Keeping Up With the Calamities

The s0-called president started his day at 8:26 am by tweeting threats to James Comey, a man he had just fired from his job as director of the FBI.

Now, it may very well be that Trump was not the first president to threaten someone to keep his mouth shut. But I believe he is the first one to do it so publicly.

The New York Times, backed up by NBC News, reported that Comey was summoned to the White House for dinner a week after the inauguration. And in that dinner conversation, Trump pushed Comey to declare his loyalty to Trump.

The conversation that night in January, Mr. Comey now believes, was a harbinger of his downfall this week as head of the F.B.I., according to two people who have heard his account of the dinner.

As they ate, the president and Mr. Comey made small talk about the election and the crowd sizes at Mr. Trump’s rallies. The president then turned the conversation to whether Mr. Comey would pledge his loyalty to him.

Mr. Comey declined to make that pledge. Instead, Mr. Comey has recounted to others, he told Mr. Trump that he would always be honest with him, but that he was not “reliable” in the conventional political sense.

In this, Comey was correct. FBI directors are supposed to operate independently of the president.

Here is Donald Trump’s version of the dinner, from his interview with Lester Holt:

HOLT: Let me ask you about your termination letter to Mr. Comey. You write, “I greatly appreciate you informing me on three separate occasions that I am not under investigation.” Why did you put that in there?

TRUMP: Because he told me that. I mean, he told me that.

HOLT: He told you, you weren’t under investigation with…

TRUMP: Yeah, and I…

HOLT: …regard to the Russian investigation.

TRUMP: …I’ve heard that — I’ve heard that from others. I think…

HOLT: Was it in a phone call? Did you meet face to face?

TRUMP: I had a dinner with him. He wanted to have dinner because he wanted to stay on. We had a very nice dinner at the White House…

HOLT: He — he asked…


TRUMP: …very early on. That dinner was arranged. I think he asked for the dinner.

And he wanted to stay on as the FBI head. And I said I’ll, you know, consider. We’ll see what happens.

But we had a very nice dinner. And at that time, he told you are not under investigation…

HOLT: That was…

TRUMP: …which I knew anyway.

HOLT: That was one meeting. When was the — when was the other two?

TRUMP: First of all, when you’re under investigation, you’re giving all sorts of documents and everything. I knew I wasn’t under. And I heard it was stated at the committee — at some committee level that I wasn’t, number one.

HOLT: So, that didn’t come directly from him.

TRUMP: Then, during a phone call, he said it. And then, during another phone call he said it.

So, he said it once at dinner and then he said it twice during phone calls.

HOLT: Did — did you call him?

TRUMP: In one case I called him and one case he called me.

HOLT: And did you ask am I under investigation?

TRUMP: I actually asked him, yes. I said if it’s possible, would you let me know am I under investigation. He said you are not under investigation.

Starting with the part about how Comey “asked” to have dinner at the White House, or somehow arranged for a White House dinner without being invited — I don’t think so. And, anyway, FBI directors are appointed to ten-year terms these days; it’s presumed they will stay in office through changes of administration unless they choose to leave.

I believe the only other FBI director to have been fired was William Sessions, by Bill Clinton. The circumstances were very different from Comey’s firing.

In 1993, Bill Clinton became the first US president to dismiss the head of the bureau. He did so after the Department of Justice produced a 161-page internal report with sworn testimony from more than 100 FBI agents citing the numerous and severe ethical failures of its director, William Sessions.

Clinton called Sessions twice the day he fired him — once to inform him he was dismissed and again to remind him his termination was effective immediately. He then held a press conference to explain his decision. He also had Louis Freeh lined up as a replacement.

Clinton’s moves are in dramatic contrast to President Donald Trump’s Tuesday dismissal of FBI Director James Comey, who was overseeing an investigation involving the president’s campaign.

The White House said that Trump relied on two brief letters of recommendation. One came from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a former campaign surrogate who had recused himself from investigations involving the Trump campaign but waded into the debate about Comey’s dismissal. Sessions’ deputy, Rod Rosenstein, wrote a lengthy memo detailing his concerns about Comey.

BTW, I want to share my Facebook friend Jeffrey F’s version of the Lester Holt interview:

I had beans three times for dinner. Well, actually it was one time for dinner. I open the beans and ate them. Somebody else actually opened the beans. I didn’t eat all the beans, but they were nice beans. You know that, I know that, everybody knows that. I’m not going to even consider eating beans unless they are the best, biggest beans out there. These were the best. The other two times I ate beans for dinner it was not actually dinner. It was breakfast, the one time. I didn’t actually eat the beans, but I was having breakfast and there was somebody else in room eating beans and I said “Those are nice beans.” And that was the second time. The third time I had beans for dinner was on vacation and I had finished lunch and then a waiter was carrying this amazing tray of beans into the room and the waiter says to me he says, “You really need to try these amazing beans.” And I said to him–and this is absolutely true–I said, “I already ate.” Extraordinary guy. Very smart. But there were the beans. So that’s three times. And you can ask anybody.

Brilliant. But Trump implies that he might have tapes of the conversations he had with Comey. And Comey had better keep his mouth shut, or those tapes will be played.

So now Washington is buzzing about tapes again. Reminds me of Nixon. Democrats in Congress are demanding that any tapes or documents related to Comey’s firing be turned over, btw.

The Independent reports that FBI employees are changing their social media photos to James Comey’s. Word is the FBI is pissed off. This is Vox:

It’s not often that you hear members of the FBI threatening to go to war with the president. But that’s where we are after Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey.

“[Trump] essentially declared war on a lot of people at the FBI,” an anonymous FBI official told the Washington Post. “I think there will be a concerted effort to respond over time in kind.”

Do read the whole thing at Vox; the FBI could do Trump a lot of damage.

It seems to me that in spite of his vast past experience of stiffing underlings, dodging lawsuits and doing business with the New York and Russian mobs, Trump is not very good at keeping his ass covered. Everything he does makes him look more guilty.

For example, this afternoon he had some lawyers trot out and proclaim that

his income tax returns do not show income from Russian sources or debt owed to Russians, with the exception of $95 million paid by a Russian billionaire for a Trump-owned estate in Florida and $12.2 million in payments in connection with holding the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013.

The statements are contained in a letter from two lawyers, Sheri A. Dillon and William F. Nelson, to Mr. Trump, which the White House released on Friday. The president cited the letter in an interview with Lester Holt of NBC News as proof that there were no hidden financial ties between him and Russia.

In addition to the Florida estate and the beauty pageant, the lawyers said Mr. Trump received undisclosed payments over 10 years from Russians for hotel rooms, rounds of golf, or Trump-licensed products, like wine, ties or mattresses.

These last payments wouldn’t have shown up on tax returns as coming from Russians, the lawyers say. So let’s see the tax returns, and let us make up our own minds.

Come to think of it, now that Trump is making claims about what his tax returns do or don’t say, wouldn’t that make it easier for some investigatory group to get a judge to subpoena them?

Finally, do read Charles Pierce, who reminds us that the three truest words in journalism are follow the money.

15 thoughts on “Keeping Up With the Calamities

  1. “These last payments wouldn’t have shown up on tax returns as coming from Russians, the lawyers say.”

    Of course, what they don’t say is that virtually none of the relevant payments and loans from Russians would be reflected on his tax returns as coming from Russians. They would show up as payments from a company registered in the Cayman Islands (or the British Virgin Islands, etc., etc.) with a name like “Washin’ R Rubles, Ltd.” Or, they would show up as loans from a notorious financial laundromat like The Bank of Cyprus.

    Senator Huckleberry Graham is smart enough to understand this (although, depending on which way the political winds are blowing, he may pretend otherwise).

  2. Maha, did you get to see Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer at his podium travel down 54th Street? She hosts SNL tonight. Tapes were the undoing of Nixon. Let’s hope the undoing of this President comes soon–really, really soon so the rest of us can be put out of our misery.

  3. Besides the things other commenters here have already pointed out about the Russian money letter, note that it only went back 10 years. It only involved Russian money, not the massive amount of Chinese money that we know Trump got (that was also earlier than the 10 year time frame so wouldn’t show up as money received in the last 10 years).

    Note that the letter also admits that Trump did get money from Russians (“with few exceptions”). That’s kinda critical; if I said I hadn’t poisoned any of your pets “with few exceptions” you might not be entirely pleased with me.

    And note that the law firm boasts about getting an award as 2016’s “Russia law firm of the year”.

  4. Every day there’s a new thing about this man that I waste my time thinking about.

    Lately it’s been “Why are there quotes around the word “tapes?”

  5. t-RUMPLE-thin-sKKKin, thanks to our bigoted, long, tragic, and tortured history with African slavery – and the 150+ years of the its aftermath – was made President by the Electoral College.

    He acts like he was “made” Il Capo dei Capi (The Boss of the Bosses).
    Not the same – or, at least, not yet.

    And in another key difference, whereas the Mafia foot-soldiers vow to an absolute loyalty to the boss (at least until the RICO charges spell out a life term in prison), the FBI made no such vow.
    There was no “blood oath.”
    There may be blood – not real, but metaphorical – as the FBI goes “to the mattresses” to find the goodies that can be used to extricate t-RUMPLE-thin-sKKKin from the Oval Office.

    t-RUMPLE-thin-sKKin had better not also piss-off the CIA, the NSA, and the rest of our secret and supersecret “ABC” agencies.
    Or, at least, no more than he already has.

    The man is incapable of keeping his fat trap shut!!!
    And that’s what will eventually ensnare him in a trap – and best of all, it’ll probably be one of his own making!

  6. In the Holt Interview Trump says this:

    Trump – “And in fact, when I decided to just do it [fire Comey], I said to myself — I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.”

    Later in the interview –

    HOLT: Let me ask you about your termination letter to Mr. Comey. You write, “I greatly appreciate you informing me on three separate occasions that I am not under investigation.” Why did you put that in there?

    It seems to me that the investigation Trump said he wanted to end is the same one he claims did not exist.

  7. One problem with Trump talking to himself is that he will get insane answers.
    I was watching John Dean this AM on MSNBC and he explained something that was puzzling to me. I wondered why the Repugs were not getting rid of Trump when they could have everything they want with Pence. Dean said that Trump’s base is very happy with him and as long as that is the case, the Repugs won’t touch it. I guess that is the survival instinct. It will probably backfire on them. Who was it that said: You can fool some of the people all the time and all the people some of the time but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.
    Life goes on as the world turns.

  8. “A political ax murder”

    Interesting coming from a GOP sycophant on the order of Krauthammer. There are plenty of republicans — former congressmen/women, activists, former GOP admin officials talking like this. I read that there are some elected republicans talking like this in private.

    But is it bad enough to force elected republicans to act?

    They talked like this during the campaign, but in the end they ALL circled the wagons around Trump. For republicans, its always party first.

    This is like a runaway train the GOP is riding. They know the driver (Trump) has not only lost control but is likely suffering from some form of mental/emotional impairment. Their gamble is can we ride it long enough to get what we want legislatively before it goes over the cliff, taking us with it? Some I believe, like Chaffetz, have decided to jump off early.

    If Trump and/or high-level people in his admin get indicted, those still on the train — McConnell, Ryan, et al — will have to deal with having used politics to cover up crimes and risk being painted as corrupt as those under indictment. Or, if dems take back the house in 2018 which, even given all that’s going on it should be a given for them, but as politically cowardly and incompetent dem party leaders are, its probably a long shot that they will. But if they do, then that’s also akin to the Trump train going over the cliff as well.

    In any case, at some point, dems will need to start holding GOP congressional leaders accountable for looking the other way while Trump drives the presidency and the nation over the cliff.

  9. Yes, a good summary of just some of the money you won’t see “reflected” on the tax returns (without some digging). Well worth investing forty-five minutes to view.

  10. follow the money
    and the trail of dead Russians
    and follow the dark money in pacs that most of house and senate repubs take. It is their own Russian $ that they are afraid to be revealed as to why they will not attack Trump for his Russian$
    not to mention China

  11. Just saw “The Dubious Friends of Donald Trump.” Its mind-boggling how much criminal activity that’s documented and already in evidence that Trump is closely associated with, if not complicit in. Had there been a tenth of this level of documented activity in Whitewater, the Clintons would still be in prison.

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