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Wednesday, May 17, 2017


It's only Wednesday

by Tom Sullivan

If you are President Donald Trump, it's not a good morning when a New York Times headline reads: What Qualifies as Obstruction of Justice?

The main controversy of the day stems from the fact that, whatever his misjudgments ahead of the election, James Comey was an FBI agent for a long time. “The man probably writes a memo every morning on what he had for breakfast,” observes Charlie Pierce. Which is to say Comey takes notes that are admissible in court:

"I hope you can let this go," the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. The existence of Mr. Trump's request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and F.B.I. investigation into links between Mr. Trump's associates and Russia. Mr. Comey wrote the memo detailing his conversation with the president immediately after the meeting, which took place the day after Mr. Flynn resigned, according to two people who read the memo. The memo was part of a paper trail Mr. Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president's improper efforts to influence a continuing investigation. An F.B.I. agent's contemporaneous notes are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations.
Comey called Trump's bluff about the White House taping their conversations and raised him contemporaneous written notes. The dealmaker really doesn't get how this Washington deal works.

From Charlie Savage’s “Obstruction” article:
Julie O’Sullivan, a former federal prosecutor who now teaches white-collar criminal law at Georgetown University, said the power relationship between a president and the F.B.I. director could elevate a request to shut down a case into an act that amounts to impeding an official investigation.

“He really needs a lawyer,” Ms. O’Sullivan said of Mr. Trump. “He is building a beautiful case against himself.”
The Washington Post cites another expert:
“There’s definitely a case to be made for obstruction,” said Barak Cohen, a former federal prosecutor who now does white-collar-defense work at the Perkins Coie law firm in the District. “But, on the other hand, you have to realize that — as with any other sort of criminal law — intent is key, and intent here can be difficult to prove.”
Especially when you are the president and someone who doesn’t do a lot of intending before speaking and doing. Savage reminds readers that the two president who faced impeachment actions in the last century – Bill Clinton in 1998 and Richard M. Nixon in 1974 – both faced obstruction of justice charges.

In other news, the Comey memo reportedly describes how the president is hot to jail reporters he describes as the enemies of the people for reporting on leaks from the White House.

Trump ghostwriter Tony Schwartz explains what motivates Trump:
You either dominated or you submitted. You either created and exploited fear or you succumbed to it … he treated every encounter as a contest he had to win, because the only other option from his perspective was to lose, and that was the equivalent of obliteration.
Trump’s Republican colleagues practice the same alpha-dog style of politics. Showing any kind of weakness means you are not fit to lead, and ripe to be deposed by any of the alpha-dogs in waiting, so don’t expect them to hold Trump accountable:
Asked Tuesday if he had concerns about the president’s ability to handle classified information, given reports he’d shared highly sensitive information to Russian officials, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell chuckled briefly before replying, “No.” Is he starting to lose confidence in President Trump? Again, “No.”

It’s not just party leaders like McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan who are standing by the president. Even the latest bombshell, that Trump asked former FBI Director James Comey to quash the investigation into his ex-national security adviser, Michael Flynn, drew a shrug from New York Congressman Peter King. “I’ll have to wait and see,” King told reporters at the Capitol Tuesday evening. Coming out of a briefing with CIA Director Mike Pompeo regarding Trump’s meeting with Russian officials last week, King said, “My level of concern is not high.”
Which at this point is about as credible as any statements from the White House.

It’s never a good sign when you are the president and this “obstruction” story is what is splashed across front pages. Especially since the Monday-Tuesday headlines were about how you gave highly classified intelligence to Russian officials and TASS in the Oval Office. And after last week when your staff was in chaos scrambling to explain that you didn’t really fire the FBI Director because he would not drop the investigation into your presidential campaign’s ties to Russia – the people who interfered in the American election – and then you admitted as much on television.

Trump likes to brag about his ratings. Much more of this and he’ll get the biggest of his life. He'll paint it as a great victory.

That was the week that was. It’s only Wednesday.