Comey speculates Russians may have damaging info on Trump

Published: Monday, April 16, 2018 @ 1:51 AM
Updated: Monday, April 16, 2018 @ 1:50 AM


            In this image released by ABC News, correspondent George Stephanopoulos, left, appears with former FBI director James Comey for a taped interview that will air during a primetime
In this image released by ABC News, correspondent George Stephanopoulos, left, appears with former FBI director James Comey for a taped interview that will air during a primetime "20/20" special on Sunday, April 15, 2018 on the ABC Television Network. Comey's book, "A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership," will be released on Tuesday. (Ralph Alswang/ABC via AP)

In his scathing appraisal of the man who fired him as FBI chief, James Comey cited "some evidence of obstruction of justice" in President Donald Trump's actions and speculated that Russians might have dirt on the president. Trump struck back, branding Comey a criminal.

Their war of words escalated Monday after Comey, in an ABC interview broadcast the night before, labelled Trump "morally unfit" for office.

Trump tweeted that Comey drafted an exoneration of Hillary Clinton long before he talked to her as part of an investigation into her email practices. He labelled Comey "disgruntled" and accused him and allies of having "committed many crimes." For his part, Comey has said that nine or 10 months into the Clinton probe, he had a "clear picture" where it was going and it's common to draft statements before an investigation is complete.

Comey's remarks, coupled with the release of his forthcoming book, offer his version of events surrounding his firing and the investigations into Russian election meddling and Clinton's email practices. Several of the episodes he describes in detail, including a private conversation about former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn, are central to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation and his recollections are presumably valuable for prosecutors examining whether the president's actions constitute obstruction of justice.

The ex-FBI director, who until his firing in May led an investigation into possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, acknowledged that it was "stunning" to think that Russia could have damaging information about a U.S. president. But he said that in Trump's case, he could not discount the possibility that the president had been compromised.

"These are more words I never thought I'd utter about a president of the United States, but it's possible," Comey told ABC News' chief anchor George Stephanopoulos. He also acknowledged he had no proof that Russia has dirt on Trump: "I think it's possible. I don't know."

He also answered "possibly" when asked if the president was attempting to obstruct justice when he cleared the Oval Office of other officials in February 2017 before encouraging him to close the investigation into Flynn, who by that point was suspected of lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts. The retired general pleaded guilty in December and is now cooperating with Mueller's investigation.

Comey also said he believed Trump treated women like "pieces of meat."

"A person who sees moral equivalence in Charlottesville, who talks about and treats women like they're pieces of meat, who lies constantly about matters big and small and insists the American people believe it — that person's not fit to be president of the United States, on moral grounds," Comey said.

Trump on Sunday rejected Comey's assertion that Trump had sought his loyalty at a January 2017 dinner, saying "I hardly even knew this guy. Just another of his many lies." He also suggested Comey should be imprisoned, tweeting, "how come he gave up Classified Information (jail), why did he lie to Congress (jail)." There is no indication Comey is under investigation for doing either.

The president began assailing Comey even before the interview came out.

He seized on an excerpt shown Saturday in which Comey said his belief that Clinton would beat Trump in the 2016 presidential election was probably a factor in his decision to disclose the investigation into her emails. Comey, Trump tweeted, "was making decisions based on the fact that he thought she was going to win, and he wanted a job. Slimeball!"

That argument was startling given that Comey's handling of the email investigation, including his disclosure shortly before the election that the FBI had reopened its probe, enraged Democrats. After Clinton's loss, many Democrats blamed Comey, and Clinton herself has said it hurt her election prospects.

Comey again defended his actions, telling ABC that he made what he thought was the best decision at the time. Comey said he did not remember "consciously thinking" about the election results as he decided to disclose that the FBI had reopened its investigation into candidate Clinton's email use. But, he acknowledged, "I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump, and so I'm sure that it was a factor."

"I don't remember spelling it out," he added, "but it had to have been that she's going to be elected president and if I hide this from the American people, she'll be illegitimate the moment she's elected, the moment this comes out."

Trump fired Comey in May 2017, setting off a scramble at the Justice Department that led to the appointment of Mueller as special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation. Mueller's probe has expanded to include whether Trump obstructed justice by firing Comey. So far, 19 people — including Flynn and Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort —have been charged in the investigation. Flynn and two of the president's campaign aides, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos, have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with Mueller.

Asked whether he believed Trump ought to be impeached, Comey replied, "I hope not because I think impeaching and removing Donald Trump from office would let the American people off the hook and have something happen indirectly that I believe they're duty bound to do directly. People in this country need to stand up and go to the voting booth and vote their values."

He added: "But you cannot have, as president of the United States, someone who does not reflect the values that I believe Republicans treasure and Democrats treasure and independents treasure. That is the core of this country. That's our foundation. And so impeachment, in a way, would short circuit that."

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Pompeo nomination clears hurdle after another late GOP switch

Published: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 10:13 PM

For the second time in a week, late decisions by a pair of GOP Senators provided the margin of victory for a nominee of President Donald Trump, as after fears of a rare confirmation rebuke, Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Monday got in line behind the nomination of Mike Pompeo to be Secretary of State, setting up a vote later this week for his confirmation in the full Senate.

The key votes were delivered by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) – who last week made a late switch to help salvage the nomination of Mr. Trump’s choice to run NASA – and by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who had talked for weeks that he would never vote to shift the CIA Director over to the post of Secretary of State.

But after a late lobbying effort by President Trump, Paul stuck with the White House on Pompeo.

“I have changed my mind,” Paul said at a meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Back in March when the President fired Rex Tillerson from the Secretary of State’s job, Paul had made clear he was not going to vote for Pompeo, worried the CIA chief was too set on excessively using U.S. military force around the world.

Labeling Pompeo a “neocon,” Paul had said at the time that he would not vote for the CIA chief, worried that Pompeo was too much like the Republican Party that strongly backed with war in Iraq on Saddam Hussein.

“I simply cannot support Pompeo’s nomination to be our chief diplomat,” the Kentucky Republican made clear.

But after talks with Pompeo and the President, Paul gave in.

The late changes saved the GOP from an embarrassing foreign policy setback for the President – at a time when he is hosting the French President, and will later in the week receive the German Chancellor.

“He is extremely qualified for the position,” the President’s Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders argued for Pompeo, as she joined GOP Senators in reminding Democrats of the bipartisan votes for past Secretaries of State.

“John Kerry was confirmed 94-3. Hillary Clinton was confirmed 94-2. Condoleezza Rice was confirmed 85-13. Colin Powell was confirmed unanimously by voice vote,” Sanders told reporters.

The turn of events came hours after the President had blasted Democrats for delaying many of his nominees, by stretching out debate time on the Senate floor, leaving little time for work on legislation.

While the President accurately nicked the Democrats for slow-walking many nominations on the Senate floor, certain high-profile choices like Pompeo, Jim Bridenstine for NASA, and Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell have been held up in the Senate not because of Democrats – but because of a lack of unity among Republicans.

For example, Grenell’s nomination was sent to the Senate floor back on January 18. While Democrats did object to action in March, there has been no effort by Senate Republicans to hold a vote – which likely means there aren’t fifty votes for his nomination.

When Monday began, that was in question for Pompeo as well, but the support of Paul, Flake, and a handful of Democrats, means the President will get his Secretary of State.

“The President deserves to have a Secretary of State that agrees with him or her, in general, on a foreign policy direction,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), as he argued for Pompeo’s approval.

There was a bit of irony, as Rubio last week had been one of the holdouts on the President choice to run NASA – a reminder, that with a 51-49 advantage in the Senate, and the absence of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Republicans can’t afford to lose more than one vote on anything in the U.S. Senate.

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Jim Bridenstine sworn in as new Administrator of NASA

Published: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 3:12 PM

Ending almost fourteen months of temporary leadership at NASA, Republican Congressman Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma was sworn in Monday afternoon as the new leader of the space agency, as Trump Administration officials vow that Bridenstine will help revive manned space exploration efforts by the United States.

After taking the oath – with his wife and three children at his side – Bridenstine told NASA employees that he was committed to seeing that the U.S. remains the world’s leader in space.

“I will do my best to serve our storied agency to the utmost of my abilities, as we reach for new heights, as we reveal the unknown for the benefit for human kind,” Bridenstine said.

“NASA represents what is best about the United States of America,” Bridenstine added.

“We lead, we discover, we pioneer and we inspire. I look forward to our journey together.”

“It’s an important moment in the life of this agency,” said Vice President Mike Pence, who trekked over to NASA Headquarters for the swearing-in, again saying that President Trump is strongly behind a forward-looking NASA.

“We will send American astronauts back to the moon,” Pence said,’ vowing that the Trump Administration will lay the groundwork for travels to Mars.

“And NASA will lead the way,” the Vice President said to applause.

Bridenstine’s nomination was bitterly opposed by many Democrats in the Congress, who bristled at his conservative political views, and questioned his lack of space expertise, which also gave a handful of GOP Senators second thoughts.

But after months of delay, the White House was able to convince Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) to vote for Bridenstine, pushing him over the top to a bare majority confirmation vote of 50-49 last week.

Bridenstine inherits an agency which just saw a big boost in its budget courtesy of a recent spending deal in the Congress, as NASA for the first time now has a yearly budget of over $20 billion.

“He will be an excellent leader,” said Rep. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who was one of a handful of lawmakers there for the ceremony.

After the swearing-in and Bridenstine’s remarks, NASA then checked in by video relay with several astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

“I thank you for being part of the vanguard in space,” said the Vice President.

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Omarosa Manigault Newman ‘physically dragged’ from White House, reports say

Published: Wednesday, December 13, 2017 @ 9:57 AM
Updated: Wednesday, December 13, 2017 @ 9:08 PM

Who is Omarosa Manigault Newman

Omarosa Manigault Newman, the “Apprentice” star turned White House aide, was removed from the White House Tuesday night,“physically dragged and escorted off the campus,” according to several news reports.

Manigault Newman announced her resignation on Wednesday, effective next month.

>> Read more trending news

Update Dec 13, 2017 8:44 PM EST: Manigault Newman's departure came after a dust-up with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, according to White House correspondent April Ryan, who described a "vulgar" exchange on CNN between Manigault Newman and Kelly when the former reality TV star was barred from the president's residence Tuesday night.

The Wall Street Journal confirmed Ryan's account, although the Secret Service denied its agents were the ones that "physically" removed Manigault Newman from the White House.

Original report: White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Manigault Newman’s resignation is effective Jan. 20, 2018, on the one-year anniversary of Trump’s inauguration.
“We wish her the best in future endeavors and are grateful for her service,” Huckabee Sanders said.

Contrary to the White House statement, sources told reporter April Ryan and The New York Times's Yamichi Alcindor that Manigault Newman did not resign. Instead, sources said she was fired Tuesday. 

Manigault Newman serves as the director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison. She previously served as Trump's chief adviser on African-American issues in the White House, according to The Hill.

Manigault Newman was one of Trump's most prominent African-American supporters. The president thanked her in February during an event for African-American History Month, saying that she was "very special."
"I want to thank my television star over here," Trump said at the Feb. 1 event, referencing Manigault Newman's time on his business reality show competition, "The Apprentice."

"Omarosa is actually a very nice person. Nobody knows that, but I don’t want to destroy her reputation. She is a very good person and she’s been helpful right from the beginning of the campaign. And I appreciate it. I really do."

Her exit comes amid an anticipated round of Trump administration official departures headed into the New Year, according to The Associated Press. Last week, White House officials said deputy national security adviser Dina Powell her post will be leaving early next year.

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Back at White House, Trump week set to focus on foreign policy

Published: Sunday, April 22, 2018 @ 8:52 PM

After a two-day meeting last week with the Japanese Prime Minister in Florida, more diplomacy is in the future for President Donald Trump this week, as he receives two major European leaders at the White House, with the French President and German Chancellor coming to Washington, D.C. for meetings with Mr. Trump.

One of the main topics is expected to be the Iran nuclear deal, which the President has repeatedly threatened to abandon; that threat will draw the attention of both the French and German leaders.

“Would it be a mistake for the President to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal?” Macron was asked on Fox News Sunday.

“I don’t have any plan B for nuclear against Iran,” French President Emmanuel Macron said.

Here are some of the issues likely to come up this week as Macron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel hold separate talks with Mr. Trump:

1. Iran nuclear deal squarely in Trump’s focus. Since way back on the 2016 campaign, President Trump has made clear that he wants to tear up the Iran nuclear deal, but aides so far have steered him clear of that move, arguing the agreement includes not only the U.S., but Europe as well. Mr. Trump’s latest deadline for action is May 12, when another waiver of economic sanctions against Iran is due for action by the President. It’s not clear what type of deal the U.S. and Europe could develop which would be accepted by Iran. And it’s an issue that certainly has the attention of much of Europe.

2. Trump continues to ruffle feathers over trade. Whether it is with American farmers or foreign governments, the President’s push to levy new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, as well as possibly billions of dollars in products from China, the President has roiled world markets and relations with other world leaders, as many in his own party warn against starting a trade war with Beijing. In order to get his message directly to Mr. Trump, the French leader went on Fox News Sunday to say that the idea of tariffs on friends is not a good strategy for dealing with allies like France. It’s still not clear if Europe will get an exemption from the new steel and aluminum tariffs.

3. Nailing down the details of a Kim Jong Un summit. As Macron and Merkel arrive, the President and the White House seem certain to be pressed this week on what’s next with scheduling a meeting between Mr. Trump and the North Korean leader. Some reports have indicated that such a summit would take place in Europe – Sweden and Switzerland have been mentioned as possible sites – but so far, nothing has been hammered out. On Sunday, Mr. Trump mocked those who have raised questions over what might be achieved with a U.S.-North Korean summit. “Funny how all of the Pundits that couldn’t come close to making a deal on North Korea are now all over the place telling me how to make a deal!” the President tweeted.

4. Mar-a-Lago no refuge from Russia probe; neither is DC. While the President was at his Florida retreat for six days last week, the Russia probe continued to rage around Mr. Trump – and Mr. Trump seems certain to hear more about this week, whether it’s the fallout from the release of memos by former FBI Director James Comey, or other items. At a news conference with the Japanese Prime Minister in Florida, the President told reporters, ‘there was no collusion with Russia.’ Over the weekend, Mr. Trump continued his Twitter jabs at Comey, labeling him a “proven liar and leaker.” The President even seemed to take a shot at his Attorney General as well over investigating Comey and Hillary Clinton.

5. The President’s personal lawyer remains in legal limbo. After challenging the legality of an April 9 FBI raid, Michael Cohen will evidently not be getting any quick action on his effort to suppress any evidence uncovered by the feds. A special FBI team will be able to continue to evaluate evidence seized, as the judge in the case set a status hearing on the matter for May 24 – almost five weeks from now. Federal Judge Kimba Wood has said she might let the FBI “taint team” review the evidence, or appoint a ‘special master’ to oversee any questions about attorney-client privilege involving Cohen and the President. That is not good news for Cohen, and not good news for the White House, as this story may not be going anywhere before Memorial Day.

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