. Trump who tells everyone, not just the people that he has surrounding him, but everyone, so many lies everyday that he has proven over and over again that he can’t remember what he lies about one day to the next. I am simply a person who would like to have all people in every government in the world to be honest with the people they govern, yet I think we all know that is just a fantasy. I personally believe that Mr. Trump is the most clueless, ignorant, lying, egomaniac’s that has ever set foot in Our Oval Office. I know that statement is really saying a lot, I never really thought that we could ever have a bigger idiot than George W. Bush as our President but then up steps Mr. Trump. To me it is still a debate which family is more crooked though, the Bush family, the Clinton family, or the Trump family.

 

I have no doubt that if Mr. Trump does go through with testifying under oath before the Senate Intelligence Committee (if he isn’t also lying about doing it) that he will lie many times during that event. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a Democrat or a Republican, but I am a voter. I like everyone else, under our current two-party system we voters can either not vote, or we can vote for one of the two main party candidates, or they can do like I did last November and vote for a third-party candidate whom we know in advance has no chance of winning. So, ‘We The People’ are put into the position of choosing which habitual liar we want as our ‘Leader.’ Over the last year or so I have been closely watching Mr. James Comey the now former Director of the FBI and I have found him to be one of the most honest, sincere and intelligent people I have ever come across. Mr. Trump on the other hand has totally proven to the whole world that he is basically clueless of real world realities which in part has shined a huge spotlight on his lack of basic knowledge and on his continues lying.

Former FBI Director James Comey Is Testifying Before Senate Intelligence Committee

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

James Comey testifies: Former FBI director says he helped reveal details of conversations with Trump

June 8 at 12:09 PM
Former FBI director James B. Comey said Thursday he helped reveal details of his private conversations with President Trump because he thought doing so would spur the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the administration — a remarkable admission showing the degree of concern he had about both Russian interference with U.S. politics, and his doubts about the Justice Department’s ability to probe such activity.Testifying at the Senate intelligence committee, Comey described how details of his private memos about his one-on-one conversations came to light shortly after his dismissal.

“The president tweeted on Friday after I got fired that I’d better hope there are not tapes,” Comey said. He said he woke up on Monday thinking that if there are tapes, there might be corroboration of Comey’s account. Comey said he asked “a friend of mine to share” a memo he had written about his conversation with Trump “with a reporter.”

Comey said the memo was one he had written about his Oval Office conversation with Trump in which the president had expressed a desire that the Flynn probe be dropped.

‘Those were lies. Plain and simple.’: Comey knocks Trump administration in opening statement
At the June 8 Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, former FBI director James B. Comey said the Trump Administration “chose to defame” him and the FBI after he was fired.

He said the person he asked to share the information was “a good friend of mine who’s a professor at Columbia Law School. “I thought it might prompt the appointment of a special counsel.”

Asked by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) why he felt he had the authority to do that, Comey replied, “as a private citizen, I felt free to share that. I thought it was very important to get it out.”

Comey said he used someone else to share the information because he was worried, with reporters camped out at his home, that giving the information to a reporter directly “would be like feeding seagulls at the beach.’’

The friend is Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor. He confirmed his role but declined further comment. The reporter is Michael Schmidt of the New York Times.

A special counsel was appointed — Robert S. Mueller III, who is a former colleague of Comey — and Comey has provided him with his memos, he testified Thursday.

Comey also blasted the Trump administration for bad-mouthing the bureau and his leadership to justify his firing, saying “those were lies, plain and simple’’—a stark challenge to the president’s rationale for his ouster.

A former federal prosecutor, Comey said he took detailed notes of his private talks with the president, a practice that was a departure from his practice with Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama. Comey said he did so because he wanted to make a clear record of what was said.

He said he took copious notes because he was “honestly concerned’’ that the president might lie about what had been said in their meeting. He kept doing so for future conversations, and the two spoke in private a total of nine times before Comey was fired, he said.

Comey sat grim-faced at a witness table before the Senate Intelligence Committee shortly after 10 a.m. as the committee chairman, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), began the hearing by calling for a “very open and candid discussion’’ about the “strained relationship’’ between the president and Comey. Comey’s written account of those discussions, made public on Wednesday, have fueled the debate over whether the president may have attempted to obstruct justice by pressuring the FBI director about a sensitive investigation.

“This is not a witch hunt, this is not fake news,’’ said the senior Democrat on the panel, Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.). “This is an effort to protect our country from a new threat that quite frankly will not go away anytime soon.’’

Comey began his testimony by saying he became “confused and increasingly concerned’’ about the public explanations by White House officials for his firing on May 9, particularly after the president said he was thinking about the Russia investigation when he decided to fire him.

He wasted little time repudiating White House statements that he was fired in part because of low morale among FBI employees, and those employees’ supposedly soured attitude toward his leadership.

“The administration then chose to defame me and more importantly the FBI by saying that the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led,’’ Comey said. “Those were lies, plain and simple. And I’m so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them, and I’m so sorry the American people were told them.’’

The former director also said that Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch asked him last year to refer to the Clinton email probe as a “matter,” rather than an “investigation.”

Comey said he was concerned by Lynch’s direction to refer to it as a “matter” because the wording too closely tracked how the Clinton campaign was trying to describe the FBI investigation.

The former FBI director said he thought the wording used by Lynch “looked silly’’ but decided it was “not a hill worth dying on.’’

But, he acknowledged, “it gave the impression that the attorney general was looking to align the way we talked about our work with the way the campaign” was referring to it. “That was inaccurate,” he said. “That gave me a queasy feeling.”

Comey wrote in his testimony that Trump told him that “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty” in a private White House dinner conversation in January.

“I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed,” Comey wrote. “We simply looked at each other in silence. The conversation then moved on, but he returned to the subject near the end of our dinner.”

Comey said the conversation, in which Trump raised the question of whether Comey intended to stay as FBI Director, despite their three prior discussions about him doing so, raised concerns in his mind.

“My common sense told me what’s going on here is he’s looking to get something in exchange for granting my request to stay in the job,’’ Comey testified.

In testimony broadcast live on national television networks, Comey described his state of mind as he tried to navigate a series of awkward conversations with the president about the investigation into possible coordination between Trump associates and Russian operatives.

The former FBI director made clear he felt the discussions were problematic and improper, in that Trump repeatedly pressing him about specific investigations that involved people close to the president.

After his January dinner when the two discussed loyalty, Comey and the president had another discussion in February at the White House. A number of senior officials met in the Oval Office on Feb. 14 to discuss terrorism. At the end of the meeting, according to Comey, the president asked everyone to leave but Comey.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions lingered behind until the president told him, too, to leave, Comey said.

“My sense was the attorney general knew he shouldn’t be leaving which is why he was lingering,’’ said Comey. “I knew something was about to happen which I should pay very close attention to.’’

Once they were alone, the president told Comey he hoped he could let go of the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who had been forced out of that job a day earlier.

“When it comes from the president, I took it as a direction,’’ said Comey. He said he was shocked and concerned about the president’s request, but decided not to tell Sessions about it because he expected Sessions would soon recuse himself from the Russia probe, which he did days later.

Comey did later complain to Sessions that he should not again be left alone with the president

His account made clear that his relationship with Trump was fraught from their very first meeting, which occurred before the inauguration, when he the president-elect that a dossier of unsubstantiated allegations against Trump had been circulating around Washington.

“I didn’t want him thinking that I was briefing him on this to sort of hang it over him in some way,’’ said Comey. “He needed to know this was being said, but I was very keen to not leave him with the impression that the bureau was trying to do something to him.’’

Democratic lawmakers have repeatedly tried to learn more about any conversations between Trump and officials in which the president tries to gain help pushing back against the FBI’s Russia investigation. On Wednesday, two of the country’s top intelligence officials went before the Senate Intelligence Committee and refused to discuss the specifics of conversations with the president, frustrating several lawmakers. Based on the testimony already released, Comey will have no such hesitation on Thursday.

Former FBI Director’s Comey’s Congressional Testimony: First Stone Of Trump Impeachment?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) Fired FBI Director James Comey aimed a dagger blow at Donald Trump Wednesday, saying the President had demanded his loyalty, pressed him to drop a probe into ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn and repeatedly pressured him to publicly declare that he was not under investigation.

Comey magnified the political crisis engulfing the White House by releasing his opening statement ahead of a blockbuster appearance on Capitol Hill on Thursday. The dramatic document sketched a stunningly detailed account of Comey’s intimate meetings with the President, included direct quotes from Trump and revealed the former FBI chief’s discomfort with the President’s behavior.
The testimony appeared to bolster the case of Trump critics who believe that the President may have obstructed justice and abused his power in his dealings with Comey, who he later fired.
Comey said that Trump asked him to drop FBI investigations into Flynn centering on his calls with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition, which eventually led to his dismissal as national security adviser after it emerged he had lied about the conversations to Vice President Mike Pence.
He wrote that Trump said: “‘I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
“I replied only that ‘he is a good guy.'” Comey wrote, describing a private meeting with Trump in the Oval Office, then added: “I did not say I would ‘let this go.'”
Comey said in his testimony that he understood the President to be requesting that he drop the investigation into Flynn. But he says he did not understand Trump to be referring to the wider Russia investigation.
“Regardless, it was very concerning, given the FBI’s role as an independent investigative agency.”
Trump critics contended that this encounter appears to be tantamount to an inappropriate pressure on the FBI by the President, an allegation that if proven could have dire consequences for Trump’s presidency itself.
“There is a criminal investigation going on of one of the President’s top associations … he gets fired, he is under investigation and the President brings in the FBI Director and says ‘please stop your investigation,'” said CNN’s senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
“If that isn’t obstruction of justice, I don’t know what is,” Toobin said.
But Republicans were quick to seize on the document as well, arguing that it supported Trump’s claims that the former FBI chief had told him three times that he was not personally being investigated in the Russia probe.
The testimony was posted without notice on the website of the Senate Intelligence Committee, instantly electrifying Washington, which has been on edge for days ahead of Comey’s planned testimony.
The dramatic intervention was classic Comey: the towering FBI chief, branded a “showboat” by Trump, has a reputation for theatrical public coups, and his move will only intensify the anticipation for his appearance on Thursday.
Comey described a March 30 phone call in which he said Trump stressed “the cloud” of the Russia investigations was “interfering with his ability to make deals for the country and said he hoped I could find a way to get out that he wasn’t being investigated.”
But Comey determined that to offer such an assurance would be unwise, not least because it would have to be corrected should the situation change.
The former FBI chief also wrote a revealing description of Trump’s efforts to win his loyalty during their first dinner in January.
Trump, Comey wrote, told him, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty” during their first dinner in January. Comey said in the statement, “I didn’t move, speak or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed.” Comey replied, “you will always get honesty from me.” He said the President responded, “that’s what I want. Honest loyalty.”
The former FBI director wrote that he had nine separate conversations with Trump, three of which were in person and six were on the telephone. By comparison, he said he spoke twice with President Barack Obama, and never on the telephone. He said that after meeting Trump he immediately begin to write notes about his conversations with Trump, a practice he didn’t adopt before.
Comey offered intimate details of his encounter with Trump in an apparent attempt to create added authenticity to his account.
He said they dined alone on January 27 in the Green Room of the White House at a small oval table and were waited upon by two navy stewards.
He wrote that his instincts told him that the one-on-one setting and the tone of the conversation meant that Trump was seeking to get him to ask to remain in his job, in an attempt to “create some sort of patronage relationship.”
“That concerned me greatly, given the FBI’s traditionally independent status in the executive branch,” Comey wrote. He added that he wrote a memo about the meeting and shared it with the senior leadership of the FBI.
Reaction to Comey’s dramatic testimony was swift, reflecting the political tsunami that is raging over the Russia issue and that has often seemed about to swamp Trump’s administration.
Republican Sen. John McCain told CNN’s Manu Raju that he found the testimony “disturbing.”
Rep Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said that Comey’s testimony “confirms a host of troubling allegations concerning the President’s conduct.”
But Matt Schlapp, Chairman of the American Conservative Union played down the impact of Comey’s testimony.
“This is one man’s account of a conversation, it is a set of notes, it’s exactly what we expect from James Comey. … He is a grand-stander, he likes to be the honest man, he is going to play that role on Thursday,” Schlapp said, reflecting the emerging GOP attack against the former FBI director as someone who cannot resist the spotlight.
Schlapp told CNN that only the judgment of the Special Counsel Robert Mueller will establish the facts of whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia’s effort to hack the election.
He also said it was “absolutely human nature to want to know you are a subject and Donald Trump was told from the very beginning of this that he was not.”

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