Morning Briefing: Well, That Backfired Spectacularly on the Republicans, Didn't It?
Let’s back up here: Congressional Republicans — particularly those on the far right, like Mark Meadows — have been trying for weeks to build a case against the “Deep State” and use it as a pretext to fire Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein (who, by the way, is a Republican who was appointed by Trump). I think they’re behind an effort to prosecute Andrew McCabe, and they want to prosecute James Comey and Hillary Clinton. (Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, and FBI General Counsel Dana Boente are also named as potential criminal targets because they signed the FISA letter that authorized the investigation of Carter Page).
Meanwhile, I think the idea behind asking for the Comey memos was that maybe they thought Rod Rosenstein would not provide them, and then Trump could fire him for refusing a Congressional subpoena. Or maybe they thought that the Comey memos revealed something that we didn’t already know that would give Trump an excuse to fire Rod Rosenstein.
Well, he released the memos, and the memos were immediately leaked to the press, and the memos reveal…? Mostly what we already know from James Comey’s testimony in front of Congress, although there are a few additional details, too, like the fact that Putin was the first person to call Trump to congratulate him after the election, but Michael Flynn didn’t tell Trump that until six days later (which infuriated Trump) and that Trump said Putin told him that Russia has the most “beautiful hookers in the world.”
MADDOW (about Comey's Feb. 8 meeting with Trump): He told you that he'd had a personal conversation with President Putin about hookers?— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) April 20, 2018
MADDOW: Did you believe him? Or did you think he was speaking hyperbolically?
COMEY: Didn't seem to be speaking hyperbolically.
Oh, and also that Trump, himself, didn’t trust Michael Flynn’s judgment.
WASHINGTON (AP) — AP sources: Trump fumed at former adviser Flynn over delayed return call to Russia's Putin.— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) April 20, 2018
This tweet is from this morning.
So General Michael Flynn’s life can be totally destroyed while Shadey James Comey can Leak and Lie and make lots of money from a third rate book (that should never have been written). Is that really the way life in America is supposed to work? I don’t think so!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 20, 2018
You can bet that this tweet was less about James Comey and more about trying to show Flynn that he’s looking out for him, or rather saying, “Please don’t testify against me, Mike!”
Anyway, the memos reinforced Trump’s obsession with the pee tape, and overall, do not paint a very flattering portrait of the President. After reading them, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes released a joint statement, and it is mind-boggling. From the Washington Post:
The memos “lay bare the notion that former Director Comey is not motivated by animus,” the lawmakers said. “He was willing to work for someone he deemed morally unsuited for office, capable of lying, requiring of personal loyalty, worthy of impeachment, and sharing the traits of a mob boss. Former Director Comey was willing to overlook all of the aforementioned characteristics in order to keep his job. In his eyes, the real crime was his own firing.”
That’s their response? That Donald Trump is a terrible person — a liar and worthy of impeachment — but that James Comey is the bad guy here because he continued to work for him? Uh, well: Here’s the thing, Nunes: Comey didn’t work for Donald Trump. He worked for the United States of America, and whatever else you want to say about James Comey, at least he’s honest. There is nothing in that statement to suggest that Comey was lying in the memos. The Republicans here seem to want to fault James Comey because he refused to give a loyalty assurance to the President.
Meanwhile, we also found out yesterday that Rod Rosenstein did give assurances to Trump over a week ago that he wasn’t currently a target of a criminal investigation, which might have bought himself and Mueller a little more time before Trump fires them. Trump, however, is apparently still itching to fire Rosenstein. To be honest, beyond the inevitable obstruction of justice charges, I don’t think the Mueller probe is that much about Trump. It’s about Russian interference, and there is plenty of evidence to show that members of Trump’s campaign may have colluded with the Russians, even if Trump himself didn’t.
Trump is far more worried about what the Michael Cohen raid can do to him, and firing Mueller and Rosenstein won’t help Trump there. That’s being taken up in New York, and if Michael Cohen has something on the President, he’s eventually going to rat him out because, um, as Trump’s divorce lawyer told CNN, Cohen doesn’t want to be a prison wife to a Black man (would he be OK with being a prison wife to a white guy?). This truly is the most bizarre statement in a month of bizarre statements.
Former Trump lawyer and surrogate says Cohen will flip because prison has “racial overtones” and Cohen doesn’t want to be a mans wife. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ pic.twitter.com/MywFNwCkXV— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) April 20, 2018
Meanwhile, Trump has also hired Rudy Giuliani to his legal team, ostensibly because Giuliani used to work with Mueller and has a relationship with him, and maybe Trump thinks that Giuliani will be able to get this whole thing sorted out in a few weeks. That’s not going to happen. Giuliani also has his own conflict here because, as James Comey told Rachel Maddow last night, he started an investigation against Giuliani, before he was fired, about the Hillary investigation — recall that Giuliani seemed to know about a lot of stuff going on at the FBI before anyone else during the campaign.
Anyway, what I’m saying is: Everything seems to continue to backfire against the GOP, and I suspect that if they do actually follow through and try and prosecute Andrew McCabe that things will come out of that criminal trial that won’t reflect well on the President or the GOP, either.
Comey going down gave us Mueller, a worthy sacrifice.— Denizcan James (@MrFilmkritik) April 20, 2018
In the same way Trump being elected will bring down the entire GOP.
We can hope?