Quick Takes on James Comey Testimony (updated)

> Steve Vladeck, professor of law at the University of Texas School of Law, co-editor-in-chief of Just Security and co-host of the National Security Law Podcast: “A few hours after former FBI director James B. Comey finished testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, President Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, suggested that Comey had violated the law. By causing memos about conversations between Trump and Comey to become public, Comey had committed an “unauthorized disclosure of privileged information,” Kasowitz claimed.” Trump’s lawyer says Comey violated executive privilege. He’s wrong. “On a day characterized by hubris remarkable even for Washington, the blatant wrongheadedness of this “privilege” claim still stands out. In fact, executive privilege almost certainly does not cover the Comey memo. And even if it did, disclosing it without authorization isn’t illegal.”

> Matt Zapotosky, Washington Post: Comey’s sharing of notes about Trump doesn’t make him a criminal, analysts say: Prosecutors who bring charges against people for sharing information with the public can do so only when classified or other national security material is at issue. Material cannot be classified to conceal legal violations or prevent embarrassment, according to an executive order from President Barack Obama. Telling a reporter nonclassified information of public interest is not only legal, but it’s often the right thing to do.

> Phillip Bump, Washington Post:There’s no indication Comey violated the law. Trump may be about to. By threatening James Comey, Trump’s lawyer may be violating whistleblower retaliation rules.

> Norman Eisen, chief White House ethics lawyer for President Barack Obama, and a co-founder and the chairman of CREW, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington; and Noah Bookbinder, executive director of CREW and a former federal corruption prosecutor. Comey’s Case for Obstruction of Justice: “Mr. Comey’s sworn statement and answers before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee now provide strong evidence that President Trump committed obstruction of justice.” “But strong initial evidence is not the same as a slam-dunk case, and Mr. Comey’s testimony also made clear how far we have to go before the question is definitively resolved.”

> Phillip Allen Locavara, served as counsel to Watergate special prosecutors Archibald Cox and Leon Jaworski: I helped prosecute Watergate. Comey’s statement is sufficient evidence for an obstruction of justice case. “Comey’s statement lays out a case against the president that consists of a tidy pattern, beginning with the demand for loyalty, the threat to terminate Comey’s job, the repeated requests to turn off the investigation into Flynn and the final infliction of career punishment for failing to succumb to the president’s requests, all followed by the president’s own concession about his motive. Any experienced prosecutor would see these facts as establishing a prima facie case of obstruction of justice.”

> Charlie Savage, New York Times: Comey’s Testimony Sharpens Focus on Questions of Obstruction: “If one believes James B. Comey’s account of his encounters with President Trump, it could present a prosecutable case of obstruction of justice, several former prosecutors said Thursday. But they also cautioned that little is normal about this situation.

Also in response to the bullshit proffered by Senator Jim Risch (R-ID) that “no one had ever been prosecuted for obstruction of justice based on saying, “I hope”:

In fact, there have been several cases showing it is possible to obstruct justice using those words. In a 2008 case involving a man who had pleaded guilty to bank robbery, the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, in St. Louis, upheld a judge’s decision to impose a longer sentence because the man had also obstructed justice by telling his girlfriend, a potential witness, “I hope and pray to God you didn’t say anything about a weapon.”

“We have examples all the time in criminal law of people saying things only slightly subtly, where everyone understands what is meant — ‘Nice pair of legs you got there; shame if something happened to them,’” said Samuel W. Buell, a former federal prosecutor who led the Enron task force and now teaches white-collar criminal law at Duke University.

> Mike DeBonis, Washington Post: GOP’s emerging Trump defense: A naif in the Oval Office “While playing up Trump’s naivete is currently one strain of his political defense, legal analysts said it could also be a kernel of a criminal defense. It could be at least a somewhat viable defense to suggest that Trump, who has no direct experience in government or law enforcement, merely didn’t know any better when he was interacting with Comey.”

> Greg Sargent, Washington Post: Every Republican who claims Trump is a political “naif” who needs to “learn the rules” is full of [sh]it. Here’s the proof.
The latest Republican defense of Trump is built on a massive lie.

> S.V. Date, Huffington Post: GOP’s New Defense of Trump: The Guy’s A Toddler, He Doesn’t Know Any Better: “Republicans attempting to explain President Donald Trump’s behavior appear to be trying out a novel approach: He ought not to be blamed for his mistakes because he doesn’t know any better.” “He’s new at government and so, therefore, I think that he’s learning as he goes,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told reporters Thursday, explaining how Trump could have thought it was OK to lean on the FBI director to drop a criminal investigation. Call it the toddler defense. Trump cannot be expected to understand appropriate behavior for a president because he is a businessman, not a politician, and is still only learning.

Note: So the GOP is going with the lack of mental capacity to form the mens rea of intent for the crime to defend Trump? Shouldn’t this be the very reason for removing this dangerously incompetent infantile man-baby from office immediately, either by the 25th Amendment or impeachment? The GOP is actually making the case for removal from office for incompetency.

> Jamelle Bouie, Slate: In denying President Trump’s abuse of power, Republicans have chosen party over country. Who Needs Rule of Law?:

In an ideal world, or at least a more functional one, lawmakers on both sides would see and treat this as a crisis that demands resolution, lest it corrode American democracy.

But that’s not what we have. Just one of our two parties is interested in checking this president’s abuse. The other, the Republican Party, is indifferent, content to tolerate Trump’s misconduct as long as it doesn’t interrupt or interfere with its political agenda. What defined Thursday’s hearing, in fact, was the degree to which Republicans downplayed obvious examples of bad—potentially illegal—behavior and sought to exonerate Trump rather than grapple with Comey’s damning allegations about the president.

* * *

Congress is tasked with executive oversight. Congress is supposed to intervene when presidents and their officials violate laws, norms, and standards of conduct. Instead, virtually the entire Republican Party is running interference on behalf of a president who, by his own account, fired the FBI director in order to block the investigation into Russia and protect his friends and associates. Congressional Republicans have taken, essentially, a “see no evil” position on actions that in any other circumstance they would view as illegal. For Republicans, it seems, rule of law is less important than partisan loyalty.

* * *

Americans face two major crises, each feeding into the other. Republicans aren’t bound to partisan loyalty. They can choose country over party, rule of law over ideology. But they won’t, and the rest of us will pay for it.

> Tom Toles, Washington Post: As the GOP ties itself to Trump, we need to make sure they are the ties that bind:

Only one outcome for President Trump will satisfy the preservation of a representative democracy: his removal from office.

* * *

Which brings us to the members of the Republican Party. They are making their choice right now, and they are choosing loyalty to Trump over loyalty to the American people and their basic expectation of accountability in government. Most matters of politics and government fall into a gray area of some kind. Trump doesn’t.

The Republican Party is aligning full strength with the most openly corrupt and corrupting president in anyone’s lifetime. And just as Trump must eventually be held accountable for his presidency, now so too must members of the Republican Party. They are making their bed.

This is not really a surprise, as the GOP has made it abundantly clear that it is happy to degrade any semblance of honesty when it comes to governing fundamentals such as voting rights, gerrymandering unrepresentative districts, the effects of unlimited campaign money, realistic budgeting, science — in particular, climate science — and its relentless pursuit of its unchanging principal priority, which is to shift the balance of wealth in this country to a sliver of ever-richer and more powerful oligarchs.

In this sense, Trump has merely become the fittingly grotesque face of this party. But in a more important sense, the GOP has now become the party of Donald Trump, and as such it has asked to be judged. Republicans are now active co-conspirators, unindicted or not.

Toles is right, it’s not just Trump, it’s the entire Republican Party.

UPDATE: But of course … is there anyone in Trump’s orbit who does not have ties to the Kremlin? Trump’s lawyer in Russia probe has clients with Kremlin ties:

Marc E. Kasowitz’s clients include Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who is close to President Vladimir Putin and has done business with Trump’s former campaign manager. Kasowitz also represents Sberbank, Russia’s largest state-owned bank, U.S. court records show.

Kasowitz has represented one of Deripaska’s companies for years in a civil lawsuit in New York and was scheduled to argue on the company’s behalf May 25, two days after news broke that Trump had hired him, court records show.

18 responses to “Quick Takes on James Comey Testimony (updated)

  1. For Sure Not Tom

    Trump runs around town asking people if he’s being investigated, and asking people to say he’s not being investigated, and asking people to stop investigating.

    What an odd thing for someone who hasn’t done anything illegal to do.

    There is clear evidence that Trump is guilty of abuse of power and obstruction of justice, and the GOP is complicit, because they are doing nothing.

    This should be a surprise to no one, the Trump family are grifters going back decades.

    I believe Comey over Traitor45.

    And the right wing trolls around here, the same trolls who were against Trump a year ago, are suddenly All In For Trump.

    What a surprise.

    The GOP is complicit and treasonous, and they own this.

    • “There is clear evidence that Trump is guilty of abuse of power and obstruction of justice, and the GOP is complicit, because they are doing nothing.”

      When you make a statement like that, dear Tom, you have to expect that someone is going to ask “What clear evidence” is there? So far, there is zip. If you don’t have specific evidence, Tom, then you have nothing. Oh, and your opinion and inferences does not count as “evidence”.

      “This should be a surprise to no one, the Trump family are grifters going back decades.”

      “And the the sins of the Father shall be visited upon the Son”. You certainly assign a lot of blame on Trump for what you think his Father and Grandfather did. That is a pretty heavy burden burden for anyone to carry…

      “And the right wing trolls around here, the same trolls who were against Trump a year ago, are suddenly All In For Trump.”

      I think I am one of those trolls to which you refer, because I reluctantly voted for Trump because he wasn’t Hillary. I have slowly come to appreciate Trump because I like much of what he has been trying to do. However, I am not all in for him yet. He still embarasses me from time to time, and I wish he would keep his mouth shut more often than not, but his philosophies on many subjects are quite palatable to me. On other subjects, not so much.

    • John Huppenthal

      What was the treasonous act? A junior high school phishing prank, a $1.95 special that only a moron could fall for, one that you say brought down a $1.1 billion dollar campaign.

      The $1.95 phishing trick brought out the truth, that Hillary was surrounded by bigoted morons. That was not treasonous, that was a good thing for this nation. Pursuit and achievement of the good, pursuit and achievement of the truth is never treasonous. No matter who was doing it.

      • For Sure Not Tom

        Oddly dismissive of criminal behavior. Good to know that’s how our “law and order” party leaders feel.

        I work in IT, jerk face, and phishing is not a prank, it’s a billion dollar a year problem.

        As a lawmaker, you fail.

  2. Sen. John Kavanagh

    Let’s not overlook Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz’s opinion that no crime was committed by Trump. A little balance is always nice and when the source is AZBM, much needed.

    Go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJ15ymETv-s

    • For Sure Not Tom

      Sorry, sport, on the one hand Trump says Comey is lying, then on the other hand says Comey exonerates him.

      Which is it? Is Comey lying or not? You can’t have it both ways.

      And between a realtor/reality TV game show host, and an FBI guy, I think I’ll believe the FBI guy.

      Trump lied about executive privilege, there is none in this case, this is not open to debate. He didn’t “allow” Comey to testify, he couldn’t stop it.

      And Trump lied that Comey is a “leaker”. It’s not leaking if it’s not classified or privileged information. This is not open to debate, either.

      Your leader is a con man, you should be more worried about it, but for some reason you are not.

      • Senator John Kavanagh

        Glad you are not disputing that Trump broke no laws on obstructing.

        • For Sure Not Tom

          You have some law enforcement background, right?

          If I were to threaten someone via my Twitter account, would that be something? You know, intimidating a witness or something?

          Have you seen Trump’s Twitter tweets about Comey? Is threatening a witness kinda’ like obstruction of justice?

          Aside from the threat, there’s also the last tweet accusing Comey of perjury.

          Is that a crime? Can I accuse people of crimes on Twitter? Is that something John Kavanagh can get behind?

          If you would take the time to watch Comey’s testimony and read his statement, you’ll realize that Comey set the table for Mueller.

          Your draft dodging lipstick and makeup wearing clown of a leader is his own worst enemy. Eventually, even the GOP cowards like Paul Ryan will have to give it up.

          You’re on the wrong side of this.

          • “If you would take the time to watch Comey’s testimony and read his statement, you’ll realize that Comey set the table for Mueller.”

            It is going to be interesting when Mueller concludes his investigation and he determines that Trump did nothing wrong. Especially if nothing else shows up on the other people being investigated, as well.

        • For Sure Not Tom

          Here, let Judge Napolitano explain it. He’s one of yours.

          He says the case for obstruction is there.

          http://media.crooksandliars.com/2017/06/36468.mp4_high.mp4

    • AZ BlueMeanie

      As I said to our other troll, if you want to cite Harvard Law professors, you are better off going with constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe who actually knows what he is talking about and says his friend Alan Dershowitz, a criminal defense attorney whose client O.J. Simpson is still looking for Nicole’s killer, is wrong. For President Trump, Abuse Of Power Could Be As Bad As Obstruction. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QVkCio9VNk

      • Sen. John Kavanagh

        Criminal law lawyers deal with obstruction of justice cases, not constitutionsl ones.

        • AZ BlueMeanie

          Way to avoid the abuse of power claim. Besides, Dershowitz has been excusing Republican behavior for years, that’s why he is a regular on FOX News. He is a celebrity hound seeking an audience. He lacks credibility.

          • “He lacks credibility.”

            Let’s be honest, AzBM: Whenever someone speaks out and favors the right, you find them lacking in credibility. Whether the subject is climate change, military actions, American history, Islam and Christianity, or legal opinions, you come up with some bogus rationale, based on your biased opinion, to declare them “without status”. You totally ignore the fact that all the reasons you discount the opinions of those who support the right are the same things your leftist supporters are guilty of.

  3. “In an ideal world, or at least a more functional one, lawmakers on both sides would see and treat this as a crisis that demands resolution, lest it corrode American democracy.”

    In an ideal world, lawmakers on both sides would set aside politics ad pass legislation that was actually good for the Nation and not just for their party and chosen constituency. And THAT is the problem. Niether party will set aside the desire for power and control. The democrats couldn’t give a rat’s patootee about the corrosion of American democracy. The are trying desperately to make something out of this issue that will hurt Trump. Ideally, they would like to see him removed from Office. Failing that, they will settle with hurting him bad enough to make his time in office miserable for him and accomplishing nothing from his agenda.

    “Toles is right, it’s not just Trump, its the entire Republican Party.”

    Of course it is, and anything that gives an advantage to the democrats can only help the cause of democracy and the Nation, right? It isn’t just another excuse for why people should turn their hopes dreams and lives over to the gentle machinations of the democrat party, is it? Puh-leeze!!! Were situations reversed, the democrats would form such a solid wall around thier President, regardless of what he/she did, that you would NEVER hear anyone speculate about “How many Republicans actually support the President?” as we hear about Trump constantly. The democrats have never turned from any behavior of it’s members – based on the outpouring of support for past Senators and Representatives caught in crimes – and I certainly don’t see them turning away from a President just because he/she might break the law.

    “Congress is tasked with executive oversight. Congress is supposed to intervene when presidents and their officials violate laws, norms, and standards of conduct.”

    The democrats have never stood against a democrat for anything that democrat did. The only concern they have here is using this manufactured crisis to gain power back. Their “concern” about democracy is a smoke screen.

  4. long take on comey testimony. No collusion between trump and russia on 2016 campaign. I have said this all along. comey also said ny times wash. post and cnn lied that fbi had evidence of trump russian collusion. (fake news and phony sources) the intercept just outed a real source. ms. winner. now without skipping a beat media has dropped collusion and now pushing obstruction of justice with their trained seals. alan dershiwitz laughed and pointed out why it couldn’t be and hasn’t been back on the show sense! let see how far azbm can run with I hope! you sure do hope! maybe more phoney ny times and wash post fake news stories

    • AZ BlueMeanie

      You know trollboy, you can repeat this nonsense all you want, it doesn’t make it true. In fact, you are misrepresenting Comey’s testimony, but I am sure you are too ignorant to know this, and you certainly don’t care. David Cay Johnston breaks down what Comey actually testified to, “But Donald Trump IS Under Investigation” https://www.dcreport.org/2017/06/09/but-donald-trump-is-under-investigation/

      “Comey testified under oath (emphasis added): “…it was technically true, we did not have a counterintelligence file case open on then-President-elect Trump.”

      * * *

      Comey also made clear that while it is technically true that Trump was not the subject of a counterintelligence investigation, that could change in an instant. He said one top aide did not buy the technicality argument.

      “[T]his person’s view was, inevitably, his [Trump’s] behavior, his conduct will fall within the scope of that work. And so, he was reluctant to make the statement that I made. I disagreed. I thought it was fair to say what was literally true: There is not a counterintelligence investigation of Mr. Trump. And I decided, in the moment, to say it, given the nature of our conversation.”

      That’s not vindication. That’s an investigation closing in from a ring of subordinates to the man at the center of the action.”

      And in Comey’s written statement, he made clear that he would not publicly “lift the cloud over” Donald Trump because this would “create a duty to correct” should circumstances change, as Comey did with Hillary Clinton shortly before election day.

      Despite your FOX News talking points that Trump is exonerated by Comey’s testimony, this is not at all what Comey said.

      If you want to cite Harvard Law professors, you are better off going with constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe who actually knows what he is talking about and says his friend Alan Dershowitz, a criminal defense attorney whose client O.J. Simpson is still looking for Nicole’s killer, is wrong. For President Trump, Abuse Of Power Could Be As Bad As Obstruction. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QVkCio9VNk

      • I did not say trump was exonerated. comey said no trump russian collusion evidence because he didn’t he didn’t collude. russia didn’t need trump to hack voter registration lists. trump is so weird you may get a case for obstruction of justice ;but republican congress won’t impeach because trumpkins would primary those who did. swing voters want to be told how electing democrats will bring their good paying jobs back or at least stop bezos and amazon from destroying whats left of the retail store industry where poor and middle class women voters! work. not your collusion porno. voters hate liberal elitists like clinton as much as they hate trump.