Scaramucci Resigns after Eleven Days

Early this afternoon, President Trump administered the oath of office to his new chief of staff, retired four-star General John Kelley. Very shortly afterwards, the short-but-explosive tenure of White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci came to a (rather shockingly) quiet close. The exact circumstances of whether he tendered his resignation willingly or under duress remain unclear, but it seems safe to assume the latter. The company line– delivered by Sarah Huckabee Sanders at the daily press briefing– is that Scaramucci “felt it was best to give Chief of Staff John Kelley a clean slate and the ability to build his own team.”

While we did not have enough time to get a fully-rounded sense of Scaramucci as a person, that statement does not appear to contain nearly enough vulgarity to have come from his mouth. Besides, the tenacity with which “The Mooch” approached the job would not suggest he considered himself a placeholder– nor would the divorce papers he received from his wife upon accepting the position.

One truly has to wonder about the motivations here, as well as the string of events. Scaramucci accepted the job as Communications Director. Sean Spicer resigns, refusing to work with him. Scaramucci gave his instantly-infamous profanity-filled interview with The New Yorker, where he called Reince Priebus a “paranoid schizophrenic” and sent out a tweet accusing the same of leaking White House information. Priebus resigns, and his replacement is announced in John Kelley– who, by all appearances, wanted nothing to do with Scaramucci either, questioning his discipline and credibility. More surprising, perhaps, is that Kelley has enough pull with the President to ensure the removal of a man who seemed, by all accounts, to display all of the “loyalty” Trump requires from his White House staff. Similarly telling is the statement that “all White House advisors” including Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, and Steve Bannon, will report to Kelley. This is exactly the way power should be distributed in the White House, but certainly not the manner in which it had been in the Trump administration to this point.

The onus of controlling the chaos of a White House being torn apart from within by competing factions has, thus, shifted once again. A few days ago, the conversation line was astonishment at the power of Scaramucci in ensuring the removal of both Sean Spicer and Reince Preibus. Now the same conversations are being held about John Kelley. Only time will tell if Kelley proves more capable than his many predecessors in the role of White House cat-herder, but I can say this: I certainly don’t envy him the job.

Meanwhile, President Trump insists that there is “no chaos” in the executive branch, in spite of whiplash-inducing staff turnaround and, at best, minimal success in achieving platform goals. File that under “alternative facts,” I suppose.

Another interesting day comes and goes in the Trump administration, folks.

— This is the ALF, signing off.

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Public Response Roundup: Healthcare, Sessions, Trump Jr, Transgender Troops

Hello all,

Since we’ve managed to get through half a day without any major headlines, I thought we’d try a different angle today: examining the public response to the major events of this week and last, particularly among Republicans. There are two good reasons to do this. First, impeachment, removal, and election outcomes all begin in the court of public opinion– Presidents and legislators with high approval ratings do not often find their offices in jeopardy; public opinion, therefore, serves as an important predictor of the future political landscape. Second, because when “Breaking News” is an hourly event, it is difficult to examine events with the level of nuance their gravity demands.

Please note, the events listed here are presented in no particular order.

Healthcare Bill Fails in the Senate:

Susan Collins (D-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (D-AK) are among the only popular GOP Senators returning home this weekend. Both received displays of gratitude at their home airports from constituents carrying signs applauding the death of the repeal attempt.

Meanwhile, the remaining Republican senators should be grateful for majority leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) decision to shorten the August recess– originally for the purpose of continuing work on the ACA repeal. They face ire from right-leaning constituents from both ends of the spectrum: some are furious at their representatives’ failed effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act as promised, and many more who are livid that those who claim to represent their interests were attempting to compromise their access to care. In light of the ACA’s jump in approval ratings in the first few months of Trump’s presidency, one can only imagine how pleasant town hall meetings will be for the likes of Mitch McConnell (if he holds any).

Regardless, the majority of Americans recently polled want the GOP to move on from healthcare reform, leaving the ACA intact. It is unclear how many of those view it as a losing battle for republicans versus those who genuinely prefer the current system, but regardless– the people have spoken, and if these legislators wish to keep their jobs in the next election cycle they would do well to listen.

Jeff Sessions:

Intriguingly, in spite of an absolutely contemptuous performance of a testimony in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee a few weeks ago, Jeff Sessions’ stock is rising among the public– or at least those on the right. This is particularly interesting because this particular voting bloc generally does not believe that there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in regards to the 2016 election, and yet their support for Sessions is on the rise following recent attacks by the President,  drawn by Sessions’ choice to recuse himself from the Russian investigation.

Sessions’ former colleagues in the Senate have been particularly vocal, suggesting that they will block any Presidential attempt to replace the attorney general. This is one area where liberals and conservatives should agree then: keeping Sessions in his office is the absolute best case scenario for everyone– except those whose illegal acts could be uncovered by Robert Mueller’s investigation. For Republicans, Sessions represents party loyalty and integrity, even if he has little to no influence with the President since igniting his ire. For Democrats, his recusal is the only thing ensuring Mueller maintains his office– Sessions’ replacement would not be recused from the Russian investigation, and would therefore have the full authority to fire Mueller (a promise that one would imagine would have to be made before Trump would even consider nominating a candidate).

So, with Republicans and Democrats on and off of Capitol Hill making it clear that the firing of Sessions would represent a “red line,” and the Attorney General apparently voicing no intent of tendering his resignation, it seems likely he will be maintaining his office for the time being, and this is a good thing.

Donald Trump Junior: 

In spite of the President’s assertions that “almost anyone would have taken” a meeting offering damning information on an opposing candidate from a hostile foreign power as standard presidential election procedure, the public is not convinced: the majority of people surveyed said that the meeting was “inappropriate,” with only 23 percent calling it “appropriate.”

There really is not much to say here: Donald Trump Jr. published evidence that he had colluded with a foreign power to influence our election, and is not presently awaiting trial for treason. That alone should be astonishing.

Transgender Military Service:

In yet another backfiring popularity grab, President Trump’s announcement that transgender individuals would no longer be allowed to serve in the military in any capacity is also unpopular with most Americans. In a survey performed shortly after the President’s tweets, 58 percent of adults agreed that transgender and gender-non-conforming individuals should have the equal opportunity to serve their country as their cisgender counterparts, with an additional 15 percent having no opinion.

This, too, seems like a no-brainer. The obvious fact that the Constitution guarantees to all people “equal protection under the law” and that any attempt to prevent trans* individuals from serving is a violation of that right aside, the United States military is always attempting to recruit more people into its service. This is tactically ignorant and ethnically abhorrent. Enough said.

So there it is: the Republican establishment as well as the general public are increasingly wary of the President’s agenda. Those who remain loyal to upholding it are behind held accountable by the people they profess to represent. As long as this trend continues, the goals of the left should be fairly easy to attain: primarily, success in the 2018 elections.

— This is the ALF, signing off.


Priebus Ouster Severs Final Ties Between White House and GOP Establishment

Shortly before 5pm Eastern time yesterday, Air Force One touched down in Washington D.C. and President Trump took the opportunity to send out a series of tweets prior to deplaning. In under 500 characters, the president announced the end of Reince Priebus’ tenure as White House Chief of Staff and his replacement in General John Kelley, the now-former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Priebus then left the aircraft and, quite literally, rode off into the sunset before Trump emerged to greet the press.

This decision comes on the heels of a shocking interview on Thursday in which newly-appointed White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci voiced his desire to “kill all leakers” amidst a truly astonishing slew of profanity, and a tweet from the same suggesting that Priebus was among the alleged “leakers” of unclassified information about the internal workings of the White House. Scaramucci was apparently confident at that time that Priebus would be delivering his resignation shortly– which, according to sources close to the former Chief of Staff, occurred later the same day.

With the recent resignation of Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus– a three term Republican National Committee chair prior to joining the administration– was the last member of the Republican party establishment to hold a significant position in the Trump White House. (One could make the tangental argument that Sarah Huckabee Sanders qualifies, but her father’s political achievements hardly make her an adequate party liaison–to say nothing of her obvious lack of influence within the administration.) It appears that the significance of this is lost on President Trump, who seems to have given near carte-blanche firing authority to a relative political outsider in Scaramucci.  In the same day the Republican Congress failed to pass the signature legislation of their party platform for seven years, the President severed the final tie to his own party’s establishment. While Trump appears quite content for the time being to run the executive branch in a manner that is… unconventional at best, he fails to realize that losing the support of his own party in the midst of an investigation into himself and his campaign would likely represent the death blow to his presidency. Similarly if the concept that party support for his presidency was already tenuous before several failed attempts at legislation, the Russian investigation, and an increasingly disturbing pattern of dangerous rhetoric crossed Trump’s mind before demanding or accepting Priebus’ resignation, it certainly is not apparent in his actions.

Thus, while many are warning that the Trump White House may be on the road to further chaos after losing what some saw as the final grip on sanity in the administration, that is not necessarily a bad thing. The fact for those of us who support a progressive agenda is that a representative of the Republican party platform in the White House does not represent any sort of saving grace, just a more-familiar evil. One of the most expedient and least destructive paths by which this administration is brought to justice is by the Republican party, in such a way that it is impossible (for anyone who subscribes to facts) to blame Democrats for playing partisan politics. Even if Mueller’s investigation continues through the 2018 election and the Democratic party is able to regain control of one or both houses of Congress, it would still be ideal to have bipartisan support in an impeachment attempt–whether it is procedurally necessary or not.

It is also very much worth noting that the tweet declaring Priebus’ removal came on the heels of Trump’s day trip to Long Island, where he delivered a speech to a group of police officers. In it, he encouraged the officers not to be “too nice” while performing arrests, giving full presidential permission to allow suspects to hit their head while entering a squad car or roll around unsecured in a paddy wagon (the same conditions resulting in the death of Freddie Gray). In a period of growing distrust between police forces and the communities they allege to serve, it is difficult to imagine a more harmful statement from the President of the United States. Worse, his remarks were met with significant applause.

Finally, in other daily news, investigators believe that the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile launched by North Korea yesterday had the potential to easily reach Los Angeles, Denver, and Chicago, with outer-limit possibilities including New York City and Boston. The world as a whole has condemned this missile test, as it begins to suggest that Kim Jong-Un’s propaganda depicting the destruction of the West could soon have a basis in reality. As a result, the United States has requested an emergency, closed-door meeting of the United Nations Security Council, which will likely occur on Wednesday (August 2nd) and involve discussions about a potential response beyond the joint missile launch undertaken by the United States and South Korea yesterday afternoon.

It’s definitely an interesting time, folks. Stay tuned.

— This is the ALF, signing off.


John McCain Kills “Skinny-Repeal” of ACA in Eleventh Hour; Russian Sanctions Pass Easily; North Korea

The Health Care Bill is Dead: 

After seven years of rhetoric promising the demise of former President Barack Obama’s signature legislation, divisive battles in both the Republican-majority House and Senate, and a failed effort to pass the American Health Care Act, the Senate moved early this morning to vote on a bill narrowly targeted to destroy key components of the Affordable Care Act. In most significant jeopardy were the individual mandate and the continued federal funding of Planned Parenthood. Ironically called the Health Care Freedom Act, the bill would have given insurance companies the right to decline coverage for myriad categories of care, including prenatal and maternity.

The timeline of the evening went something like this: around 11pm, the GOP published the bill online, only a few hours after they revealed its contents to their colleagues in the Senate. By 12:30, the vote opened. Shortly after, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) received a call from President Trump and left the floor– after already speaking to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WY) and Vice President Mike Pence. He returned soon after with a coy instruction to “watch the show,” and quickly cast his “nay” vote, shortly before 1:30 in the morning.

“I thought it was the right vote. I do my job as a Senator.” — John McCain

With all Democrats committed to a no vote, three Republican defectors were necessary to ensure the bill could not pass with Vice President Pence ready and willing to break a 50-50 tie. John McCain was one of the three, along with Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

It is also worth noting that Senator McCain was not the only legislator in the Senate who arrived in the midst of a battle with cancer specifically to vote on this bill. Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) is presently fighting stage IV renal cancer, diagnosed this past May. She gave an impassioned speech on the floor late last night, pleading for her colleagues to demonstrate some measure of humanity in deciding the fate of millions of Americans. Thankfully, just enough of them did.

I mention Senator Hirono’s role in this because in this morning’s news cycles, Senator McCain has been heralded as the great hero of healthcare. While he deserves credit for voting with his conscience above his party, and while he has rightfully received a significant amount of respect for his past service and present diagnosis of brain cancer, and his was the numerically decisive vote–hence my headline– the stories of the female republicans from Maine and Alaska whose votes were just as critical in preventing the passage of the bill, and Senator Hirono’s tenacity in casting her vote in spite of a more-dire physical condition have been mostly overshadowed. This is not a surprise for those of us observing the media through a feminist lens–short of Rachel Maddow, there really are few news anchors who care to report on the actions of women when they can instead discuss those of a man, even in liberal networks– it is worth mentioning each and every time it occurs. Only by drawing attention to these inadequacies and being willing to critique our own side of the fence when necessary can the left truly build a party worth fighting for, rather than simply focusing on the right as a party to fight against.

Russian Sanctions Sail Through Congress

In other news, the House and Senate successfully passed a bill that would increase sanctions against Russia in retaliation for their interference in the 2016 Presidential Election. The vote was surprisingly easy, passing 419-3 in the House and 98-2 in the Senate. The more intriguing of the two was absolutely the latter– the two “nay” votes belonged to Senator Rand Paul  (R-KY), and, rather shockingly, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). It is worth noting that one of Senator Sanders’ senior campaign advisors during the 2016 Democratic primary elections, Vitali Shkliarov, is Russian, and that the Senator and his wife are potentially facing money-laundering charges related to his campaign finances.

While the bill received a shocking degree of bipartisan support, it remains unclear what the President will do with it. His choices, certainly, are limited and less than ideal. He can sign the bill, which would certainly displease any friends he or his campaign had made at the Kremlin, and which Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared would be met with the seizure of two American-owned buildings in Russia and an already-effected reduction in the number of American diplomatic personnel in the state. Alternatively, President Trump could elect to veto the bill outright– which would almost certainly be read as an admission of a patronage relationship between himself and Russia, and which Congress would fairly assuredly override– or “pocket veto” the bill, refusing to grant a decision and stalling the process entirely. This option might be the least favorable in terms of optics, and would likely result in a further break between the President and the Republican party. Regardless of what choice he makes, one can only imagine that Robert Mueller will be paying fairly close attention as it unfolds.

North Korean Missile Launches Continue 

Finally– because it was too slow of a news day– Kim Jong Un decided to remind the world that he still has missiles, and is ready to make life quite inconvenient for Japan and South Korea if anyone had any ideas about changing that. Around 10:45 (EDT) this morning, North Korea launched a ballistic missile that may have violated Japan’s sovereign waters. Needless to say, if that is the case, it will likely be deemed an act of war, at which point the United States– as an ally of Japan– would be compelled to respond. It is impossible to overstate the significance of this, not only to the global order, but also to Trump’s presidency. As we all learned with former President George W. Bush, a war is a fast track to higher approval ratings for a President, almost without fail. Armed conflict may be the one thing that could save Trump’s office– and would almost certainly represent his only path to a second term. Moreover, this is one of the few things that the various competing factions in the White House (Bannon, Priebus, Kushner/Scaramucci) would likely agree upon. While there is not much we can hope to do to prevent this conflict if North Korea decides–rather inexplicably–to force the issue, but some awareness of its significance could at least help combat some of the secondary effects.

Well, folks, that’s all for now– although if tomorrow is anything like the past few days, you’ll be hearing from me again quite soon. In the meantime, if anyone has any issues they would like to have discussed in the next couple of weeks, please feel free to drop a comment or use the Contact Me button above to send a private message.

— This is the ALF, signing off.

Trump to Reinstate Ban on Transgender Troops Amidst Controversy (Updated)

[Update: Sorry all, there was content in this post when it was published the first time– then it mysteriously disappeared.]

The Republican party did not exactly win many points yesterday. First, the Senate found itself–mercifully– incapable of repealing (without replacing) the Affordable Care Act. Then, the President, in the midst of an ongoing battle with his “beleaguered” Attorney General and a Russian investigation that is turning up more incriminating evidence by the day, decided inexplicably that a 37 percent approval rating wasn’t quite low enough and elected to do the seemingly impossible: make himself less popular.

In his usual fashion, President Trump began yesterday with an early-morning tweet storm in which he declared his intention to reverse an Obama-era policy that would allow transgender service personnel to serve openly in the United States Armed Forces. His reasoning: the “tremendous cost” of providing medical care to transgender people who volunteer to serve their country is simply too high. (Fact-checkers were quick to point out that the military spends five times as much on erectile dysfunction drugs than the cost of providing comprehensive care to these–at most– 15,000 individuals.)

This decision seemed to come rather rapidly, indicating one of two potential motives: either the President was hoping to distract from the Russian investigation by drawing the ire of his detractors in a new direction (which was somewhat effective, as thousands took to the streets across the country in protest), or he hoped to ignite the party base with a “victory” that could be won with nothing more than a signature on an executive order. In that objective, it appears he has failed. Several GOP legislators– including Orrin Hatch, President pro tempore of the Senate– have voiced their disapproval of the decision. More intriguingly, high-ranking members of the United States armed forces have pushed back against the announcement as well, up to and including several of the defense chiefs.

So, again, the President finds himself caught between warring factions: the more moderate among his party who find the choice to dehumanize thousands of people who volunteered their lives in service to their country–or who would like to in the future– and the extremists who feel this act is both too little and too late. This, it seems, is the crux of every issue, the cause of every failure of the republican party to achieve its platform in spite of controlling the Presidency and both houses of the legislature. While the GOP waxes poetic about the democratic party being hopelessly divided, the liberals remain united in platform and in voting patterns– something the republicans cannot seem to achieve irrespective of circumstance.

In the meantime, it is important to recognize that a tweet from the President does not equate to actual policy. An executive order has not yet surfaced, nor have any attempts to legislate the fate of transgender troops begun in Congress. This may yet be another flash in the pan, not unlike the executive order to bolster the coal industry. It would be more useful, however, to assume that this plan will proceed and put our full efforts towards resisting it accordingly. While contacting representatives may or may not make a difference in terms of the enactment of this policy, it is important nonetheless to make our voices heard: every legislator who speaks out against this policy increases the odds that the President will decide it is more trouble than its worth. Much as he is inclined to dismiss his dismal poll ratings and the voices of dissidents as “fake news,” he cannot be unaware of the precariousness of his position. The lower the President’s approval rating, the higher the chances of impeachment, particularly as the Russian investigation continues to unfold.

So, let us make it known that trans* rights are human rights, and that trans* service-people deserve nothing less than the full breadth of gratitude, respect, and access to care that we as a nation can provide.

— This is the ALF, signing off.

Independence Day 2017

Hello all,

I know it’s been a while, and I apologize– politics waits for no one, but unfortunately, neither does the rest of my life wait for me.

Moving on, I wanted to take a minute and address what feels like an elephant in the room for many leftists in the United States today: Independence Day, and whether (and how) to celebrate it.

Personally, I will not be. In years past, I reflected on the history of this young nation with some measure of skepticism. Our nation stood for many great things, not least of which is freedom– of speech, of the press, of (and from) religion, of assembly, and the freedom to elect our own representatives. However, those freedoms are not absolute– many are only enjoyed by our most privileged citizens– and came at unspeakable cost: the decimation of indigenous people; slavery; institutionalized racism; colonialism and neocolonialism; unparalleled military aggression; the oppression of women, immigrants, members of certain faiths, people who do not subscribe to religion, and anyone believing a different way could be better;  and the willingness to infringe upon the civil liberties of any group of people those in positions of power felt could pose a threat to “our” way of life– neglecting the fact that they too, often, should have been protected as part of “us.” (A short list: those supporting communism or socialism, Japanese-Americans following WWII, Muslims, immigrants, people of color, etc.)

So, freedom isn’t free. The “freedom” that the privileged among us in this country enjoyed even prior to this year’s election was won not only on the backs of soldiers who gave their last measure of devotion defending it, but also of nearly everyone who does not fit the American “ideal” of white, upper-middle class, able-bodied, christian men.

That is a hard enough pill to swallow in the name of “patriotism.” (To say nothing of the consumer-capitalist absurdity of dressing ourselves head to toe in the primary icon of the myth of American exceptionalism, putting meat on a fire, setting off explosives that traumatize the same people who defend our nation, and calling it a celebration of our “American Values.”) Now, in the aftermath of a corrupted election, when a man leads this country who–ironically– symbolizes all the parts of its history that those with privilege so often ignore, it is truly difficult to find anything to celebrate. The freedoms that we once claimed justified the means of their attainment are being infringed upon slightly more each day. The President is demanding voter information to investigate mythical cases of voter fraud– one can only imagine what he would do with the list of Clinton voters. TSA is going to begin requiring passengers to submit their books for additional screening– purportedly to check for illicit materials, but any thinking person can immediately see where that road leads: anyone carrying materials considered to be concerning (one would imagine that the Qur’an will be at the top of the list, given the nation’s rampant Islamophobia) will quickly be pulled aside for additional questioning. And, perhaps most disturbingly, the President of the United States is waging war on the free press. It is no real surprise that for many, this Independence Day feels more like a funeral than a celebration.

So what is left for those out there who see the reality of this nation and yet still feel compelled to celebrate– whether to honor those who have served it, or the ideals we have yet to live up to, or for some other reason entirely? To you I say this: if you want to celebrate the United States today, celebrate its possibility. There is always a grain of truth in every deception, and in the case of American exceptionalism, it can be found in the notion that the United States has always aspired to improve itself– to be better tomorrow than we were today. That is, and must be, as true now as it was 241 years ago.

So, if you feel the need, celebrate the potential of this nation today. Then, tomorrow, go out and fight for it.

— This is the ALF, signing off.

Key Points of James Comey’s Senate Testimony

Hello all,

The long awaited event has come and passed: James Comey, the beleaguered former FBI director, gave his voluntary testimony in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee. For the benefit of those who did not have three uninterrupted hours to devote to their televisions, I will summarize the main points below.

  • In his capacity as FBI director, James Comey met or spoke privately with Donald Trump–as President-Elect, and then as President–a total of nine times in a period of six months. In contrast, in his years of service under the previous administration, Mr. Comey met privately with President Obama only twice.
  • Contradicting one of President Trump’s prior statements, Comey said that he did not initiate any of these contacts.
  • In one of these meetings, President Trump asked repeatedly for Mr. Comey’s promised “loyalty,” a commitment Comey refused to make. In his mind, this request constituted an attempt to form a “patronage relationship.”
  • Comey began producing memos of his meetings with President Trump from their first one-on-one conversation, because he was “honestly concerned that [Trump] might lie” about the content. He did not make a habit of constructing memos about his conversations with President Obama.
  • Following one of these conversations, Comey asked Jeff Sessions to ensure he and President Trump did not speak alone again– to act, as is his duty as Attorney General, as the appropriate go-between that is meant to exist between the President and the FBI Director.
  • At the time of Comey’s conversations with Trump, he was not, in fact, under direct investigation for colluding with Russia. However, Comey stated today that he is “sure” that Special Counsel Robert Mueller was now investigating the President for obstruction of justice.
  • The subject of at least one of these one-on-one conversations was Michael Flynn– how he was a “good guy,” and how the President “hoped [Comey] could find a way to let [the investigation into Flynn] go.” While this was phrased as a general statement, Comey understood it to be a directive based on the power dynamics in play. He did not, however, say that he felt he was being threatened with termination.
  • Comey was not aware of any recording of these conversations, but consented to– and even invited– their release, if they do exist. He also consented to the release of his memos, both to Robert Muller and the Senate Intelligence Committee.
  • When President Trump tweeted about having “tapes,” Comey felt the need to ensure his side of the story was heard. In that moment, he sent the memos to a friend–a professor at Columbia University– and asked him to share them with the press. He did, which resulted in the bombshell New York Times article on the subject. Many on the right are taking this as an issue of “leaking,” however, as General James Clapper elucidated several weeks back, if the information shared is not classified, it cannot be a leak. There was no classified information in the Comey memos.
  • Without mincing words, Comey testified that President Trump’s comments regarding the Bureau being in “disarray” and having lost confidence in its director were “lies, plain and simple.” He further accused the President of defaming both his character, and that of the FBI.
  • The former FBI director admitted some “confusion” about the reason for his termination, but stated that he took the President “at his word” that he was fired in order to relieve the pressure that the Russian investigation was placing on the President’s office.
  • Unequivocally, Comey was able to state that Russia did, in fact, interfere in the United States Presidential Election– a point that President Trump never expressed concern about in his many conversations with the FBI Director.
  • When asked whether he believed President Trump had colluded with Russian officials in their election interference, Mr. Comey refused to answer in open session. (Naturally, this evokes a fair amount of speculation, because if the answer was “no,” it would not be classified and could therefore be shared.)

There were, of course, other points that could be made. There was the rather odd sidebar about Comey’s lack of confidence in Obama-era Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s ability to remain neutral in the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails– one would definitely question the relevance, let alone the evidence for this, which was justified only with an apparent meeting between Lynch and former President Bill Clinton on a tarmac, and Lynch’s request that the investigation be described as “a matter” in discussions with the press.

In a similar vein, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) used his seven minutes of questioning to go off on a winding, disorganized tangent about the investigation into Secretary Clinton; he later explained that he was hoping to impress upon Comey the hypocrisy of his willingness to speculate about the state of the Clinton investigation but not behave similarly in regards to Trump. If that was his goal, he went a long way around the barn without ever reaching his destination.

Finally, in light of yesterday’s events where Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) was silenced by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after asking Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for written confirmation that Robert Mueller would have full independence in his capacity as special counsel, I feel she deserves special recognition here. She spent the seven minutes she had to question Mr. Comey asking the questions that all of us wanted answered. Most, sadly, were not answered in open session, but she did prod Comey into saying that he believed Mueller should “absolutely” have complete independence in his duties.

Naturally, the republican camp dissented against most of this, with Donald Trump Jr. calling Comey’s testimony “BS,” and the President’s private attorney stating that Trump felt “vindicated,” and emphasized the parts of the testimony most convenient to his client while dismissing the rest. Standard operating procedure, really.

That’s all for today, folks. Until next time…

— This is the ALF, signing off.