Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Do you buy the White House version on Comey?

The FBI director James Comey has been a very controversial person since the last days of the Obama administration when his announcement about Hillary Clinton just days before the presidential election cost her the election. She blames her loss squarely upon Comey, and many Americans believe likewise.
Comey was fired by the Trump Administration yesterday. Many people, however, are not buying the government version as to why he was fired and suspect something more sinister.
"The explanations given by the White House are false, and the evidence points toward friction over the FBI’s Russia investigation," William Saletan of the Slate writes.

He continues, "All the things Comey did during the period when Trump ostensibly turned against him were related to Russia. If Conway and Sanders are telling the truth about an extended time frame—that Trump soured on Comey during the period between his inauguration and May 3—then the next logical question is what caused this shift. Here are the chief events connecting Trump to Comey during that period:
Feb. 24: Comey rejects requests from the administration to publicly rebut reports about Trump associates’ contacts with Russians. Shortly afterward, in a tweet, Trump blasts the FBI for failing to find people in its ranks who are leaking information about Trump associates’ contacts with Russians. “FIND NOW,” the president demands.
March 4-5: Trump claims President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. Comey asks the Justice Department to deny this. The department refuses, and Comey’s request is leaked to the press.
 
March 20: Comey reveals that the FBI is “investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government,” including “whether any crimes were committed.” He also testifies that he has checked with the FBI and found no evidence for Trump’s persistent claims that Obama wiretapped him.
 
March-April-May: According to CNN, associates of Flynn receive grand jury subpoenas, “the first sign of a significant escalation of activity in the FBI's broader investigation.” In a May 9 report, CNN says the subpoenas were issued “in recent weeks.” In her Wednesday briefing, Sanders claimed that the White House was unaware of the subpoenas.

 Administration sources have connected the Russia-related events to Trump’s decision. At Wednesday’s briefing, Sanders acknowledged that Comey’s failure to stop the FBI from leaking was probably one reason why Trump lost confidence in him. But press accounts based on inside sources are more extensive. The Times reports that Trump, in the days leading up to the Comey decision, was privately “denouncing Mr. Comey’s conduct in both the Clinton and Russia investigations.” The Washington Post adds:
Several current and former officials said the relationship between the White House and the FBI had been strained for months, in part because administration officials were pressuring Comey to more aggressively pursue leak investigations over disclosures that embarrassed the White House and raised questions about ties with Russia. That pressure was described as conversational challenges to FBI leadership to pursue the source of leaks seen as damaging to the administration, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. Although the FBI is investigating disclosures of classified information, the bureau has resisted calls to prioritize leak investigations over the Russia matter, or probe matters that did not involve leaks of classified or otherwise sensitive information, the officials said. “The administration has been putting pressure on the FBI to focus more on the leaks and weren’t satisfied with the results,’’ said a former senior U.S. official familiar with the matter. A current official said administration figures have been “very aggressive’’ in pressuring the FBI.
And Politico reports:
Trump weighed firing his FBI director for more than a week. … He had grown enraged by the Russia investigation, two advisers said, frustrated by his inability to control the mushrooming narrative around Russia. He repeatedly asked aides why the Russia investigation wouldn’t disappear and demanded they speak out for him. He would sometimes scream at television clips about the probe, one adviser said. … Trump had grown angry with the Russia investigation — particularly Comey admitting in front of the Senate that the FBI was investigating his campaign — and that the FBI director wouldn’t support his claims that President Barack Obama had tapped his phones in Trump Tower.
 Trump’s decision followed direct lobbying by Roger Stone. Stone is one of the Trump associates under investigation. According to Politico, “Several Stone allies and friends said Stone, who has been frequently mentioned in the investigation, encouraged the president to fire Comey in conversations in recent weeks.” The Times concurs that Stone “was among those who urged the president to fire Mr. Comey, people briefed on the discussions said.” Trump tweeted on Wednesday that he had “not spoken to Roger in a long time.” But the Times reports that “two longtime Trump associates with knowledge of the matter said the two had recently discussed their mutual dissatisfaction with Mr. Comey and his investigation.”
 
To read Saletan's full reasoning about firing Comey click here.

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