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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Firing Comey: Motive and timing

Preet Bharara has tweeted: "EVERYONE who cares about independence & rule of law in America should be "troubled by the timing and reasoning" of Comey firing. Period." That's the topic I wish to address here and now: Timing and Reasoning.

In response to the Comey firing, Evan Osnos (of The New Yorker) asked an important question (retweeted by Rachel Maddow):
Serious question: Where are Comey’s files right now? Who controls them? After Nixon fired special prosecutor, office was sealed. Important.
To which Grant Stern of OccupyDemocrats responded:
Totally explains what I just heard through a 3rd party source about offices in the FBI being sealed.
On MSNBC and CNN earlier, everyone seemed stunned by the sudden nature of the Comey firing: The memos offering rationales were all dated March 9, and show every sign of being concocted hastily -- yet the incidents described in those memos are ancient news. Ostensibly, Comey had to go because he mishandled the Hillary Clinton email investigation, a "sin" committed months and months and months ago. Suddenly, what he did back then has become a big damned deal.

Or so the Trumpers want us to think. The stated reasons are clearly ersatz:
The Department of Justice was told to come up with justification to fire FBI Director James Comey, The New York Times and CNN reported Tuesday.

White House and Justice Department officials "had been working on building a case against [Comey] since at least last week," according to the Times, which cited administration officials. The report said Attorney General Jeff Sessions "had been charged with coming up with reasons to fire him."
This is akin to hanging the prisoner before anyone can come up with a charge.

Most observers think that this firing is really about Russia. Trump (who often blurts out more than he intends) has nearly confessed as much: In his "you're fired" letter, he brags that Comey has said "on three separate occasions that I am not under investigation." As one wit on DU noted, that remark gives us a classic "Don't think of an elephant" moment. Remember when Nixon said "I am not a crook"? From that moment on, everyone -- even Republicans -- started to see him as a crook.

Just minutes ago, Occupy Democrats reported that Trump is in fact the subject of an FBI investigation. This revelation apparently came about as a result of an FOIA request filed by Jason Leopold and an associate. Leopold asked to see FBI documents pertaining to Trump's infamous "Russia, if you're listening" remark, which shocked so many people during the campaign.
The FBI said originally that they could not confirm or deny the existence of said documents, but soon backtracked and agreed to search for the documents.

During the filing of this lawsuit, a Department of Justice attorney stated that there is an “’active, ongoing investigation’ pertaining to this matter and claimed that disclosing the ‘records that are responsive to the Russia Request’ could reasonably be expected to interfere with ‘enforcement proceedings.’”
Fascinating stuff -- although skeptics still have room to argue that this response does not necessarily indicate that Trump himself is under investigation.

We do know that Trump's associates are under investigation.

We also know that, in a criminal conspiracy case, smaller fry are often pressured to rat out larger fry. The likeliest to crack is Michael Flynn. The latest from CNN:
Federal prosecutors have issued grand jury subpoenas to associates of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn seeking business records, as part of the ongoing probe of Russian meddling in last year's election, according to people familiar with the matter. CNN learned of the subpoenas hours before President Donald Trump fired FBI director James Comey.

The subpoenas represent the first sign of a significant escalation of activity in the FBI's broader investigation begun last July into possible ties between Trump campaign associates and Russia.
Claude Taylor had said much the same thing days before; people who doubted his credibility 48 hours ago won't be so quick to scoff now. Not too long ago, Taylor tweeted: "A source with knowledge of the investigation says that nine sealed indictments came down in one case with sixteen more expected in others."

Speaking of possible indictments: In the video embedded above, Keith Olbermann lays out an important new revelation. A very credible source reports that both Donald and Eric Trump bragged about receiving $100 million "from Russia" in 2014, which the Trumps were investing in golf courses at a time when no reputable bank would loan money for that purpose.

Those "following the money" should also check out the Rachel Maddow segment embedded below.

A few teevee pundits has speculated that Trump will choose Rudy Giuliani as the new FBI head. The Palmer Report says that Rudy suddenly showed up at Trump's hotel in DC.

The Nixon Library offered a classic diss: "FUN FACT: President Nixon never fired the Director of the FBI." Here's another fun fact: Tomorrow, Donald Trump meets personally with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. You may recall that his name came up in the Steele Dossier.

Politico reports that Trump had a screaming meltdown just before the firing:
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.
Politico also reports that the chief instigator of the Comey firing was none other than Roger Stone -- the political dirty trickster who got his start during the days of Watergate.
While shock dominated much of the FBI and the White House, the mood was more elated at Roger Stone's house in Florida. 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.

On Twitter, Stone signaled praise for the move by posting an image of Trump from The Apprentice saying "You're fired."
Stone's twitter responses have been stupefying. Get this:
What Comey did to Hillary was disgraceful. I'm glad Trump fired him over it.
When I first read this tweet, my jaw hit the floor with a loud CLONK, as in a Tex Avery cartoon. Roger Stone didn't exactly leap to Hillary's defense at the time -- in fact, he was calling her a witch and circulating the loopiest anti-Hillary conspiracy theories ever to dupe the gullible. Also see here. This site offers an interesting argument that Roger Stone invented Pizzagate. (Before you say it: Yes, I know that the link goes to a disreputable anti-Semitic conspiracy blog. The Stone claim intrigues me nonetheless.)

Stone also tweeted the "church" photo reproduced above. Nobody will ever refer to Roger Stone as a Goliath in stature, although he is certainly a philistine.

Let's talk timing. I was gobsmacked to learn that Comey got the bad news while giving a speech in California; at first, he thought that the TV headlines were an elaborate prank. Cable news covered his exit motorcade as though he were OJ in the Bronco. On reflection, I could understand why Trump decided to pounce while the FBI Director was out of town.

Recall what Grant Stern said: "Totally explains what I just heard through a 3rd party source about offices in the FBI being sealed."

Curt Gentry's J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets -- the most respected of the Hoover bios --contains a fascinating (and well-sourced) account of the scramble for Hoover's blackmail files immediately after he joined the Choir Invisible. I suspect that a similar scramble is going on right now.

Added historical note: One very likely repository for the Hoover files was the Blue Ridge Club overlooking Harper's Ferry -- a hangout for spooks loyal to James Jesus Angleton. Senate investigators hoped to visit this club and make a personal inspection, but just before they showed up, the whole place burned to the ground in a mysterious fire. (The remains of that building may still be visible; the grounds are owned by something called the Adventure Center.)

Incidentally, the Harvard Crimson reported that the Ervin Committee heard testimony indicating that Hoover's heart attack was induced by a "poison of the thiophosphate genre." They played rough in those days.

It's a head fake.

I was wondering why former Senator Sessions would allow Trump to fire Comey knowing it would bring up memories of Nixon. And it's because of what you said about US and UK spooks getting Trump elected. Now that Comey is fired it's going to be "all Russia" all the time and Congressional investigations are going to show no collusion between Trump and Russia like they've been saying all along...because that's what Louise Mensch et al legitimize the fascist government of Donald Trump.
You can pick up a lot from conservative radio. There was a big long rant on a conservative radio show that Comey took the law into his own hands when he dismissed charges against Hillary Clinton. That Comey should have indicted Hillary Clinton. The timing was pretty suspicious considering less than 48 hours later Comey was fired.
I've been pondering the question of who should conduct an investigation. I'm leaning towards a military lawyer. Those guys take their oath seriously. They have been fearless in defending people. They make me proud to be a lawyer, especially in the face of people like Jefferson Beauregard Sessions and Lura Canary and their ilk. Does anyone else have an opinion on this?
Why is Daily Howler on your bloglist? He's a Trumpet.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, James Rothwell, supposedly taking Trump's letter apart, says that Trump "refers directly" in it to the Russia investigation.

Rothwell should learn to distinguish between fact and interpretation.

Trump writes that "While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation (...)". He makes no direct reference to the Russia investigation.

Why assume all three occasions were to do with Russia? What happened to the fraud allegations against the Trump Foundation (for collecting money claiming to be a registered charity when it wasn't) in the state of New York, for example?
Anonymous 6:48 First, pick a nym. It's still anonymous and it makes it easier to converse.

Second, Daily Howler has always had a unique POV, which makes for better reading, by far, than tribal bubble pablum of any stripe. I think you're mistaken and need to re-read Daily Howler from a non-tribal POV.

Third, if Joseph drops anything, which he has no pressing need to do, I beg, emphasis BEG, he drop UBERMANN. If we need to revisit a disgusting male pig who called for Hillary's death on air, which makes him more disgusting to me than Woody Allen and Bill Cosby combined, let us have videos of Roger Stone or Rand Paul or Bernie Sanders on a regular basis instead.

This confused me for a while:

"The memos offering rationales were all dated March 9...."

Um, May 9.
The entire Russia Trump probe is fraud. It wasnt Putin that manipulated the elections. IT WAS THE MEDIA THAT TRIED TO MANIPULATE THE ELECTIONS. I even found an another blog post on the internet that has evidence the media was trying to control the elections.
Maybe its time to investigate the political ties of the media.
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