Digby's Hullabaloo
2801 Ocean Park Blvd.
Box 157
Santa Monica, Ca 90405

Facebook: Digby Parton

@BloggersRUs (Tom Sullivan)

thedigbyblog at gmail
satniteflix at gmail
publius.gaius at gmail
tpostsully at gmail
Spockosbrain at gmail
Richardein at me.com


Mother Jones
Raw Story
Huffington Post
Crooks and Liars
American Prospect
New Republic

Denofcinema.com: Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 July 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 December 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013 July 2013 August 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013 December 2013 January 2014 February 2014 March 2014 April 2014 May 2014 June 2014 July 2014 August 2014 September 2014 October 2014 November 2014 December 2014 January 2015 February 2015 March 2015 April 2015 May 2015 June 2015 July 2015 August 2015 September 2015 October 2015 November 2015 December 2015 January 2016 February 2016 March 2016 April 2016 May 2016 June 2016 July 2016 August 2016 September 2016 October 2016 November 2016 December 2016 January 2017 February 2017 March 2017 April 2017 May 2017 June 2017 July 2017 August 2017 September 2017 October 2017 November 2017 December 2017 January 2018 February 2018 March 2018 April 2018 May 2018


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Trump and Comey, together again

by digby

There are dozens of important political stories percolating at the moment, from President Donald Trump blithely saying,”nobody knew health care could be so complicated” to an administration proposal to slash necessary government programs to the bone to pay for a massive increase in military spending. There are also discussions about putting large numbers of troops on the ground in the Middle East and ongoing horror stories about the large-scale deportation of immigrants and harassment at the borders and other points of entry.

But there are two stories that keep bubbling up to the surface no matter what else is going on: the investigations of Trump’s possible connections to Russia and his holy war against the press. Indeed, according to Chuck Todd of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the two are related. On Sunday’s show Todd reported an apparent pattern: Every time a news organization publishes another story about the Russian investigation, Trump has an additional tantrum about the media. It’s like clockwork.

This pattern doesn’t prove anything other than the fact that the Trump administration is touchy about the story. We can’t conclude it is consciously trying to punish the press for reporting the Russian-related stories or that the Trump team is attempting to distract attention from them. Nevertheless, how the administration has been dealing with the Russian investigations in other ways certainly raises questions.

On Sunday we found out that the White House was so obsessed with leaks that Sean Spicer gathered White House lawyers and forced his staff to turn over their personal and work phones for searching. On Monday it was revealed that Trump had personally signed off on the order. Calling such behavior “Nixonian” is a cliché, but there’s just no way around it. This is paranoid behavior. It’s also revealing, since Trump likes to say the media has no sources and is just making stories up — and yet he’s obsessed with leaks. Something doesn’t add up.

But that’s just a White House story. As revealing as it is, it’s not as important as the revelation that in the wake of stories that Trump campaign personnel had “repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election,” press secretary Sean Spicer personally connected journalists with Mike Pompeo, the CIA director, and Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., chair of the Intelligence Committee, who both are involved in current investigations of the matter. Spicer even stayed on the line while reporters spoke to those officials. Burr and Pompeo apparently told reporters the stories were “not accurate,” without offering details. (Assuming that they were telling the truth, all that means is that something in the stories was inaccurate, not that they were entirely false.)

This news came as a follow-up to an earlier report that the White House had reached out to Republican members of the intelligence committees in the House and Senate in an attempt to knock down the Russian-connection stories. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, also a member of Trump’s executive transition committee, denied that the White House had pressured him, but nonetheless went on record to assure the country there was nothing to the allegations. How could he possibly know that? The investigation hasn’t really even begun.

The point here is that it is improper for the White House to use the CIA director and the heads of congressional committees as its PR damage control department. It’s particularly improper for such collusion to happen in a case in which the latter are personally involved in the investigations in question. But let’s face facts. Scandals like these are almost always partisan affairs. Even if Spicer and the White House had not displayed outrageous disregard for normal protocol, a special prosecutor or a bipartisan commission likely would have been needed at some point to take up the investigation. That’s even more obvious now.

As troubling as all this White House outreach to congressional Republicans is, it’s nothing compared to inappropriate interactions between White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and Andrew McCabe, the deputy FBI director. Their contact apparently related to a New York Times story concerning connections between the Trump campaign and Russian officials before the election.

Priebus went on the Sunday talk shows and said he had been told by intelligence officials that there was nothing to the story and further that he had been authorized to say so publicly. That’s an odd thing to say and CNN reported that Priebus, like Spicer, had tried to get the FBI to “publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump’s associates and Russians known to US intelligence.”

That’s not just inappropriate or unethical; it could be obstruction of justice. At the very least it violates longstanding Department of Justice rules in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal that prohibit such contacts between the bureau and the subjects of an FBI investigation. (One of the articles of impeachment introduced against President Richard Nixon was for “interfering or endeavoring to interfere” with an FBI investigation.)

This is undoubtedly why the White House amended Priebus’ comments days later, saying that the FBI’s McCabe had actually approached Priebus to tell him the Times story was “bullshit.” It was then that Priebus asked the FBI to “knock down” the story publicly, which the FBI told the White House it could not do. But CNN has reported that, according to the White House, both McCabe and the FBI’s director, James Comey, “gave Priebus the go-ahead to discredit the story publicly, something the FBI has not confirmed.”

It’s certainly possible that the White House is misrepresenting the FBI’s involvement. The Trump administration’s credibility gap is the size of the Grand Canyon and growing. But if the Priebus account is correct, we are once again looking at an FBI that is behaving in a partisan and unprofessional manner on behalf of Donald Trump. In this case, its conduct may even be illegal. After Comey’s overt interference in the election and refusal to sign on to the original reports of Russian interference, it’s mind-boggling that everyone in the bureau, especially Comey himself, would not go to epic lengths to avoid even the slightest whiff of impropriety.

This might all add up to nothing in the end. But at this point these unethical and possibly illegal contacts between the White House and various agencies, congressional officials and the FBI have made an independent investigation an absolute necessity.