Trump regrets not firing Comey when Obama was still in office: ‘I should have fired him the day I won the primaries’

President Donald Trump displayed a deep misunderstanding of his own authority Tuesday, bemoaning that he didn’t fire FBI Director James Comey back when he won the Republican primary, or at least after the Republican convention, in an interview with the Hill.

Barack Obama was still President during both of those events and vested with the power to fire Comey.

“If I did one mistake with Comey, I should have fired him before I got here. I should have fired him the day I won the primaries,” Trump told the Hill. “I should have fired him right after the convention, say I don’t want that guy. Or at least fired him the first day on the job. I would have been better off firing him or putting out a statement that I don’t want him there when I get there.”

Trump also mentioned that he is ordering the declassification of documents related to the Russia probe because exposing it as a partisan “hoax” would be a “crowning achievement” of his presidency.

“I hope to be able to call this, along with tax cuts and regulation and all the things I’ve done … in its own way this might be the most important thing because this was corrupt,” he added to the Hill.

He went on to say that his own FBI is working against him and trying to undermine his presidency.

“What we have now is an insurance policy,” the Trump told the Hill. “But it has been totally discredited, even Democrats agree that it has been discredited. They are not going to admit to it, but it has been totally discredited. I think, frankly, more so by text than by documents.”

He concluded that he hoped to “expose” the FBI as “truly a cancer in our country.”

[Business Insider]

Trump Falsely Accuses NBC’s Lester Holt Of Getting ‘Caught Fudging’ Russia Interview

President Donald Trump has accused NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt of “fudging” an interview that NBC aired more than a year ago. “When Lester Holt got caught fudging my tape on Russia,” Trump said in a tweet early Thursday morning, providing no evidence to support his claim, “(NBC News was) hurt badly!”

Trump seems to be referring to a May 2017 interview, aired just two days after the president fired FBI director James Comey. In the interview, Trump called Comey “a showboat,” and appeared to reject an official White House explanation for the firing, telling Holt “the Russia thing” was on his mind when he decided to fire Comey. “I just said to myself, I said, ‘you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.'”

The interview was sensational enough at the time to be mocked by NBC’s Saturday Night Live, in which Holt, played by Michael Che, thinks he has finally caught the president, only to discover that nothing Trump says matters. “Wait, did I get him? Is this all over? No, I didn’t? Nothing matters? Absolutely nothing matters anymore.”

The real interview aired on Nightly News, and NBC News published an extended version online. Trump offered no explanation of how NBC might have “fudged” the interview, in which the most explosive words came from the president’s own mouth. From the time the interview aired until today, no one has accused Holt of altering the interview–and he was never “caught” or “hurt badly” as a result.

Trump’s attack on NBC came amid a Twitter rant about the media, including personal attacks on the bosses at NBC News and CNN. Trump, who has repeatedly–and falsely–claimed that CNN chief Jeff Zucker was about to be fired, on Tuesday urged AT&T to dismiss Zucker, who recently extended his contract with the network. Trump said, “Little Jeff Z has done a terrible job, his ratings suck, and AT&T should fire him to save credibility!”

Trump is also wrong about CNN’s ratings. Details released this week by Nielsen show the network had near record ratings in August and posted its second-best ratings in total day in the history of cable news’ original network. Daytime ratings were the third highest for CNN in 23 years, and all of CNN’s prime-time shows posted near-record high ratings, with Cuomo Prime Time, which just launched in June, delivering the network’s third highest August rating on record in the 9 p.m. hour.

And yet, Trump said, “the hatred and extreme bias of me by CNN has clouded their thinking and made them unable to function.” The president said the problem extended to other networks, with “NBC News being the worst. The good news is that Andy Lack(y) is about to be fired(?) for incompetence and much worse.”

Again, Trump neither explained his wild allegations nor defended his false claims, insisting only that “I just cannot state strongly enough how totally dishonest much of the Media is. Truth doesn’t matter to them, they only have their hatred and agenda.”

[Forbes]

Media

Here is the interview in full.

Rudy Giuliani says Trump is ‘honest’ because facts are ‘in the eye of the beholder’

President Donald Trump’s personal attorney delivered another doozy of a soundbite Tuesday night, telling CNN’s Chris Cuomo that “nowadays” facts “are in the eye of the beholder.”

Rudy Giuliani made the comment while defending Trump’s harsh words for former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman. Cuomo said other presidents faced criticism and adversity without resorting to insults.

“Maybe nobody has been as honest as him,” Giuliani said.

“If fact-counting is anything, we’ve never had anybody with the level of mendacity that he has,” Cuomo replied. “Not even close.”

“It’s in the eye of the beholder,” said a chuckling Giuliani.

 “No, facts are not in the eye of the beholder,” Cuomo said, shaking his finger.

“Yes, they are,” Giulini said. “Nowadays they are.”

Whether intended in humor or not, the former New York mayor’s remark feeds into a perception among critics that the Trump administration often rejects objective facts and tries to confuse the public about what is true.

Trump’s rejection of facts dates back at least to his refusal to accept that former President Barack Obama was a U.S. citizen despite being presented with conclusive evidence.

The perception that a fast and loose attitude toward reality followed Trump, and his staff, into the White House was sparked just after Trump took office. Press secretary Sean Spicer asserted that Trump’s inaugural crowd was “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration – period,” when photos showed the crowd in Washington was much smaller than the one present for Obama’s inauguration.

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway famously defended Spicer’s assertion by saying he was working with “alternative facts.”

Giuliani also repeated his statement that Trump did not speak to former FBI Director James Comey about the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, contradicting Comey’s claims.

[USA Today]

Media

Trump threatens ‘to get involved’ in manic conspiracy meltdown over ongoing FBI investigation

Out of nowhere — and possibly as a distraction to some upcoming news — President Donald Trump attacked the FBI on Saturday morning by demanding they turn over files on [Rformer FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to outside conservative advocacy group Judicial Watch.

Once again alleging a conspiracy, Trump tweeted, “Why isn’t the FBI giving Andrew McCabe text massages [sic] to Judicial Watch or appropriate governmental authorities. FBI said they won’t give up even one (I may have to get involved, DO NOT DESTROY). What are they hiding? McCabe wife took big campaign dollars from Hillary people.”

He later added, “Will the FBI ever recover it’s once stellar reputation, so badly damaged by Comey, McCabe, Peter S and his lover, the lovely Lisa Page, and other top officials now dismissed or fired? So many of the great men and women of the FBI have been hurt by these clowns and losers!”

You can see screenshots of the original tweets below which were deleted to correct the usual Trump typos:

[Raw Story]

Trump, citing politics, looking to revoke security clearances

President Donald Trump is considering stripping a half-dozen former national security officials of their security clearances, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday, calling their public commentary about the ongoing Russia probe inappropriate.

The list of former officials under consideration includes former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former FBI Director James Comey, former national security adviser Susan Rice, former deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe and former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden, according to Sanders.

“They’ve politicized and in some cases monetized their public service,” Sanders said during a press briefing. “Making baseless accusations of an improper relationship with Russia is inappropriate.”

Sanders would not say when the President would make the decision; she said only that the White House would provide updates when it had them.

The announcement came after Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, tweeted that he planned to speak with Trump about removing Brennan’s security clearance. Brennan declared last week that Trump’s performance following a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki was “nothing short of treasonous.”

A decision to strip a former official of a security clearance would prove a striking use of presidential power. Even Michael Flynn, Trump’s onetime national security adviser who was fired during the Obama administration, maintained his clearance when he was acting as a campaign surrogate for Trump, often leading “lock her up” chants at political rallies.

Sanders did little to mask the political nature of Trump’s threat, indicating the President was frustrated by the former officials’ criticism of him.

“When you have the highest level of security clearance, when you’re the person that holds the nation’s deepest, most sacred secrets at your hands and you go out and you make false accusations against the President on the United States, he says that’s something to be concerned with,” Sanders said.

“We’re exploring what those options are and what that looks like,” she said of the process for removing the officials clearances.

When they leave government, national security officials routinely maintain their security clearances, partly to consult with those who replace them about ongoing situations or issues.

Officials also use their clearances to obtain high-paying consulting positions in the private sector.

“I think this is just a very, very petty thing to do. And that’s about all I’ll say about it,” Clapper said on CNN in the immediate wake of Sanders’ announcement.

“There is a formal process for doing this,” he added. “But, you know, legally the President has that prerogative and he can suspend and revoke clearances as he sees fit. If he chooses to do it for political reasons, I think that’s a terrible precedent and it’s a really sad commentary and its an abuse of the system.”

Hayden indicated being stripped of his clearance would be of little consequence to his commentary.

“I don’t go back for classified briefings. Won’t have any effect on what I say or write,” he tweeted.

It is the President’s prerogative to revoke security clearances, a former senior intelligence official said on Monday, who added that instances of such an occurrence were rare.

Usually former senior officials retain clearances so their successors can consult with theem on a pro bono basis, the former official said.

[CNN]

Trump casts doubt on Russian election meddling ahead of Putin summit

President Donald Trump continues to cast doubt on US intelligence assessments that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential contest, just as his aides announced details of his upcoming summit talks with President Vladimir Putin.

“Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!” Trump wrote on Twitter Thursday morning. He went on to question why US law enforcement agencies weren’t investigating other perceived influences on the election, which he has repeatedly said was rigged for his opponent Hillary Clinton.

“Where is the DNC Server, and why didn’t Shady James Comey and the now disgraced FBI agents take and closely examine it? Why isn’t Hillary/Russia being looked at? So many questions, so much corruption!” he wrote.

The President’s tweet was sent roughly a half hour before the White House announced the two leaders will meet on July 16 in Helsinki, Finland, where they will “discuss relations between the United States and Russia and a range of national security issues.”

Trump’s summit with Putin is likely to draw criticism from the US President’s domestic critics, who accuse him of currying favor with Putin, and jitter US allies, who fear Trump will take a less hawkish position with Russia on issues like the annexation of Crimea and military exercises near the Russian border in eastern Europe.

The summit takes place four days after a NATO meeting in Brussels, where Trump will meet leaders of US military allies. NATO members were worried that if the summit with Putin had taken place earlier, Trump might have agreed to something with the Russian leader that they would have been forced to go along with.

[CNN]

Trump Blasts FBI’s Strzok and Page Over IG Report, Praises Himself For Firing Comey: ‘Good Instincts

President Donald Trump weighed in on the newly released inspector general’s report on the FBI’s investigations during the 2016 election, focusing on the texts exchanged between agent-cum-paramours Peter Strzokand Lisa Page.

“FBI Agent Peter Strzok, who headed the Clinton & Russia investigations, texted to his lover Lisa Page, in the IG Report, that “we’ll stop” candidate Trump from becoming President,” Trump said on Twitter. “Doesn’t get any lower than that!”

The text exchange between Strzok and Page has been exhibit A for the FBI’s critics that the agency was rankled with anti-Trump bias during the 2016 election, and the latest text exchange is certainly explicit. A few months before the 2016 election, Page texted Strzok that she feared Trump would win, and he reassured her: “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.”

Strzok was at the time serving as deputy head of counterintelligence at the FBI, and was working on the investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russia ties as well as the Clinton email probe. But the inspector general concluded that despite Strzok’s clear and inappropriate bias, the was no evidence that he acted on his disdain for Trump.

In a subsequent tweet, Trump took aim at James Comey, calling the IG report “a total disaster” for the former FBI director and “his minions.”

“Comey will now officially go down as the worst leader, by far, in the history of the FBI,” Trump wrote, before praising his “good instincts” for “firing him.”

He also shouted out the current FBI director, Christopher Wray.

Comey brutalized Clinton’s campaign days before election day by publicly announcing the Clinton probe was being re-opened, while the FBI went to great lengths to keep the Trump-Russia probe quiet.

[Mediaite]

Trump suggests political bias to blame in Clinton email report’s delay

President Donald Trump suggested Tuesday that the release of a Justice Department inspector general report into the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information is being delayed in order to make it more sympathetic to those being investigated.

“What is taking so long with the Inspector General’s Report on Crooked Hillary and Slippery James Comey. Numerous delays. Hope Report is not being changed and made weaker! There are so many horrible things to tell, the public has the right to know. Transparency!” Trump tweeted.

The much-anticipated report is not directed at reviewing Clinton’s actions, but will examine former FBI Director Comey and other senior officials at the Justice Department and FBI under the Obama administration. It will include a review of whether “certain underlying investigative decisions were based on improper consideration.”

A draft of the report has been completed, sources with knowledge of the matter told CNN last month, and has been sent to lawyers for the various individuals criticized in it so that they can review it with their clients and submit rebuttal points for consideration. Many submitted their feedback to the inspector general last week, the sources said.

Its public release is expected any day.

The report, which is headed by Inspector General Michael Horowitz and was launched in January 2017, has the potential to deliver the stiffest blow for officials who formerly occupied the highest positions within the FBI and Justice Department.

One potential preview of Horowitz’s findings on decisions by Comey was already outlined in a blistering memo written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, which detailed the ways Comey broke with long-standing department protocols and customs in the Clinton email investigation. Rosenstein’s memo, controversial in its own regard, was initially used to rationalize firing Comey, but then Trump later said he would have done it regardless of Rosenstein’s memo, and has since defended his decision as a “great honor.”

[CNN]

Giuliani: Trump Could Have Shot Comey And Still Couldn’t Be Indicted For It

Candidate Donald Trump bragged that he could shoot someone on New York’s Fifth Avenue and not lose any support, and now President Donald Trump’s lawyer says Trump could shoot the FBI director in the Oval Office and still not be prosecuted for it.

“In no case can he be subpoenaed or indicted,” Rudy Giuliani told HuffPost Sunday, claiming a president’s constitutional powers are that broad. “I don’t know how you can indict while he’s in office. No matter what it is.”

Giuliani said impeachment was the initial remedy for a president’s illegal behavior ― even in the extreme hypothetical case of Trump having shot former FBI Director James Comey to end the Russia investigation rather than just firing him.

“If he shot James Comey, he’d be impeached the next day,” Giuliani said. “Impeach him, and then you can do whatever you want to do to him.”

Norm Eisen, the White House ethics lawyer under President Barack Obama and now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said the silliness of Giuliani’s claim illustrates how mistaken Trump’s lawyers are about presidential power.

“A president could not be prosecuted for murder? Really?” he said. “It is one of many absurd positions that follow from their argument. It is self-evidently wrong.”

Eisen and other legal scholars have concluded that the constitution offers no blanket protection for a president from criminal prosecution. “The foundation of America is that no person is above the law,” he said. “A president can under extreme circumstances be indicted, but we’re facing extreme circumstances.”

Giuliani’s comments came a day after The New York Times revealed that Trump’s lawyers in January made their case to special counsel Robert Mueller that Trump could not possibly have obstructed justice because he has the ability to shut down any investigation at any time.

“He could, if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon if he so desired,” Jay Sekulow and John Dowd wrote in a 20-page letter. Dowd has since left Trump’s legal team, replaced by Giuliani.

The letter also admits that Trump “dictated” a statement that was then released by his son, Donald Trump Jr., regarding a meeting held at Trump Tower in June 2016 between top Trump campaign officials and Russians with links to that country’s spy agencies.

That meeting was scheduled after the Russians said they had damaging information about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton that would be of use to the Trump campaign. The Trump-dictated statement falsely claimed the meeting was primarily about the adoption of Russian children by American families ― the same topic that Trump claimed had been the substance of a conversation he had had with Russian leader Vladimir Putin the previous evening in Germany.

The U.S. intelligence community concluded during the 2016 campaign that not only was Russia interfering in the U.S. election, but was actively trying to help Trump win.

Both Sekulow and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders claimed, falsely, that Trump had not dictated the statement, but had merely offered his son suggestions. Sanders on Sunday referred questions about the matter to Trump’s outside legal team.

Giuliani said Sekulow was misinformed about the Trump Tower meeting, which in any case was not that significant. “In this investigation, the crimes are really silly,” he said, arguing that the firing of Comey last year could not be construed as obstruction of justice because Trump had the right to fire him at any time and for any reason. “This is pure harassment, engineered by the Democrats.”

Comey had been leading the FBI probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence until his dismissal, which led to the appointment of Mueller to take it over. Within two days of the firing, Trump told both NBC News and Russian officials visiting him in the Oval Office that he had done it because of the investigation.

Eisen said Giuliani’s assertion, taken to its logical conclusion, would mean that a mob boss under investigation by the FBI could give Trump a bribe to fire the FBI director, Trump could explain on television that he had done so “because of this Mafia thing,” and then not face criminal charges.

“Well, of course it would be appropriate to initiate a prosecution,” he said. “I think the legally correct answer is, as usual, the opposite of Giuliani’s answer.”

Giuliani, once the mayor of New York City and prior to that the U.S. attorney there, took charge of Trump’s outside legal team in April, saying then that he planned to wrap the whole thing up within a few weeks. Now he said he is not sure when it will end because Mueller is taking too long and not turning over material to Giuliani ― such as a report of what was learned from an FBI informant who made contact with several members of the Trump campaign with links to Russia.

Giuliani said he has so far met with Trump about 10 times and spoken to him on the phone another 40 or so times, totaling at least 75 hours of conversation. “I’m not billing by the hour, otherwise I could tell you exactly,” he joked about the case he has taken on for free.

Mueller’s investigation has so far resulted in the guilty pleas of five people, including three former Trump campaign staffers, and the indictment of 14 other people and three companies. That total includes 13 Russians, Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and the Internet Research Agency, a “troll farm” that was used to create and disseminate propaganda to help Trump win.

A related investigation by Giuliani’s former U.S. attorney’s office is examining the dealings of longtime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen. A former business partner has agreed to cooperate in that probe and plead to New York state charges.

[Huffington Post]

Why didn’t FBI, DOJ tell me agents were ‘secretly investigating’ Manafort?

President Trump on Sunday blasted the FBI and Department of Justice for not telling him that agents were “secretly investigating” his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, during the 2016 election.

“As only one of two people left who could become President, why wouldn’t the FBI or Department of ‘Justice’ have told me that they were secretly investigating Paul Manafort (on charges that were 10 years old and had been previously dropped) during my campaign?” Trump asked in a tweet.

He added that Manafort “came into the campaign very late and was with us for a short period of time,” but said the campaign “should have been told that Comey and the boys were doing a number on him, and he wouldn’t have been hired!”

Trump named Manafort head of his campaign in May 2016, but the businessman stepped down in August of that year after media reports of his dealings with the Ukrainian government emerged.

CNN reported last year that Manafort had been under FBI surveillance before and after the 2016 election. He reportedly became the central subject of a probe that began in 2014.

Manafort faces several charges as a result of special counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation, including tax fraud, bank fraud and money laundering. The charges largely relate to his work for Ukrainian politicians.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty to the charges. His business associate and former Trump campaign staffer Richard Gates reached a plea deal with Mueller’s team and has agreed to cooperate with the special counsel.

[The Hill]

Reality

First, at the time you weren’t the president.

Second, if your top guys including Manafort were meeting with Russian spies and some of Putin’s best friends, why didn’t you tell the FBI?

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