The midweek edition of the Morning Jolt is full of law and order — there’s a [Christopher] Wray of sunshine at the FBI, unnerving reports of friction at the Department of Justice, and a sign that James Comey’s testimony may not be as helpful to Democrats’ dreams of impeachment as they expected…
Can Trump Really Be Fed Up With Sessions After Just Four Months?
President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have had a series of heated exchanges in the last several weeks after Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe, a source close to Sessions told CNN Tuesday.
A senior administration official said that at one point, Sessions expressed he would be willing to resign if Trump no longer wanted him there.
Tuesday afternoon, White House press secretary Sean Spicer declined to say whether Trump has confidence in Sessions.
“I have not had a discussion with him about that,” Spicer said.
As of 9 p.m. ET Tuesday, the White House still was unable to say whether or not the President backs his attorney general, a White House official said. The official said they wanted to avoid a repeat of what happened when Kellyanne Conway said Trump had confidence in Flynn only to find out hours later that the national security adviser had been pushed out.
Remember that huge confirmation fight over Sessions? That was four months ago! What’s the point of going through all that trouble if Trump is going to get into a fight with his attorney general and want to get rid of him by June? Yesterday I mentioned that there are only three people nominated by Trump working in the Department of Justice. Do you think Trump will be better off with only two? And if Trump has this much friction with Sessions, one of his earliest and most enthusiastic supporters, who’s out there who he’s going to work with better?
If Trump did ditch Sessions, how long would it take for him to find a replacement?
Remember at the end of May, when communications director Mike Dubke resigned? Sean Spicer is filling that job and the press secretary job… but of course, we’ve heard a lot of rumors that Trump has contemplated firing Spicer, too.
Remember all the reports back in April that Trump was considering getting rid of both Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon?
There’s one argument of management that says you shouldn’t get rid of someone until you have a good plan to replace them or at least have someone else who can temporarily handle their duties.
Michael Dubke, the White House communications director, said he would step down, but four possible successors contacted by the White House declined to be considered, according to an associate of Mr. Trump who like others asked not to be identified discussing internal matters.
We discussed how Trump tweets out messages that directly contradict the arguments of his lawyers. He gave Spicer an hour’s warning about the decision to fire Comey. He didn’t even fire Comey face-to-face. He apparently fumes that his staff is “incompetent.”
Is it any wonder this White House is having a hard time attracting people?
Speaking of Comey…
Presuming James Comey’s testimony before Congress takes this course, doesn’t this take the steam out of the “impeach Trump over obstruction of justice” argument? Isn’t it safe to assume that the director of the FBI would recognize obstruction of justice when he saw it? What, are Democrats going to argue that Trump obstructed justice with Comey and the FBI director just didn’t notice?
There will be much in former FBI Director James Comey’s upcoming congressional testimony that will make the White House uncomfortable, but he will stop short of saying the president interfered with the agency’s probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, a source familiar with Comey’s thinking told ABC News.
Although Comey has told associates he will not accuse the president of obstructing justice, he will dispute the president’s contention that Comey told him three times he is not under investigation.
Well, duh. Did anyone actually believe that?
The president allegedly said he hoped Comey would drop the Flynn investigation, a request that concerned Comey enough that he documented the conversation in a memo shortly after speaking with the president. In the memo, according to sources close to Comey who reviewed it, Trump said: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” during a February meeting.
The request made Comey uncomfortable, but the source tells ABC News that Comey has told associates he will not accuse the president of obstructing justice.
It’s not particularly wise or comfortable for a president to say out loud to the FBI Director, I hope this doesn’t lead to a recommendation of an indictment. But it’s not quite criminal, either. As our Andy McCarthy, a former assistant U.S. attorney, observed:
In this instance, moreover, Trump’s exertion of pressure was relatively mild: He did not deny Comey the freedom to exercise his own judgment; the president expressed hope that Comey’s judgment would be exercised in Flynn’s favor. Any of us who has ever had an overbearing boss is familiar with this kind of prodding. It can be unpleasant, even anxiety-inducing. But Comey is a big boy, he has a history of not being intimidated by presidents, and what we’re talking about here is not exactly the rack.
This is no doubt why Comey did not resign, and did not report to the Justice Department, his FBI staff, or Congress, that he had witnessed – indeed, been the victim in a sense – of an obstruction of an FBI investigation…
McCarthy adds, “To constitute an obstruction offense, the administration of law has to be impeded with a corrupt state of mind. Your disagreement with an exercise of discretion does not turn it into corruption. It may be a lapse in judgment, even a serious lapse; but that doesn’t make it a crime.”
Then again, will that really matter to Congressional Democrats?