Comey memos renew questions over Trump's behavior

If House Republicans thought they were helping President Donald Trump by forcing ...

Posted: Apr 20, 2018 11:21 AM
Updated: Apr 20, 2018 11:22 AM

If House Republicans thought they were helping President Donald Trump by forcing the release of James Comey's memos, they might want to think again.

The documents written by the then-FBI director, detailing his interactions with Trump, present a contemporaneous and deeply unflattering view of a President throwing his weight around in his first days in the White House -- that at the very least seems highly inappropriate.

Only special counsel Robert Mueller can decide whether the stunning accounts of conversations in which the President got the then-FBI director alone in the White House and leaned on him amount to obstruction of justice.

The Comey memos suggest Trump has a scattershot and self-obsessed mindset, brooding about his subordinates, leaks, his campaign and his inaugural crowd size and not appreciating or caring about protocol boundaries that separate the White House and the Justice Department.

Furthermore, the conversations with Comey soon after Trump moved into the White House paint a picture of a new President more concerned with own fortunes than the burden of his new responsibilities.

CNN obtained the documents, which offer a staggering insider account, after they were sent to Congress by the Justice Department on Thursday in response to requests from three GOP House committee chairmen on Capitol Hill.

Trump responded to the release of the memos in a tweet just before midnight Thursday that appeared to be an attempt to direct conversation away from the embarrassing substance of the documents.

"James Comey Memos just out and show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION. Also, he leaked classified information. WOW! Will the Witch Hunt continue?" Trump wrote.

'I am aghast'

It's possible that the House committee chairmen wanted the memos released to undercut Comey's current book tour and to weaken the Mueller probe.

If that was the case it has backfired.

"Honestly, I am aghast that they thought this was going to be helpful to the President and undermine Comey, therefore the FBI, therefore special counsel Mueller," Jack Quinn, a former counsel to President Bill Clinton, said Thursday on CNN.

"I can't get over the fact that they made this calculation. I am sure the President is not going to be sitting up tonight writing thank you letters to them," he said.

If anything, the memos appeared to bolster the credibility of Comey -- given their exhaustive detail. Comey will be a key witness in the question of whether Trump obstructed justice by firing him.

But it was also unclear whether they showed a clear intention on the part of the President to obstruct justice. Politically, they seem unlikely to shift entrenched perceptions of Trump among his supporters and critics.

"It doesn't seem like there is very much new in there," Kevin Madden, a Republican strategist, told CNN's Don Lemon on Thursday night, also finding nothing likely to change the trajectory of the special counsel investigation.

The documents will also renew attention on the odd relationship between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

That's because while noting Trump's denial about notorious allegations that he watched prostitutes engage in lewd behavior in a Moscow hotel, they include a bizarre comment by the President about an undated conversation with Putin.

"The President said the 'hookers thing' is nonsense but that Putin had told him 'we have some of the most beautiful hookers in the world' (He did not say when Putin had told him this)," Comey wrote.

Trump has vehemently denied the allegation about the prostitutes and it has not been publicly authenticated by US intelligence agencies or news organizations.

There will also be renewed debate about Trump's own judgment in personnel matters since Comey writes that he confessed to serious reservations about his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who was fired shortly afterward.

Those questions could extend to former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, whose inquiry to Comey about Flynn showed an apparent disregard in the White House for the firewall between the FBI and the executive office of the president.

Comey writes that the then-chief of staff asked him if the FBI had a secret court surveillance order on Flynn.

The FBI director answered the question -- but also rebuked Priebus, saying it was "the kind of question that had to be asked and answered through established channels."

Return of Giuliani

The documents overshadowed an attempt by Trump to bust out of the deepening morass caused by the Russia investigation and his other legal woes.

Trump's big move Thursday was to recruit a new big-time adviser: former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

It's a wonder it took this long. Like the President, Giuliani is a tough talking New Yorker who relishes a fight and proved his loyalty as a lone voice defending Trump when the "Access Hollywood" tape rocked the 2016 campaign.

He fits Trump's template in that he's a master at mixing it up on cable television and will not hang back if required to lacerate the President's enemies.

Even so, Giuliani struck an almost conciliatory note Thursday, suggesting that his acquaintance with Mueller could help him "negotiate" an end to the Russia investigation.

He later told CNN's Dana Bash that he would ask Mueller for a list of what was needed to "comply" with the rest of the investigation as soon as he can -- a process he thought could take a "couple of weeks."

Giuliani's arrival, after he was passed over as Trump's secretary of state and attorney general at the start of the administration, raises a number of questions.

First, his history with Trump, matching personality and political experience suggest that he may have as good a chance as anyone at getting his advice to stick with the President. There have been clear signs in recent weeks that Trump has been acting as his own lawyer, with mixed results.

"If Rudy is the guy that the President will listen to, will keep confidences, will establish a proper attorney-client relationship, then that potentially should be useful to him," said Carrie Cordero, former counsel to the US assistant attorney general for national security, told CNN's Erin Burnett.

Giuliani's legal acumen was proven by a renowned spell as the US attorney for the Southern District of New York before he ran for mayor. But there must be some risk that his love of the limelight could grate on the President over time, a lesson many Trump aides have had to learn.

However, the former New York mayor's apparent plan to leverage his history with Mueller to speed the end of the investigation seems highly optimistic, given the special counsel's by-the-book style.

"I don't know that it changes the dynamic in any way. The idea that he is going to cause by force of personality, or resume, or anything else Bob Mueller to go away in the course of two weeks doesn't seem very realistic to me," Preet Bharara, who was fired as the Southern District's attorney by Trump, said on CNN.

Trump, who has been searching for white collar representation for weeks, also bolstered his legal team with the husband and wife duo of Jane Serene Raskin and Marty Raskin, who are criminal defense attorneys from Florida.

Cohen factor

The President was, meanwhile, consumed by the fallout from the FBI's raid last week on Michael Cohen, his personal lawyer, a source told CNN's Jeff Zeleny.

Another former Trump attorney, Jay Goldberg, told CNN on Thursday night that he was concerned Cohen will lie to prosecutors to get leniency on his own charges.

Goldberg told CNN's Gloria Borger on Wednesday that he had warned Trump in a call last Friday that Cohen could end up cooperating with prosecutors.

"Anybody who is facing 30 years never stands up," Goldberg says he told the President. "Without exception, a person facing a prison term cooperates."

Trump's concern with the plight of Cohen, who has been his personal fixer for years and intimately understands his web of business interests, raises the question of whether the President thinks that his lawyer committed a crime.

There was a semblance of good news for Trump, though, as Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein informed him he was not a target of the Cohen sweep, a source familiar with the matter told CNN's Jim Acosta.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 118587

Reported Deaths: 3310
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds8050179
DeSoto728580
Harrison549185
Jackson480088
Rankin404686
Madison386194
Lee366582
Forrest311878
Jones296684
Washington2627100
Lafayette255043
Lauderdale2546135
Lamar231940
Oktibbeha204855
Bolivar203979
Neshoba1868111
Lowndes181962
Panola172040
Leflore170688
Sunflower164349
Warren156156
Monroe153873
Pontotoc150620
Marshall148430
Lincoln143359
Pike140656
Copiah139336
Scott127029
Coahoma125837
Union125825
Yazoo123434
Simpson123149
Grenada122939
Tate121039
Itawamba117226
Leake116342
Pearl River116360
Holmes115060
Adams109445
Prentiss109220
Alcorn104512
Wayne102722
George101719
Covington98829
Marion95943
Tippah94924
Newton87227
Hancock86828
Chickasaw86727
Tallahatchie85526
Winston85221
Tishomingo82741
Attala80527
Clarke77053
Clay71022
Jasper69617
Walthall64427
Calhoun63313
Noxubee60217
Smith60216
Yalobusha56416
Montgomery55823
Lawrence54414
Claiborne53916
Tunica53717
Perry52423
Carroll50312
Stone49114
Greene48118
Humphreys45117
Amite42813
Quitman4236
Jefferson Davis42112
Webster37813
Benton36710
Wilkinson34221
Kemper33315
Sharkey28715
Jefferson27910
Franklin2513
Choctaw2096
Issaquena1074
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 161537

Reported Deaths: 2718
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson23769383
Mobile17039318
Tuscaloosa10539141
Montgomery10435199
Madison946798
Shelby756365
Baldwin674369
Lee662465
Calhoun468962
Marshall445251
Etowah436552
Morgan426335
Houston421234
DeKalb351229
Elmore326558
St. Clair307042
Limestone295131
Walker285593
Talladega273937
Cullman260025
Lauderdale237143
Jackson221917
Autauga210331
Colbert208232
Franklin207732
Blount198825
Russell19763
Chilton190932
Dallas188127
Coffee182611
Dale180852
Covington176729
Escambia175331
Clarke138017
Chambers137047
Pike135514
Tallapoosa135387
Marion110331
Barbour10459
Marengo103522
Butler101541
Winston94313
Geneva9357
Lawrence87733
Pickens87418
Bibb85615
Randolph84316
Hale78030
Cherokee76114
Clay75812
Washington75412
Henry7286
Lowndes71728
Monroe66010
Bullock65017
Crenshaw61130
Perry5966
Fayette59413
Cleburne5779
Wilcox57112
Conecuh56513
Macon54120
Lamar5165
Sumter47721
Choctaw39412
Greene34616
Coosa2143
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