Comey memos renew questions over Trump's behavior

If House Republicans thought they were helping President Donald Trump by forcing ...

Posted: Apr 20, 2018 12:21 PM
Updated: Apr 20, 2018 12:22 PM

If House Republicans thought they were helping President Donald Trump by forcing the release of James Comey's memos, they might want to think again.

The documents written by the then-FBI director, detailing his interactions with Trump, present a contemporaneous and deeply unflattering view of a President throwing his weight around in his first days in the White House -- that at the very least seems highly inappropriate.

Only special counsel Robert Mueller can decide whether the stunning accounts of conversations in which the President got the then-FBI director alone in the White House and leaned on him amount to obstruction of justice.

The Comey memos suggest Trump has a scattershot and self-obsessed mindset, brooding about his subordinates, leaks, his campaign and his inaugural crowd size and not appreciating or caring about protocol boundaries that separate the White House and the Justice Department.

Furthermore, the conversations with Comey soon after Trump moved into the White House paint a picture of a new President more concerned with own fortunes than the burden of his new responsibilities.

CNN obtained the documents, which offer a staggering insider account, after they were sent to Congress by the Justice Department on Thursday in response to requests from three GOP House committee chairmen on Capitol Hill.

Trump responded to the release of the memos in a tweet just before midnight Thursday that appeared to be an attempt to direct conversation away from the embarrassing substance of the documents.

"James Comey Memos just out and show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION. Also, he leaked classified information. WOW! Will the Witch Hunt continue?" Trump wrote.

'I am aghast'

It's possible that the House committee chairmen wanted the memos released to undercut Comey's current book tour and to weaken the Mueller probe.

If that was the case it has backfired.

"Honestly, I am aghast that they thought this was going to be helpful to the President and undermine Comey, therefore the FBI, therefore special counsel Mueller," Jack Quinn, a former counsel to President Bill Clinton, said Thursday on CNN.

"I can't get over the fact that they made this calculation. I am sure the President is not going to be sitting up tonight writing thank you letters to them," he said.

If anything, the memos appeared to bolster the credibility of Comey -- given their exhaustive detail. Comey will be a key witness in the question of whether Trump obstructed justice by firing him.

But it was also unclear whether they showed a clear intention on the part of the President to obstruct justice. Politically, they seem unlikely to shift entrenched perceptions of Trump among his supporters and critics.

"It doesn't seem like there is very much new in there," Kevin Madden, a Republican strategist, told CNN's Don Lemon on Thursday night, also finding nothing likely to change the trajectory of the special counsel investigation.

The documents will also renew attention on the odd relationship between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

That's because while noting Trump's denial about notorious allegations that he watched prostitutes engage in lewd behavior in a Moscow hotel, they include a bizarre comment by the President about an undated conversation with Putin.

"The President said the 'hookers thing' is nonsense but that Putin had told him 'we have some of the most beautiful hookers in the world' (He did not say when Putin had told him this)," Comey wrote.

Trump has vehemently denied the allegation about the prostitutes and it has not been publicly authenticated by US intelligence agencies or news organizations.

There will also be renewed debate about Trump's own judgment in personnel matters since Comey writes that he confessed to serious reservations about his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who was fired shortly afterward.

Those questions could extend to former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, whose inquiry to Comey about Flynn showed an apparent disregard in the White House for the firewall between the FBI and the executive office of the president.

Comey writes that the then-chief of staff asked him if the FBI had a secret court surveillance order on Flynn.

The FBI director answered the question -- but also rebuked Priebus, saying it was "the kind of question that had to be asked and answered through established channels."

Return of Giuliani

The documents overshadowed an attempt by Trump to bust out of the deepening morass caused by the Russia investigation and his other legal woes.

Trump's big move Thursday was to recruit a new big-time adviser: former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

It's a wonder it took this long. Like the President, Giuliani is a tough talking New Yorker who relishes a fight and proved his loyalty as a lone voice defending Trump when the "Access Hollywood" tape rocked the 2016 campaign.

He fits Trump's template in that he's a master at mixing it up on cable television and will not hang back if required to lacerate the President's enemies.

Even so, Giuliani struck an almost conciliatory note Thursday, suggesting that his acquaintance with Mueller could help him "negotiate" an end to the Russia investigation.

He later told CNN's Dana Bash that he would ask Mueller for a list of what was needed to "comply" with the rest of the investigation as soon as he can -- a process he thought could take a "couple of weeks."

Giuliani's arrival, after he was passed over as Trump's secretary of state and attorney general at the start of the administration, raises a number of questions.

First, his history with Trump, matching personality and political experience suggest that he may have as good a chance as anyone at getting his advice to stick with the President. There have been clear signs in recent weeks that Trump has been acting as his own lawyer, with mixed results.

"If Rudy is the guy that the President will listen to, will keep confidences, will establish a proper attorney-client relationship, then that potentially should be useful to him," said Carrie Cordero, former counsel to the US assistant attorney general for national security, told CNN's Erin Burnett.

Giuliani's legal acumen was proven by a renowned spell as the US attorney for the Southern District of New York before he ran for mayor. But there must be some risk that his love of the limelight could grate on the President over time, a lesson many Trump aides have had to learn.

However, the former New York mayor's apparent plan to leverage his history with Mueller to speed the end of the investigation seems highly optimistic, given the special counsel's by-the-book style.

"I don't know that it changes the dynamic in any way. The idea that he is going to cause by force of personality, or resume, or anything else Bob Mueller to go away in the course of two weeks doesn't seem very realistic to me," Preet Bharara, who was fired as the Southern District's attorney by Trump, said on CNN.

Trump, who has been searching for white collar representation for weeks, also bolstered his legal team with the husband and wife duo of Jane Serene Raskin and Marty Raskin, who are criminal defense attorneys from Florida.

Cohen factor

The President was, meanwhile, consumed by the fallout from the FBI's raid last week on Michael Cohen, his personal lawyer, a source told CNN's Jeff Zeleny.

Another former Trump attorney, Jay Goldberg, told CNN on Thursday night that he was concerned Cohen will lie to prosecutors to get leniency on his own charges.

Goldberg told CNN's Gloria Borger on Wednesday that he had warned Trump in a call last Friday that Cohen could end up cooperating with prosecutors.

"Anybody who is facing 30 years never stands up," Goldberg says he told the President. "Without exception, a person facing a prison term cooperates."

Trump's concern with the plight of Cohen, who has been his personal fixer for years and intimately understands his web of business interests, raises the question of whether the President thinks that his lawyer committed a crime.

There was a semblance of good news for Trump, though, as Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein informed him he was not a target of the Cohen sweep, a source familiar with the matter told CNN's Jim Acosta.

Terre Haute
Scattered Clouds
76° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 76°
Robinson
Scattered Clouds
74° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 74°
Indianapolis
Broken Clouds
77° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 78°
Rockville
Scattered Clouds
70° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 70°
Casey
Broken Clouds
72° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 72°
Brazil
Scattered Clouds
76° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 76°
Marshall
Scattered Clouds
76° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 76°
Comfortable Weather
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

Latest Video

Image

Tuesday Afternoon Weather

Image

Mystery seeds sent to Wabash Valley residents

Image

'So many of them said, I am proud to sign this,' Local organization puts out letter addressing hate

Image

Tuesday: Partly sunny, cool. High: 76

Image

Lance Rees

Image

ISU Football Quarantine

Image

West Vigo Football

Image

Northview Football

Image

THS Football

Image

THN FOOTBALL

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 184522

Reported Deaths: 7723
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook1072474897
Lake12089440
DuPage11558510
Kane9239298
Will8650339
Winnebago3688125
St. Clair3655156
McHenry2961114
Madison222273
Kankakee168668
Rock Island160531
Champaign154719
Unassigned1347197
Peoria134135
Kendall129123
Sangamon103733
DeKalb85029
Boone73523
Jackson65019
McLean57215
LaSalle56020
Macon48923
Adams4454
Randolph4357
Coles40119
Tazewell3888
Ogle3775
Clinton34917
Williamson3415
Stephenson3186
Whiteside31316
Union30321
Grundy2825
Monroe27813
Knox2621
Iroquois2497
Vermilion2152
Henry2071
Morgan2035
Cass20211
Jefferson19217
Warren1830
Lee1482
Montgomery1477
Bureau1442
Marion1380
Macoupin1373
Franklin1320
McDonough12815
Perry1261
Effingham1161
Christian1154
Jo Daviess1131
Saline1131
Douglas1022
Woodford983
Livingston922
Pulaski910
Logan860
Jersey701
Mercer700
Clark680
Shelby601
Fayette583
Washington580
White580
Bond572
Johnson570
Moultrie550
Jasper537
Wayne501
Menard480
Piatt480
Cumberland472
Carroll463
Gallatin450
Lawrence420
Mason420
Ford411
Alexander360
Hancock341
Massac340
Wabash320
De Witt300
Crawford290
Edgar260
Fulton260
Hamilton230
Marshall210
Greene200
Hardin170
Schuyler170
Clay140
Brown130
Edwards130
Pike130
Richland130
Scott110
Henderson90
Pope80
Putnam80
Calhoun70
Stark70
Out of IL00

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 68433

Reported Deaths: 2980
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion14863719
Lake7101271
Elkhart459777
Allen3635158
St. Joseph315479
Hamilton2513104
Cass17519
Hendricks1750105
Vanderburgh172612
Johnson1652118
Porter119539
Tippecanoe110311
Clark108145
Madison84765
LaPorte83829
Kosciusko81912
Howard81065
Bartholomew74347
Marshall74222
Floyd69444
Monroe68630
Delaware63852
Noble63728
Boone63546
Dubois62612
Hancock62337
Jackson5524
LaGrange54210
Warrick51630
Shelby51126
Grant49629
Vigo47410
Dearborn46528
Morgan42532
Henry36118
Clinton3573
White34710
Montgomery34321
Lawrence32827
Wayne3179
Decatur31432
Harrison29422
Miami2582
Scott25010
Daviess24619
Greene23934
Franklin22410
DeKalb2224
Putnam2228
Jennings21012
Jasper2082
Gibson2004
Steuben2003
Ripley1887
Perry17212
Starke1657
Orange16424
Wabash1613
Posey1580
Fayette1557
Jefferson1492
Whitley1486
Fulton1462
Carroll1452
Wells1342
Knox1310
Huntington1183
Washington1161
Spencer1143
Newton11010
Tipton1075
Randolph1034
Clay975
Jay820
Adams812
Rush794
Owen781
Sullivan761
Pulaski721
Brown701
Fountain632
Benton600
Blackford532
Ohio514
Pike460
Parke451
Switzerland430
Crawford420
Martin420
Vermillion380
Union320
Warren191
Unassigned0200