> 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.