• While Washington Watches Comey, Trump Addresses the Faithful
• Sanders: Trump Absolutely Has Confidence in Sessions
• Gowdy Will Chair House Oversight Committee
• Ossoff Sets Another Fundraising Record
• Tories Fail to Get a Majority
James Comey came, he saw, and he conquered. It was the day everyone in Washington was waiting for, and it did not disappoint, drama-wise. It was billed as the capital's "Super Bowl," in fact, up to and including pubs holding viewing parties and giving discounts on beer and appetizers. This being the case, it does not seem out of order to think of Thursday's events in terms of winners and losers:
- James Comey: Comey was a cool customer—calm,
collected, professional. He answered most questions directly and effectively,
and reminded us why he will win a credibility battle with Donald Trump any day,
and twice on Sundays. He also projected a sense of thoughtfulness and moderate
self-doubt that played well—no J. Edgar Hoover-style "tough guy" routine.
Comey made clear he does not like or trust Trump, and he scored a number of body
blows on the President. He called Trump a liar a number of times, and also explained
that when The Donald
to Twitter to threaten him with alleged tapes of their conversations, he
arranged to leak his private (that is, non-classified) memos about Trump's
interference with the investigation. His goal was to get a special counselor
appointed, and it obviously worked. In other words, if Trump insists on waging war in
public, the former director will be happy to respond in kind. While Comey
refused to say that he thinks Trump is guilty of obstruction of justice, he
didn't say Trump was not guilty, either. "I don't think it's for me to say
whether the conversation I had with the President was an effort to obstruct,"
said the former director. "I took it as a very disturbing thing, very
concerning, but that's a conclusion I'm sure the special counsel will work
towards, to try and understand what the intention was there, and whether that's
an offense." Comey had a few stumbles, but overall he performed very well under
one of the biggest microscopes in American political history.
- Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Mark Warner (D-VA):
While some members of the Senate Intelligence Committee were clearly looking to
score points (ahem, Marco Rubio), the chair and co-chair both behaved like
grown-ups who are taking their jobs seriously, and trying to get to the bottom of
the current mess. If you took Burr's and Warner's questions and removed the
names, you might have a hard time guessing who is the Republican and who is the
- Donald Trump: The President came away with a few
(small) victories on Thursday. First, the fact that Comey leaked his own memos
has provided the basis for a "Comey is a sleazy 'leaker-in-chief'" narrative,
which will definitely play well with the deep-state conspiracy crowd. Second,
the case for obstruction of justice was weakened a bit, largely because the President's "hoping"
that Comey ends his investigation is pretty flimsy in terms of communicating
intent. Third, Comey confirmed that he told Trump he was not personally under
investigation. Now, that confirmation was partly because Comey feared what Trump
would do if he gave any other answer and, as the former director pointed out on
Thursday, it still leaves open the possibility of a future investigation.
Further, Comey was splitting hairs, since he also acknowledged that the Trump
campaign was under investigation, and Trump is part of the campaign. Despite
these rather significant caveats, Trump seized upon the statement to claim that he has been
- Donald Trump: Yes, the President was both a winner and
a loser. He was burned by his Twitter behavior, yet again, which may explain why
he's in the middle of one of the longest Twitter
since he declared his candidacy for president (it will become the longest if he
manages to remain silent until 6:14 a.m. EST; a dodgy proposition for a man
giving to venting at 4:00 a.m.). More importantly, though, is that a very
credible person (and a Republican) said in no uncertain terms that he views
Trump as sleazy and dishonest. That is not good, any way you slice it. Worst of
all, though, is that the Russia scandal only got deeper on Thursday,
particularly since Comey hinted he may have more to say that can only be shared
behind closed doors (i.e., because it's classified).
- Attorney General Jeff Sessions: When Comey began to grow
uncomfortable with the President's behavior, he went to his boss—Sessions—and
asked him to mediate the situation. Sessions punted, and left Comey to his own devices,
which is a pretty serious abrogation of the AG's responsibilities.
Further, Comey had a private meeting with the senators after his public testimony, where
he spilled at least a bit more dirt, including
that Sessions had a third meeting with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. If
that proves to be the case, Sessions' goose will likely be cooked.
- Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein:
Rosenstein didn't take as much damage as his boss, but he didn't exactly come
away smelling of roses, either. Comey tried to take his concerns to the
Assistant AG after coming up empty with Sessions, and not only did Rosenstein
fail to act on them, he helped Trump justify the firing of Comey two weeks
later. At best, supposed paragon of virtue Rosenstein looks sleazy and
dishonest. At worst, he aided in a coverup.
- Former AG Loretta Lynch: It was not a good day for
high-ranking DoJ types. Comey made clear, first of all, that he was forced to
announce his conclusions about Hillary Clinton's e-mail prematurely because of
Lynch's ill-advised chat with Bill Clinton on the tarmac of a Phoenix airport.
Further, he also revealed that Lynch ordered him to refer to the investigation
into Hillary's e-mail server as the "e-mail matter" and not as an investigation.
That means that Lynch was parroting the Clinton campaign's own spin, which is
exceedingly unethical for someone in her position, and makes her protestations
that the tarmac meeting was innocent much less believable.
- Sen. John McCain (R-AZ): Speaking of senators who
were trying to score some points, McCain used his allotted Q&A time to
ostensibly try to make the case that Comey was too easy on Hillary Clinton,
because he concluded her investigation, but not the Trump Russia investigation.
The Senator may have also been trying to argue that the Clinton investigation should
remain open, since Russia may have hacked her e-mail server. In any case,
whatever his point was, his
were rambling and unfocused, and left nearly everyone (including Comey, whom
McCain addressed as "President Comey") very confused. It certainly made it seem
like McCain did not understand the difference between the two investigations, and
had more than a few people worrying about his health.
- Marc Kasowitz: Doing damage control after Comey's gripping testimony was no easy task, though the lawyer Donald Trump hired to defend him did his best. In a press conference held immediately after Comey's appearance, he made much of the "leaker-in-chief" bit, and called for an investigation of Comey. He also emphasized Comey's remark that Trump was not personally under investigation. That's all standard spin, and so is forgivable. However, Kasowitz really stepped in it when he said: "The president never suggested that Mr. Comey 'let Flynn go.'" This is exactly what Comey said that Trump said, which means that Kasowitz is suggesting that Comey perjured himself. That's slanderous, and is surely going to invite a response from the former director, who—as noted above—plays this game very skillfully. On the whole, Kasowitz came off as, quite frankly, kind of a shyster. That's not what Trump needs in his lead counselor.
So, there we have it. The fallout from this one is going to linger a long while, but of particular interest will be how long Donald Trump manages to keep his tweeting under control, and what other secrets Comey may have shared in his afternoon closed-door meeting with the senators. (Z)
While the rest of the country was riveted to James Comey's testimony, Donald Trump was speaking to the Faith & Freedom Coalition in Washington. Among other things, he said he would never let the evangelical community down, adding: "we are under siege." The use of "we" seems to imply that Trump considers himself an evangelical, which would probably come as a surprise to most of the people in attendance, since he never goes to church and has no interest in religion.
One of his biggest applause lines was when he highlighted his decision to leave the Paris climate agreement, although the relationship between environmental policy and evangelism is not at all clear. Another thing he mentioned that was popular was his push to allow the clergy to openly advocate for and against political candidates from the pulpit. His reception should give him a mood boost, given the rest of the day's news. In fact, the meeting was an oasis from the withering criticism he was facing in the rest of the capital, where Comey's testimony was not only topic A, but also topic B, C, D, down to Z. (V)
No, not that Sanders. The other one. Yesterday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders finally answered a question reporters have been asking for weeks: Whether Donald Trump has confidence in Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The answer is "yes." Trump has clearly been frustrated with Sessions, and has humiliated him in public, but he is not planning to replace him. In the end, Sessions has displayed the one characteristic that Trump values most: loyalty, and that may be what saved him.
Besides, if Sessions were forced out, Trump would have to pick a new attorney general and get the Senate to confirm him or her. Assuming that person were not compromised by "the Russia thing," he would presumably take over the investigation of Russiagate and become the boss of special counsel Robert Mueller. Finding someone willing to be in the hot seat wouldn't be easy and getting that person through the Senate could be a difficult project. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein would probably take the job if it were offered and could probably be confirmed easily, but Rosenstein is far too independent for Trump's taste. Under the current circumstances, Trump would have no control of Rosenstein at all, so he's probably better off with Sessions, who is a big fan of Trump's and has shown little independence so far.
Sanders was also asked if Trump has any tapes of his meetings in the Oval Office. She replied that she had "no idea" if any tapes existed. (V)
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) has been selected to be chairman of the House Oversight Committee, a position being vacated by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who is leaving Congress. Gowdy is best known for his role as chairman of the House select committee on Benghazi, a position he used to hound Hillary Clinton with a tenacity that would put Inspector Javert to shame. Gowdy leapfrogged over seven other Republicans on the committee with more seniority than he has.
What Gowdy plans to do as chairman of one of the most powerful committees in the House remains to be seen. Normally, the committee investigates the administration, but with a Republican in the White House, the ever-partisan Gowdy may not have so much interest in doing that. He could continue to examine Hillary Clinton's email server, of course, but that is not likely to get him a lot of headlines. (V)
The Democratic candidate in the GA-06 special election to replace former representative Tom Price, Jon Ossoff, has set yet another fundraising record. He raised $8 million in the primary and another $23 million in the runoff, which will take place on June 20. His opponent, Karen Handel, has not released her fundraising totals. This is already the most expensive House race in history.
On Tuesday, Handel said that she did not support a livable wage, which is likely to hurt her. Polls taken before her remark about the livable wage show the race to be close.
While all the money Ossoff has will allow him to flood the airwaves during the last weeks of the campaign, in a certain sense it might be counterproductive for the donors. The Democrats want to show everyone, especially House Republicans, that they are all vulnerable, even in traditionally Republican districts. But if Ossoff wins this one, Republican are going to be saying: "Sure, any Democrat who can raise $23 million can win a House race, but how many Democrats can do that?" That is certainly true. Since this is the only truly competitive House seat up this Spring, most of the Democratic activists are sending their donations to Ossoff. In the 2018 midterms, there will be 30 or more competitive races, so the money will be greatly diluted. (V)
When British Prime Minister Theresa May's decision to call a Snap election has officially backfired. While her Conservative Party will be the largest in parliament, it will no longer have a majority. With two constituencies still in doubt, the Tories have 317 seats, which is 9 short of a majority, and represents a loss of 12 seats. Labour will have at least 261 seats, a gain of 31 (and counting).
The news does not get much better from there for May. Many members of her party are furious that she squandered a majority by calling for elections three years earlier than necessary, and some of them are demanding that she step down. Even if she does not heed their calls, she's going to have a tough time forming a majority government. Labour, the Scottish National Party (35 seats), and the other assorted members (13 seats) are on the opposite side of the aisle, so they are all non-starters. The Conservatives have joined with the Liberal Democrats (12 seats) before, during David Cameron's premiership, but the Lib Dems are categorically opposed to the Brexit. The Democratic Unionists (10 seats) are pro-Brexit, but are also very right-wing, and working with them would hurt the Tories with moderate voters. Labour and Jeremy Corbin may also try to form a "progressive" government, with the Lib Dems, SNP, and minor parties, but would run into the same problem of having not quite enough support to make a majority. A minority government is possible; so too is another snap election later in the year. If that happened, it would be the first time the UK had two elections in a calendar year since 1974.
There is little question that Thursday's results will "soften" the Brexit; the only question (which can be answered only once we know what the government looks like) is how much. At very least, May won't have the leverage she was trying to acquire by calling this election. She may also be beholden to one or more small parties that insist on maintaining some aspects of the UK's relationship with the EU. If Labour somehow takes control, then the Brexit will still happen, but it would be considerably softened, to the point of being only a semi-Brexit. In any event, May could possibly be the only world leader who had a worse day that Donald Trump. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun08 Comey Will Accuse Trump of Asking Him to Back Off Flynn
Jun08 Trump Names Wray as FBI Director
Jun08 Trump Does a 180 on Qatar
Jun08 Trump Approval Rating Hits Its Lowest Point
Jun08 Like Father, Like Son
Jun08 Democratic Turnout in New Jersey Was Way Up
Jun08 Northam Has Twice as Much Money as Perriello in Virginia Race
Jun08 Not Your Father's Breitbart
Jun08 Britons Head to the Polls
Jun07 Trump Twitter Chronicles, Volume IV
Jun07 ABC News: Comey Won't Accuse Trump of Obstructing Justice
Jun07 Four Top Law Firms Refused to Defend Trump
Jun07 Sessions Offered His Resignation to Trump
Jun07 New Jersey, Los Angeles Hold Elections
Jun07 California Republicans Struggle to Justify AHCA Vote
Jun07 Trump's Plan to Privatize the FAA Will Hurt His Base
Jun06 Trump Twitter Chronicles, Volume III
Jun06 Trump Won't Block Comey's Testimony
Jun06 Where is Sean Spicer?
Jun06 Sessions May Be on Thin Ice
Jun06 Team Trump Blindsided by NATO Speech
Jun06 Russia Hacked a U.S. Voting Machine Manufacturer
Jun06 NSA Leaker Arrested
Jun06 Mueller Is Assembling an All-Star Team
Jun06 Majority Opposes Paris Accord Exit
Jun06 Senators Don't Think a Healthcare Bill Is Possible
Jun06 Trump's Legislative Agenda Is Dead
Jun06 Supreme Court Strikes Down Another North Carolina Gerrymander
Jun05 London Attacks: Trump Keeps Tweeting
Jun05 Comey's Thursday Testimony Is Consuming Washington Already
Jun05 Democrats Want Hillary Clinton to Shut Up and Go Away
Jun05 Russiagate is More Like Iran-Contra than Like Watergate
Jun05 Putin Denies Having Any Kompromat
Jun05 Is Marc Kasowitz the Right Person to Defend Trump in Russiagate?
Jun05 Deutsche Bank Denies Democrats' Request for Trump Information
Jun04 London Bridge Attacked; Trump Tweets
Jun04 Trump Is Not Making Progress Finding an FBI Director
Jun04 Haley: Trump Believes in Climate Change
Jun04 White House Will No Longer Honor Requests for Information from Democrats
Jun04 Mueller Will Investigate Manafort
Jun04 Trump Will Not Link Tax Reform and Infrastructure
Jun04 Next Week Is Infrastructure Week
Jun04 Montana Attorney General Will Not Challenge Tester
Jun03 Trump Is Gambling on His Base
Jun03 Winners and Losers
Jun03 Bloomberg Pledges $15 Million for Dealing with Climate Change
Jun03 Trump Pressed Obama State Dept. to Ease Russia Sanctions
Jun03 Did Sessions Meet with the Russians a Third Time?
Jun03 Keep an Eye on Al Franken