Comey memos renew questions over Trump's behavior

If House Republicans thought they were helping President Donald Trump by forcing ...

Posted: Apr 20, 2018 12:21 PM
Updated: Apr 20, 2018 12:22 PM

If House Republicans thought they were helping President Donald Trump by forcing the release of James Comey's memos, they might want to think again.

The documents written by the then-FBI director, detailing his interactions with Trump, present a contemporaneous and deeply unflattering view of a President throwing his weight around in his first days in the White House -- that at the very least seems highly inappropriate.

Only special counsel Robert Mueller can decide whether the stunning accounts of conversations in which the President got the then-FBI director alone in the White House and leaned on him amount to obstruction of justice.

The Comey memos suggest Trump has a scattershot and self-obsessed mindset, brooding about his subordinates, leaks, his campaign and his inaugural crowd size and not appreciating or caring about protocol boundaries that separate the White House and the Justice Department.

Furthermore, the conversations with Comey soon after Trump moved into the White House paint a picture of a new President more concerned with own fortunes than the burden of his new responsibilities.

CNN obtained the documents, which offer a staggering insider account, after they were sent to Congress by the Justice Department on Thursday in response to requests from three GOP House committee chairmen on Capitol Hill.

Trump responded to the release of the memos in a tweet just before midnight Thursday that appeared to be an attempt to direct conversation away from the embarrassing substance of the documents.

"James Comey Memos just out and show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION. Also, he leaked classified information. WOW! Will the Witch Hunt continue?" Trump wrote.

'I am aghast'

It's possible that the House committee chairmen wanted the memos released to undercut Comey's current book tour and to weaken the Mueller probe.

If that was the case it has backfired.

"Honestly, I am aghast that they thought this was going to be helpful to the President and undermine Comey, therefore the FBI, therefore special counsel Mueller," Jack Quinn, a former counsel to President Bill Clinton, said Thursday on CNN.

"I can't get over the fact that they made this calculation. I am sure the President is not going to be sitting up tonight writing thank you letters to them," he said.

If anything, the memos appeared to bolster the credibility of Comey -- given their exhaustive detail. Comey will be a key witness in the question of whether Trump obstructed justice by firing him.

But it was also unclear whether they showed a clear intention on the part of the President to obstruct justice. Politically, they seem unlikely to shift entrenched perceptions of Trump among his supporters and critics.

"It doesn't seem like there is very much new in there," Kevin Madden, a Republican strategist, told CNN's Don Lemon on Thursday night, also finding nothing likely to change the trajectory of the special counsel investigation.

The documents will also renew attention on the odd relationship between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

That's because while noting Trump's denial about notorious allegations that he watched prostitutes engage in lewd behavior in a Moscow hotel, they include a bizarre comment by the President about an undated conversation with Putin.

"The President said the 'hookers thing' is nonsense but that Putin had told him 'we have some of the most beautiful hookers in the world' (He did not say when Putin had told him this)," Comey wrote.

Trump has vehemently denied the allegation about the prostitutes and it has not been publicly authenticated by US intelligence agencies or news organizations.

There will also be renewed debate about Trump's own judgment in personnel matters since Comey writes that he confessed to serious reservations about his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who was fired shortly afterward.

Those questions could extend to former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, whose inquiry to Comey about Flynn showed an apparent disregard in the White House for the firewall between the FBI and the executive office of the president.

Comey writes that the then-chief of staff asked him if the FBI had a secret court surveillance order on Flynn.

The FBI director answered the question -- but also rebuked Priebus, saying it was "the kind of question that had to be asked and answered through established channels."

Return of Giuliani

The documents overshadowed an attempt by Trump to bust out of the deepening morass caused by the Russia investigation and his other legal woes.

Trump's big move Thursday was to recruit a new big-time adviser: former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

It's a wonder it took this long. Like the President, Giuliani is a tough talking New Yorker who relishes a fight and proved his loyalty as a lone voice defending Trump when the "Access Hollywood" tape rocked the 2016 campaign.

He fits Trump's template in that he's a master at mixing it up on cable television and will not hang back if required to lacerate the President's enemies.

Even so, Giuliani struck an almost conciliatory note Thursday, suggesting that his acquaintance with Mueller could help him "negotiate" an end to the Russia investigation.

He later told CNN's Dana Bash that he would ask Mueller for a list of what was needed to "comply" with the rest of the investigation as soon as he can -- a process he thought could take a "couple of weeks."

Giuliani's arrival, after he was passed over as Trump's secretary of state and attorney general at the start of the administration, raises a number of questions.

First, his history with Trump, matching personality and political experience suggest that he may have as good a chance as anyone at getting his advice to stick with the President. There have been clear signs in recent weeks that Trump has been acting as his own lawyer, with mixed results.

"If Rudy is the guy that the President will listen to, will keep confidences, will establish a proper attorney-client relationship, then that potentially should be useful to him," said Carrie Cordero, former counsel to the US assistant attorney general for national security, told CNN's Erin Burnett.

Giuliani's legal acumen was proven by a renowned spell as the US attorney for the Southern District of New York before he ran for mayor. But there must be some risk that his love of the limelight could grate on the President over time, a lesson many Trump aides have had to learn.

However, the former New York mayor's apparent plan to leverage his history with Mueller to speed the end of the investigation seems highly optimistic, given the special counsel's by-the-book style.

"I don't know that it changes the dynamic in any way. The idea that he is going to cause by force of personality, or resume, or anything else Bob Mueller to go away in the course of two weeks doesn't seem very realistic to me," Preet Bharara, who was fired as the Southern District's attorney by Trump, said on CNN.

Trump, who has been searching for white collar representation for weeks, also bolstered his legal team with the husband and wife duo of Jane Serene Raskin and Marty Raskin, who are criminal defense attorneys from Florida.

Cohen factor

The President was, meanwhile, consumed by the fallout from the FBI's raid last week on Michael Cohen, his personal lawyer, a source told CNN's Jeff Zeleny.

Another former Trump attorney, Jay Goldberg, told CNN on Thursday night that he was concerned Cohen will lie to prosecutors to get leniency on his own charges.

Goldberg told CNN's Gloria Borger on Wednesday that he had warned Trump in a call last Friday that Cohen could end up cooperating with prosecutors.

"Anybody who is facing 30 years never stands up," Goldberg says he told the President. "Without exception, a person facing a prison term cooperates."

Trump's concern with the plight of Cohen, who has been his personal fixer for years and intimately understands his web of business interests, raises the question of whether the President thinks that his lawyer committed a crime.

There was a semblance of good news for Trump, though, as Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein informed him he was not a target of the Cohen sweep, a source familiar with the matter told CNN's Jim Acosta.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 941120

Reported Deaths: 15315
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1282511983
Lake633041097
Allen53609758
Hamilton43827447
St. Joseph41906590
Elkhart33545490
Vanderburgh30383448
Tippecanoe26820249
Johnson23609417
Hendricks22250341
Porter21737346
Clark17409229
Madison17366384
Vigo16108281
Monroe14466191
LaPorte14311239
Delaware14070221
Howard13865272
Kosciusko11418135
Hancock10841165
Warrick10674177
Bartholomew10542168
Floyd10430205
Wayne9959226
Grant9130204
Morgan8865160
Boone8389111
Dubois7710123
Dearborn762289
Henry7608130
Noble7413101
Marshall7362128
Cass7176117
Lawrence6957153
Shelby6584111
Jackson656785
Gibson6156107
Harrison603786
Huntington600195
Montgomery5805105
DeKalb574291
Knox5494104
Miami542488
Putnam536768
Clinton533665
Whitley524953
Steuben497268
Wabash483592
Jasper479160
Jefferson470092
Ripley454277
Adams444068
Daviess4169108
Scott405865
White391857
Clay390857
Greene388392
Decatur385296
Wells384983
Fayette374278
Posey359941
Jennings353156
Washington332047
LaGrange321375
Spencer317835
Fountain316555
Randolph312888
Sullivan307449
Owen283863
Starke280064
Fulton277553
Orange275859
Jay254837
Perry251652
Carroll243729
Franklin239338
Rush234130
Vermillion233250
Parke219820
Tipton209655
Pike207639
Blackford168334
Pulaski163551
Crawford146018
Newton144345
Benton142516
Brown135346
Martin128217
Switzerland125810
Warren114616
Union96911
Ohio79711
Unassigned0479

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1365800

Reported Deaths: 21596
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1522221560
Cuyahoga1344852327
Hamilton976051320
Montgomery670271141
Summit562091047
Lucas50900863
Butler47417655
Stark41580976
Lorain31567532
Warren30001331
Mahoning26963639
Clermont25628292
Lake24585417
Delaware22313145
Licking20487241
Fairfield20420221
Greene20309272
Trumbull19866509
Medina19796287
Clark17879328
Richland16314234
Portage16130229
Wood15681208
Allen14115256
Miami13786253
Muskingum12641152
Wayne11946238
Columbiana11708241
Tuscarawas10953269
Marion10725148
Pickaway10465129
Scioto10324127
Erie9747171
Ross9436176
Lawrence8755125
Hancock8458141
Ashtabula8317185
Geauga8173156
Belmont8140187
Jefferson7527172
Huron7423128
Union731851
Washington7183120
Athens697165
Sandusky6848134
Darke6756136
Knox6671122
Seneca6358137
Ashland5948113
Auglaize587188
Shelby5727101
Brown564171
Mercer557890
Defiance5483101
Madison543371
Crawford5425114
Highland541581
Fulton530683
Clinton525580
Logan512182
Preble4994110
Putnam4833106
Guernsey470364
Williams459282
Perry449852
Champaign445964
Ottawa436884
Jackson425362
Pike388843
Morrow383851
Fayette375853
Coshocton374766
Adams360675
Hardin359069
Gallia347356
Holmes3259108
Henry324668
Van Wert314670
Hocking301769
Wyandot280658
Carroll262652
Paulding242243
Meigs213942
Monroe189749
Noble169340
Morgan165829
Harrison157940
Vinton138118
Unassigned05
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 54°
Angola
Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 52°
Huntington
Mostly Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 54°
Decatur
Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 54°
Van Wert
Cloudy
53° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 53°
Sunshine and warmer air return to round out the work week, but the warm-up is brief.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events