Mr Comey has kept quiet about his time under Mr Trump for nearly a year, with the interview and his new book, A Higher loyalty, breaking the silence.
The former lawyer also compares the President to one of the mafia bosses he once fought to prosecute, calling his leadership “ego driven and about personal loyalty”.
Mr Comey was sacked in May 2017, with officials accusing him of mishandling the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of email.
Many Democrats blame his decision to reopen the probe – 11 days before the 2016 election – for Mrs Clinton’s shock defeat.
In the interview, Mr Comey said he assumed Mrs Clinton would win.
He told ABC: “I don’t remember spelling it out, 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.”
Opponents of the President have suggested Mr Comey was dismissed because he was leading the investigation into alleged links between Mr Trump’s campaign team and Russia.
Mr Trump’s letter firing Mr Comey said he was losing his job on the recommendation of the Attorney General and that he was “not able to effectively lead the Bureau”.
Another former FBI director, Robert Mueller, is now in charge of the ongoing Russia-Trump investigation.
His remit now also includes whether the President obstructed justice when he fired Mr Comey. (SkyNews)
President Donald Trump lashed out at former FBI Director James Comey on Twitter early Friday following the previous day’s dramatic Senate hearing.
Comey, speaking to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday morning, had harsh words for the White House throughout questioning from lawmakers, saying repeatedly he was very uncomfortable with the president’s requests for loyalty and that the administration lied and defamed him after he was unexpectedly fired in May.
Trump, however, disagreed.
Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication…and WOW, Comey is a leaker!
Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication…and WOW, Comey is a leaker!
His comments echoed remarks made by his lawyer Marc Kasowitz on Thursday.
“It is overwhelmingly clear that there have been and continue to be those in government who are actively attempting to undermine this administration with selective and illegal leaks of classified information and privileged communications,” Kasowitz said at a press conference. “Mr Comey has now admitted that he is one of the leakers.”
All eyes were on the former director as he spoke about the FBI’s ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election. Shortly after Comey was fired, the Department of Justice appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller to serve as a special counsel to oversee the investigation, a decision that has reportedly left Trump fuming.
Trump is well-known for his early morning tweetstorms following major news events. He recently unleashed a furious defense of the White House’s second attempt at a travel ban aimed at citizens from six Muslim-majority nations.
“That’s right, we need a travel ban for certain dangerous countries, not some politically correct term that won’t help us protect people!” he wrote. (Huffpost)
Former FBI Director James Comey will confirm past reports that Donald Trump pressured him to drop investigations related to an ongoing probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, according to prepared testimony.
Mr Comey’s prepared testimony appears to confirm past reports based upon memos that the former FBI director wrote about his interactions with the President, including a January dinner between the two when Mr Trump asked him if he wanted to stay on in his post as director before demanding loyalty.
In other interactions between the two in February, the President pressured Mr Comey to drop an FBI investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was forced to resign from his post a day earlier and less than a month into the presidency amid concerns about his contacts with Russians.
“I hope you can see your way clear to let this go, to let Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go,” Mr Trump said to Mr Comey during that Valentines Day dinner, according to the testimony. Mr Comey didn’t say that he would drop it.
Mr Comey immediately prepared unclassified memos about his conversations with the President regarding Mr Flynn and had thought the request was concerning. After a call with FBI leadership, Mr Comey determined that it was important to try and avoid being alone with the President – he wrote that he was concerned that there was nobody who could corroborate that initial interaction regarding Mr Flynn – and later asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to restrict any further one-on-one meetings between the President and himself. The attorney general did not reply to that request.
The two would speak twice more before Mr Trump abruptly fired the former FBI director, according to the testimony.
In a late March phone call, Mr Trump repeatedly complained that the Russia probe was creating “a cloud” that made it very hard for him to perform his duties as president, and asked that Mr Comey to tell people that he was not investigating the President specifically. Mr Comey told Mr Trump that FBI protocol is to not make that information public because it would create an obligation to correct the record publicly if the probe ended up including the President.
“He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia. He asked what we could do to ‘lift the cloud,'” Mr Comey’s testimony reads. “I responded that we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could, nd that there would be a great benefit, if we didn’t find anything, to our having done the work well. He agreed, but then re-emphasized the problems this was causing him.”
During a final phone call between the two, Mr Trump asked why Mr Comey hadn’t gotten the word out that the President wasn’t personally being investigated, to which Mr Comey said that he had sent the request along to the Justice Department but hadn’t heard back. Mr Trump indicated that he would also ask the Justice Department to release that information, to which Mr Comey said that was the appropriate process for the request.
Mr Comey’s testimony in front of the Senate has become one of the most anticipated hearings in modern political history. The former FBI director was fired abruptly by the President, and reportedly learned about his ouster during a speech in California when he glimpsed the news playing on television. Following his firing, leaks detailing the information now corroborated by Mr Comey’s testimony began to trickle out, leading to outrage in Washington and concerns that Mr Trump’s actions constituted obstruction of justice. (The Independent)
WASHINGTON — President Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office this month that firing the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, had relieved “great pressure” on him, according to a document summarizing the meeting.
“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to the document, which was read to The New York Times by an American official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
Mr. Trump added, “I’m not under investigation.”
The conversation, during a May 10 meeting — the day after he fired Mr. Comey — reinforces the notion that Mr. Trump dismissed him primarily because of the bureau’s investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and Russian operatives. Mr. Trump said as much in one televised interview, but the White House has offered changing justifications for the firing.
The White House document that contained Mr. Trump’s comments was based on notes taken from inside the Oval Office and has been circulated as the official account of the meeting. One official read quotations to The Times, and a second official confirmed the broad outlines of the discussion.
Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, did not dispute the account.
In a statement, he said that Mr. Comey had put unnecessary pressure on the president’s ability to conduct diplomacy with Russia on matters such as Syria, Ukraine and the Islamic State.
“By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia’s actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia,” Mr. Spicer said. “The investigation would have always continued, and obviously, the termination of Comey would not have ended it. Once again, the real story is that our national security has been undermined by the leaking of private and highly classified conversations.”
A third government official briefed on the meeting defended the president, saying Mr. Trump was using a negotiating tactic when he told Mr. Lavrov about the “pressure” he was under. The idea, the official suggested, was to create a sense of obligation with Russian officials and to coax concessions out of Mr. Lavrov — on Syria, Ukraine and other issues — by saying that Russian meddling in last year’s election had created enormous political problems for Mr. Trump.
The president has been adamant that the meddling did not alter the outcome of the race, but it has become a political cudgel for his opponents.
Many Democrats and some Republicans have raised alarms that the president may have tried to obstruct justice by firing Mr. Comey. The Justice Department’s newly appointed special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, was given the authority to investigate not only potential collusion, but also related allegations, which would include obstruction of justice.
The F.B.I.’s investigation has bedeviled the Trump administration, and the president personally. Mr. Comey publicly confirmed the existence of the investigation in March, telling Congress that his agents were investigating Russian efforts to influence the outcome of the presidential election and whether anyone in the Trump campaign had been involved. Mr. Trump has denied any collusion and called the case a waste of money and time.
At first, the White House said Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey based on the recommendation of the Justice Department, and because of Mr. Comey’s handling of the F.B.I. investigation into Hillary Clinton last year. Officials said it had nothing to do with the Russia investigation.
But the president undercut that argument a day later, telling NBC News, “When I decided to just do it, I said to myself — I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.” (The New York Times)
WASHINGTON — President Trump asked the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo that Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting.
“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 an ongoing investigation. An F.B.I. agent’s contemporaneous notes are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations.
Mr. Comey shared the existence of the memo with senior F.B.I. officials and close associates. The New York Times has not viewed a copy of the memo, which is unclassified, but one of Mr. Comey’s associates read parts of the memo to a Times reporter.
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey that Mr. Flynn had done nothing wrong, according to the memo.
Mr. Comey did not say anything to Mr. Trump about curtailing the investigation, only replying: “I agree he is a good guy.”
In a statement, the White House denied the version of events in the memo.
“While the president has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn,” the statement said. “The president has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies, and all investigations. This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey.”
In testimony to the Senate last week, the acting F.B.I. director, Andrew G. McCabe, said, “There has been no effort to impede our investigation to date.”
A spokesman for the F.B.I. declined to comment.
Mr. Comey created similar memos — including some that are classified — about every phone call and meeting he had with the president, the two people said. It is unclear whether Mr. Comey told the Justice Department about the conversation or his memos.
Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey last week. Trump administration officials have provided multiple, conflicting accounts of the reasoning behind Mr. Comey’s dismissal. Mr. Trump said in a television interview that one of the reasons was because he believed “this Russia thing” was a “made-up story.”
The Feb. 14 meeting took place just a day after Mr. Flynn was forced out of his job after it was revealed he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of phone conversations he had had with the Russian ambassador to the United States.
Despite the conversation between Mr. Trump and Mr. Comey, the investigation of Mr. Flynn has proceeded. In Virginia, a federal grand jury has issued subpoenas in recent weeks for records related to Mr. Flynn. Part of the Flynn investigation is centered on his financial ties to Russia and Turkey.
Mr. Comey had been in the Oval Office that day with other senior national security officials for a terrorism threat briefing. When the meeting ended, Mr. Trump told those present — including Mr. Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions — to leave the room except for Mr. Comey.
Alone in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump began the discussion by condemning leaks to the news media, saying that Mr. Comey should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.
Mr. Trump then turned the discussion to Mr. Flynn.
After writing up a memo that outlined the meeting, Mr. Comey shared it with senior F.B.I. officials. Mr. Comey and his aides perceived Mr. Trump’s comments as an effort to influence the investigation, but they decided that they would try to keep the conversation secret — even from the F.B.I. agents working on the Russia investigation — so the details of the conversation would not affect the investigation.
Mr. Comey was known among his closest advisers to document conversations that he believed would later be called into question, according to two former confidants, who said Mr. Comey was uncomfortable at times with his relationship with Mr. Trump.
Mr. Comey’s recollection has been bolstered in the past by F.B.I. notes. In 2007, he told Congress about a now-famous showdown with senior White House officials over the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. The White House disputed Mr. Comey’s account, but the F.B.I. director at the time, Robert S. Mueller III, kept notes that backed up Mr. Comey’s story.
The White House has repeatedly crossed lines that other administrations have been reluctant to cross when discussing politically charged criminal investigations. Mr. Trump has disparaged the ongoing F.B.I. investigation as a hoax and called for an investigation into his political rivals. His representatives have taken the unusual step of declaring no need for a special prosecutor to investigate the president’s associates.
The Oval Office meeting occurred a little more than two weeks after Mr. Trump summoned Mr. Comey to the White House for a lengthy, one-on-one dinner in the residence. At that dinner, on Jan. 27, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Comey at least two times for a pledge of loyalty — which Mr. Comey declined, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.
In a Twitter posting on Friday, Mr. Trump said that “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
After the meeting, Mr. Comey’s associates did not believe there was any way to corroborate Mr. Trump’s statements. But Mr. Trump’s suggestion last week that he was keeping tapes has made them wonder whether there are tapes that back up Mr. Comey’s account.
The Jan. 27 dinner came a day after White House officials learned that Mr. Flynn had been interviewed by F.B.I. agents about his phone calls with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak. On Jan. 26, Acting Attorney General Sally Q. Yates told the White House counsel about the interview, and said Mr. Flynn could be subject to blackmail by the Russians because they knew he had lied about the content of the calls. (The New York Times)
One day after the acting attorney general warned the White House that its national security adviser was subject to blackmail, the president summoned the FBI director to dinner at the White House, people close to James Comey told NBC News.
At the Jan. 27 dinner, a week after assuming the presidency, Trump requested a loyalty pledge from Comey, people familiar with the dinner say. Comey replied that he could not offer loyalty, but he could pledge his honesty.
This account of the dinner contradicts the one President Trump gave to NBC News Nightly anchor Lester Holt on Thursday. Trump said Comey requested the meeting, asked to be retained in his job, and told him he was not under investigation.
James Clapper, who retired in January as director of national intelligence, told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell that Comey told him on the night of the dinner the president had invited him — and he was uneasy about it.
“He mentioned that he had been invited to the White House to have dinner with the president and he was uneasy with that,” Clapper said, adding that Comey didn’t want to create “the appearance of compromising the integrity of the FBI.”
Clapper said it would have been inappropriate and out of character for Comey to have asked for job security, or to have told the president anything about a pending criminal investigation.
It’s not known whether the men talked about national security adviser Michael Flynn. Flynn had been interviewed by the FBI a few days before, on Jan. 24 — grilled about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak. Acting Attorney General Sally Yates had told the White House counsel that Flynn lied to White House officials about his talks with Kislyak — and that as a result, Vice President Mike Pence had misled the American people.
Yates was soon fired for refusing to enforce Trump’s travel ban. Now Comey has been removed, sparking a host of new questions. Trump suggested, in an exclusive interview Thursday with Holt, that he had the FBI’s Russia collusion investigation on his mind when he decided to remove Comey.
“When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won,'” Trump said.
Trump gave Holt an entirely different account of the dinner, saying that Comey requested it to seek job security, and told the president he was not under investigation. None of that is true, Comey’s associates insist.
A former senior FBI official said Comey would never have told the president he was not under investigation — contradicting what Trump said.
“He tried to stay away from it [the Russian-ties investigation],” said the former official, who worked closely with Comey and keeps in touch with him. “He would say, ‘Look sir, I really can’t get into it, and you don’t want me to.'”
A current FBI official and others close to Comey confirmed that the director did not request the one-on-one dinner, which happened at the White House a few days after Trump was sworn in.
In his interview with Holt on Thursday, Trump said twice that he believed Comey requested the dinner. Trump said Comey asked that Trump keep him on as FBI director, and told the president on three occasions that he was not under investigation as part of the FBI’s inquiry into Russian election interference.
“The president is not correct,” the former official said. “The White House called (Comey) out of the blue. Comey didn’t want to do it. He didn’t even want the rank and file at the FBI to know about it.”
But in the end, “He’s still the commander-in-chief. He’s your boss. How do you say no?”
President Trump Hosts The Inaugural Law Enforcement Officers And First Responders Reception At The White House
Many current and former FBI officials interviewed by NBC News said the bureau was reeling from the Comey firing. Not everyone agreed with each Comey decision, but he was a popular and well-regarded director, they said.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed Thursday that she had heard from “countless members of the FBI who are grateful for the president’s decision.”
US President Donald Trump has insisted he is not under investigation, while dismissing the FBI director he fired as a “showboat” and “grandstander”.
Mr Trump also told NBC News it was his decision alone to sack James Comey.
Mr Comey was leading an inquiry into alleged Russian meddling in the US election and possible collusion between Trump campaign officials and Moscow.
Mr Trump has dismissed the probe as a “charade”, a claim directly contradicted by Mr Comey’s successor.
In his first interview since firing the FBI director, Mr Trump told NBC News on Thursday he had asked Mr Comey whether he was under investigation.
“I said, if it’s possible would you let me know, ‘Am I under investigation?’ He said: ‘You are not under investigation.'”
“I know I’m not under investigation,” Mr Trump told the interviewer, repeating a claim he made in Tuesday’s letter of dismissal to Mr Comey.
The president also appeared to undercut the initial White House explanation that he fired Mr Comey on the recommendation of top justice officials.
“He’s a showboat. He’s a grandstander. The FBI has been in turmoil. I was going to fire Comey. My decision,” Mr Trump said.
“I was going to fire regardless of recommendation.”
Mr Trump recently tweeted that the Russia-Trump collusion allegations were a “total hoax”.
But on Thursday he denied that he wanted the FBI and congressional inquiries to stop.
“In fact, I want the investigation speeded up,” the president told NBC.
“There’s no collusion between me and my campaign and the Russians,” he said.
Mr Trump said he had just sent a letter via a law firm to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham stating that he has no stake in Russia.
“I have nothing to do with Russia,” he said. “I have no investments in Russia. I don’t have property in Russia. I’m not involved with Russia.”
On Thursday afternoon Mr Trump retweeted a five-month-old post by comedienne Rosie O’Donnell, his arch-foe in the world of entertainment.
The White House has depicted the Russia inquiry as “probably one of the smallest things” that the FBI has “got going on their plate”.
But acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe said on Thursday that it was “a highly significant investigation”.
In testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee, he also cast doubt on White House claims that Mr Comey had lost the confidence of his staff.
“I can confidently tell you that the vast majority of employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection to Director Comey,” Mr McCabe said.
The acting FBI director vowed not to update the White House on the status of the investigation and to notify the Senate panel of any attempt to interfere with the inquiry.
Republican committee chairman Richard Burr asked Mr McCabe if he had ever heard Mr Comey tell Mr Trump the president was not the subject of investigation.
Mr McCabe said he could not comment on an ongoing inquiry.
The acting FBI director did not confirm reports that Mr Comey had asked for more resources for the agency’s Russia inquiry.
Mr McCabe said he believed the FBI had sufficient funding to conduct the probe.
Rosenstein’s way out – Anthony Zurcher, BBC News, Washington
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein – who penned a memo detailing Mr Comey’s “serious mistakes” – brought a reputation for even-handedness and probity with him to the job of deputy attorney general. Two weeks later, that reputation is being put to the test.
Such is life in the Trump White House, where every appointee and aide is just one tweet, event or press conference away from the maelstrom.
On Tuesday night, as the administration press shop scrambled to explain the president’s surprise decision to sack his FBI director, Trump supporters leaned hard on Mr Rosenstein’s credentials to paint the move as a nonpartisan decision based on Mr Comey’s overall job performance.
The deputy attorney general reportedly balked at the characterisation that he was the driving force behind Mr Comey’s dismissal, however.
Mr Rosenstein’s threat to resign is different than actually packing bags, of course, and his fate at this point is still tethered firmly to the president he chose to serve.
There is a way out, though. Due to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal on the matter, it’s Mr Rosenstein’s call whether to appoint a special counsel to head the Justice Department’s Russia investigation. It may be the one card he can play to sidestep the growing frenzy that spins around him.
At the centre of the storm – Rod Rosenstein
52-year-old Harvard graduate confirmed by US Senate as Deputy Attorney General on 25 April
Had strong bipartisan backing with 94-6 vote in his favour
Overseeing federal investigation of alleged Russian interference in November’s elections, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions, recused himself over meetings with Moscow’s envoy in Washington
Appointed by President George W Bush as US attorney in Maryland and kept on by President Barack Obama
Democrats are holding off on pulling the trigger — at least for now.
“I hope it doesn’t get there,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), the number two ranking Democrat, said in an interview on Wednesday when asked if Senate Democrats would try to essentially shut down the upper chamber of Congress. “I’m hoping for a bipartisan approach to this. But let’s wait and see.”
Here’s how Senate Democrats’ “nuclear option” over Comey would work: Unlike the House of Representatives, the Senate operates under what are called “unanimous consent” agreements. If Senate Democrats withhold their consent, the routine functioning of the body — from committee hearings to routine floor votes — could grind to an immediate halt.
“It would stop everything in the Senate and effectively shut it down,” said Josh Huder, a congressional scholar at Georgetown’s Government Affairs Institute. “If they go down this road, things could get pretty slow and ugly in the Senate.”
In several interviews Wednesday morning, Senate Democrats said they would not rule out taking this dramatic step to confront Republicans over Comey’s ouster. They did confirm that members of their caucus have discussed the measure — even if they haven’t decided yet if they want to go that far.
Already, at least three major progressive activist groups told Vox Wednesday that they are demanding Senate Democrats use every tool at their disposal, including this nuclear option, to force Republicans to cave on appointing a special prosecutor.
“There’s no reason Donald Trump should be able to confirm nominees or pass laws while smashing the rule of law to pieces,” said Ben Wikler, Washington director of MoveOn.org. “This is an in case of emergency, break the glass moment. Democrats should shut down the Senate until a special prosecutor is appointed.”
Democrats have moved to slow the Senate. How far will they go?
On Wednesday morning, Democrats did take one big step in the direction of slowing down Senate business over Comey’s firing. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California invoked a rule that prevents committee hearings from going on for more than two hours after the Senate convenes. That effectively closed off all Senate committee business after noon on Wednesday, leading some Senate Republicans to voice their frustrations.
Democrats have also begun saying that they won’t confirm Comey’s replacement without a guarantee of a more thorough investigation. “I think that we ought to frankly hold off on the FBI director until we get the special prosecutor,” Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia told Politico’s Seung Min Kim on Wednesday.
Still, Democrats are a far cry from the most extreme steps they could take in response to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s declaration that a special prosecutor is unnecessary. (Democrats have demanded that the White House either appoint a “special prosecutor” to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia or that Congress form of a bipartisan select commission to do so.)
The procedure for Democrats would be complicated and time-intensive. But as Adam Jentleson, Harry Reid’s former deputy chief of staff, wrote in January, Democrats have dozens of ways of binding McConnell’s hands should they choose to use them.
For instance, Senate Democrats could block McConnell on hundreds of decisions that are normally approved by unanimous consent without second thought — things like when the Senate will meet, minor and uncontroversial tweaks to legislation that doesn’t get written about in the press, and low-level presidential appointments that require Senate confirmation.
“All of the routine business of the Senate would stop,” said Huder, the Georgetown scholar. “Most of the things that happened in the Senate happen by unanimous consent, which is almost the exact opposite of the House.”
One key variable is that not every Senate Democrat needs to go along with the plan for it to work. “If a single senator objects to a consent agreement, McConnell, now majority leader, will be forced to resort to time-consuming procedural steps through the cloture process, which takes four days to confirm nominees and seven days to advance any piece of legislation,” Jentleson writes. “Since every Senate action requires the unanimous consent of members from all parties, everything it does is a leverage point for Democrats … each of the 1,000-plus nominees requiring Senate confirmation — including President Trump’s Cabinet choices — can be delayed for four days each.”
So far, Democrats have given their consent for the Senate to proceed on votes for Trump’s executive branch appointments. But given that even scheduling times for these votes requires unanimous consent, Democrats have hundreds of unused opportunities to slow down the Senate, according to Huder.
Activists ratchet up calls for Democrats to deploy obstructionist tactics
Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for MoveOn.org
On Wednesday morning, Senate Democrats convened in the Capitol for an emergency caucus-wide meeting to decide their response to the Comey firing. Before the meeting, Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan said that this nuclear option over Senate procedures would be one of the things they’d discuss deploying in their reaction. After the meeting, Senate Democrats suggested that the option was on the table.
“I don’t think people will make a rash judgment about the right approach, but there is absolutely a consensus that we need to do whatever we can do [to get] an independent investigation,” Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) said.
Asked if that meant shutting down the Senate over Comey, Bennet demurred. “We’ll see. We’ll see,” he said. “This may be the most important thing we deal with here for a long time.”
Progressive activists are trying to push them to take the plunge. Murshed Zaheed, of the progressive advocacy network CREDO, said he was encouraged that Sen. Feinstein had closed down committee hearings on Wednesday and that Sen. Warner called for a delay in the FBI replacement until a special prosecutor was appointed.
“Those are steps in the right direction. But they need to shut all Senate proceedings down until there’s a special counsel. This is a constitutional crisis. This is code red time — Democrats need to shut the whole Senate down until there’s a special counsel,” Zaheed said.
Adam Green, of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, added that it was reasonable for Democrats to try shutting down the Senate over the Comey investigation.
“What is a proportionate response to a constitution crisis? It’s hard to imagine something being too extreme,” Green said. “It can’t go ho-hum. This needs a very strong response that this cannot happen.”
And the new left-wing group “All of Us” launched a petition Wednesday calling on Democrats to withhold consent from Senate procedures. “The fate of our republic depends upon Senators refusing to conduct any further government business until there is an independent congressional investigation of President Trump’s abuse of power,” the petition states.
Part of the problem for Senate Democrats is that while they are furious over Trump’s decision to fire Comey, they also think it’s critical to get Republican buy-in for a more sweeping investigation. Asked if Democrats should withhold unanimous consent, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) noted that congressional Republicans would be needed for the formation of any bipartisan select committee.
“I think it’s got to be bipartisan — we have a lot of work to do,” Casey said. “So we haven’t made a decision on that.” (VOX.com)
The anger behind Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday had been building for months, but a turning point came when Comey refused to preview for top Trump aides his planned testimony to a Senate panel, White House officials said.
Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had wanted a heads-up from Comey about what he would say at a May 3 hearing about his handling of an investigation into former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
When Comey refused, Trump and his aides considered that an act of insubordination and it was one of the catalysts to Trump’s decision this week to fire the FBI director, the officials said.
“It gave the impression that he was no longer capable of carrying out his duties,” one official said. Previews of congressional testimony to superiors are generally considered courteous.
Comey, who testified for four hours before the Senate Judiciary Committee, said it made him feel “mildly nauseous” that his decision to make public his reopening of a probe into Clinton’s handling of classified information might have affected the outcome of the Nov. 8 presidential election. But he said he had no regrets and would make the same decision again.
Trump’s sudden firing of Comey shocked Washington and plunged Trump deeper into a controversy over his campaign’s alleged ties with Russia that has dogged the early days of his presidency.
Democrats accused the Republican president of firing Comey to try to undermine the FBI’s probe into Russia’s alleged efforts to meddle in the 2016 election and possible collusion with members of the Trump campaign, and demanded an independent investigation. Some of Trump’s fellow Republicans called his dismissal of Comey troubling.
The Trump administration said on Tuesday Comey was fired because of his handling of the Clinton email probe.
Before he axed Comey, Trump had publicly expressed frustration with the FBI and congressional probes into the Russia matter. Moscow has denied meddling in the election and the Trump administration denies allegations of collusion with Russia.
A former Trump adviser said Trump was also angry because Comey had never offered a public exoneration of Trump in the FBI probe into contacts between the U.S. ambassador to Russia, Sergei Kislyak, and Trump campaign advisers last year.
According to this former adviser, Comey’s Senate testimony on the Clinton emails likely reinforced in Trump’s mind that “Comey was against him.”
“He regretted what he did to Hillary but not what he did to Trump,” the former Trump adviser said of Comey.
Clinton has said that the Comey decision to announce the renewed inquiry days before the election was a likely factor in her loss to Trump.
Aides said Trump moved quickly after receiving a recommendation on Monday to terminate Comey from Rosenstein, who began reviewing the situation at the FBI shortly after taking office two weeks ago.
Trump’s move was so sudden that his White House staff, accustomed to his impromptu style, was caught off guard. Stunned aides scrambled to put together a plan to explain what happened.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer ended up briefing reporters about the move in the dark on Tuesday night near a patch of bushes steps away from the West Wing.
Comey, who was in Los Angeles meeting with FBI employees on Tuesday and returned later to Washington, has made no public comment on his firing.
Many questions remained about what caused Trump to move so quickly.
Two former senior Justice Department officials said it made little sense to fire Comey while the Justice Department Inspector General was still doing a review of the FBI’s handling of the Clinton email investigation.
“I take Rod (Rosenstein) at his word that be believed everything in that memo but he must know that it’s going to be used as a fig leaf to fire Comey,” one former official said.
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters it was her “understanding” Comey had been seeking more resources for his investigation into the tangled Russia controversy.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump had pondered dumping Comey as soon as he took office on Jan. 20, but decided to stick with him.
Trump shrugged off the political firestorm he created with Comey’s dismissal as he met with former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the Oval Office on Wednesday.
Asked by reporters why fired Comey, Trump said, “He wasn’t doing a good job, very simply. He wasn’t doing a good job.” (REUTERS)
WASHINGTON — President Trump on Tuesday fired the director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, abruptly terminating the law enforcement official leading a wide-ranging criminal investigation into whether Mr. Trump’s advisers colluded with the Russian government to steer the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
The stunning development in Mr. Trump’s presidency raised the specter of political interference by a sitting president into an existing investigation by the nation’s leading law enforcement agency. It immediately ignited Democratic calls for an independent prosecutor to lead the Russia inquiry.
Mr. Trump explained the firing by citing Mr. Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, even though the president was widely seen to have benefited politically from that inquiry and had once praised Mr. Comey for having “guts” in his pursuit of Mrs. Clinton during the campaign.
But in his letter to Mr. Comey, released to reporters by the White House, the president betrayed his focus on the continuing inquiry into Russia and his aides.
“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau,” Mr. Trump said in a letter to Mr. Comey dated Tuesday.
The White House said Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, pushed for Mr. Comey’s dismissal.
“I cannot defend the director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails,” Mr. Rosenstein wrote in a letter that was released by the White House, “and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken.”
Reaction in Washington was swift and fierce. In a call with Mr. Trump, Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, told the president he was making a big mistake; publicly, Mr. Schumer called the firing a cover-up. Many Republicans assailed the president for making a rash decision that could have deep implications for their party.
Mr. Comey, who is three years into a 10-year term at the helm of the F.B.I., learned from news reports that he had been fired while addressing bureau employees in Los Angeles. While Mr. Comey spoke, television screens in the background began flashing the news. In response to the reports, Mr. Comey laughed, saying that he thought it was a fairly funny prank.
But shortly after, Mr. Trump’s letter was delivered to F.B.I. Headquarters in Washington.
The sudden dismissal of one of Washington’s most prominent officials added to the sense of chaos in a White House that has been roiled by controversy, dogged by scandal and engaged in a furious fight with adversaries.
Mr. Trump had already fired his acting attorney general for insubordination and his national security adviser for lying to the vice president about contacts with Russians. But firing Mr. Comey raises much deeper questions about the independence of the F.B.I. and the future of its investigations under Mr. Trump.
F.B.I. officers were enraged by the firing and worried openly that Mr. Trump would appoint someone seen as a White House ally. Mr. Comey was widely liked in the F.B.I., even by those who criticized his handling of the Clinton investigation, and officers regarded him as a good manager and an independent leader.
Mr. Comey was on Capitol Hill last week when he offered his first public explanation of his handling of the Clinton email case. He said he had no regrets about the decisions he made, but said he felt “mildly nauseous” that his actions might have tipped the election to Mr. Trump.
Last July, Mr. Comey broke with longstanding tradition and policies by publicly discussing the Clinton case and chastising her “careless” handling of classified information. Then, in the campaign’s final days, Mr. Comey announced that the F.B.I. was reopening the investigation, a move that earned him widespread criticism.
Yet many of the facts cited as evidence for Mr. Comey’s dismissal were well known when Mr. Trump kept him on the job: Mr. Comey was three years in to a 10-year term. And both Mr. Trump and his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, had praised Mr. Comey back then for reopening the Clinton investigation by saying his public announcement “took guts.” On Tuesday, that action was at the heart of Mr. Comey’s firing.
“It is essential that we find new leadership for the F.B.I. that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission,” Mr. Trump wrote.
Officials at the F.B.I. said they learned through news reports of Mr. Comey’s dismissal, which Mr. Trump described as effective immediately. The president has the authority to fire the F.B.I. director for any reason.
Under the F.B.I.’s normal rules of succession, Mr. Comey’s deputy, Andrew G. McCabe, a career F.B.I. officer, becomes acting director. The White House said the search for a director will begin immediately.
The firing puts Democrats in a difficult position. Many had hoped that Mrs. Clinton would fire Mr. Comey soon after taking office, and blamed him for costing her the election. But under Mr. Trump, the outspoken and independent-minded Mr. Comey was seen as an important check on the new administration.
“Any attempt to stop or undermine this F.B.I. investigation would raise grave constitutional issues,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois. “We await clarification by the White House as soon as possible as to whether this investigation will continue and whether it will have a credible lead so that we know that it’ll have a just outcome.”
Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, praised Mr. Comey’s service but said new leadership at the F.B.I. “will restore confidence in the organization.”
“Many, including myself, have questioned his actions more than once over the last year,” Mr. Blunt, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.
Mr. Trump’s decision to fire Mr. Comey marks the second time since taking office that the president has fired a top law enforcement official. In early February, Mr. Trump fired Sally Q. Yates, who had worked in the Obama administration but was serving as acting attorney general.
But the president’s firing of Mr. Comey was far more consequential. Ms. Yates was a holdover, and would have served in the Trump administration for only a matter of days or weeks.
A longtime prosecutor who served as the deputy attorney general during the George W. Bush administration, Mr. Comey came into office in 2013 with widespread bipartisan support. He has essentially been in a public feud with Mr. Trump since long before the presidential election.
In a Twitter message this week, Mr. Trump accused Mr. Comey of being “the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton,” accusing him of giving her “a free pass for many bad deeds.”
Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon and a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a post on Twitter that Mr. Comey “should be immediately called to testify in an open hearing about the status of Russia/Trump investigation at the time he was fired.”
Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, offered a veiled hint of the bombshell earlier in the day on Tuesday, though no reporters picked up on it.
During his daily briefing, Mr. Spicer was asked — as he frequently is — whether Mr. Comey still has the confidence of the president. Instead of saying yes, Mr. Spicer danced around the question.
“I have no reason to believe — I haven’t asked him,” Mr. Spicer said. “I have not asked the president since the last time we spoke about this.”
A reporter noted that Mr. Spicer had previously indicated that the president did have confidence in Mr. Comey, but asked whether recent revelations about Mr. Comey’s misstatement during testimony on Capitol Hill would change that.
“In light of what you’re telling me, I don’t want to start speaking on behalf of the president without speaking to him first,” Mr. Spicer said.
The president’s decision to fire Mr. Comey appeared to be the culmination of the bad will between the men that intensified in early March, when the president posted Twitter messages accusing former President Barack Obama of wiretapping his office.
The next morning, word spread quickly that Mr. Comey wanted the Justice Department to issue a statement saying that he had no evidence to support the president’s accusation. The department did not issue such a statement.
For weeks after, Mr. Trump insisted that his accusation was correct. In dramatic testimony later in March, Mr. Comey said that he had no information to back up the president’s allegations.
That set up a remarkable dynamic — an F.B.I. director directly contradicting a sitting president at the same time that the bureau was pursuing a possible criminal investigation into the president’s aides. (The New York Times)