Trump ends his dumb suspense building by saying he has no tapes

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Tapes? What tapes? I don’t have any tapes? You have tapes? I have no idea about any “tapes.”

After weeks of being noncommittal regarding the existence of secret recordings of Trump’s conversations with fired FBI Director James Comey, Donald Trump finally admits that he has no “tapes.” He tweeted today, in two sequential tweets:

With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea…

…whether there are “tapes” or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings.”

–@realDonaldTrump, 22 Jun 2017

Sooo…okay. That’s it? To be fair, Trump never actually said that he had “tapes”; he tweeted on May 12 that Comey “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” which, ironically, was the impetus for Comey to “leak” to the press.

Unlike most of Trump’s other, unfiltered tweets, this one was reviewed by his legal counsel before it was posted. You can kind of get a sense of that if you notice all the qualifications in the tweet:

With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea…whether there are “tapes” or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, which I take to mean, there might actually be recordings.

and

I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings, and you should mentally add but maybe someone else made tapes and still has them.

At this point, I don’t really think there are recordings, but Trump’s tweet, when you get around the legal acrobatics, sort of leaves it open that there might be. It’s a dumb non-statement statement and I guess is good enough to put an end to what the New York Times called “one of the capital’s least suspenseful mysteries.”

If recordings do exist, they likely are more damaging to Trump than to Comey. If you’ll remember, Comey said that during his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee that he hoped that there were recordings because it would corroborate his testimony. So the existence of recordings would not be a good thing for Trump.

But Trump has worked himself into a legal catch-22 here because if there really aren’t any recordings, and it appears there may not be, that would mean that Trump was bluffing. And why bluff? It’s an intimidation tactic. Trump biographer Tim O’Brien, whom Trump tried to sue over his book TrumpNation: The Art of Being The Donald, has expressed that Trump had tried to use this tactic against him and had to admit, under oath, that he actually had not been taping conversations with O’Brien. This is bad for Trump because if Trump indeed has no recordings of conversations with Comey it gives the appearance that Trump was intentionally trying to intimidate Comey. Otherwise why would Trump even mention that Comey “better hope that there are no ‘tapes'” out there? I think we are getting very close to obstruction of justice charges here.

As for why it took so long for Trump to spill the beans on whether recordings exist, I’m betting the White House was spending the past few weeks in what-the-fuck-do-we-do-now mode. But I’m still not quite convinced that there aren’t recordings.

I’m not sure exactly what I’m embarrassed about more: the fact that our President and the White House are so crooked, or the fact that they’re so bad at it.

Geez, out with it already. Either there are tapes or there aren’t.

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It’s so freaking stupid. The President of the United States of America threatens former-FBI Director James Comey with the tweet,”James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” which is funny because this actually prompted a leak. So naturally, now everyone wants to know if there are tapes, to which Trump simply responds, “I’ll tell you about it over a very short period of time…You’re going to be very disappointed when you hear the answer, don’t worry.” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer then made a non-statement saying, “The President made clear in the Rose Garden last week he’ll have an announcement shortly,” and said that an announcement will be made “when the President’s ready to make it.” But why such deliberation?

The recordings (or “tapes,” as Trump called them) either exist or they do not. Some speculate that the reason, as Chris Cillizza of CNN writes, “Because everything Trump does is viewed as a performance. It’s always about leaving the audience wanting more, making sure they tune into the next episode.” But I think the only possible reason Trump would have to delay the answer to this simple question is that he hasn’t a clue on how to handle this situation. Whether or not the tapes exist, Trump comes out looking bad.

If the tapes exist, they likely corroborate Comey’s account of his interactions with Trump. Trump’s Twitter-threat was stupid because what would Comey have to be afraid of if the tapes were released? Obviously nothing. He testified that he hoped there were tapes (“lordy” he hopes!”). Trump’s threat was illogical, but I suspect that he didn’t realize that because he didn’t realize who he was dealing with. He probably thought the bully games and intimidation tactics of his real estate days would fly in Washington, and that was a rookie mistake. So, if the tapes exist, what to do with them? Keep them? Destroy them? Decisions, decisions…

If they tapes don’t exist, that makes Trump look like a chump. A cheap, empty threat from a weak, insecure man. This might be likely. Trump has used this tactic before. But he should have known that sooner or later there would be demands for the tapes.

There you go, two options and both require the Trump administration to lose their shit and make ridiculous excuses for delaying their answer to a very straightforward question. The tapes either exist or they don’t. Actually, however bad it would be for Trump if the tapes do exist, it might be better than if there were no tapes, because who’s going to believe him if he says there are none?

Trump lies like the animal that died on his head

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Trump Googling “How to destroy secret tapes.”

Like nearly 9 million other viewers, I saw James Comey’s public testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday morning. It was what I expected it would be, following Comey’s pre-released opening statements, but also included some surprises, like the fact that Comey asked a friend to release contents of memo Comey wrote detailing an interaction with Donald Trump with the hope that it would initiate a special counsel. That, I thought, was very smart and really showed Comey’s savvy.

I disagreed with Comey’s fight with Apple last year regarding the San Bernardino iPhone thing, and I thought Comey’s actions regarding the Hillary Clinton email investigation during the 2016 election year was puzzling, but I never doubted Comey’s integrity. Nor did I doubt Comey’s political neutrality, regarding either Clinton or Trump. All in all, I think he’s a good guy who is often placed in extremely difficult positions. I think many probably think this way of Comey.

Amazingly, Trump was silent on Twitter yesterday. I don’t know how he or his aides managed that, but he was true to form today, saying stupid stuff live and on Twitter. Following Comey’s testimony, Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc E. Kasowitz (who, by the way, has clients with Kremlin ties, just sayin’), made the statement that Trump feels “totally vindicated” simply because Comey made the statement that Trump was not under investigation at that time (I’m betting he is now, though), but then basically called Comey a liar on the other stuff. Trump basically said the same today during a during a press conference today with Romania’s President Klaus Werner Iohannis.

In fact, when asked if he would be willing to give his version of events under oath, Mr Trump replied, “100 per cent.” This is interesting because he basically called Comey a liar (in matters that were derogatory to Trump); that is, he accused Comey of breaking the law, lying under oath. He said, “I didn’t say that,” regarding Comey’s statement that Trump asked for personal loyalty. So who is the liar, Comey or Trump? Who are you going to believe? In matters of integrity there is no contest. On the one hand, we have a well-respected former AG and former FBI Director. On the other we have…Trump. Check out his Four-Pinocchio ratings, in one place. Trump wasn’t under oath during the press conference; he can say whatever he wants. No one has any reason to believe him. Trump volunteering to speak under oath is just silly. He will sooner or later, like it or not. And chances are, if history is any indication, he won’t be very good at it.

Of course, a lot of this “he said/he said” could be resolved if “tapes” between Trump and Comey actually do exist. If you recall, Trump (in)famously Tweet-threatened Comey with the existence of “tapes.” Comey said in his testimony, “Lordy, I hope there are tapes.” Kind of makes Comey far more believable than Trump, if you ask me. The White House hasn’t been answering questions on whether or not tapes exist, and when asked about the existence of recordings at the press conference Trump said that he would reveal if there are any tapes “over a fairly short period of time,” and added, “Oh, you’re going to be very disappointed when you hear the answer, don’t worry.” Huh. So we’ll find out soon, like when Trump promised a revelation regarding Russian hacking and it never came? Or when he said he’d release his tax returns after his audit is complete, but then says “maybe” he’ll release them after he leaves office? Like that?

Anyway, how long does it take to simply answer the question, “Do recordings exist?” Does the White House not know? Of course they know. They either do or do not exist, and I’d bet, considering Trump’s practices in the past, that they do exist, and their reluctance to produce them is because they place Trump at a disadvantage. Maybe they’re just trying to decide whose fireplace to burn them in.

This is happening, folks. The Trump administration is past the point of no return. I don’t have a clue how it will all turn out, but I don’t think it’s going to be pretty for Trump. Whether or not the GOP has the balls to impeach one of their own is another matter to consider, but if they continue to support this train wreck then it makes them look pretty sad as well. Of course, as Philip Bump at the Washington Post points out, Trump may be telling the truth. I mean, it’s possible, right? But how likely is that? Trump lies. It’s what he does. But he won’t be able to hide behind them for long.

Comey testifies tomorrow; Trump’s sons are a couple of dicks

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“Heh, yeah. We’re dicks.”

Opening statements were released ahead of tomorrow’s testimony by James Comey. I’ve decided not to analyze it too much since the main deal is happening tomorrow, but even without thinking about it too much it’s a striking read. Almost unbelievably, Trump’s lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, said that the president “feels completely and totally vindicated,” referring to the portion of the statement in which Comey says that Trump himself is not under investigation. But, oh, there are so many other damning ethical problems brought to light in the statement. If Trump wasn’t under investigation, he may well be soon. Tomorrow is going to be a big daytime TV day. I’m going to keep my expectations low, in that I never expect “smoking guns” in big deals like this. But I am willing to bet Comey’s testimony will be significant.

In the meantime, let’s not forget that other newly created branch of the government: the Trump Organization branch, headed by Patrick Bateman School of Economics graduates and Trump offspring Donald Jr. and Eric Trump. There have been several news items of interest lately that reaffirm my general opinion that the Trumps and their businesses are morally bankrupt.

How Donald Trump Shifted Kids-Cancer Charity Money Into His Business, in which Eric Trump’s annual charity golf tournament doubles as a revenue stream for Trump family businesses. This article will appear in the June 29, 2017 issue of Forbes.

Trump Failing to Track Foreign Cash at His Hotels
Donald Trump pledged to donate hotel profits from foreign sources back to the government, but it’s hard to do that when his organization can’t be bothered to keep track of those profits. Interestingly, we now know that President Trump’s hotel received $270,000 from Saudi Arabia. Will the US Government ever see that donation? Who the fuck knows.

Eric Trump: Democrats in Washington are ‘not even people’
Oh, that’s nice. Jews weren’t people to the Nazis, nor were enemies to the Imperial Japanese during World War II. Dehumanizing ain’t cool, asshole. That’s even worse than Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” statement.

Okay, that’s enough. I can only handle so much Trump family news before I get physically ill. I’d like to kick Junior and Eric in the nuts, but I don’t think they have any.

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe: Trump to pick new FBI director

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This is Trump’s thinking face.

Right now, Trump is trying to pick a new head of the FBI. The time span from the recommendation to fire Comey from Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein (just 14 days after Rosenstein got the job, by the way), to AG Jeff Sessions’ letter to the President to the termination letter from Trump was a matter of mere hours. A fast review process, right? Later, Trump claimed that he “was going to fire regardless of recommendation,” which begs the question, “Why hasn’t he already determined a replacement?”

I realize that this assumes the attribution of an unreasonable amount of logic to Trump and his administration, but if it were me I would have figured out who I wanted in before I kick the current guy out. I also realize that I may be misunderstanding how things work in the Den of Crooks. Trump has said that he wants to make a fast decision and may even have one by next week. I suppose that might be considered fast, but I also find it hard to believe that if Trump already have it in mind to fire Comey that he didn’t already have a replacement in mind. But who knows what’s going on anymore. Maybe he did already have someone in mind. But my impression is that Comey’s firing was less a calculated decision than a knee-jerk one made by an insecure and spoiled brat of a president.

While Trump claimed that he was firing Comey because Comey was doing a “not doing a good job,” the more obvious motivation has the appearance of attempting to undermine the FBI investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia. By many accounts, Comey was well-liked in the FBI and although he encountered criticism in the 2016 election year I don’t think anyone really thought that he wasn’t doing a good job. For Trump to remove the head of the FBI while he is investigating Trump (even though Trump made it a point, for some reason, to say that Comey told him he wasn’t under investigation), and even if the intended purpose of the firing was to intervene in the investigation, seems like a pretty bone-headed move. Of course that’s going to look suspicious.

The firing of Comey may have been due to a question of loyalty, as some stories suggest, when Comey declined to pledge personal loyalty to Trump in favor of loyalty to the Constitution.  I think it likely that the firing of Comey was due to a combination of the two, and that it was less a calculated decision by Trump and more a result of pure id and insecurity. The fact that they have no replacement in mind kind of points to that. Trump pulls a “you’re fired” on Comey and now what?
Although I suspect this is the part Trump likes best. He gets to relive his “Apprentice” days.

Whether the firing of Comey was a calculated decision from a political mastermind (I think not) or the result of Trump just being a dick (ie., being Trump), the investigation of Trump’s ties to Russia has been interfered with, and in probably the most obvious and least effective way. The investigation must now intensify. That’s the only thing that makes sense. While some solid choices for FBI director have been proposed, I have this sick feeling in my gut that the one we’ll get is the one that will benefit Trump the most.

Could the firing of Comey be the beginning of the end for Trump?

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Even before Trump was inaugurated, some have been floating around the idea of impeaching him, mostly on the basis of his conflicts of interest. Of course, impeaching Trump would be a difficult task. It’s not an easy thing to impeach any president, and maybe near impossible with a Republican majority in both the House and the Senate. But when Trump complains about attacks against his administration he has only himself to blame. He keeps handing out ammunition for those attacks. The firing of then FBI Director James Comey on May 9 might mark the beginning of the end for Trump. At the very least, I don’t see how Trump can gracefully recover from this event and fulfill the rest of his term with any sort of credibility.

James Comey has of late become a controversial figure, due to his involvement in the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email usage during the 2016 election year. Earlier in the year he got in a fight with Apple over unlocking an encrypted iPhone used in the San Bernardino shootings. But I’m not sure anything he’s done was worthy of an early termination of a ten-year term as Director of the FBI.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, speaking for the White House, has tried to make the case that Comey had lost confidence among the rank-and-file in the FBI, but this was contradicted by Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who said, “Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day,” during testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. He added that serving alongside Comey was the “greatest privilege of his career,” and that the “the vast majority of employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection to director Comey” and that it would be “not accurate” to say otherwise. I think that McCabe, being in the FBI, would know the climate of the FBI better than Huckabee Sanders.

Trump said Comey was “not doing a good job,” and called him a “showboat” and a “grandstander,” labels that Comey’s supporters say are not accurate characterizations of him. Trump initially said he based the firing on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s recommendation, but later claimed that he planned to fire him from the beginning.

The timing of Comey’s termination, I don’t have to tell anyone, is suspect. If Trump wants to get past the investigation of his ties to Russia, it’s not a good idea to publicly fire the person in charge of that investigation. In fact, it is reported that Comey requested additional resources for the investigation shortly before his termination. More recent stories indicate that Trump’s motivation to fire may have been due to a question of loyalty. That is, Trump wanted personal loyalty from Comey, as any tyrant would, and Comey, the quintessential G-Man, replied that Trump would have his “honesty,” the last thing that Trump wants.

Whatever Trump’s actual motivation was for firing Comey, doing so has incurred backlash and suspicion from both sides of the political aisle. Even though the president has the authority to fire a Director of the FBI for any or no reason, this was probably the worst possible time for Trump to do so (but no one ever accused Trump of being sensible). Firing Comey at the time he did, and in the manner in which he did, casts a suspicion over his administration from which I don’t see a probable recovery. Sure, maybe Trump was just being a dick and wanted Comey out…but it sure looks more likely that he was trying to intervene in the investigation of his ties to Russia.

Jimmy Gurulé at CNN raises an interesting question: could Trump have obstructed justice? Gurulé explains:

Most obstruction of justice charges are filed under the omnibus clauses of 18 U.S.C. § 1503 and § 1505, where the government must prove that: (1) the defendant acted with “corrupt” intent (in this case, intent to interfere with or thwart the investigation); (2) the defendant endeavored to interfere with a pending judicial proceeding; (3) there was a sufficient “nexus” between the defendant’s actions and the pending proceeding (the actions were likely to affect the judicial proceedings); and (4) the defendant acted with knowledge that the judicial proceedings were pending. Further, and most critically in this case, the defendant need not actually obstruct the pending judicial proceeding, but only “endeavor” to do so.

…If you read the law and compare it to the events unfolding, it seems the actions of Donald Trump and his administration meet some of the required criteria.

But Trump’s intent with firing Comey would need to be proven. While it’s too early in  this chapter for me to form a well-rounded opinion on the feasibility of this, it seems easier to work with than baroque regulations regarding conflicts of interest. This is a matter that will be pursued by people much smarter than I, but I can’t imagine how the Trump administration is going to get around this. If Trump wants to cast off this pall of suspicion he’s going to have to do something fucking miraculous, like cure cancer or something.

As it is, the Trump administration is looking like a sinking ship and it’s because both captain and crew are idiots. While I don’t think that Comey deserved to be fired, there are some good things that can come of this. One, there is another angle now from which to argue for impeachment. Two, Comey’s firing will probably place enormous scrutiny on the investigation into ties with Russsia and whomever is picked to be the next FBI Director. And three, maybe now those in congress who have gamely gone along with Trump will finally wake up and see that Trump is this sinking ship’s Commander Queeg.

FBI Director James Comey fired by Trump; Comey was the last to know.

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FBI Director James Comey is now former FBI Director James Comey. In a surprising move, Trump fired Comey yesterday.

Comey, if you will recall, pissed off a lot of Republicans last summer when he concluded the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email servers by saying that there will be no criminal charges recommended against Clinton, and then he pissed off Democrats by announcing shortly before the 2016 election that the investigation into Clinton’s emails would be re-opened, a move that many Democrats feel cost Clinton the election. Strangely enough, these are some of the reasons cited by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, in his letter recommending Comey’s termination. Trump’s termination letter and the recommendations from Rosenstein and Jeff Sessions can be read here.

Of course, this is suspicious because Comey has acknowledged that the FBI is investigating Trump’s ties to Russia.

This smells fishy. In fact, it stinks. It seems odd that the reasons they are citing for Comey’s termination have to do with his handling of the Clinton investigation and they waited until now to address the issue. Apparently, neither Trump nor Sessions spent too much time making their decisions after Rosenstein’s recommendation since all three letters are dated May 9, 2017. Terminating Comey at this time throws a monkey wrench into the Russia probe and it will be interesting to see how they spin this.

That is a big issue right there, but another thing that bothers me a lot is the way in which Comey was dismissed. According to CNN:

Comey learned of his dismissal from televisions tuned to the news, as he was addressing the workforce at the FBI office in Los Angeles, law enforcement sources said. The source said he made a joke about it to lighten the mood and called his office to get confirmation.

So the guy learned of his firing from TV news. Classy.

I didn’t always agree with Comey’s judgement. I thought his fight with Apple over unlocking an iPhone involved in the San Bernardino shootings was stupid and misguided. I found his actions during the 2016 election year regarding the Clinton email investigation bizarre. But I, for one, never actually felt that his choices were politically motivated. My impression of him, despite my disagreement with his methods, was that he was a sincere guy in a tough spot trying to do his job the best he can. And remember: Comey was the guy that stood up to the Bush administration’s illegal surveillance program in 2004.

By most accounts known to me, Comey, while not perfect (who is?) is a man of integrity. You’d think that the least Trump could have done would be to fire him in private and save the guy some embarrassment. But no. Trump didn’t have the balls to fire him in person. Instead Comey had to find out he got fired from the TV, and in front of subordinates no less. Whatever one thinks of Comey’s actions during the 2016 election, he didn’t deserve to get fired like that.

It’s obvious to me that Comey’s dismissal is another move to disrupt the investigation of Trump’s ties to Russia. And the way Trump fired him is just another example of how much of a dick he is.

EDITED TO ADD:

A tweet from Edward Snowden:

This FBI Director has sought for years to jail me on account of my political activities. If I can oppose his firing, so can you.

@Snowden, 9 May 2017

Word.