The morning after memos written by former FBI Director James Comey were delivered to Congress - and then immediately leaked to the news media - President Donald Trump blasted both Comey and the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, denying that he had done anything wrong, and defending a top aide who had been caught up in the probe.
"So General Michael Flynn’s life can be totally destroyed while Shadey James Comey can Leak and Lie and make lots of money from a third rate book," the President thundered on Twitter from his Florida retreat in Mar-a-Lago, delivering a new nickname to the former FBI chief, and defending his former National Security Adviser, who has already plead guilty to lying to investigators about his post-election contacts with the Russian Ambassador.
Early Friday morning, Mr. Trump again denied that he, his aides, or his campaign played any role in coordinating activities with Russia during the 2016 campaign, though the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller , as Republicans in Congress joined in arguing that the Comey memos only helped the President's cause.
Here is some of what the President found in the memos - as well as the reaction of GOP supporters in the Congress:
1. Trump again makes clear he did nothing wrong. The sun wasn't even up yet at Mar-a-Lago, and President Trump was out with a familiar refrain on Twitter, saying there was "NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION." Various press reports this week had said that aides had scheduled the President to be at his Florida retreat all week, ostensibly to be away from some of the furor over the new book by the former FBI Director. Mr. Trump has called Comey a 'slimeball' and more - and one might think there will be more Twitter daggers aimed at Comey after today.
2. Trump defends ex-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. One subject which gets a lot of attention in the Comey memos is how the President - and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus - paid special attention to the investigation into Flynn, who had been a close campaign aide and adviser to Mr. Trump. Priebus specifically asked Comey in a meeting if there was a FISA warrant on Flynn - Comey did not answer. And Comey also detailed how he felt the President had asked him to go easy on Flynn, who has already plead guilty to lying to FBI agents about his contacts with the Russian Ambassador to the United States.
3. Republicans say memos prove Trump's innocence. As the full Comey memos leaked to the press, GOP lawmakers were quickly ready with their own read on what the memos proved, and what they did not. "Former Director Comey's memos show the President made clear he wanted allegations of collusion, coordination, and conspiracy between his campaign and Russia fully investigated," said Reps. Goodlatte, Gowdy and Nunes, three key GOP lawmakers in the House. "The memos also show former Director Comey never wrote that he felt obstructed or threatened," as they wrote that the memos would actually help the President in any criminal proceeding.
4. GOP calls for Comey to be prosecuted over memo leaks. Some of the information in the memos is redacted and noted as classified, which was seized upon immediately by GOP lawmakers, who argue that Comey should be charged with a crime. It immediately brought back comparisons to Hillary Clinton, and how details in her emails were seen as classified after the fact. "Intentionally leaking classified information is a big no no," said Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). Here is an example of one Comey memo that was considered classified - from his dinner meeting with the President in January 2017. But when you go through the details, what was redacted had to do with a subject that was not leaked, that being the President's anger with Flynn over a call by a foreign leader soon after the inaugural. It has been reported that the phone call was from Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
5. Conservative media quickly echoes GOP, Trump. The release of Comey's book, and his subsequent book tour, have been a unique thing to watch from the sidelines, as supporters of the President have spent the week taking shots at the former FBI Director, trying to poke holes in his story, accusing him of double standards, and questioning whether he was trying to set up the President. Look for that to continue in the weeks and months ahead.
6. In Congress, GOP lawmakers brush off Comey details. Echoing the President, Republicans delved into the details of what Comey wrote and found little to worry about, and more to bolster their argument that the President did no wrong. "If anything, this impugns the judgment of Director Comey," said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), who had joined in demanding the release of the memos by the Justice Department. "There's nothing in here even approaching 'obstruction of justice,'" Meadows wrote on Twitter.
7. GOP zeroes in on Comey line that he doesn't leak. As both parties cherry-picked items from the Comey memos to buttress their arguments for and against the Russia investigation, there was a juicy one for Republicans, when Comey said he told the President that he was not a leaker. “I said I don’t do sneaky things,” Comey wrote about their late January 2017 dinner. “I don’t leak. I don’t do weasel moves.” Obviously, after Comey was fired in May, he did leak portions of these memos, through a friend of his, who gave them to the New York Times. This tweet is from a Republican who is on the House Intelligence Committee.
8. Leaks, leaks and more leaks. Republicans also raised questions about the initial briefing of the President at Trump Tower by Comey and other top intelligence officials. At that time, Comey first warned the President about the existence of the Steele Dossier, and also said the FBI was keeping a very tight lid on the details, because CNN and other news organizations were waiting to run stories about it. "I said media like CNN had them and were looking for a news hook," Comey recounts himself telling the President-Elect. But the details did soon leak when the dossier was published by BuzzFeed news (though the President's private lawyer, Michael Cohen, has now dropped a $100 million defamation lawsuit related to that publication).
9. Reportedly, Mueller did not object to release of memos. While the Justice Department had resisted Republican demands for the release of the Comey memos, immediate news reports on Thursday night indicated that the Special Counsel's office did not see a reason to prevent the material from going public. As with most things in Washington, the memos seemed to leak instantly. But it also prompted speculation that the GOP may have hoped that the feds would resist, and not release the memos, sparking a fight with Republicans in Congress.
10. Release of Comey memos also generate other headlines. While the President and GOP lawmakers focused on items in the Comey memos which they say showed Mr. Trump committed no obstruction of justice, the memos also did something Republicans probably didn't want - and that was to focus attention on some of the more salacious items in the Steele Dossier. Comey's memos have repeated references to the President denying involvement with hookers, and even a quote from Russian leader Vladimir Putin about the quality of Russia prostitutes.
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