Monday, March 20, 2017
The White House was shocked to learn the sun came up this morning
Apparently the White House doesn't bother reading anything but Breitbart or watching anything but Hannity these days because they were apparently surprised that Comey would confirm there's an investigation that everyone has known about for months and about which they have received intelligence briefings. Talk about a bubble. Politico reports:
The White House was knocked on the defensive Monday ahead of its biggest week yet on Capitol Hill as FBI Director James Comey confirmed the existence of an active investigation into Russia’s meddling in the presidential election, including whether there was any coordination with now-President Donald Trump’s team.
Yeah --- quite the double standard on that one.
The dramatic revelation, made at a hearing of the House Intelligence Committee, dragged the Trump administration yet again back into uncomfortable territory just as it had hoped to highlight the smooth rollout of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, who began his confirmation hearings across the Capitol on Monday.
In another blow to Trump, Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers also publicly refuted his unsubstantiated claims on Twitter that President Barack Obama had ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower phones. The leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees had said last week that Trump’s allegations were untrue.
“I have no information that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI,” Comey said.
The White House scrambled to contain the fallout, deploying two simultaneous war rooms, according to two people familiar with the arrangement, one in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to monitor the Comey hearing and another in the Senate offices to keep tabs on Gorsuch.
But any hopes in the West Wing for a split-screen day were dashed with the revelation of an active probe into campaign associates of the president. At the White House, televisions in the press offices played the Comey hearing as it ran live on all the cable networks.
“I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election,” Comey said. “And that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government.”
Comey said the probe will “include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.”
He also revealed that the FBI launched its investigation into possible ties between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials back in July — a detail that enraged allies of Hillary Clinton, considering Comey chose to confirm the existence of the probe into her email arrangement but not the one into Trump’s campaign.
Spicer tried his best but it didn't really work:
He repeatedly tried to cast former national security adviser Michael Flynn as the victim of illegal leaks, seeking to point reporters' focus to the circumstances around which Flynn's pre-inauguration phone calls with the Russian ambassador were revealed. It was a tactic followed by Republicans on Capitol Hill, who mostly ignored Russian interference in the election and opted to focus on leaks to the press.
Spicer was particularly obtuse on that one, saying that Manafort had a "limited role in the campaign. Except for being the campaign chairman for months, he's right.
Spicer said reporters needed to take “no” for an answer about collusion, and he said more attention should be paid to other issues, like leakers and any contact between Clinton's campaign and Russia. He also sought to minimize the role in the campaign of some people who have been linked to Russia or WikiLeaks, including former campaign adviser Carter Page, longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone and former campaign Chairman Paul Manafort.
This was truly amazing:
Trump’s war room teams, meanwhile, offered a preview of what is likely to come as they cherry-picked elements from Comey and Rogers to make it seem as if Russia hadn’t meddled in the election.
The good little soldiers on the committee happily followed that lead and spent the whole time smearing former Obama administration figures and rending their garments over leaks naming poor Michael Flynn. It's heartwarming to see how they've all suddenly had an epiphany and become privacy advocates, especially Trey Gowdy who spent years trying to get a peek into Hillary Clinton's personal emails.
“The NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process,” Trump tweeted with a clip of the testimony from the official @POTUS account.
That is not accurate, or, at the least, is misleading. Comey and Rogers testified that Russia had not altered vote tallies, though they acknowledged they could not judge whether the Russian efforts had any influence on voters.
Trump himself began the pushback before the hearings even began, with a burst of morning tweets attacking the media, Clinton, polls and the Democratic Party. “The real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!” Trump tweeted.
They were not bothered at all by the Russian interference apparently since they didn't bother to ask about it. They did ask about this, however:
Meanwhile, Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said the Clinton Foundation and Clinton campaign need more examination regarding Russia ties.
This just gets weirder and weirder.
digby 3/20/2017 04:00:00 PM