Trump Warning to Comey Prompts Questions on ‘Tapes’

No president in the past 40 years has been known to regularly tape his phone calls or meetings because, among other reasons, they could be subpoenaed by investigators as they were during the Watergate investigation that ultimately forced President Richard M. Nixon to resign.

.. “For a president who baselessly accused his predecessor of illegally wiretapping him, that Mr. Trump would suggest that he, himself, may have engaged in such conduct is staggering,”

.. He denied that the president was threatening the former F.B.I. director. “That’s not a threat,” Mr. Spicer said. “He simply stated a fact. The tweet speaks for itself. I’m moving on.”

.. Mr. Trump suggested he was seriously thinking about canceling the briefings. “Unless I have them every two weeks and I do them myself, we don’t have them,” he said. “I think it’s a good idea.”

.. Every president in modern times has been frustrated with the news media at points, but they all preserved the tradition of the daily briefing, if for no other reason than to get their message out. Mr. Trump, with Twitter as his own trumpet, may feel less need for that.

.. Mr. Trump has long been said by allies and former employees to have taped some of his own phone calls

.. But the implicit threat to Mr. Comey was ripped from a familiar playbook that Mr. Trump relied on during the campaign to silence critics or dissent.

  1. he read aloud the mobile telephone number of one rival, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, from the stage at a rally and encouraged people to flood his phone with calls.
  2. he threatened on Twitter to tell stories about Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, the co-hosts of the MSNBC show “Morning Joe,” after they criticized him.
  3. He also railed against the wealthy Ricketts family as it was funding anti-Trump efforts, threatening to air some unspecified dirty laundry.
  4. while competing with Senator Ted Cruz of Texas for the Republican presidential nomination, he threatened to expose something unflattering about his opponent’s wife. “Be careful, Lyin’ Ted, or I will spill the beans on your wife!” he said.

.. Mr. Trump’s warning on Twitter to quiet Mr. Comey could be viewed as an effort to intimidate a witness for any current or future investigation into whether the firing of the F.B.I. director amounted to obstruction of justice.

“If this were an actual criminal investigation — in other words, if there were a prosecutor and a defense lawyer in the picture — this would draw a severe phone call to counsel warning that the defendant is at serious risk of indictment if he continues to speak to witnesses,” Mr. Buell said. “Thus, this is also definitive evidence that Trump is not listening to counsel and perhaps not even talking to counsel. Unprecedented in the modern presidency.”

.. This is not the first time an administration has challenged Mr. Comey’s version of a prominent conversation. During President George W. Bush’s administration, White House officials disputed Mr. Comey’s account of a hospital room standoff in which Mr. Bush’s top aides tried to pressure John D. Ashcroft, the ailing attorney general, to reauthorize a controversial surveillance program.

Mr. Comey, then the deputy attorney general, was eventually vindicated because the F.B.I. director at the time, Robert S. Mueller III, kept his notes from the encounter — a reminder that note-taking is steeped in the F.B.I. culture.

.. A couple of Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, Mr. Schiff and Representative Eric Swalwell of California, have said there is at least some evidence of collusion, but when Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, a Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, was asked last week if there was, she said, “Not at this time.”

The Senate Takes Up Health Care Reform

The Senate will take up health care reform after a revised version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) passed through the House last Thursday.

Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), a member of Senate leadership, said that the Senate will wait for a new CBO score before preceding to a vote.

.. Mick Mulvaney, head of the Office of Management and Budget, said, “The bill that passed out of the House is most likely not going to be the bill that is put in front of the president.”

Members of the working group include Sens.

  1. Mitch McConnell,
  2. Bob Portman (R-OH),
  3. John Corynyn (R-TX),
  4. John Thune (R-SD),
  5. Mike Enzi (R-WY),
  6. Orrin Hatch (R-UT),
  7. Lamar Alexander (R-TN),
  8. Tom Cotton (R-AR),
  9. Cory Gardner (R-CO),
  10. Ted Cruz (R-TX),
  11. John Barrasso (R-WY), and
  12. Pat Toomey (R-PA).

.. The Senate working group does not feature two of the bill’s biggest critics, Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA).

.. The two senators joined a separate group of Republicans studying potential health care solutions including Sens.

  1. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV),
  2. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and
  3. Mike Rounds (R-SD)
  4. Susan Collins (R-ME)
  5. Bill Cassidy (R-LA)

.. Senators Cassidy and Collins released a separate Obamacare repeal bill, The Patient Freedom Act.

States have three options under the Cassidy-Collins plan:

  1. Retain the Affordable Care Act, allowing individuals and small businesses able to purchase insurance on state exchanges and low-income residents can receive federal subsidies to cover the cost of the program. States that expanded Medicaid can continue to provide increased Medicaid coverage.
  2. States can receive most of the federal funding, including Medicaid expansion and subsidies to create tax-free Health Savings Accounts for low-income citizens. Low-income residents can use the HSAs to purchase insurance and pay for health care.
  3. Allow states to create an alternative solution without federal assistance. States would retain the power to design and regulate insurance markets without federal intervention.

.. Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Ted Cruz (R-TX) were the strongest opponents of the American Health Care Act. Senator Paul crafted his own conservative plan for repealing Obamacare and worked with the Freedom Caucus to push for an even more conservative Obamacare repeal bill. The Freedom Caucus endorsed Sen. Paul’s plan.

 

 

Cruz suggests ignoring Senate parliamentarian for ObamaCare repeal

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is suggesting that the GOP could ignore interpretations of the Senate parliamentarian if it means sending a full repeal of ObamaCare to the president’s desk.

“At the end of the day, the Senate parliamentarian is an employee of the Senate. Virtually every Republican campaigned promising full repeal,”

.. While the parliamentarian’s role is strictly advisory, Senate leaders rarely ignore his or her advice.

Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew

While millions of Republican primary voters have chosen Donald Trump as the party’s nominee, Bill Kristol and a small but well-heeled group of Washington insiders are preparing a third party effort to block Trump’s path to the White House.

.. In addition to alleging that Trump is lacking in principles and character, Kristol claims that the Republican candidate is a crackpot conspiracy theorist, a disqualifying trait. Kristol’s evidence is a remark Trump made on the eve of the Indiana primary suggesting that Ted Cruz’s father might have something to hide about his alleged acquaintance with Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. Kristol wrote:

Calling in to Fox and Friends, Donald Trump, as Politico summarized it, “alleged that Ted Cruz’s father was with John F. Kennedy’s assassin shortly before he murdered the president, parroting a National Enquirer story claiming that Rafael Cruz was pictured with Lee Harvey Oswald handing out pro-Fidel Castro pamphlets in New Orleans in 1963.”

The liberal writers at Politico can perhaps be forgiven for reporting that the Enquirer only claimed that Oswald and the senior Cruz were pictured together. The Enquirer actually published the picture.

“Here’s Trump in his own crazed words,” Kristol continues:

[Trump:] “His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Kennedy’s being — you know, shot. I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous. What is this, right prior to his being shot, and nobody even brings it up. They don’t even talk about that. That was reported, and nobody talks about it. I mean, what was he doing — what was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death? Before the shooting? It’s horrible.”

Comments Kristol: “What’s horrible is a leading presidential candidate trading in crackpot conspiracy theories.”

So it might be, if Trump were actually putting forward a conspiracy theory. But what we have here, obviously, is not a theory but some Trumpian campaign mischief — not dissimilar in form to his earlier suggestion that because Ted Cruz was born in Canada, he might not be able to actually run for president even if he were to win the nomination. These were both campaign tricks — dirty tricks if you like — to throw a rival off balance and gain an advantage.