Wake Up To Politics - May 12, 2017
I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It's Friday, May 12, 2017. 543 days until Election Day 2018. 1,271 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at email@example.com. Tell your friends to sign up to receive the newsletter in their inbox at wakeuptopolitics.com/subscribe!
The Latest: Comey Fallout Continues Get caught up on the latest developments in the Comey saga...
- Trump Says He Asked Comey About Investigation In a Thursday interview with NBC's Lester Holt, President Donald Trump revealed that he asked then-FBI director James Comey three times if 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.'"
- That was Trump's description of a dinner he had with Comey in January. The New York Times and NBC News both have full stories on what went down at those dinners, including Trump's asking for a pledge of loyalty from Comey, with the director refused to take. An associate of Comey told the Wall Street Journal that it was "literally farcical" to say that Comey would have told Trump details of an investigation.
- In their interview, Trump also called Comey a "showboat" and a "grandstander," and contradicted the White House timeline of his decision (see below). The President also said that the Russia investigation was on his mind when he decided to fire Comey: “In fact, 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.’”
- Director Garland? The name buzzing around Washington as a potential replacement for Comey: Judge Merrick Garland, former President Barack Obama's failed nominee for the Supreme Court. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) generated the proposal on Thursday, tweeting "Instead of a special prosecutor, [President Trump] should nominate Merrick Garland to replace James Comey." Later in the day, Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) told reporters that he and Lee both recommended Garland to the White House.
- Amash Endorses Independent Commission Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) announced on Thursday that he had signed on to legislation establishing a non-partisan, independent commission to investigate Russia's activities related to the 2016 U.S. election. Amash, a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, is the second Republican to announce support for the bill, which was introduced by Reps. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD).
- Senate Democrats Call for Comey Firing Review The entire Democratic side of the Senate Judiciary Committee released a statement on Thursday requesting a Justice Department investigation of President Trump's firing of Comey. Their statement came a day after House Oversight Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) made the same request of the department's Inspector General.
- House Committee Expanding Investigation Reps. Mike Conaway (R-TX) and Adam Schff (D-CA), the leaders of the House Intelligence Committee's investigation on Russia, announced that they are expanding their probe to include "rigorous oversight to ensure that the FBI's own investigation is not impeded or interfered with in any way."
- Rosenstein to Brief Senate Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced on Wednesday that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will brief the full Senate next week. Rosenstein met with Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and vice chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) on Thursday
Holes Emerge in White House Narrative "Our story is consistent," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders insisted on Thursday. But the White House narrative about FBI director James Comey's firing continued to fall apart on Thursday, as it was contradicted by acting FBI director Andrew McCabe and President Donald Trump himself.
- Trump Contradicts White House President Donald Trump to NBC's Lester Holt in an interview on Thursday: "I was going to fire Comey. Regardless of the recommendation [from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein], I was going to fire Comey."
- White House press secretary Sean Spicer in a statement on Tuesday: "President Trump acted based on the clear recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions."
- ABC's Jonathan Karl at Wednesday's White House press briefing: "Isn't it true that the president had already decided to fire James Comey and he asked the Justice Department to put together the rationale for that firing?" Principal Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: "No."
- McCabe Contradicts White House Acting FBI director Andrew McCabe in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday: "Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day."
- Sanders at Wednesday's White House press briefing: "Most importantly, the rank-and-file of the FBI had lost confidence in their director.
- McCabe in his testimony on Thursday: "We consider [the probe into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign] to be a highly significant investigation."
- President Donald Trump in a tweet on Monday: "The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?"
- Sanders at Wednesday's White House press briefing: “I know everybody in this room and probably most of the media around the world would like to think that’s the FBI’s sole responsibility, but that’s probably one of the smallest things that they’ve got going on their plate, and the 20,000 employees that work there."
The President's Schedule President Trump has no public events today, for the eighth day in a row. Trump has two meetings in the Oval Office scheduled: one with National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and National Economic Council director Gary Cohn at 10am, and another with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly at 3pm.
Also today: White House press secretary Sean Spicer will brief the press at 1:30pm, marking his return to the podium for the first time since the firing of FBI director Jim Comey. Spicer has been absent in recent days to participate in his annually-required week of service as a Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve. Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has been filling in, emerging as the face of the White House narrative in the aftermath of Comey's ouster.
According to Politico, President Trump was "frustrated" by his Administration's strategy to defend the firing (or lack thereof); Spicer, in particular, was embarrassed this week after a Washington Post article revealed that the spokesman hid in "a clump of bushes" on Tuesday night to avoid reporters' questions. CNN's Jim Acosta reported the next day that the White House is "evaluating" making Sanders' subbing for Spicer permanent.