On May 18 Trump was asked: “Did you, at any time, urge former F.B.I. Director James Comey, in any way, shape or form, to close or to back down the investigation into Michael Flynn?” The president’s response: “No. No. Next question.”
Comey, in his statement to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, says that in a Feb. 14 Oval Office meeting Trump did precisely what he denies.
.. a president who had already tried through a veiled threat to establish a “patronage relationship,”
.. No doubt Mueller is also wondering what possible benign motive could lead Trump to clear the Oval Office before asking the F.B.I. director to spare Flynn.
.. “Trump’s business is infecting the people around him. To show loyalty you have to engage in the corrupt or mendacious behavior he engages in. So he’s a form of contagion — and Comey did not want the investigation infected.”
.. if Mueller suggests the president could be indicted, impeachment proceedings will be hard to resist — and then, as Burbank put it, “what we might colloquially call ‘obstruction of justice’ might be deemed a high crime or misdemeanor even if it would not violate federal criminal law.”
Russians probably liked Putin’s combative performance: That’s part of his brand, and he’s indisputably popular at home. But the day’s events also showed how allegations of Russian meddling abroad, though they’re seen here as evidence of Russia’s revived power, also cloud Putin’s efforts to lure more foreign investment and expand Russia’s global role.
The Trump administration, in a significant escalation of its clash with the government’s top ethics watchdog, has moved to block an effort to disclose the names of former lobbyists who have been granted waivers to work in the White House or federal agencies.
The latest conflict came in recent days when the White House, in a highly unusual move, sent a letter to Walter M. Shaub Jr., the head of the Office of Government Ethics, asking him to withdraw a request he had sent to every federal agency for copies of the waivers. In the letter, the administration challenged his legal authority to demand the information.
.. Dozens of former lobbyists and industry lawyers are working in the Trump administration, which has hired them at a much higher rate than the previous administration. Keeping the waivers confidential would make it impossible to know whether any such officials are violating federal ethics rules or have been given a pass to ignore them.
.. Ethics watchdogs, as well as Democrats in Congress, have expressed concern at the number of former lobbyists taking high-ranking political jobs in the Trump administration. In many cases, they appear to be working on the exact topics they had previously handled on behalf of private-sector clients — including oil and gas companies and Wall Street banks — as recently as January.
In office less than four months, Mr. Trump has already undermined the rule of law in myriad small ways.
He allowed his daughter and son-in-law to work in the White House in arguable violation of an anti-nepotism statute.
- He did not divest himself of his business holdings and
- did not release his tax returns.
- His sons have continued pursuing deals with jillionaires closely linked to unsavory foreign regimes.
- He and his daughter have accepted valuable trademark protections from China.
- His son-in-law’s family sought to trade on their connections to sell American citizenship to rich Chinese.
.. The president made clear his intent to shut down the investigation on Monday when he tweeted, “The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?”
.. Mr. Trump himself now links his decision to fire Mr. Comey to his conviction that “this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story.”