Trump: “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job.”
Developments on Day 120 of the Trump Administration:
Trump to Russian Foreign Minister: I Fired Crazy Comey and Relieved Pressure Over Investigation
Donald Trump bragged to visiting high-level Russian officials about dismissing FBI Director James Comey, expressing his belief that it would limit the investigation into links between Trump associates and Moscow.
According to the official White House account of the meeting, Trump said to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak:
I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.
Trump added, “I’m not under investigation.”
The document was read to The New York Times buy a current US officials.
Trump’s meeting with the Russians on May 10, a day after he fired Comey, was already controversial because of the President’s revelation of classified intelligence to the visitors. Trump exposed an Israeli operation which had infiltrated the Islamic State in the Syrian city of Raqqa, as he boasted, “I have intel. Great intel.”
But the latest revelation adds to the possible investigation of Trump for obstruction of justice. Earlier this week, associates of Comey revealed Trump’s request to the FBI Director in mid-February to halt the inquiry into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s contacts with Russian officials, including Kislyak.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer did not deny the existence of the summary of the meeting, instead disparaging Comey:
By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia’s actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia.
The investigation would have always continued, and obviously, the termination of Comey would not have ended it. Once again, the real story is that our national security has been undermined by the leaking of private and highly classified conversations.
A “government official briefed on the meeting” tried to defend Trump, claiming the comments about Comey’s firing and the “great pressure” on the President were a negotiating tactic to get concessions from the Russians.
However, Trump’s labelling of Comey as a “nut job” matches his private comments. As he fumed for more than a week before firing Comey, he told aides that there was “something wrong” with the FBI director.
Trump: Firing Flynn Was Mistake
Despite the escalating attention to Michael Flynn in the Trump-Russia investigation and other political controversies, Donald Trump believes the dismissal of the National Security Advisor was a mistake, according to current officials.
Two days after belatedly firing Flynn over contacts with the Russian Ambassador, Trump told several aides and friends he should have retained the advisor. That statement came a day after Trump asked FBI Director James Comey to halt any investigation of Flynn.
“I was kind of stunned,” one official said. “I asked him. You fired him already. What are you going to do?”
Trump has continued to tell aides and associates in private that Flynn is a “good man”, even as assistants such as White House Counsel Don McGahn have reminded the President of the Russia investigation and other problems, such as Flynn’s consulting work for the Turkish Government.
“A lot of people in the White House don’t want anything to do with Flynn,” one White House official said. ”But Trump loves him. He thinks everyone is out to get him.”
Report: Flynn, Beholden to Turkish Money, Blocked US Support of Kurdish Offensive in Syria
A report claims that Trump advisor Michael Flynn, who had received $530,000 from Turkey the previous year, blocked a US plan to support an offensive led by a Syrian Kurdish militia against the Islamic State inside Syria.
McClatchy claims that on January 10, ten days before Donald Trump’s inauguration, Flynn objected to the plan in a conversation with President Barack Obama’s National Security Advisor, Susan Rice.
Obama’s national security team had decided to ask for Trump’s sign-off, since the offensive would be pursued under his Presidency. But Flynn told Rice to hold off any initiative, a position that reflected Ankara’s opposition to any campaign by the Syrian Democratic Forces, led by the Syrian Kurdish militia YPG.
Turkey considers the YPG as part of the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK.
It is not known whether Flynn consulted anyone else in the Trump transition before giving his opinion.
Weeks after Flynn resigned as National Security Advisor, over his contacts with Russian officials, the Trump Administration shifted position. The offensive was approved, US special forces and airstrikes provided assistance, and Trump formally approved US arms supplies to the YPG.
Flynn’s consulting firm was paid by Turkish interests for work under a contract that ended in November 2016.
Defense Secretary James Mattis and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, denied the report in a press conference on Friday.
Prosecutors Challenge Sessions Over Hard-Line Shift On Drug Cases
Thirty current and former state and local prosecutors challenge Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ instructions to “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense” and follow mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines in drug cases.
In a letter released Friday by Fair and Just Prosecution, the prosecutors say the directive “marks an unnecessary and unfortunate return to past ‘tough on crime’ practices” that will do more harm than good in their communities:
The increased use of mandatory minimum sentences will necessarily expand the federal prison population and inflate federal spending on incarceration. There is a human cost as well. Instead of providing people who commit low-level drug offenses or who are struggling with mental illness with treatment, support and rehabilitation programs, the policy will subject them to decades of incarceration. In essence, the Attorney General has reinvigorated the failed “war on drugs,” which is why groups ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union to the Cato Institute to Right on Crime have all criticized the newly announced policy.
The signatories said that, even though Sessions’ instructions are not binding on local prosecutors, it is essential to highlight the cost of the approach if it is pursued.