Staffers Can’t Save the President from His Own Bad Decisions

Imagine you’re an incoming president. You’ve got a guy who you like and trust who you would like to be your national-security adviser. But then he tells your transition team that he’s “under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign.”

Are you still interested in having him serve as your national-security adviser? Aren’t you a little irked that he was working as a paid lobbyist for a foreign entity during the campaign? Don’t you feel like he should have tried to avoid this kind of financial entanglement with a foreign entity? Don’t you feel like he should have told you this during the campaign?

.. He will always carry the stigma of a conflict of interest because he was paid $600,000 over 90 days to promote the viewpoint of the Turkish government.

.. isn’t this the sort of problem that a streetwise, shrewd businessman would see coming a mile away and avoid?

Never Ask if It Can Get Worse, Because It Always Can

If [FBI director James Comey’s] memo exists, then there is compelling evidence that the president committed a potentially impeachable offense. Here is the alleged chain of events: First, Trump asked Comey to drop an investigation of a close former associate and a former senior official in his administration. Second, Comey refused. Third, weeks later Trump fired Comey. Fourth, Trump then misled the American people regarding the reason for the dismissal. Each prong is important, but it’s worth noting that the fourth prong — Trump’s deception regarding the reason for Comey’s termination — is particularly problematic in context. Deception is classic evidence of malign intent.

.. But if there isn’t a taping system in the White House… Trump should stop sending out tweets suggesting there is one. We had the odd situation a few days ago of White House press secretary Sean Spicer repeatedly insisting Trump had been “clear” in his tweet about tapes of the Trump–Comey conversations… but that tweet wasn’t clear at all, and Spicer refused to confirm or deny that there was a taping system in the White House.

It’s a yes or no question. Are there tapes of these conversations or not?

If those tapes exist, and they support Trump’s account of events and not the account of anonymous sources and Comey… it means Trump has exculpatory evidence and is choosing to not release it and expose his accusers as liars and publicly humiliate them. How often do people choose to withhold evidence that clears them of accusations?

.. Trump told those present — including Mr. Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions — to leave the room except for Mr. Comey.

Boy, that doesn’t look bad, does it? Let’s remove anyone Trump trusts from the room who could verify his side of the story so he can discuss an extremely sensitive topic with a law enforcement official who is investigating his administration. What could go wrong, huh?

.. Apparently Steve Bannon was among the Trump advisors who wanted the president to hold off on firing Comey. When Bannon is calling for prudence and deliberation, you should probably slow down.

.. Notice how often lately Republicans are asked to step in and defend Trump not because of the policies he wants to enact, not because of his legislative agenda or his vision for the country, but for his own impulsive decision-making.

For Anyone but the President’s Eyes Only

Keep in mind, last week Vice President Mike Pence, White House press secretary Sean Spicer, and the rest went out before the cameras and insisted that Ron Rosenstein’s memo was the driving force to fire FBI director James Comey… and then Trump told Lester Holt he was going to fire Comey “regardless of the recommendation.” Just last week, Trump declared on Twitter, “As a very active President with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy!” The president will insist his surrogates can’t be expected to get everything right, and then a few days later, insist that you trust denials from his surrogates. You can’t have it both ways.

.. The bottom line is that there is absolutely no benefit to the United States to be sharing this kind of information with the Russian government — and if it alienates a friendly government helping us fight ISIS, then it is extraordinarily damaging.

.. It does not help that so many Democrats insist that every administration misstep is justification for impeachment

.. or the insane everyone’s-a-Russian-agent conspiracy theories ..  But the insanity of lefties doesn’t get this White House off the hook. Unless the entire story is made up out of whole cloth, Donald Trump still doesn’t understand his responsibilities.

Jim Geraghty on Comey’s Firing / Administration Staffing

Let’s look back to January 24, 2017:

When Mr. Comey and the president-elect met at Trump Tower for the first time this month for an intelligence briefing, Mr. Trump told the F.B.I. director that he hoped he would remain in his position, according to people briefed on the matter. And Mr. Trump’s aides have made it clear to Mr. Comey that the president does not plan to ask him to leave, these people said.

If President Trump was really bothered by how FBI director James Comey handled the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mails — and recall he praised the director’s decisions on the campaign trail last autumn — then the normal, sensible thing would have been to let Comey know there was an intention to make a change during the transition.

Even if Trump found himself disappointed with Comey’s performance once he was in the Oval Office, a normal administration gets their ducks in a row before making a big, dramatic step like this. The arguments and justification for the move are put in place and on paper. Talking points are distributed. Rumors often leak. Replacement names start to surface. A figure on his way out, like Comey, starts to read the handwriting on the wall. By the time the announcement is made, it’s almost old news; everyone’s had time to acclimate to the change.

.. Bloomberg was able to get additional cost estimates for more of those proposed energy infrastructure projects, and concluded that $50 billion in proposed projects are waiting for approval from FERC, which legally can’t approve anything until they get at least one more commissioner. They need three for a quorum, and have had only two since February; usually they have five. This is the first time in the agency’s history that it hasn’t had a quorum.

As I’ve written repeatedly, this is an embarrassment. These are big, privately funded infrastructure projects — mostly new pipelines, pressure-management stations and liquid-natural-gas terminals – that will create thousands of construction and operating jobs, both union and non-union, in places like Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. These are exactly the sort of good-paying blue-collar construction and heavy-industry jobs that President Trump promised he would bring back to these places, that cost U.S. taxpayers nothing, and all of them were left collecting dust for a few months because the White House couldn’t get its act together and nominate new commissioners.