Week 20 in Trump’s America: Comey at me, bro
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Week 20, in one sentence: President Donald Trump used the London Bridge terrorist attack as an opportunity to promote his travel ban; tweeted solidarity with the U.K. only to later insult London’s mayor; went on a Twitter rant in defense of his “TRAVEL BAN” and criticized the “watered down, politically correct version” his Department of Justice submitted to the Supreme Court; announced his support of privatizing U.S. air traffic control, an idea that’s at least three decades old; began a promised crackdown on leaks when his administration arrested Reality Winner, a 25-year-old NSA contractor who allegedly gave documents to the press; apparently blindsided his own Cabinet during a speech last week in which he failed to affirm a basic commitment to defending NATO allies; went after London’s mayor again; seemed to forget that Qatar is a major U.S. ally; went dark on Twitter for almost two days as Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee; was called a liar by Comey; had his attorney blast Comey for leaking memos to the press of conversations he’d had with Trump; accused Comey of perjury; declared that Comey’s testimony had given him “complete vindication”; and heralded the celebration of infrastructure week, which was completely overshadowed by everything else he did.
Retweeting his praise Day 134 — June 2
The president retweeted a bunch of praise of his decision to abandon the Paris climate agreement, a groundbreaking deal between 185 countries to curb global carbon-dioxide emissions and combat climate change.
Days after trolling Trump with his support of the Paris deal, Russian President Vladimir Putin implored a group of high-powered American business executives in St. Petersburg to help Trump and him restore a “normal political dialogue.”
“I ask you on behalf of Russia, and I appeal to the American side: Help the newly elected president, the head of the United States administration,” Putin said to representatives from Boeing, Chevron, and more
Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia to undermine the U.S. election, has also reportedly taken over the probe of Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, who resigned after it came to light that he lobbied on behalf of Russian interests in Ukraine in the past. Mueller is also taking control of a grand jury investigation of Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser who resigned after he lied to Vice President Mike Pence about meetings he’d had with Russia’s ambassador, three sources told Reuters.
Trump also signed two bills into law that aim to help law-enforcement officers and veterans. The first of the new laws, which are mostly lip service, requires the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits program — which provides death and education benefits to injured first responders and their relatives — “to exercise due diligence and transparency and to expeditiously adjudicate PSOB claims.” The second law authorizes the Department of Justice to give grant money to police organizations to prioritize the hiring of veterans.
From tragedy to travel ban Day 135 — June 3
Trump tweeted solidarity with the U.K. after the the London Bridge terrorist attack that left at least eight dead. But he also used the tragedy as a means to promote his travel ban — and he even used the word “ban,” the exact language his administration and lawyers have been trying to avoid.
“We need to be smart, vigilant and tough,” Trump tweeted. “We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!”
The fedd begins Day 136 — June 4
A day after he exclaimed “WE ARE WITH YOU” to Britons, Trump took to Twitter to criticize London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s response to the London Bridge terrorist attack.
We must stop being politically correct and get down to the business of security for our people. If we don't get smart it will only get worse
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 4, 2017
At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is "no reason to be alarmed!"
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 4, 2017
Do you notice we are not having a gun debate right now? That's because they used knives and a truck!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 4, 2017
Trump’s tweets took Khan’s words out of context. Khan’s full statement to BBC was: “Londoners will see an increased police presence today and over the course of the next few days. There’s no reason to be alarmed. One of the things the police and all of us need to do is ensure that we’re as safe as we possibly can be.”
Khan, however, “had more important things to do than respond to Donald Trump’s ill-informed tweet,” a spokesperson said.
In a trailer for an interview with NBC’s Megyn Kelly, Vladimir Putin claimed that he didn’t have much of a relationship with former U.S. national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was forced to resign after lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his meetings with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.
“You and I, personally, have a much closer relationship than I had with Mr. Flynn,” Putin told Kelly, according to a partial transcript released by the network. “You and I met yesterday evening.”
Trump calls ‘em like he sees ‘em Day 137 — June 5
Trump went on an early morning Twitter rampage criticizing the Department of Justice and urging its attorneys to return to his original executive order instead of the “watered down, politically correct version” they submitted to the Supreme Court. Trump also insisted on classifying the policy as a “TRAVEL BAN,” which could undermine the DOJ’s efforts in court.
After experiencing an unprecedented volume of leaks — which has irked the president, to say the least — the Trump administration arrested its first alleged leaker: Reality Winner, a 25-year-old NSA contractor. Winner allegedly leaked classified documents to The Intercept, which sent hard copies for verification to the NSA. But the FBI recognized the watermarks on the paper and tracked the documents back to Winner.
Trump announced his support of plans to overhaul the U.S. air traffic control system, one of the safest in the world, by turning the Federal Aviation Administration into a non-profit. The idea of privatization, however, has been around for decades (and continually fails to pass.) Although specifics of the plan haven’t been announced, Trump’s economic adviser, Gary Cohn, told the New York Times that taxpayers wouldn’t pay a dime.
Even while throwing his support behind a new policy, Trump renewed his attacks on London’s mayor Sadiq Khan again. Although Khan has repeatedly said he doesn’t have time to deal with Trump’s instigation, British Prime Minister Theresa May came to the London mayor’s defense and called Trump’s criticism “wrong.”
Trump’s acting U.S. ambassador to China, David Rank, resigned from his post after Trump decided to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, sources told NBC News. The State Department told CNN that Rank made a “personal decision.”
In the wake of pulling out of the Paris deal, firing Comey, and more Russia scandals, Trump’s approval rating is in its longest period of decline since he took office, the latest Gallup poll showed. Between May 28 and June 3, his approval rating dropped from 42 percent to 36 percent, one point away from his all-time low of 35 percent on March 28.
After Kellyanne Conway left the question open on ABC’s Good Morning America, White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Trump wouldn’t be invoking executive privilege to block Comey from publicly testifying in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday.
Trouble in paradiseDay 138 — June 6
We’ve known for weeks that Trump told then-FBI director Comey that Flynn “is a good guy” and that he hopes Comey can let the investigation into the former National Security Adviser’s communications with Russia go. But as administration officials told The Washington Post, the president not-so-subtly asked two other top level intelligence officials to intervene as well: Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Trump’s relationship has reportedly deteriorated to the point that Sessions offered to resign, two sources close to the president told ABC News. The trouble started after Sessions recused himself from the Russian investigation, which according to ABC News, Trump believed added fuel to the Russia fire.
Trump’s last minute edit to his NATO speech last week resulted in a major diplomatic blunder. He left off these 27 words, which even reportedly surprised members of his own Cabinet, who worked for weeks to ensure their inclusion: “We face many threats, but I stand here before you with a clear message: the U.S. commitment to the NATO alliance and to Article 5 is unwavering.” NATO has only invoked Article 5, which states that an attack on any member is an attack on all the members, once: to defend the U.S. in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.
Michael Flynn waited until the twelfth hour to hand over a massive bundle of documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which had issued two subpoenas to Flynn with a deadline of Tuesday. Flynn had previously invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in response to another subpoena. The 600-pages he turned in are mostly business records but also included some personal documents, a source familiar with the matter told CNN.
At least four top law firms in the country turned down representing Trump in the Russia probe, five sources familiar with the matter told Yahoo News. Some said no because they’re worried Trump won’t take their legal advice, while others noticed the president’s past allegations of bailing on bills.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan finally found the time to hit back at Trump. In an interview on Good Morning Britain, Khan called Trump’s statements about Muslims “ignorant” and said that they don’t reflect London’s values. He also called for the U.K. to revoke Trump’s invitation for a planned visit, although May later confirmed Trump was still coming.
Trump appears to have forgotten that Qatar is a major U.S. ally and home to the largest American military base in the Middle East. Amid the region’s greatest diplomatic crisis in decades over Qatar’s alleged support of terrorism, Trump not only sided with Saudi Arabia and the group of Arab countries that have cut ties with Qatar but also took credit for the deepening rift.
“During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar—look!” Trump tweeted.
Chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, Bob Corker, was “visibly stunned” to hear about the tweets, according to CNN. “The President? When did that occur?” Corker asked journalists pressing him to comment on the tweets.
For the second time, DeVos refused to say if she’d pull federal funding from schools that discriminate against LGBTQ students. During a hearing in front of the Senate about Trump’s recently released budget, DeVos dodged Democrat’s questions and instead said that schools must follow federal law. But since the Trump administration rescinded Obama-era guidance that allowed students to use the bathroom consistent with their gender identify, those laws remain murky.
Eric Trump has repeatedly said that his eponymous foundation, which helps raise money for children with cancer, uses his dad’s company’s assets for free. But financial filings reviewed by Forbes show otherwise: that the Eric Trump Foundation has paid the Trump Organization more than $1.2 million over the last six years to use its properties for fundraising events.
Comey at me, bro Day 139 — June 7
On the eve of Comey’s hearing, the Senate Intelligence Committee released the former FBI director’s opening statement: seven pages that describe several “awkward” encounters with the president. The text confirmed many notable news leaks, including that Trump asked Comey to drop the investigation into Flynn’s communications with Russia and to pledge his loyalty. Read the full document here.
Comey’s planned testimony dropped same day that Trump announced — in a single tweet — his nominee for the new FBI director: Christopher Wray, a former federal prosecutor who led the Department of Justice’s criminal division under George W. Bush. Wray was also New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s personal attorney during the “Bridgegate” controversy.
In a backhanded condolence after a pair of ISIS terror attacks in Iran, Trump said, “We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote.” Iran reacted furiously, with Foreign Minister Javad Zarif calling Trump’s statement “repugnant.”
With all eyes on Comey, Senate Republicans quietly moved to fast-track the GOP repeal of Obamacare before Congress goes into recess July 4. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell implemented “Rule 14,” which allows the bill to skip the committee debate process. The following day, Senate Democrat Claire McCaskill criticized the secretive process and said that most of Congress has “no idea what’s being proposed.”
Former National Intelligence Director James Clapper told reporters at a National Press Club event that Watergate “pales” in comparison to Trump’s Russia scandal.
Top intelligence officials — Coats and NSA Director Mike Rogers — repeatedly offered no comment on questions about potential muddling by Trump into their investigations of his campaign’s ties to Russia in a hearing in front of the Senate.
“I come out of this hearing with more questions than when I came in,” said Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia.
Leaks, lies, and “Lordy” Day 140 — June 8
The big day arrived: Comey made his first public appearance in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee since Trump fired him in May. The ex-FBI director answered questions about his one-on-one meetings with Trump, as well as the Russia investigation, dropping several bombshells in a little over two and a half hours.
The big takeaways:
- Comey immediately called the Trump administration’s claims that the FBI was in disarray “lies, plain and simple.”
- Comey felt the need to document his conversations with Trump because he was concerned the president “might lie.” He didn’t do that for either Obama or Bush.
- “I take the president at his word that I was fired because of the Russia investigation,” Comey said.
- Comey recalled Trump’s threatening tweet about releasing tapes and said: “Lordy, I hope there are tapes.”
- Comey asked a “close friend” to leak contents of one of his memos about a conversation with Trump.
- Despite Trump saying that he “hoped” Comey could let this Flynn situation go, Comey confirmed he took that as a directive, not just wishful thinking from the president.
Although White House aides were reportedly trying to keep Trump busy during Comey’s testimony Thursday, a lot of anticipation hung over whether the president would tweet or not. The last time Comey appeared in front of the Senate, he had to fact check Trump in real time. The president even cleared his schedule last-minute on Thursday — but the tweets never came.
But Trump’s longtime personal lawyer Marc Kasowitz, who know represents him in the Russia probe, did speak up shortly after the testimony. Kasowitz said that Comey orchestrated unauthorized leaks to the press in an effort to damage the president and denied that Trump told Comey that he needed and expected “loyalty.”
“I can definitively say the president is not a liar,” Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters during an off-camera briefing.
For his part, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan defended Trump’s blurring of the lines between the executive branch and the FBI by saying that the president is “just new at this.”
A coal mine that the president touted around the time he decided to abandon the Paris climate agreement officially opened in Pennsylvania. Trump appeared in a pre-recorded video during a celebration of the mine’s opening and said, “I told you it was going to happen.”
“Complete vindication” Day 141 — June 9
Trump couldn’t help himself and broke almost two days of Twitter silence, his second-longest stint ever, to accuse Comey of perjury.
“Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication…and WOW, Comey is a leaker!” Trump tweeted, repeating the themes introduced by Kasowitz and other members of his team.
Also, it was apparently “infrastructure week,” according to the White House — although nobody noticed. The White House designed the weeklong initiative to rally support around Trump’s $1 trillion rebuilding plan, which isn’t even finalized.
This week in POTUS’ tweets:
Great reporting by @foxandfriends and so many others. Thank you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 9, 2017
Sorry folks, but if I would have relied on the Fake News of CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, washpost or nytimes, I would have had ZERO chance winning WH
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 6, 2017
The FAKE MSM is working so hard trying to get me not to use Social Media. They hate that I can get the honest and unfiltered message out.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 6, 2017