Thursday, April 19, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He vouched for the Comey memos.

From the start of his working relationship with then-President-elect Trump, then-FBI Director James Comey took notes on his meetings with Trump. Congressional Republicans requested these memos, which were delivered today. They were almost immediately leaked to the press.

Trump's reaction was predictable, but also obviously a lie. He immediately tweeted that the memos "show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION."

Even assuming the FBI had already uncovered evidence that Trump was conspiring with the Russian attempts to throw the election to him, there would have been no reason for Comey to record that in the memos--which were descriptions of his own conversations with Trump. And much of what Trump did that smells like obstruction of justice started with his firing of Comey--which happened after the memos were written.

In effect, Trump is declaring that because he did not explicitly confess to crimes against the United States, Comey's memos exonerate him.

If and when he reads them more carefully, Trump may come to regret admitting that the memos are truthful and reliable. They also contain references to:
  • compliments that Trump paid to Comey for his "honorable" behavior during the election
  • the "derog[atory]" information Russia potentially had on Trump related to prostitutes
  • Trump's unprompted comments about "strippers" he had met
  • Trump's suggestion that "other people" wanted and could be given Comey's job
  • Trump's request for Comey's "loyalty"
  • Trump's questioning of the loyalty of Andrew McCabe (Comey's immediate successor who Trump subsequently fired)
  • Trump bringing up "the golden showers thing" unprompted
  • Trump becoming outraged when learning that he had missed Vladimir Putin's call of congratulations after the inauguration
  • the "serious judgment issues" that Trump said Michael Flynn had
  • Trump's claim that Vladimir Putin had boasted of the great beauty of Russian prostitutes in a conversation with him
  • Trump's belief that reporters should be jailed for publishing material leaked from his administration
  • Trump's repeated requests for reassurance that the FBI was not investigating him
  • Trump's demand to know if Michael Flynn had been the subject of a wiretap
  • Reince Priebus's efforts on Trump's behalf to see if there were any crime that Hillary Clinton could be charged with
  • Trump's need to be reassured that he was handling Vladimir Putin correctly
  • the fact that Trump was careful to make sure there were no witnesses for his conversations with Comey about Flynn
  • Trump's inability to understand why the FBI shouldn't talk publicly about how it conducts investigations
  • Trump's request that Comey stop investigating Flynn altogether
  • Trump's anger that the FBI couldn't help him in the political arena
  • Trump's anxiousness that the FBI declare he was not under investigation
  • Trump telling Comey that he was doing a "very good job" shortly before firing him.

Why does this matter?

  • Presidents are not above the law.
  • The only real explanation for Trump's reaction is that he didn't read the memos, or trusts that his supporters won't.