Nothing shows leadership like attacking the victims of a deadly hurricane.
That’s what Americans learned on Saturday morning, waking up to the news that the president – already under fire for his administration’s inadequate response to Hurricane Maria’s devastation – is now lashing out at the mayor of San Juan.
From the safety and comfort of his New Jersey golf resort, Trump attacked Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz on Twitter. “The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump,” he rage-tweeted at 7:19 AM. With this sentence alone, the president politicized the unfolding tragedy in Puerto Rico, based on nothing but his bruised ego and bad headlines.
Trump Lashes Out at San Juan Mayor Who Pleaded ‘We Are Dying’ 2:34
It seems almost grotesque that Trump views Cruz’s begging for help in saving lives as an attempt to make him look bad.
Cruz has emerged as a powerful voice for her city, and for the island by extension, as she has pleaded publicly for more relief efforts. She has not, in fact, been “nasty” to Trump or FEMA workers. On Friday on MSNBC, she made an emotional plea for help saying, “If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying. And you are killing us with the inefficiency and the bureaucracy.” She wondered why the U.S., with all its military might and power, could not figure out the logistics for an island that is 100 miles long and 35 miles wide.
There have been at least 16 confirmed deaths in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, although that number is expected to rise. Most Puerto Ricans on the island are still without power, gas, food, or running water. Numerous media outlets have reported on the slow pace of relief efforts, which have already drawn comparisons to the Bush administration’s botched response to Katrina.. A report in the Washington Post, for example, explained how the president’s weekend at his golf club slowed his administration’s initial response to the disaster.
In the face of such a crisis, on social media our president chose to focus on what he called “such poor leadership” by Cruz. Never mind that the mayor has been seen wading through waist-high water trying to rescue stranded residents, and has gone on little sleep for over a week. Or that the three-star general in charge of leading the relief effort has stated that there are “not enough” troops and supplies on hand for the recovery. Even the acting head of Homeland Security, who had earlier claimed that Puerto Rico was a “good news story” has admitted that the relief effort is “not satisfactory.”
Yet the person the president chose to go after was a Latina, a woman of color who dared to call his administration out.
Still, Trump wasn’t finished. Not content to merely politicize a humanitarian crisis, he injected it with a note of thinly-disguised racism. Referring to the people of Puerto Rico, he tweeted that “They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort.”
These words are shameful. If the president hadn’t been so busy last weekend tweeting about flags and football players, he would understand that what is happening in Puerto Rico is by default a community effort. The residents of Puerto Rico – about 3.5 million American citizens – went through the hurricane on their own. They have indeed been helping each other, searching for food and fuel, and looking for their loved ones in the absence of a more robust government response.
Leave it to our Race-baiter-in-Chief to resort to the tired tropes that minorities want everything done for them, that they’re lazy, and that they are dependent on the government. These sentiments are offensive in the best of times. In the wake of a catastrophic weather event, they are despicable. Coming from this president, they are yet another sign of his lack of empathy, his lack of respect for women, and his indifference to the concerns of Latinos.
Trump’s response to the mayor of San Juan reveals how unfit he is for office. He apparently cannot handle pressure without resorting to personal attacks on others. He seems to lack any sense of personal accountability. He is easily angered. Even when lives are literally at stake, he is still in his element behaving like a bully. As of today, Trump has hit a new point for unacceptable behavior – and provided his fellow Republicans with more opportunities to distance themselves from him.
And the saddest thing of all here? Trump’s personal pathologies will provide another distraction to the media from the humanitarian crisis unfolding on U.S. territory.
Trump’s latest tweets on Puerto Rico constitute a national disgrace. At a time of major national emergency, he has – again – shown the world just how small he really is.
President Donald Trump posted a trio of tweets Monday night that appeared to center on Puerto Rico’s fiscal debt, as the devastated U.S. territory struggles to recover from powerful Hurricane Maria.
After commending the recovery of Texas and Florida — which were lashed by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, respectively — Trump tweeted Monday: “Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble.”
Trump continued, “It’s old electrical grid, which was in terrible shape, was devastated. Much of the Island was destroyed, with billions of dollars owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with.”
“Food, water and medical are top priorities – and doing well,” Trump added.
Hurricane Maria, the strongest storm to hit Puerto Rico since 1928, killed 16 people and left millions without power or communications when it battered the island last week. Beset by food and water shortages, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló issued a statement appealing for help for his “essentially devastated” island.
“My petition is that we were there once for our brothers and sisters, our other U.S. citizens, now it’s time that U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico are taken care of adequately, properly,” Rosselló wrote Sunday. On Monday, he called for greater federal aid and appealed to Congress to pass a relief package and treat Puerto Rico like any other U.S. state, Politico reports.
According to the Associated Press, 3.4 million U.S. citizens in the territory are without adequate food, water and fuel. Communications are still lacking and electrical power may not be fully restored for a month.
Trump’s response, which appeared to put the issue of the island’s bank loans before emergency supplies, provoked consternation among some diplomats. “Is the President of the United States saying that the mammoth hurricane damage is Puerto Rico’s fault?” posed Samantha Power, the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N.
The U.S. Federal Emergency Management said aid was getting to the island, and that the agency had more than 700 staff on the ground in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, delivering diesel, food and water to communities, reports AP.
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(MY IDEA FOR THIS ARTICLE CAME FROM A CNN ARTICLE THEY POSTED ABOUT 1300 EST TODAY) (September 16th 2017)
The article that CNN posted about one hour ago was of a Tweet that our glorious ‘Golfer in Chief’ posted early this morning. Now do not get me wrong, I am not a fan of Hillary Clinton at all nor am I even a Democrat but I do try to be a decent human being which is something that Mr. Trump relishes in not being. The first basic building block for believing and feeling that Mr. Trump is a coward is from the deferments his KKK Daddy got for him while he was in college. If I remember correctly I believe it was 6 deferments from going into the military during the Vietnam War. Supposedly he got the deferments because of a bad heal or a bad foot, I don’t remember exactly. Yet this coward was able to play in several sports programs while in college. If he could do these things he damn sure could have worn our Nations Uniform. It is amazing what a Daddy (as you probably know Trump likes that term, Daddy instead of just Dad) with hundreds of millions of dollars can arrange for their children, even when they are of adult age.
Now, onto the issue of Mr. Trumps Tweet this morning. He thought that this was funny I guess, maybe I am just to much of a moralist but to me it wasn’t humorist, it was pathetic. In the Tweet Mr. Trump is playing golf and when he strikes the ball the doctored clip shows Hillary getting on a plane when at the top of the steps the ball hits her in the middle of the back, knocking her down. Even if you are a person that can not stand this woman she is still a human and she is still a woman. Since when has our society turned so cold that we think that anyone especially someone who is supposed to be an adult man striking a woman with anything especially in the back so hard that it knocks her down, is funny? Only a sick coward would even think of doing such a thing to a woman, any woman. But then again, our society seems to have always been filled with women beaters, I have to wonder, is this ‘playing to his base’? Our President who has many times proven to the whole world that he is an habitual liar and a total idiot is hosting almost all of the worlds leaders at the UN this week. Yet instead of using his time wisely like learning about the world issues that will be being discussed this week, he spends his time playing, showing his total lack of moral character on Twitter, once again. I believe that if the NSA does not brush up on their President killing skills (both Kennedy’s, my belief/opinion) first, I believe that the Senate will absolutely Impeach him before the 2018 Elections are held. I do not condone any violence upon anyone so hopefully the Republicans will get rid of him first. There is the other option in getting this Moron out of ‘Our’ Oval Office, and that option is Mr. Mueller. That is my best wish of all of the above choices, Donald and all of the Trump’s along with Mr. Kushner spending the rest of their lives in a maximum security Federal Prison. That result would really be putting Mr. Trump in touch with ‘his base’.
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In the midst of a series of tweets about Hurricane Harvey Sunday morning, President Donald Trump shared a reminder of his 2016 presidential victory, asserted that Mexico will pay for the border wall and threatened to terminate NAFTA renegotiations.
Trump’s first tweet of the morning was a link to a book, “Cop Under Fire” by Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke Jr. A controversial figure, Clarke has called the Black Lives Matter movement a “domestic hate group” and categorized Planned Parenthood as a “destructive racist organization”
Trump, who is currently at Camp David, quickly pivoted to the storm sweeping through Texas — vowing to visit the state, which is currently getting battered by Harvey despite it being downgraded to a tropical storm, as soon as he could “without causing disruption.” ” The focus must be life and safety,” he tweeted. This was the third tweet he had sent about the hurricane Sunday morning.
But about 15 minutes later, he tweeted that Texas would not be the only state he was visiting. ” I will also be going to a wonderful state, Missouri, that I won by a lot in ’16. Dem C.M. is opposed to big tax cuts. Republican will win S!” h wrote.
“C.M.” is presumably a reference to Claire McCaskill, the Democratic senator from Missouri who is up for reelection in 2018. The White House has not released any details about this visit.
Shortly after, Trump shifted his Twitter discourse back to Harvey, assuring his social media followers that all would end well despite the unprecedented nature of the storm, which has been linked to at least two deaths in Texas. “Now experts are calling #Harvey a once in 500 year flood! We have an all out effort going, and going well!” he wrote. He did not mention any of the reported fatalities.
He then switched back to political commentary, tweeting that Mexico would pay for his border wall with Mexico, even though a leaked transcript of a phone call with the country’s President Enrique Peña Nieto revealed Nieto was refusing to pay for it. Trump also threatened to end ongoing negotiations for the North American Free Trade Agreement because Mexico and Canada are being “difficult.”
BEIJING — North Korea on Tuesday claimed it had successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile, a potential milestone in its campaign to develop a nuclear-tipped weapon capable of hitting the mainland United States.In a special announcement on state television, North Korea said it launched a Hwasong-14 missile that flew about 579 miles, reaching an altitude of 1,741 miles. The U.S. military said it was in the air for 37 minutes, a duration that signals a significant improvement in North Korea’s technology, experts said.
South Korean and Japanese authorities are now looking into whether it was indeed an ICBM; U.S. Pacific Command’s first statement on the test called it an intermediate range missile.Whatever the missile’s classification, Tuesday’s news will renew questions about the development of weapons that Trump, as president-elect, vowed to stop. It also looks set to put North Korea back at the top of the president’s agenda, most immediately at Group of 20 meetings in Germany this week. Continue reading North Korea: Missile soared 1,741 miles high, marking successful test of ICBM
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My commentary this evening was brought on by President Trumps latest immature tweets about the two folks who do a radio program called ‘The Morning Joe’. Like most Americans I wish that our President would be banned from Twitter as long as he is still our President because he does tend to say many things that are beneath the dignity of the Office he holds. Mr. Trump in my opinion has done many things to show his lack of knowledge since he has been in Office like not knowing that his favorite former President had died more than 15 years before the Civil War ever started yet was speaking about how he was distraught about that war. He has shown that he knew basically nothing about issues in the Middle East even though he liked to brag how he knew more than our military Generals knew and he has made it clear that he has no need for morning briefings from our Intelligence Agency Heads. Yet to me the most embarrassing thing he has done yet is how he acted at the group photo at the last NATO Summit. When he pushed the Prime Minister out of the front row center spot that he, Mr. Trump wanted to be in, he actually embarrassed me that he was even an American let alone our President.
Most of us probably remember at least a little bit about the young man in California that was nicknamed the ‘affluenza’ brat from a wealthy family who killed 4 people (if I remember correctly) while driving a car while drunk. His lawyer was able to get him off with just probation and no jail time because he had been raised ‘to wealthy’ to know right from wrong. He must have had an amazing lawyer and or an incompetent Judge for that verdict to have happened. You would think that a child who is being raised in a home where the family is in need of nothing would be a very grateful young person and not a menace to society but this is not always the reality. There is also another issue here in America where our legal system does not tolerate parents if they in any way discipline their child and the children know this so many act out like pure spoiled brats. Yet when a child acts out at school the courts then blame the parents for doing a bad job of raising their child when in many cases it is the politicians and courts that are to blame and not the parents.
I have always been a person who has been pleased when someone I know accomplishes something like being able to purchase a new car or is able to buy a new house or even be able to purchase a new living room suite or a new lawn mower. I have always been pleased when a person through their hard work or even good luck is able to become quite wealthy, as long as they did it honestly and decently. When a person obtains their wealth through stealing from other people then I have no respect for them.
Donald Trump grew up in a very wealthy household and all I can say about that is, good for him. His Dad taught him many things in his childhood years, some good some bad, just like most parents do. Donald Trump was given millions from his Dad when he graduated college and all I can say to that is, good for him. The issue I have with Donald Trump is his pure greed and huge ego as those two issues are an embarrassment to any person whom possesses them. Mr. Trump has bullied and stolen his way into becoming the billionaire that he is on the backs of anyone he felt he could ‘get over’ on. He has proven without any doubt that money is his God and when this is so a person tends to act like an immature habitual liar just as he is today and it appears that he has always been. I will end this commentary with this one thought and hope, for our Nations sake I really hope that somehow Mr. Trump would grow up and act like a responsible adult and quit acting like a little spoiled affluenza child in an old man’s body.
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Republican lawmakers on Thursday swiftly rebuked President Donald Trump for crudely claiming that “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski was “bleeding badly from a face-lift,” saying such tweets are beneath the office of the president.
In a two-part tweet, Trump said he “heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore).” He then went on to hit Brzezinski: “how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came … to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!”
The messages, some of the most graphic and personal sense Trump became president, were condemned by Republicans who are struggling to push Trump’s legislative agenda forward while the White House is consumed by the Russia probes and self-inflicted dramas.
“Obviously, I don’t see that as an appropriate comment,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Thursday during his weekly press conference, adding, “Look, what we’re trying to do around here is improve the tone, the civility of the debate, and this obviously doesn’t help do that.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) went further, tweeting, “Mr. President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America.”
Graham later told POLITICO that Trump’s insult was “highly inappropriate” regardless of any impact it might have on distracting from the GOP agenda. Asked if the president should apologize, Graham said, “I would, if I were” Trump.
The tweets echo some of Trump’s attacks from the campaign trail, during which he went after then-Fox News host Megyn Kelly after the first debate by saying, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”
But the messages take on a new tenor now that Trump is in the Oval Office, and is trying to pull off big legislative lifts — including a Obamacare repeal bill and tax reform package — that require message discipline.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders quickly defended the tweets, explaining the president fights back when he feels the criticism toward him is unwarranted.
“Look, I don’t think that the president’s ever been someone who gets attacked and doesn’t push back,” Sanders told Fox News on Thursday morning. “There have been an outrageous number of personal attacks, not just to him but to frankly everyone around him. … This is a president who fights fire with fire and certainly will not be allowed to be bullied by liberal media or liberal elites in Hollywood or anywhere else.”
Sanders said she personally has been attacked on “Morning Joe” on matters that have nothing to do with her beliefs, ideology or policy. “I have seen far worse things [than the tweets] come out of that show,” she said.
The first lady’s office responded to the president’s tweet through a spokeswoman who reiterated what Melania Trump said in an April 2016 speech.
“As the First Lady has stated publicly in the past, when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder,” Stephanie Grisham, Melania Trump’s communications director, said in a statement.
But there’s evidence that the public is frustrated with the president’s Twitter use. More than 6-in-10 registered voters say Trump should stop tweeting, including 49 percent of Republicans, according to a Quinnipiac University poll conducted ahead of Trump’s latest attack and released Thursday.
And some Republicans in Congress said Trump crossed a line with his vulgar message.
Following a hearing on U.S. Capitol Police, Republican Sen. James Lankford said in a statement that the president “should model civility, honor, and respect in our political rhetoric. The President’s tweets today don’t help our political or national discourse and do not provide a positive role model for our national dialogue.”
Unlike other Republicans who in the past have vocalized their opposition to Trump’s actions, Lankford isn’t a notably frequent Trump critic.
Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, who is a frequent critic, tweeted: “Please just stop. This isn’t normal and it’s beneath the dignity of your office.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi agreed, telling reporters that what Trump tweeted was “so blatantly sexist” and “really saddens me because it is so beneath the dignity of the president of the United States to engage in such behavior.”
She also blasted her Republican colleagues who haven’t condemned the president’s rhetoric. “The Republicans, they can tolerate almost anything — a candidate beating up a reporter and then cheering him on as he arrives in Congress, the tweets of the president of the United States,” she said at her weekly news conference. “They set a low standard for public officials in terms of their demeanor.”
Trump’s tweet dominated the conversation on a day when the House was scheduled to vote on two immigration bills, the Senate was focused on getting its Obamacare repeal legislation back on track, and part of the administration’s travel ban was set to be enforced Thursday evening. The White House had also designated this “energy week,” with Trump scheduled to deliver remarks at an energy event at the Energy Department.
Republicans expressed frustration that the president’s tweets do nothing to further the GOP agenda.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who is among the Republican holdouts on the health care bill, tweeted: “This has to stop – we all have a job – 3 branches of gov’t and media. We don’t have to get along, but we must show respect and civility.” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), another skeptic of the GOP health bill, tweeted, “Stop it! The Presidential platform should be used for more than bringing people down.”
Conservative commentator Laura Ingraham sent out a tweet chastising the White House’s message discipline: “Today ALL comms coming out of WH shd be focused on #KatesLaw and #NoSanctuaryforCriminalsAct — not cable TV hosts.”
GOP strategist Rick Tyler, a former communications aide to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s White House bid, told POLITICO that Trump’s tweets have “zero benefit” and criticized the administration’s defense of them as “childish.”
“Republicans will arrive at the 2018 elections with absolutely no accomplishments and nothing to run on,” Tyler said. “In order to effect large-scale public policy change through legislation, you must have a communications strategy to convince the country that the direction you’re going is somewhere they’d like to go.”
While Trump’s attack on Thursday morning provoked a big response, the “Morning Joe” hosts have a notorious love-hate relationship with the president. During the 2016 campaign, Trump was a frequent call-in guest to the show and as recently as March retained Joe Scarborough’s advice on matters before addressing Congress. But the MSNBC show has also faced criticism for being too cozy with the administration.
In a Vanity Fair report from May on the co-hosts’ recent engagement, the couple acknowledged meeting with the president more than a week after his inauguration, where Trump reportedly suggested they have their wedding at Mar-a-Lago or the White House. According to Scarborough, Trump even suggested he could be the one to marry them.
Scarborough and Brzezinski have since become increasingly critical of the president, and Trump has repeatedly attacked them on Twitter, but Thursday’s messages marked a new low.
Brzezinski responded to Trump shortly after his tweets on Thursday with her own post of a Cheerios box detailing a child and the slogan “Made For Little Hands” — a seemingly pointed reference to the campaign trail during which Trump’s hand size was often targeted.
MSNBC, meanwhile, was direct and unsparing in its criticism.
“It’s a sad day for America when the president spends his time bullying, lying and spewing petty personal attacks instead of doing his job,” an MSNBC spokesperson said, echoing a similar sentiment from the organization’s spokesman Mark Kornblau, who tweeted that he “never imagined a day when I would think to myself, ‘it is beneath my dignity to respond to the President of the United States.’”
It was not immediately clear what specific comments set off the Twitter attacks this morning, but Brzezinski did hit the president this morning on “lying … and destroying the country.”
“Nothing makes a man feel better than making a fake cover of a magazine about himself, lying every day and destroying the country,” Brzezinski said in reference to a Washington Post report that alleges a fabricated Time magazine cover photo featuring Trump is hanging in at least five of his golf clubs.
Also, on Tuesday’s episode of “Morning Joe,” Brzezinski and Scarborough went back and forth on Trump’s hand size and his onslaught of media-focused tweets of late.
“That’s a very small person,” Brzezinski said.
“I work in cable news and I can tell you that’s sad, pathetic. Think bigger,” Scarborough countered, adding that while the “worst health care strategy ever” rages, Trump’s talking about the media.
“Keep on being small,” Brzezinski said.
“Tiny. That’s the word,” Scarborough corrected.
On the campaign trail, the president was often criticized for his treatment of women, most notably after the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape in which Trump can be heard bragging about sexually assaulting women.
And in a bizarre moment on Tuesday, while on the phone with Ireland’s new prime minister, Trump called forward an Irish journalist to comment on her smile.
Despite the furor around his tweets on Thursday, Trump did get some support outside of the White House.Fox News primetime host and frequent Trump defender Sean Hannity tweeted various links to “Morning Joe”-related coverage. “Maybe liberal Joe should stop calling the @POTUS a schmuck, a liar, a thug and mentally unhinged. Were they kissing @POTUS ass at xmas? Yes,” he tweeted.
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) also appeared to defend the president, noting that he’s dealing with an adversarial news media.
“The media is salting him every day,” Shelby said. “I guess he’s fighting back.”
Other lawmakers, however, said they were trying to tune it out.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said he didn’t want to talk about the president’s tweets because he’s trying to “stay positive.”
“If you don’t have something nice to say, say nothing at all,” Johnson said.
“The American people need us to be focused on health care and tax reform, not Twitter fights and cable news,” Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said on Twitter.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who unsuccessfully ran for president in 2016, summarized Trump’s comments in three words: “Inappropriate. Undignified. Unpresidential.”
Thursday morning’s tweet storm also fits into Trump’s recently stepped-up crusade against the media in which he has targeted other outlets that he believes are publishing unfair coverage of his administration.
Trump attacked The Washington Post on Wednesday, complaining that the “fake news” newspaper was protecting Amazon from tax liabilities with its coverage.
Representatives for Brzezinski and Scarborough did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Hadas Gold, Elana Schor, Kyle Cheney, Austin Wright, Heather Caygle and Diamond Naga Siu contributed to this report.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE)
6 Comey Testimony Revelations That Should Concern Trump
In his Senate committee hearing Thursday, the former FBI director said he believes the president to be a liar, among other things
Fired FBI director James Comey appeared Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee, delivering an unvarnished account of President Trump’s efforts to influence the FBI investigation into disgraced former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
That wasn’t all Comey discussed in his testimony, though. He suggested that the FBI was investigating whether the president himself was being investigated for colluding with the Russian government to influence the election, whether Jeff Sessions was involved and whether there was any validity to the infamous dossier.
Contrary to Trump allies’ insistence that this was all a big, fat#NothingBurger, there were in fact several revelations that should concern the president, his attorney general and members of his campaign.
Trump is almost certainly under investigation for obstruction of justice. Comey told the Senate committee on Thursday that Trump insisted on a closed-door meeting in which he repeatedly shared with the then-FBI director his “hope” that Comey could let go of the criminal investigation into Flynn. He said he immediately thought the president’s words were of “investigative interest.”
Comey demurred when asked directly if he believed the conversation constituted obstruction of justice in a legal sense. “I don’t think it’s for me to say whether the conversation I had with the president was an effort to obstruct,” Comey said. But he added that he was confident the recently appointed special counsel, Robert Mueller, would be looking into the question. “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,” Comey said.
It sure sounds like Trump is also being investigated for collusion. Republican Sen. Tom Cotton got to ask the question everyone wants answered: “Do you believe Donald Trump colluded with Russia?”
“That’s a question I don’t think I should answer in an open setting,” Comey replied. “When I left, we did not have an investigation focused on President Trump. But that’s a question that will be answered by the investigation, I think.”
The FBI was aware of incriminating evidence against Sessions, too. Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden noted that in the written remarks Comey provided to the committee Wednesday, the former FBI head said he had good reason to believe Attorney General Jeff Sessions would recuse himself from the Russia probe several weeks before Sessions actually did so. “What was it about the attorney general’s own interactions with the Russians or his behavior with regard to the investigation that would have led the entire leadership of the FBI to make this decision?” Wyden wanted to know.
“Our judgment, as I recall, was that he was very close to and inevitably going to recuse himself for a variety of reasons,” Comey answered. “We also were aware of facts that I can’t discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic. And so we were convinced and, in fact, I think we had already heard that the career people were recommending that he recuse himself, that he was not going to be in contact with Russia-related matters much longer. That turned out to be the case.”
The bureau was investigating the Steele dossier. The FBI is or was attempting to confirm explosive allegations contained in an unverified dossier, authored during the campaign by a former British intelligence agent named Christopher Steele on behalf of Trump’s rivals. In addition to the eye-popping claim that the Russian government was blackmailing Trump with an explicit videotape, the document included allegations that Trump campaign officials met with emissaries of the Russian government to hammer out an agreement: that Russia would provide damaging emails it hacked from the DNC and the Clinton campaign to WikiLeaks in exchange for assurances from Trump that he would not discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine during the campaign.
Sen. Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, asked Comey point-blank if he could confirm any criminal allegations described in the Steele dossier. Comey answered by confirming, as he intimated in his opening statement, that the FBI was investigating the document. “Mr. Chairman, I don’t think that’s a question I can answer in an open setting because it goes into the details of the investigation,” he said.
Comey arranged to have his personal memos leaked to the press. Comey freely admitted that he provided his memos – which he said he considered personal memorializations, not government documents – to the media via an intermediary in the hopes that the revelation that Trump tried to strong-arm him into dropping the Flynn investigation would trigger the appointment of a special counsel. The decision to provide the documents to the media, he said, was motivated by Trump’s tweet that Comey “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
“Lordy, I hope there are tapes,” Comey said on Thursday, inviting the president to release them if they exist.
Comey believed Trump would lie about their interactions. Perhaps the least surprising revelation to emerge from the three-hour hearing was that the former FBI director believes Trump to be a liar who would not hesitate to lie to the public about Comey. Questioned about why he took notes on the nine one-on-one conversations he had with President Trump, the former FBI director was blunt: “I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting.”
That fear, Comey said, “led me to believe I’ve got to write it down. … I knew there might come a day when I would need a record of what would happen, not just to defend myself but to defend the FBI and our integrity as an institution and the independence of our investigative function.”
James Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday. Watch here.
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President Trump on Saturday angrily accused former president Barack Obama of orchestrating a “Nixon/Watergate” plot to tap the phones at his Trump Tower headquarters last fall in the run-up to the election.
Citing no evidence to support his explosive allegation, Trump said in a series of five tweets sent Saturday morning that Obama was “wire tapping” his New York offices before the election in a move he compared to McCarthyism. “Bad (or sick) guy!” he said of his predecessor, adding that the surveillance resulted in “nothing found.”
Trump offered no citations nor did he point to any credible news report to back up his accusation, but he may have been referring to commentary on Breitbart and conservative talk radio suggesting that Obama and his administration used “police state” tactics last fall to monitor the Trump team. The Breitbart story, published Friday, has been circulating among Trump’s senior staff, according to a White House official who described it as a useful catalogue of the Obama administration’s activities.
A spokesman for Obama did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Trump has been feuding with the intelligence community since before he took office, convinced that career officers as well as holdovers from the Obama administration have been trying to sabotage his presidency. He has ordered internal inquiries to find who leaked sensitive information regarding communications during the campaign between Russian officials and his campaign associates and allies, including ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Some current and former intelligence officials cast doubt on Trump’s assertion.
“It’s highly unlikely there was a wiretap on the president-elect,” said one former senior intelligence official familiar with surveillance law who spoke candidly on the condition of anonymity. “It seems unthinkable. If that were the case by some chance, that means that a federal judge would have found that there was either probable cause that he had committed a crime or was an agent of a foreign power.”
A wiretap cannot be directed at a U.S. facility, the official said, without finding probable cause that the phone lines or Internet addresses were being used by agents of a foreign power — or by someone spying for or acting on behalf of a foreign government. “You can’t just go around and tap buildings,” the official said.
Trump sent the tweets from Palm Beach, Fla., where he is vacationing this weekend at his private Mar-a-Lago estate. It has long been his practice to stir up new controversies to deflect attention from a damaging news cycle, such as the one in recent days about Sessions and Russia.
Trump’s tweets took numerous top White House aides by surprise, according to a second White House official who was not authorized to speak publicly. There was an expectation that Saturday would be a “down day, pretty quiet,” this official said, and there was little if any attempt to coordinate the president’s message on the wire-tapping allegations.