Republicans, your ‘regular order’ is out of order

Babies are seized from their mothers’ arms. Photographs show their anguish. News reports describe their cages. A recording captures their wailing and a U.S. border official’s cold mockery. A defiant President Trump falsely blames others for the misery he created.

And Republican lawmakers respond as they often have: They hold another hearing about Hillary Clinton’s emails.

But they have run this play too many times before.

.. Just 29 seconds into Tuesday’s hearing on the defeated Democratic 2016 presidential nominee and her emails, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, interrupted to point out that something more important needs attention.

.. “They are children who have been forcibly removed from their parents in our name.”

Republicans on the committee tried to silence Nadler with calls of “order!”

Nadler spoke over them: “The United States should be better than this. We should not put children in cages.”

“Regular order!” called out Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

.. Ah, so it’s “regular order” to have the umpteenth hearing about a now-private citizen’s emails, but you’re “pulling” a stunt if you talk about the Trump policy under which border guards are reportedly telling parents they are taking children “for a bath” and the children never return.

No, Republicans, your “regular order” is out of order.

.. As soon as Gowdy had silenced Nadler, two women in the back of the room, with infants in their laps, began to heckle the lawmakers about the inhumanity of Trump’s family separation policy.

Gowdy slammed the gavel to the dais and demanded that the mothers and babies be removed. (At least the Capitol Police had the good sense not to take the babies from the mothers.) “We will be in recess until the Capitol Police restore order!” Gowdy proclaimed.

But “order” remained elusive.

.. Shortly after the moms and babies were evicted from the room, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (Md.), top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, spoke. “Are we really going to sit here, 70 members of the Congress of the United States of America, in 2018, and have a hearing . . . on Hillary Clinton’s emails?

.. “We should be able to agree that we will not keep kids in child internment camps indefinitely and hidden away from public view. What country is that? This is the United States of America! We now have reports of parents being deported, but the Trump administration is keeping their children here.”

.. Unhappy that Clinton wasn’t charged in 2016 for mishandling her emails, they had demanded an investigation into the original investigation of Clinton. That investigation, conducted by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, last week reported misconduct by some officials but “no evidence that the conclusions by the prosecutors were affected by bias or other improper considerations.”

.. Now Republicans, still unsatisfied, are threatening to investigate the investigation of the investigation of Clinton. Senate Republicans hauled Horowitz in Monday, and House Republicans hauled him in Tuesday, to field questions for seven hours from 70 lawmakers

.. they care more about a scrubbed server than a clean conscience.

The Strange Tale of How the FBI’s Anti-Trump Bias Helped Elect Trump

The decision to prioritize the Russia investigation ended up harming Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

.. If key members of the FBI were actually biased against Donald Trump, why did the FBI so dramatically damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign in the last days before the election? Why did it draft a letter to Congress announcing that it was reopening its email investigation a month after it found Anthony Weiner’s laptop, a letter that detonated like a bomb in the campaign and had a measurable effect on Hillary’s polling?

..  As the Hillary investigation (“Midyear Exam”) wound down, the Trump investigation (“Crossfire Hurricane”) spun up. Key members of the Midyear team — including employees who expressed deep loathing of Trump — transferred their efforts to the Crossfire investigation. When investigators found hundreds of thousands of potentially relevant emails (including emails between Huma Abedin and Hillary Clinton) on Anthony Weiner’s computer, the Crossfire investigators were reluctant to dive back into Midyear, and they let the computer languish — for weeks — until prodded by investigators in New York.
.. Then, confronted with the reality that his agents hadn’t started to examine the emails, Comey’s institutional protective instincts kicked in, and he felt that he had to inform Congress of the new development — to preserve the FBI’s nonpartisan image during the presumed Hillary presidency. Little did he know (little did most people know), the Hillary campaign was a tottering, fragile mess, and this last FBI action may well have pushed her past the tipping point.

.. Under these circumstances, we did not have confidence that Strzok’s decision to prioritize the Russia investigation over following up on the Midyear-related investigative lead discovered on the Weiner laptop was free from bias. [Emphasis added.

.. By that time Comey was in a bind. He believed the email review wouldn’t be completed by the election, he had already informed the world that the email investigation was over, and he also believed that Hillary was going to win.

.. The FBI didn’t stop Hillary from campaigning in key states. It’s the fault of the Democratic party and Democratic primary voters that they foisted a dishonest candidate on the American public, a person whose conduct not only merited an FBI investigation, it merited indictment.

Five whoppers from President Trump’s impromptu news conference

“I think that the report yesterday, maybe more importantly than anything, it totally exonerates me. There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. And if you read the report, you’ll see that.”

This is false. The Justice Department inspector general on June 14 released a report that found fault with the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. The 500-page reportdoesn’t delve into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election or possible collusion with Trump’s campaign, although it does scrutinize anti-Trump text messages sent by several FBI agents.

.. “Manafort has nothing to do with our campaign. … I feel a little badly about it. They went back 12 years to get things that he did 12 years ago?

“You know, Paul Manafort worked for me for a very short period of time. He worked for Ronald Reagan. He worked for Bob Dole. He worked for John McCain, or his firm did. He worked for many other Republicans. He worked for me, what, for 49 days or something? A very short period of time.”

Manafort, who was sent to jail June 15 for violating bail conditions, worked on Trump’s presidential campaign for 144 days in 2016, 92 of them as its chairman. He was an instrumental figure.

“I feel badly for General Flynn. He’s lost his house. He’s lost his life. And some people say he lied, and some people say he didn’t lie. I mean, really, it turned out maybe he didn’t lie. So how can you do that?”

Trump has said repeatedly that he dismissed Michael Flynn for lying. The president asked for the resignation of his first national security adviser and accepted it Feb. 13, 2017. Days later, in a news conference Feb. 16, 2017, Trump said he had fired Flynn for providing incomplete information to Vice President Pence about his contacts with the Russian ambassador, Sergei Kislyak. In December 2017, the president tweeted, “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI.” Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Kislyak.

“I hate the children being taken away. The Democrats have to change their law. That’s their law.”

This is false. As part of its border crackdown, the Trump administration is separating undocumented immigrant children from their parents largely due to a “zero tolerance” policy implemented by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. No law requires these separations. The government must release rather than detain immigrant children under a 1997 federal consent decree and a bipartisan human-trafficking law from 2008. But neither of these requires family separations.

“Barack Obama, I think you will admit this, he said the biggest problem that the United States has, and by far the most dangerous problem … is North Korea. Now, that was shortly before I entered office. I have solved that problem. Now, we’re getting it memorialized and all, but that problem is largely solved, and part of the reason is we signed, number one, a very good document. But you know what? More importantly than the document — more importantly than the document, I have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un.”

Trump’s denuclearization agreement with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is light on details and its success or failure will depend on difficult negotiations still ahead. It’s far too early to say he’s “solved” the problem posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons. Trump points to the “very good document” he signed, but its language is weaker than in previous agreements negotiated by the United States, which North Korea later broke.

A Higher Sanctimony

Comey’s memoir shows he is more like Trump than he cares to admit.

But Mr. Trump told an interviewer that he had fired Mr. Comey because the FBI chief wouldn’t say publicly that the FBI wasn’t investigating Mr. Trump. The President also threatened Mr. Comey with a false claim about Oval Office “tapes.” Mr. Comey responded by leaking documents that caused Mr. Rosenstein to name a special counsel, which has put Mr. Trump’s Presidency in mortal peril.

.. The main lesson from Mr. Comey’s book is that Mr. Trump’s abuse of political norms has driven his enemies to violate norms themselves.

.. The most notable fact in the book is how little we learn that is new about Mr. Trump.

.. Mr. Trump is preoccupied with his critics and the validation of his presidential victory. He is clueless that his bullying and flattery would repel Mr. Comey

.. The book mainly adds Mr. Comey’s moral and aesthetic contempt for Mr. Trump.

.. Mr. Comey’s comparison of Mr. Trump to a “mafia” boss is hilariously overstated. Don’t they call it “organized” crime? And what about that code of silence known as omerta? The Trump White House can’t keep anything secret.

.. Mr. Comey reveals in his excessive self-regard that he is more like Mr. Trump than he cares to admit. Mr. Trump’s narcissism is crude and focused on his personal “winning.” Mr. Comey’s is about vindicating his own higher morality and righteous belief.

.. He accuses Mr. Rosenstein of acting “dishonorably” by writing the memo describing how Mr. Comey mishandled the Clinton probe. Yet he barely engages Mr. Rosenstein’s arguments, which quoted from former Justice officials of both parties. Mr. Rosenstein wrote that Mr. Comey was “wrong to usurp” the authority of Attorney General Loretta Lynch and wrong to “hold press conferences to release derogatory information” about Mrs. Clinton.

That mistake made Mr. Comey feel obliged to intervene again in late October—this time to announce the reopening of the probe in a way that helped Mr. Trump. Had Mr. Comey followed Justice protocol in July, he would not have had to make himself the issue in October, damaging the reputation of the FBI and Justice in the bargain.

.. This has been the habit across Mr. Comey’s career, though you’ll find no mention in his memoir of Steven Hatfill, the government scientist he wrongly pursued for years as the anthrax terrorist; or Frank Quattrone, the Wall Street financier he prosecuted twice for obstruction of justice only to be rebuked by an appeals court; or Judith Miller’s recantation of her testimony against Scooter Libby.

Mr. Comey has also had little to say so far about the controversy over the Steele dossier and his handling of the Russian investigation of Mr. Trump. Did he know that the dossier was commissioned by Democrats for the Clinton campaign? He also has nothing to say about the dismissal of his former FBI deputy, Andrew McCabe, for “lack of candor.”

Mr. Comey is getting his moment of revenge as much of the press revels in the attacks on Mr. Trump. Yet his career, reinforced by his memoir, is a case study in the perils of the righteous prosecutor. It also shows why Mr. Comey’s view of the FBI as “independent” of supervisory authority is wrong and dangerous. A presidential bully who abuses power needs to be checked, but so does an FBI director who turns righteousness into zealotry.

THE TRUE STORY OF THE COMEY LETTER DEBACLE

When F.B.I. director James Comey reopened the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mails in the final days of the campaign, many saw it as a political move that cost Clinton the presidency. But some insiders suspect Comey had a more personal concern: his own legacy.

In the early summer of 2013—what seems like a lifetime ago—James “Jim” Comey was nominated by President Barack Obama to serve a 10-year term as the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the nation’s prime federal law-enforcement agency. Even in a time of fierce political divides, there was little divide about Comey, who at the time was a Republican. (He has since changed his party registration but not said to what.) He was confirmed by a vote of 93 to 1. “Jim is a natural leader of unquestioned integrity,” said Obama. And he was.

James Comey’s memoir: Trump fixates on proving lewd dossier allegations false

According to Comey’s account in a new memoir, Trump “strongly denied the allegations, asking — rhetorically, I assumed — whether he seemed like a guy who needed the service of prostitutes. He then began discussing cases where women had accused him of sexual assault, a subject I had not raised. He mentioned a number of women, and seemed to have memorized their allegations.”

The January 2017 conversation at Trump Tower in Manhattan “teetered toward disaster” — until “I pulled the tool from my bag: ‘We are not investigating you, sir.’ That seemed to quiet him,” Comey writes.

Trump did not stay quiet for long. Comey describes Trump as having been obsessed with the prostitutes portion of the infamous dossier compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, raising it at least four times with the FBI head.

.. Trump offered varying explanations to convince Comey it was not true. “I’m a germaphobe,” Trump told him in a follow-up call on Jan. 11, 2017, according to Comey’s account. “There’s no way I would let people pee on each other around me. No way.” Later, the president asked what could be done to “lift the cloud” because it was so painful for first lady Melania Trump.

.. In his memoir, Comey paints a devastating portrait of a president who built “a cocoon of alternative reality that he was busily wrapping around all of us.” Comey describes Trump as a congenital liar and unethical leader, devoid of human emotion and driven by personal ego.

.. Interacting with Trump, Comey writes, gave him “flashbacks to my earlier career as a prosecutor against the Mob.

  • The silent circle of assent.
  • The boss in complete control.
  • The loyalty oaths.
  • The us-versus-them worldview.
  • The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth.”

.. The result, in Comey’s telling, is “the forest fire that is the Trump presidency.”

.. “You can’t be kicked out of the room so he can talk to me alone,” Comey told Sessions, according to the book. “You have to be between me and the president.”

.. “Sessions just cast his eyes down at the table, and they darted quickly back and forth, side to side. He said nothing. I read in his posture and face a message that he would not be able to help me.”

.. Comey delivers an indirect but unmistakable rebuke of the GOP’s congressional leaders as well: “It is also wrong to stand idly by, or worse, to stay silent when you know better, while a president brazenly seeks to undermine public confidence in law enforcement institutions that were established to keep our leaders in check.”

.. “I have one perspective on the behavior I saw, which while disturbing and violating basic norms of ethical leadership, may fall short of being illegal,” he writes.

.. “They lose the ability to distinguish between what’s true and what’s not,” Comey writes. “They surround themselves with other liars . . . Perks and access are given to those willing to lie and tolerate lies. This creates a culture, which becomes an entire way of life.”

.. Comey also writes that in a post-election briefing for senators, then-Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) confronted him about “what you did to Hillary Clinton.” Comey responded, “I did my best with the facts before me.” A teary-eyed Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) grabbed him by the hand afterward and said, “I know you. You were in an impossible position,” Comey writes.

.. Comey is critical of then-Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, saying she had a “tortured half-out, half-in approach” to the Clinton investigation and that he considered calling for the appointment of a special prosecutor.

.. “As he extended his hand,” Comey adds, “I made a mental note to check its size. It was smaller than mine, but did not seem unusually so.”

.. Comey recalls being struck that neither Trump nor his advisers asked about the future Russian threat, nor how the United States might prepare to meet it. Rather, he writes, they focused on “how they could spin what we’d just told them.”

.. “I decided not to tell him that the activity alleged did not seem to require either an overnight stay or even being in proximity to the participants,” Comey writes. “In fact, though I didn’t know for sure, I imagined the presidential suite of the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow was large enough for a germaphobe to be at a safe distance from the activity.”

.. Comey writes that he believed Trump was trying “to establish a patronage relationship,” and that he said: “I need loyalty. I expect loyalty.”

.. Trump broke the standoff by turning to other topics, Comey writes, speaking in torrents, “like an oral jigsaw puzzle,” about the size of his inauguration crowd, his free media coverage and the viciousness of the campaign. He talked about the Clinton email investigation as in three phases, as if it were a television series: “Comey One,” “Comey Two” and “Comey Three.” Trump also tried to convince Comey that he had not mocked disabled New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski at a campaign rally, and then turned to the detailed allegations of sexual assault against him.

“There was no way he groped that lady sitting next to him on the airplane, he insisted,” Comey writes. “And the idea that he grabbed a porn star and offered her money to come to his room was preposterous.”

.. And then Trump brought up “the golden showers thing,” Comey writes. The president told him that “it bothered him if there was ‘even a one percent chance’ his wife, Melania, thought it was true.” Comey writes that Trump told him to consider having the FBI investigate the prostitutes allegation to “prove it was a lie.”

.. As the dinner concluded, Trump returned to the issue of loyalty.

“I need loyalty,” Trump tells Comey, according to the book.

“You will always get honesty from me,” Comey replies.

“That’s what I want, honest loyalty,” Trump said, reaching what Comey writes was “some sort of ‘deal’ in which we were both winners.”

.. The president, Comey recalls, “launched into one of his rapid-fire, stream-of-consciousness monologues” — this time about a recent Super Bowl interview with then-Fox News Channel personality Bill O’Reilly in which Trump complimented Russian President Vladi­mir Putin.
.. “But he’s a killer,” O’Reilly told Trump.The president’s reply: “There are a ton of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think? Our country’s so innocent?

Trump fumed to Comey about the media criticism he received.

I gave a good answer,” Trump said, according to Comey. “Really, it was a great answer. I gave a really great answer.

Trump sought validation: “You think it was a great answer, right?”

Comey replied, “We aren’t the kind of killers that Putin is.”

Trump apparently did not take the correction well. Comey writes that the president’s eyes changed and his jaw tightened, and Priebus escorted him out.

.. Comey describes soon receiving an “emotional call” from Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly.

“He said he was sick about my firing and that he intended to quit in protest,” Comey writes. “He said he didn’t want to work for dishonorable people who would treat someone like me in such a manner. I urged Kelly not to do that, arguing that the country needed principled people around this president. Especially this president.”

Kelly did not resign. Two and a half months later, he was named White House chief of staff.

The Tragedy of James Comey

James Comey is about to be ubiquitous. His book will be published next week, and parts may leak this week. Starting Sunday, he will begin an epic publicity tour, including interviews with Stephen Colbert, David Remnick, Rachel Maddow, Mike Allen, George Stephanopoulos and “The View.”

.. Yet anybody who’s read Greek tragedy knows that strengths can turn into weaknesses when a person becomes too confident in those strengths. And that’s the key to understanding the very complex story of James Comey.

.. Long before he was a household name, Comey was a revered figure within legal circles.
.. But he was more charismatic than most bureaucrats — six feet eight inches tall, with an easy wit and refreshing informality. People loved working for him.
.. If you read his 2005 goodbye speech to the Justice Department, when he was stepping down as George W. Bush’s deputy attorney general, you can understand why. It’s funny, displaying the gifts of a storyteller. It includes an extended tribute to the department’s rank and file, like “secretaries, document clerks, custodians and support people who never get thanked enough.” He insists on “the exact same amount of human dignity and respect” for “every human being in this organization,”
.. Above all, though, the speech is a celebration of the department’s mission.
.. Many Justice Department officials, from both parties, have long believed that they should be more independent and less political than other cabinet departments. Comey was known as an evangelist of this view.
.. Comey sometimes chided young prosecutors who had never lost a case, accusing them of caring more about their win-loss record than justice. He told them they were members of the Chicken Excrement Club
.. Most famously, in 2004, he stood up to Bush and Dick Cheney over a dubious surveillance program.

But as real as Comey’s independence and integrity were, they also became part of a persona that he cultivated and relished.

.. Comey has greater strengths than most people. But for all of us, there is a fine line between strength and hubris.