Trump repeats false statement, “Everybody’s convinced: They say there is no collusion….We had nothing to do with Russia.”
Developments on Day 114 of the Trump Administration:
Trump Insists “No Collusion” With Russia
Pushing back against the furor over his firing of FBI Director James Comey and facing an expanding Trump-Russia inquiry, Donald Trump repeats misleading statements.
In the friendly confines of an interview with Fox News’s Jeanine Pirro — who hailed “a man I have known almost 30 years” — Trump insisted, “Everybody’s convinced: They say there is no collusion. There is no collusion. We had nothing to do with Russia.”
The statement repeated the distortions of the White House, put out for months, that legislators and former Obama Administration officials have concluded there is no evidence of links between Trump’s associates and Russian officials.
In fact, Comey was fired in part because of his confirmation to a Congressional committee, made on March 20, that the FBI is investigating “coordination” between the Trump campaign and Russia. Outside the Trump Administration, no senior official or member of Congress has issued the “no collusion” conclusion.
On Friday the office of GOP Senator Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, bluntly rejected that he supported Trump’s line that “the notion there’s collusion is a hoax”. Denials were also issued by the spokesman for the leading Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Dianne Feinstein, and the offices of Richard Burr and Mark Warner, the GOP chairman and Democratic ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, often incorrectly cited by Trump supporters, clarified that he had never ruled out collusion. Instead, he said that he would not have seen any of the evidence, under protocols followed by the FBI as they enquired into the Trump-Russia links.
Trump also continued to rewrite the history of Comey’s dismissal, a day after he threatened the FBI Director with “tapes” if Comey spoke out about the incident.
Trump said he had considered firing Comey ever since his inauguration — a statement belied by the President’s enthusiastic reception of the FBI Director, to the point of blowing him a kiss in late January — and gave a rambling defense against “hypocrites”.
He continued to denounce Comey — “He gave Hillary Clinton a free pass….What he did was unbelievable” — and insisted, “I want to get to the bottom if Russia or anybody is trying to tamper or play with our election.”
But Trump indicated that the focus of any investigation should be whether “Russia or anybody else” hacked US computers for political leverage in the 2016 election — even though American intelligence agencies have assessed that Moscow is responsible — and a question such as why the Democratic National Committee did not initially allow the FBI access to its servers.
Asked by Pirro whether he asked Comey for personal loyalty at a January 27 dinner, Trump responded:
No, I didn’t, but I don’t think it would be a bad question to ask. I think loyalty to the country, loyalty to the US, is important. You know, it depends on how you define loyalty, Number 1; Number 2, I don’t know how it got out there because I didn’t ask that question.
The President, caught up in a possible admission of a secret White House taping system — an arrangement which was part of Richard Nixon’s downfall in 1974 — said again, “I can’t talk about that”. The same line was used repeatedly by White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Friday, hours after the Trump tweet threatening Comey.
In a lengthy stream-of-consciousness answer, Trump tried to hold up his “winning” with a trade deal with China — the negotiations for which were begun and overseen by the Obama Administration — and the House of Representatives’ eventual passage of a bill to repeal ObamaCare, a measure unlikely to be adopted by the Senate in its current form.
Pirro pulled him back, “But Mr President, your agenda is not getting out because people are caught up with the Comey issue”, and raised the contradictory statements from the the White House.
Railing against the “fake media”, Trump again suggested that he might end White House press briefings; “I actually said we shouldn’t have them.”
Instead Trump said he would distribute statements “through a piece of paper with a perfectly accurate, beautiful answer”. Later he said that he might hold press conferences himself “every two weeks”.
Trump Finds Safe Zone at Liberty University
Momentarily escaping Washington, Trump spoke in the security of Virginia’s Liberty University, an institution founded by evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Sr.
Introduced by Jerry Falwell Jr., a prominent backer, Trump — who has been religiously observant and has been criticized for his profanity and aggressive attitude towards women — invoked God and patriotism — as he projected his own defiance of critics.
“Never, ever, ever give up,” said Trump, as he railed against a “small failing group” in Washington and told the graduates that they should never let anyone tell them they are not right:
A small group of failed voices who think they know everything, and understand everyone, want to tell everybody else how to live and what to do and how to think. But you aren’t going to let other people tell you what you believe.
About 80% of white evangelical voters backed Trump in last November’s election.
Trump Staff Interview 8 Candidates to Replace Comey
Attorney General Jeff Sessions — despite recusing himself from the Trump-Russia inquiry — and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein interviewed eight candidates to replace Comey on Saturday.
Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe was interviewed, even though — in testimony to a Senate committee on Wednesday — he contradicted the White House’s declaration that Comey did not have the confidence of FBI agents.
Sessions and Rosenstein also spoke to Senator John Cornyn of Texas, a fervent backer of Trump, and former Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan, an ex-FBI agent who served as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. On Saturday, he was endorsed by the FBI Agents Association, which represents more than 13,000 active and retired agents.
Two other candidates are judges with backgrounds as prosecutors in Republican administrations: Michael Garcia of the Court of Appeals in New York and Henry Hudson of the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Two were in the George W. Bush Administration — Alice Fisher as head of the criminal division of the Justice Department and Frances Townsend as a homeland security adviser to Mr. Bush.
Adam Lee, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Richmond, Virginia division, is also under consideration.
Tillerson Defends Comey Dismissal
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson defends Comey’s dismissal and the approach of Donald Trump to his officials, “I have to earn his confidence every day”:
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) May 13, 2017
ACLU Files Request for Info on Trump’s “Voter Fraud” Claims
The American Civil Liberties Union files a Freedom of Information Act request demanding any facts supporting Donald Trump’s claim that the 2016 Presidential election was affected by voter fraud.
Trump, who lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton, has claimed without evidence that up to 5 million votes were cast illegally.
On Thursday, Trump signed an executive order establishing an “election integrity” commission to investigate. The commission will be chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as vice chair.
Last year Kobach led implementation of the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, which critics say disproportionately purged young, black, Hispanic, and Asian-American voters who are more likely to vote Democrat.
Kobach has been sued four times for voter suppression.
“Resist!” Protest on Trump Golf Course
About 200 protesters send a message to Donald Trump on his golf course in Rancho Palos Verdes, California: