Trump acts quickly after FBI Director Comey asked for more resources for Trump-Russia inquiry
Developments on Day 111 of the Trump Administration:
Trump Dismissed Comey As Trump-Russia Enquiry Expanded
Evidence mounts that Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey because the agency’s enquiry expanded into links between Trump’s associates and Russian officials.
Days before Tuesday’s snap dismissal, Comey asked the Justice Department for more prosecutors and other personnel to step up investigation. He also requested daily rather than weekly updates on progress.
Four congressional officials confirmed Comey’s approach to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the official who wrote the memo justifying Trump’s removal of the FBI director.
Comey, who has testified twice before the House Intelligence Committee, was scheduled to appear at the first hearings of the Senate counterpart on Thursday. After Tuesday’s developments, Committee chairman Richard Burr, a Republican, and Democratic vice-chairman Mark Warner invited Mr. Comey to testify in a closed session.
The Senate committee also issued its first subpoena on Wednesday, ordering Michael T. Flynn — the former National Security Advisor belatedly removed over phone conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak — to hand over records of any e-mails, phone calls, meetings and financial dealings with Russians.
Former Acting Attorney Sally Yates testified earlier this week that Flynn’s discussions with Kislyak, on the same day that then-President Barack Obama added sanctions on Moscow because of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, left the Trump Administration vulnerable to Russian blackmail. Despite her warnings at the time, Flynn was left in his post — while Yates was dismissed from hers — for more than two weeks.
On Tuesday, the Senate committee asked government bureau that tracks money laundering and terrorism financing for leads in the Russian investigation.
Sarah Isgur Flores, the Justice Department spokeswoman, insisted that “the idea that [Comey] asked for more funding” for the Russia inquiry was “totally false”.
But the congressional officials explained that the Senate Intelligence Committee learned of Comey’s request on Monday when Burr and Warner asked the FBI director to meet with them, seeking acceleration of the bureau’s investigation so they could press forward with theirs.
Comey said he had made the request because he believed the Justice Department had not dedicated enough resources to the investigation.
“People close to the White House” said an increasingly agitated Trump consulted few people in the 48 hours leading up to the letter dismissing Comey, concluding that the FBI Director “was his own man” and could not be trusted.
A “longtime friend who talked to the President over the weekend” said Trump was “white hot”.
“Several people familiar with the decision” said Trump was increasingly frustrated at Comey after the FBI Director, testifying last Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he was “mildly nauseous” over the idea that he helped sway the election with the announcement of a renewed investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mails.
Even the passage of a bill to repeal ObamaCare in the House of Representatives, at the third attempt, could not divert Trump as he spent the weekend at his golf complex in New Jersey.
“He wouldn’t hear it [that he should be encouraged],” a friend said. “It’s Russia. Russia. Trump and Russia.”
On Monday morning, Trump told Vice President Pence and senior aides — including Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, chief strategist Steve Bannon, and White House counsel Don McGahn that he was ready to fire Comey. The President then summoned Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and told them to set out the case against Comey in writing.
Rosenstein threatened to resign after the White House narrative on Tuesday evening was that he pressed the decision to fire Comey and Trump acted only on his recommendation, said a “person close to the White House”.
Multiple FBI officials spoke of anger with the unanticipated “gut punch” and of a determination to press ahead with the Trump-Russia investigation.
Trump “essentially declared war on a lot of people at the FBI,” one official said. “I think there will be a concerted effort to respond over time in kind.”
TOP PHOTO: Donald Trump hosts Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak on Wednesday
Russia’s Photographs Coup in White House Meeting with Trump
Russia’s PR success leads the story of a Wednesday meeting with Donald Trump in the White House.
On the same day that controversy expanded over the Trump-Russia inquiry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak — under investigation for his role in the Trump-Russia affair — smiled with Trump in the Oval Office.
Little information was given about the session, which included the situations in Ukraine and Syria, leaving a photographer with the Russia State outlet TASS to grab headlines with images of the three men chatting and laughing.
No US press were allowed into the session.
Former US intelligence officials expressed concern over a potential security breach with the presence of the TASS photographer, citing the danger that a listening device or other surveillance equipment could have been brought into the Oval Office.
The White House played down the danger, saying that the photographer and his equipment went “through the same screening as a member of the U.S. press going through the main gate to the briefing room”.
But former intelligence officials noted that standard screening for White House visitors would not necessarily detect a sophisticated espionage device.
“We were not informed by the Russians that their official photographer was dual-hatted and would be releasing the photographs on the state news agency,” an administration official said.
The official said the White House was misled about the role of the photographer, whom Russian outlets described as Lavrov’s official photographer without disclosing the TASS connection.
After the meetings with the President and with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Lavrov praised Trump and his advisors:
At present, our dialogue is not as politicized as it used to be during Obama’s presidency. The Trump administration, the President himself, and the Secretary of State are people of action who are willing to negotiate.
Health Secretary Commends West Virginia Police for Arresting Journalist Who Shouted Questions
Health Secretary Tom Price on Wednesday praises police in West Virginia for “doing what they thought was appropriate” in arresting a journalist who shouted questions at him.
Daniel Ralph Heyman, a reporter for the independent Public News Service, was arrested and charged with the misdemeanor offense willful disruption of governmental processes. Police in West Virginia’s Capitol building said he was “aggressively” trying to get past Secret Service agents as he yelled at Price.
Asked Wednesday if he thought Heyman should have been arrested, Price said, “That’s not my decision to make.”
The journalist said he tried to ask the Health Secretary whether domestic violence would be considered a preexisting condition under the Trump administration’s proposed health care overhaul. He was later released on $5,000 bond.