We bring you first this week the developing story of the cancellation of the US-North Korea talks. As The Washington Post reports, “President Trump on Thursday canceled a summit next month with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, citing ‘tremendous anger and open hostility’ from the rogue nation in a letter explaining his abrupt decision.
“’I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,’ Trump wrote to Kim in a letter the White House released Thursday morning.
“Speaking later at the White House, Trump sounded a bellicose note, relaying that the U.S. military is ‘ready if necessary’ to take action against North Korea if it engages in a ‘foolish or reckless act’ and that South Korea and Japan are willing to shoulder the costs. At the same time, Trump held open the possibility that he and Kim could meet at a later date to discuss denuclearization….” [emphasis added] https://www.washingtonpost.
As many of our readers will have heard, “In recent weeks, State Department and South Korean officials have privately bristled at the mention of the Libya model — first made by national security adviser John Bolton — aware of how sensitive Pyongyang is to such comments.”
As The New York Times reported on Thursday, “A North Korean official had referred to Mr. Pence as a ‘political dummy’ after the vice president said Mr. Kim could meet the same fate as Libya’s leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, if he did not make a deal with the United States. Libyan rebels, aided by a NATO bombing campaign, killed Colonel Qaddafi during the Arab Spring upheavals in 2011.
North Korean officials were infuriated last week when Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, John R. Bolton, first floated the voluntary disarmament of Libya in 2003 as a precedent for North Korea.”
It is also possible that the talks were in trouble even before the rhetoric from Bolton and Pence. Says The Times, “The summit had seemed to be on perilous ground even before the most recent exchanges between Washington and Pyongyang. American and North Korean officials staked out deeply divergent positions on how quickly the North should surrender its nuclear arsenal, casting a shadow on what would be a history-making encounter that clearly beguiled both leaders.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/
1. With the obsessive media focus on the Russia investigation, we—or the media—may be losing focus on the disasters unfolding in Washington from reactionary policies and attacks on the entire Obama legacy. Some of these rollbacks would no doubt be happening under any Republican president, under a Jeb or a Mario, with an extremist Republican congress and a Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. But the pace and extremity of change is extraordinary, even accounting for the wish lists of the Adelmans and the Kochs.
First, we report on the attack on Planned Parenthood, through a re-instatement of the “domestic gag rule” by alterations to funding under Title X, the statute governing federal assistance for family planning. As The New York Times on May 22 summarizes this, “The president’s new policy states that money distributed under Title X … must be ‘physically and financially separate from programs in which abortion is provided or presented as a method of family planning, including programs that refer for abortions and programs that encourage, promote or advocate abortion as a method of family planning’… [the rule] does … away with a requirement that family planning centers counsel women about abortion and provide referrals for it. And it strictly limits the circumstances under which a health provider could advise a woman about abortion options, requiring that a patient state that she has already decided to terminate her pregnancy before allowing doctors to furnish a list of possible providers.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/
Moreover, as The Times reported on May 18, “Planned Parenthood and its supporters say the move would essentially bar the organization from receiving Title X funding, costing millions of women throughout the United States access to basic care, including contraceptives and screenings for cancer and sexually transmitted diseases. The organization says it has no intention of ceasing to provide abortions or referrals as part of its reproductive health services. ‘This is a far-reaching attack and attempt to take away women’s basic rights and reproductive rights, period’ said Dawn Laguens, the group’s executive vice president and chief executive.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/
This kind of “gag rule” has been tried before, under President Reagan in 1988. After much litigation, the Supreme Court did permit it to go forward. But the change was never implemented. One of the most well-informed commentators on health issues, Julie Ravner of Kaiser Health News, explains in detail what the new rule could mean for Planned Parenthood. “Planned Parenthood affiliates account for about 13 percent of total Title X sites but serve an estimated 40 percent of its patients. Only about half of Planned Parenthood affiliates perform abortions, although the organization in its entirety is the nation’s leading abortion provider. Planned Parenthood also gets much more federal funding for services provided to patients on the Medicaid program (although not for abortion) than it does through Title X…. While opponents of federal funding for Planned Parenthood have said that other safety-net clinics could make up the difference if Planned Parenthood no longer participates in Title X, several studies have suggested that in many remote areas Planned Parenthood is the only provider of family planning services and the only provider that regularly stocks all methods of birth control….” Note that Planned Parenthood cannot now use federal dollars directly for abortions. However, Ravner points out, “Even though Planned Parenthood cannot use federal funding for abortions, anti-abortion groups claim that federal funding is “fungible” and there is no way to ensure that some of the funding provided for other services does not cross-subsidize abortion services.” Read her useful summary here, in The Washington Post for May 22: https://www.washingtonpost.
2. An important aspect of the Trump “deconstruction” of the state is the progressive deterioration of federal agencies, including jobs going unfilled (most notably at the State Department, but elsewhere as well) and civil servants left over from previous administrations let go. In a major detailed investigation, the always-interesting reporter Evan Osnos examines “Trump vs. the ‘Deep State’: How the Administration’s loyalists are quietly reshaping American governance” for the May 21 New Yorker. This is an important report, detailing both the more obvious and the less-well-known federal appointees and career officers who are being replaced—with little public knowledge or media spotlight—with Trump loyalists or ideological hacks. To some degree this has always happened in transitions. But now the extremity of this attack on the state and its functions has reached a point where it will be hard for government to function or the damage to be repaired.
“The White House brought in an array of outsiders,” notes Osnos, “who, at times, ran into trouble. As an assistant to the Secretary of Energy, the Administration installed Sid Bowdidge, whose recent employment had included managing a Meineke Car Care branch in Seabrook, New Hampshire. Bowdidge departed after it emerged that he had called Muslims “maggots.” In December, Matthew Spencer Petersen, a nominee to the federal bench, became a brief online sensation when Senator John Kennedy, a Republican from Louisiana, asked him a series of basic law-school questions, which revealed that Petersen had never argued a motion, tried a case, or taken a deposition by himself. Embarrassing details came out about other judicial nominees: Brett Talley, who had never tried a case in federal court, wandered cemeteries hunting for ghosts; Jeff Mateer had called transgender children part of ‘Satan’s plan.’ All three nominations were withdrawn.”
But, reports Osnos, “Despite the attention that these cases attracted, the vast majority of appointees, other than those who are named in Senate hearings or serve in the President’s executive office, are not reported to the public. ‘The idea that the American people do not know the names of those running the government is nutty,’ [Max] Stier, of the Partnership for Public Service, said. ‘Many appointees get parachuted in below the radar, and no one knows they’re there until they hit a trip wire.’ Some of those who have hit the trip wire are recent college graduates, installed in jobs usually reserved for officials with decades of experience. Taylor Weyeneth, a twenty-three-year-old whose only previous employment was with the Trump campaign, became one of the White House’s top-ranking officials addressing the opioid epidemic.”
Moreover, many experienced officials are transferred to back-room jobs, especially if they represent views conflicting with Trump’s loyalists. Nowhere is the damage more acute than in the Dept. of the Interior. “Within the [Interior] department, [Secretary Ryan] Zinke has adopted the President’s approach to expertise, loyalty, and dissent. In April, 2017, a scientist named Joel Clement, the director of the department’s Office of Policy Analysis, visited Zinke for a briefing. He noticed that Zinke had redecorated the office with a grizzly bear, mounted on its hind legs, and a collection of knives. Zinke has no professional experience in geology, but he routinely describes himself as a ‘geologist,’ because he majored in geology in college….
“’I briefed him on invasive species,’ Clement said. ‘It was one issue where it looked like we might actually get a little traction, because in Montana they had just discovered mussels that could really screw up the agricultural economy.’ The strategy failed. ‘He didn’t understand what we were talking about. He started talking about other species—ravens and coyotes. He was filling the intellectual vacuum with nonsense. It’s amazing that he has such confidence, given his level of ignorance.’
“A couple of months later, Zinke ordered the involuntary reassignment of dozens of the department’s most senior civil servants. Clement, who had been his agency’s public face on issues related to climate change, was assigned to the accounting office that handles royalty checks for oil and gas and coal extraction. His new job had no duties.…” This kind of destruction is going on throughout the federal government, a behemoth of 2.8 million employees across 250 agencies. The lack of direction and deliberate sabotage will take a long time to undo. Read the investigation here: https://www.newyorker.com/
3. Ready to talk about Mueller? Not so fast. Osnos’s New Yorker article so enraged Times opinion writer Frank Bruni that he wonders where the outrage has gone: in the press, in the country. Is Mueller sucking away our shock and horror at the dismantling of government as well as the attacks on the poor, people of color, and women? Says Bruni, “Imagine for a moment that Robert Mueller was never pressed into service as a special counsel and wasn’t a household name…What would we be focusing on right now?
“Maybe the just-published Politico report of Trump’s deliberate, cavalier use of a cellphone that doesn’t have strict security safeguards would be getting extra attention. … [I]t puts the lie to his supposed horror over Hillary Clinton’s sloppy email habits. Not for the first time or for the last, he’s being a raving hypocrite.
“Without Mueller and Russia, Scott Pruitt would be closer to center stage, with an even brighter, harsher spotlight on him…. [I]f lawmakers, journalists and other watchdogs weren’t so mesmerized by the convoluted twists of Mueller v. Trump.
Perhaps more Americans would notice what Trump is doing to the judiciary, by which I mean stacking it, and to important government agencies, by which I mean gutting them.
“In The New Yorker this month, Evan Osnos documented the politically motivated sidelining and purging of venerable public servants; the Interior Department under Ryan Zinke is operating with less maturity and mission than a kindergarten class on the cusp of recess. Sadly, I heard less chatter about Osnos’s story than it deserved.” Read Bruni’s salubrious reminder of the real damage being done by this administration, and why we can’t be distracted, at least too very much, by the more sensational legal messes surrounding Trump. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/
4. While we are on the subject of Trump’s attacks on the poor, read the scathing essay by economist Paul Krugman, “Let Them Eat Trump Steaks,” in the May 10 New York Times. Krugman writes of the one policy issue Trump does seem actually to care about, “welfare reform.” “By all accounts,” Krugman says, Trump “really hates the idea of people receiving ‘welfare,’ by which he means any government program that helps people with low income, and he wants to eliminate such programs wherever possible. Most recently, he has reportedly threatened to veto the upcoming farm bill unless it imposes stringent new work requirements on recipients of SNAP — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, still commonly referred to as food stamps.
“Let me be upfront here: There’s something fundamentally obscene about this spectacle. Here we have a man who inherited great wealth, then built a business career largely around duping the gullible — whether they were naïve investors in his business ventures left holding the bag when those ventures went bankrupt, or students who wasted time and money on worthless degrees from Trump University. Yet he’s determined to snatch food from the mouths of the truly desperate, because he’s sure that somehow or other they’re getting away with something, having it too easy.” Krugman points out that “Able-bodied SNAP recipients who should be working but aren’t are very hard to find,” since most are working at low-wage jobs, are part-timers, elderly, children, or disabled. Again, Trump may not be much beyond what Paul Ryan and most Republicans see as their mission, to get people off the lazy good-for-nothing hammock of government handouts. But the attack here is particularly revolting, given the riches of this ideology’s purveyors.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/
5. And make no mistake: this is also a racist ideology. This is the casual racism that goes back at least to Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queens,” getting rich in their Cadillacs off the taxes paid by the hard-working folk who are the real Americans. Never mind that while urban blacks do get SNAP, so do many rural whites (in greater numbers than black people), the very people who now support Trump.
This aspect of “reform” is covered in depth by New York Times op-ed contributor Bryce Covert, who points out: “Ignore the platitudes. Work requirements have never been about helping the poor or unemployed. They’ve always been about punishing black people. [emphasis added]
“This has become abundantly clear over the last few weeks as states drafting policies requiring Medicaid recipients get a job or engage in other employment activity have added exemptions. These carve-outs would, in effect, spare white, rural residents from work requirements but not black ones in urban areas. These proposals have turned the subtext that was there all along into legible text. Kentucky, Ohio and Virginia are seeking waivers from the Department of Health and Human Services that would allow them to impose work requirements on some Medicaid recipients, but not all of them. They all included exemptions for counties with the highest unemployment levels, which are rural, mostly white areas. Urban centers where lots of black people are unemployed, but whose county-level unemployment rates are lower, would be subject to the work requirement.” One wonders why this is not more debated in the press. Read her detailed analysis here: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/
6. While we are on the subject of racism … The Washington Post reported on Wednesday evening that Trump gave a speech attacking the admission of unaccompanied minors at the border. The paper points out that “From October 2011 until June of last year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials arrested about 5,000 individuals with confirmed or suspected gang ties, according to congressional testimony from the agency’s acting chief, Carla Provost, in June. Of the 5,000 figure, 159 were unaccompanied minors, Provost testified, and 56 were suspected or confirmed to have ties with MS-13. In that overall time frame, CBP apprehended about 250,000 unaccompanied minors, according to Provost.”’
However, Trump, in a speech at a local Homeland Security Center, said, “’We have the worst immigration laws of any country, anywhere in the world…. They exploited the loopholes in our laws to enter the country as unaccompanied alien minors.’ Trump added: ‘They look so innocent. They’re not innocent.’”
Despite statistics to the contrary, “Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein detailed a gang ‘resurgence’ that he said he witnessed firsthand as the U.S. attorney for Maryland. That rise, Rosenstein said, was ‘fueled’ by illegal immigration and ‘particularly the challenge of unaccompanied minor children.’” https://www.washingtonpost.
7. More on the subject, increasingly appearing in the press, on the racial implications of the Trump presidency: In a searing and much-discussed attack, Ta-Nehisi Coates writes in the May 7 Atlantic of the truly bizarre support for Donald Trump shown by Kanye West. In a moving and personal essay, Coates ties West to his own insecurities and the burden of his celebrity. And then to the struggle of black people to idolize a Michael Jackson, for all his struggle with his black identity. “[H]umans were not built to withstand the weight of celebrity,” writes Coates. “But for black artists who rise to the heights of Jackson and West, the weight is more, because they come from communities in desperate need of champions. Kurt Cobain’s death was a great tragedy for his legions of fans. Tupac’s was a tragedy for an entire people….The story of West ‘drugged out,’ as he put it, reduced by the media glare to liposuction, is not merely about how he feels about his body. It was that drugged-out West who appeared in that gaudy lobby, dead-eyed and blonde-haired, and by his very presence endorsed the agenda of Donald Trump….”
Coates concludes, “West’s thoughts are not original—the apocryphal Harriet Tubman quote and the notion that slavery was a ‘choice’ echoes the ancient trope that slavery wasn’t that bad; the myth that blacks do not protest crime in their community is pure Giulianism; and West’s desire to ‘go to Charlottesville and talk to people on both sides’ is an extension of Trump’s response to the catastrophe. These are not stray thoughts. They are the propaganda that justifies voter suppression, and feeds police brutality, and minimizes the murder of Heather Heyer. And Kanye West is now a mouthpiece for it.”
Read his powerful, “I’m Not Black, I’m Kanye: Kanye West wants freedom—white freedom,” in The Atlantic, here: https://www.theatlantic.com/
8. A. But there is hope. We should not ignore the groundswell of women candidates in primaries all over the country. And on Tuesday, Stacey Abrams became the first black woman gubernatorial candidate in the United States, winning a huge victory over her primary opponent in Georgia. Abrams, a progressive, had the early support of the Sanders movement, Our Revolution. She has decided to run as a progressive in hopes of motivating women and blacks in Georgia; she will not run to the center to capture the “white male” vote. But she had broad support in the Democratic Party. As reported on Wednesday in The Nation, “Abrams, remarkably, united the still-sparring national Democratic Party behind her, winning the endorsement of Hillary Clinton as well as Senator Bernie Sanders, Emily’s List and NARAL, plus the Working Families Party and Our Revolution, along with 2020 possibilities Senators Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren. Not surprisingly, Abrams was also endorsed by Atlanta Representative and civil rights icon John Lewis.” Read the full report on this race and the other races this week that featured winning women candidates, here: https://www.thenation.com/
B. For an analysis of Abrams’s overall progressive strategy, read the essay by Kai Wright in The Nation for May 11. For Wright, Abrams’s candidacy essentially acknowledges that Southern whites, as a voting bloc, have gone to a tribal anti-pluralism that cannot be won by appeals to centrism, at least in the South: “Southern white people have grown steadily more uncomfortable with a pluralistic society. Republican demagogues have channeled that discomfort into racist populism—anti-immigrant, pro-greed, and resentful of the social safety net, all of which are proxy wars in the fight over a more diverse slicing of the American pie of opportunity. A sectional party not far off from the Confederacy has emerged on the right.”
Of course, for some in the party, this is an invitation to increased sectarianism. But much may depend on the particulars of geography and local history. “Abrams is trying to rewrite the rules of Southern—or at least Georgian—politics, by making the electorate more closely reflect society at large. If she succeeds, she’ll teach progressives much about the future of American politics,” says Wright. https://www.thenation.com/
9. For more on the women making news by their primary victories, see The New York Times, which reported on Tuesday that “In a year notable for a wave of female candidates, Tuesday’s congressional primaries delivered big wins for women, particularly on the Democratic side. And nowhere was the enthusiasm more evident than in Pennsylvania, where at least seven Democratic women surged to primary victories this week, in districts that could help their party flip at least three House seats in November.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/
10. How is that Sanders movement, Our Revolution, doing, anyway? An investigation by Politico suggests that the organization—which is independent of Sanders himself—is riven by discord and anger at the leadership. Politico finds that “an extensive review of the Sanders-inspired group depicts an organization in disarray — operating primarily as a promotional vehicle for its leader [Nina Turner, who may be considering a presidential run herself] and sometimes even snubbing candidates aligned with Sanders. Our Revolution has shown no ability to tip a major Democratic election in its favor — despite possessing Sanders’ email list, the envy of the Democratic Party — and can claim no major wins in 2018 as its own. The result has left many Sanders supporters disillusioned, feeling that the group that was supposed to harness the senator’s grass-roots movement is failing in its mission.” Read the report here: https://www.politico.com/
OK, Ready to dive into…The Mueller Investigation?
11. Well, maybe not so fast. First, in an essay in Politico, John Culhane suggests that the civil suit filed by Stormy Daniels may be a greater danger to the Trump presidency than the Mueller investigation. Why? “In the Daniels case (or, more accurately, cases, since there is now also a defamation claim against Trump for accusing Daniels of lying about a threat against her in connection with the alleged affair), the public has so far gotten more information, and more quickly, than anything a sclerotic and polarized Congress has managed to unearth about the supposed Trump-Russia campaign. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation might also run into political shoals, but there’s plenty on the table already, thanks to the Daniels suit.” Why? The answer is that civil suits, such as those against big tobacco or the Catholic church, provide for discovery that may open up thousands of documents to public view. Read “Why Trump Should Fear Michael Avenatti More Than Bob Mueller” here: https://www.politico.com/
12. According to Noah Feldman, in an essay in the May 24 New York Review of Books, “The investigation of Michael Cohen, a lawyer and sometime fixer for Donald Trump, marks the start of a new phase in the unraveling of Trump’s presidency.” Feldman examines the premise that “In the Cohen investigation, the FBI and federal prosecutors are seeking to break the confidentiality of Cohen and Trump’s attorney–client relationship. To do this, they must either show that Cohen was not genuinely acting as Trump’s attorney or that the two men’s communications were made with the intention of committing or covering up a crime or fraud. The fact that the Southern District prosecutors have already convinced a judge to issue a search warrant on one or both of these bases means they are likely to get access to much material that would otherwise have been unavailable because of attorney–client privilege. Longtime Trump observers immediately began speculating that the prosecutors will find information that could implicate Trump himself in criminal conduct—or that Cohen could testify against Trump in exchange for a reduced sentence.”
Feldman points out that “Unlike the Mueller investigation, which Trump could end himself, the Cohen investigation in the Southern District would be extremely difficult for the White House to shut down …. Nor can Trump end the inquiry just by pardoning Cohen. All that would mean is that prosecutors would be able to force Cohen to testify by issuing a subpoena against him …. If Cohen refused to submit to the subpoena, he could be jailed for contempt of court—to which the pardon would not apply.”
Ultimately, where would all this lead? Feldman says, “Federal prosecutors, then, could ultimately gather sufficient evidence to charge Donald Trump with crimes related to campaign contributions, structuring financial transactions, money-laundering, or conspiracy. These would be ordinary crimes, not connected to Russian election interference, not investigated by Mueller, and not anticipated when the FBI investigation of the 2016 election began.
“These possible charges raise two pressing questions. May a sitting president be criminally indicted and tried for his crimes while in office? And may a president be impeached for criminal conduct that occurred before his presidency and had nothing to do with it?”
The answer is not clear, but it is indeed possible. Mueller may follow Justice Department policy, which says that a president is immune from indictment. But this is not law: and there are other reasons to believe that this is far from a settled matter. Read Feldman’s insightful analysis here: http://www.nybooks.com/
13. In the week’s news, there has been much about Trump’s attacks on what he considers an FBI “spy” infiltrating his campaign. In fact, as just about every responsible news organization has pointed out, the FBI was actually helping to investigate a serious security problem in Trump’s campaign and concealing the investigation from the public [see below, number 15]. Trump’s unhinged tirades against “spies” in the Bureau miss the point of how much the FBI tried to shield the Trump campaign both from foreign manipulation and from public embarrassment. Our readers may not wish to delve too deeply into the details of this non-story (“Spy-gate!”), but for a good summary of what happened and what the issues really are, read an op-ed by Bret Stevens in the Thursday New York Times, “Did the F.B.I. Save Trump’s Presidency?”
“But the significant question is whether any competent counterintelligence officer would not have seen, in this constellation of facts, serious reason to believe that the Trump campaign was profoundly vulnerable to Russian manipulation, even (or especially) if the candidate himself didn’t know about it. Just imagine if Manafort or Flynn hadn’t had their Russia ties exposed and now occupied positions of trust in the White House. The Kremlin would surely know how to leverage their secrets.
“Trump is now taking his usual unbridled umbrage at comments by former National Intelligence Director James Clapper, which the president then misquoted, that he should be glad the F.B.I. was looking into potential Russian infiltration of his campaign. Of course he should be glad: The Bureau has now twice rescued him, first by reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails on the eve of the election, and then by clearing out the Russian stooges in his employ.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/
14. A. Along these lines, we return, as we always seem to, to the Comey decision in October 2016 to announce the investigation of the Weiner / Clinton emails. Bear with us. We hope this will be the last time we engage the topic. But perhaps we should let an insider have a last, or almost last word: David Z. Seide was a leader of the State Department team that examined Hillary Clinton’s use of personal email. He has written a sharp attack on Comey’s announcement in an essay for the May 14 New York Times titled, “Why Comey’s October Surprise Was Pointless and Wrong.”
“Mr. Comey writes that he was provided with two key assumptions about these emails. First, among the BlackBerry emails, there was the possibility of finding ‘smoking guns’ sufficient to cross the high threshold required to bring criminal charges…. The second assumption was that it would be impossible for the F.B.I. to review the hundreds of thousands of Weiner emails before Election Day. Mr. Comey writes that ‘everyone in the room said that this review would take many weeks.’ He continues, ‘There was, they said, too much material to do it more quickly’ — and there was ‘no chance’ a review could be completed before the election.
“In my view, neither assumption holds up.”
After explaining why this is the case, Seide concludes, “What was Mr. Comey’s third option on Oct. 27? Wait and see. Monitor the progress of the review closely. Do nothing until there was something to report. Even a delay of a few days would have afforded the F.B.I. investigative team time to get a very good idea of what most likely was and was not in the new evidence. As it turned out, the team was able to complete its work days before the election, and Mr. Comey informed Congress in his Nov. 2 letter that the F.B.I. investigation was again closed.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/
B. Of course, as many commentators have pointed out, the mess was ultimately caused by an over-determined nightmare of causes, from Hillary’s sloppiness to the universal assumption that she would win the presidency. Moreover, it may be that there is more to the story of why Comey felt pressured to disclose the investigation. It may be that Andrew McCabe sat on the emails as leaks began to come out. Back in January The Washington Post reported that “the Post’s Devlin Barrett and Karoun Demirjian report that a Justice Department inspector general has been looking into why Andrew McCabe, who stepped down Monday as deputy director of the FBI (its No. 2 role), didn’t appear to examine those emails for three weeks before Comey disclosed them in a letter to Congress.” https://www.washingtonpost.
And back in February 2017, Vanity Fair’s Bethany McLean did a thorough analysis of Comey’s motives, conceding that “For original sin, you have to start with Hillary Clinton, who began using a private e-mail account tied to a server in the basement of her and Bill’s Chappaqua house in 2009, when she was Obama’s secretary of state.” There is also the problem of Loretta Lynch’s perceived closeness to the Clintons, which put Comey in a bad place, says McLean. Moreover, it was clear from comments in early October by the irrepressible Rudy Giuliani that the existence of the Weiner emails was leaking from the New York office. This long-form essay is a good summary of the views of Comey and the spot he was in, and put himself in. https://www.vanityfair.com/
A note: There will probably be no final conclusions about the Comey letter’s propriety. We can agree with Nate Silver that, by all the polling evidence, the letter did cost Hillary the election. But the circumstances leading up to the disclosures and the letter and the Russian interference are complex and were probably beyond the absolute control and responsibility of either Comey or Clinton. This was an overdetermined tragedy, if one studies many sources. President Obama blamed Hillary for not doing a better job reaching out to voters in the midwest, as reported by Politico right after the election. And who said this, if you believe the UK’s Daily Mail report by Ed Klein days after the election? “’[He] didn’t buy the excuse that Comey would cost Hillary the election,’ said the source. ‘As far as he was concerned, all the blame belonged to [campaign manager Robby] Mook, [campaign chairman John] Podesta and Hillary because they displayed a tone-deaf attitude about the feeble economy and its impact on millions and millions of working-class voters.’” This report was partially confirmed by The Hill in November, 2017. Who was this political analyst? Bill Clinton.
15. Here is, at least for this week, our final word on the Mueller investigation’s beginnings in the FBI probe into Russia interference in the election and Russian contacts with the Trump campaign. Promise. But our readers will be interested in this major investigative report in The New York Times on May 16 that puts to rest all the Republican carping about FBI “spying” on the Trump campaign. If anything, careful analysis of the facts shows that the FBI went perhaps too far in concealing what it was learning about Russian connections to the Trump campaign. The secret operation was codenamed “Crossfire Hurricane” (after the Rolling Stones song).
The Times says, “This month, the Justice Department inspector general is expected to release the findings of its lengthy review of the F.B.I.’s conduct in the Clinton case. The results are certain to renew debate over decisions by the F.B.I. director at the time, James B. Comey, to publicly chastise Mrs. Clinton in a news conference, and then announce the reopening of the investigation days before Election Day. Mrs. Clinton has said those actions buried her presidential hopes.
Those decisions stand in contrast to the F.B.I.’s handling of Crossfire Hurricane. Not only did agents in that case fall back to their typical policy of silence, but interviews with a dozen current and former government officials and a review of documents show that the F.B.I. was even more circumspect in that case than has been previously known. Many of the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly….
“Fearful of leaks, they kept details from political appointees across the street at the Justice Department…. The facts, had they surfaced, might have devastated the Trump campaign: Mr. Trump’s future national security adviser was under investigation, as was his campaign chairman. One adviser appeared to have Russian intelligence contacts. Another was suspected of being a Russian agent himself…. Crossfire Hurricane spawned a case that has brought charges against former Trump campaign officials and more than a dozen Russians. But in the final months of 2016, agents faced great uncertainty — about the facts, and how to respond.”
The Times generally endorses the conclusion of Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who said “that after studying the investigation as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, he saw no evidence of political motivation in the opening of the investigation.
“’There was a growing body of evidence that a foreign government was attempting to interfere in both the process and the debate surrounding our elections, and their job is to investigate counterintelligence,’ he said in an interview. ‘That’s what they did.’”
Read the whole report, which offers some new facts upon which to base judgments about the FBI’s handling of both the Clinton email case and the Trump investigation. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/