With Joanie Greve
THE BIG IDEA: How do you say schadenfreude in Russian? That is what alumni of Bill Clinton’s White House and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign are thinking this morning as James Comey arrives on Capitol Hill to testify.
There is a feeling in Clinton World that what goes around comes around. But as pundits increasingly draw comparisons to Watergate, many who suffered through the scandals of the 1990s are also experiencing a sense of déjà vu. As special counsel Robert Mueller ramps up his investigation, they’re having flashbacks to Ken Starr.
President Trump repeatedly attacked the Clintons over Whitewater last year, even reviving the outrageous conspiracy theory that Hillary might have had a hand in Vince Foster’s suicide. Candidate Trump also cheered on Comey, as the then-FBI director (perhaps fatally) damaged her presidential hopes.
No matter how today plays out, Comey’s appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee will not bring resolution to the inquiries that threaten to imperil the president. Looking forward, a lot of Clintonistas see instructive parallels and lessons that Trump and his staff could learn from their experience. Here are eight:
1. “The Trump administration has yet to understand how the campaign investigation is likely to be the gateway to the inner workings of the Trump empire,” writes Democratic wise man Doug Sosnik, who was a senior adviser to Bill Clinton from 1994 to 2000. “My lesson from those days: Trump and his advisers are in way over their heads and unprepared for what awaits them. … During the campaign and transition, the world of Trump remained a spider web of dealmakers whose mission was to expand the family’s fortune, and perhaps their own. Anyone who played in this environment is now legally vulnerable. … The Comey hearing presents the next big test for Trump. His response will either accelerate the downward spiral or signal the administration’s effort to reboot and increase its odds of survival.”
2. Get used to the fog of war. “Having worked in a White House under investigation, I know from experience that it’s even more disorienting than it appears,” says Jennifer Palmieri, who was deputy press secretary in the Clinton administration, in an op-ed for the USA Today network of newspapers. “No one in a position of authority at the White House tells you what is happening. No one knows. Your closest colleague could be under investigation and you would not know. You could be under investigation and not know. It can be impossible to stay focused on your job.”
3. Changing your story, even slightly, looks like a cover up. Jane Sherburne, as special counsel to Clinton from 1994 to 1997, handled Whitewater and associated ethics issues. In an op-ed for The Post, she offers seven pieces of nonpartisan advice to her successors about navigating the Russia crisis. Having covered Trump every day for two years now, this seems like the most important one:
“Put a process in place to ensure consistent and accurate communication about the facts. It should be the job of the special counsel to gather the facts and equip the president and White House staff to speak with authority … Anyone talking to the press or interacting with Congress should be armed with enough information to respond with consistent message points. … Bad things happen when key players stray from the message or have their own communications with the press or Congress that haven’t been coordinated with the special counsel. Inaccurate information may be released that later needs to be explained or corrected, or a public statement may miss an important nuance that creates a legal issue or opens a new line of inquiry. Giving an unequivocal answer (e.g., ‘No. No. Next question.’) before all the facts are known or fully understood can be disastrous. … Loss of discipline deepens the crisis.”
Take the initiative to disclose bad facts, Jane concludes: “Being tempted to evade the truth, or to shade it, will only end up creating more of a mess for a White House already in trouble.”
4. Collateral damage is inevitable. Joe Conason, who co-authored a book about Starr’s investigation called “The Hunting of the President,” notes that the special prosecutor couldn’t take down Clinton, but he did ruin Jim Guy Tucker’s life. Clinton’s successor as governor of Arkansas was convicted on charges that he’d lied on his application for a loan a decade earlier when he was in the television business. “Trump’s aides would be well-served by googling him — and Webb Hubbell, and Susan and Jim McDougal, and William J. Marks Sr. — about the brutal collateral damage of Starr’s investigation,” Joe writes for BuzzFeed. “Just like Starr and other independent or special counsels, Mueller may well prosecute offenses that appear tangential to the Russia case in order to turn targets into witnesses. … Seeking witnesses who would testify against Bill and Hillary Clinton, the Office of Independent Counsel … indicted well over a dozen of their friends and acquaintances, most of whom had nothing to do with Whitewater at all.”
Mueller’s reported decision to take over the Virginia grand jury probing former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s lobbying for Turkish interests might be an early window into how he’ll operate. “Flynn’s legal jeopardy in the Turkish matter will provide heavy leverage over the retired general to testify about Trump,” Joe explains. “And Trump’s fractious and tarnished aides are a prosecutor’s dream. It isn’t hard to imagine major and minor disagreements among the eternally feuding Trump campaign team when they are brought in to talk with the special counsel’s lawyers and FBI agents. What will Roger Stone, Corey Lewandowski, Paul Manafort, Steve Bannon, and Jared Kushner say about the campaign — and one another — under oath? Surrounding Trump are many potentially vulnerable people — and unlike Starr, Mueller won’t have to stretch his mandate to examine them. … It isn’t so far-fetched to imagine how Mueller might uncover new information about … Chris Christie, who barely escaped prosecution in the ‘Bridgegate’ scandal that sent three of his aides to prison. And then what would Christie say about Trump?”
5. The investigations will likely drag on beyond the end of Trump’s presidency. The University of Virginia’s Miller Center conducted confidential oral-history interviews with former Clinton administration officials that have just recently been released. Russell Riley, who co-chairs the program that conducted the conversations, wrote a book based on what he learned called “Inside the Clinton White House.” In a new piece for The Atlantic, he explains that there was conjecture within the Clinton inner-circle that the Whitewater probe would take only six months.
But then-White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum knew better. “This will last … as long as [Clinton is] president and beyond,” Nussbaum recalled telling his colleagues. “They’ll be investigating things years from now that we haven’t even dreamed about today.” “When I said that,” he noted during his sit-down with the UVA guys, “Monica Lewinsky was a junior in college.” No one could have imagined that an investigation into an Arkansas land deal (on which the Clintons lost money) would lead to an exploration of infidelity with an intern.
Mueller may not have an axe to grind like Starr did, but no one doubts that he will be very thorough. Garrett Graff (who wrote an excellent book about the former FBI director in 2011 called “The Threat Matrix”) recounts how Mueller, as an outside counsel brought in by the NFL to investigate the handling of the Ray Rice’s domestic-violence case, turned over every rock. “His team, some of whom will now be working alongside him in the Russia investigation, devoured millions of documents, text messages, and emails; tracked down nearly every person who had been in the building; and called all 938 telephone numbers that called in and out of the league headquarters during the period in question,” Garrett writes for Politico Magazine. “That thoroughness and Mueller’s strong independence should terrify the Trump White House.”
6. Even junior staffers will need to hire lawyers. “Staff members lawyer up and develop protective moats around themselves, undermining the esprit de corps essential for doing a high-pressure job well,” the University of Virginia’s Riley writes. “Clinton congressional liaison Lawrence Stein learned this quickly. His first day on the job came in January 1998, immediately after news had broken about the Lewinsky scandal. Stein was headed to a big meeting on the upcoming State of the Union when he stopped by the deputy chief of staff’s office. ‘[John Podesta] was sitting there slumped in a chair talking to Doug Sosnik [then the White House political director],’ he recalled in his oral history. ‘Sosnik was going like this [jabbing his finger, pointing away from the door, indicating he should leave.] … Doug [says]: ‘You know, you might want to find another room because you don’t want to hire a lawyer.’ On what should have been the most exhilarating day of his career … Stein was shown the door of the first office he entered and threatened that he, too, might get tangled in Starr’s net. Clinton staffers quickly had to learn that there were certain things they dare not discuss, and that some meetings were better not attended.”
Clinton’s personal secretary, Betty Currie, recalled the pressure and frustration of being dragged before a grand jury: “They kept asking me questions about people,” she said in her oral-history interview, “and at one point I told them, ‘I cannot mention another name to you, because as soon as I mention a name, you subpoena these young kids who can’t afford any lawyers. Now ask me what you want, but I’m not saying any other names.’”
7. This is so trite that I cringe to write it, but it’s also true: It’s not the crime. It’s the cover-up. “Recent experience suggests Trump associates … face far more legal risk from their interviews and potential testimony than from any substantive activities,” Phillip Carter, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University, writes on Slate. “Starr’s searching inquiry … never generated charges relating to the (Whitewater) deal itself, but it did snare the president himself (and ultimately led to his impeachment) when he made false statements under oath. …
“This dynamic owes mostly to the gray zone of intent and unlawfulness surrounding activities in the context of high government office,” Phillip explains. “Flynn, as the designated national security adviser for an incoming president, had plausibly legitimate reasons to talk with Russian officials. Manafort, too, may have had plausibly legitimate reasons to do so as campaign chair. But no role in the campaign, transition, or administration comes with a license to lie to federal investigators. Former CIA Director David Petraeus arguably could have declassified and shared classified material with his biographer (who herself had a clearance by virtue of her reserve military service). What Petraeus could not do was lie to federal agents about his misdeeds, the offense he ultimately pled guilty to.”
8. Finally, Trump almost certainly does not benefit as much from executive privilege and attorney-client privilege as he thinks. “A pair of legal showdowns between Ken Starr’s office and the Clinton White House two decades ago erased the idea that presidents and their aides are protected by attorney-client privilege when talking with government lawyers,” writes Politico’s Josh Gerstein. “That means, effectively, that Mueller would likely be able to get access to the notes or testimony regarding communications among Trump, his aides, and White House lawyers such as Don McGahn. However, communications directly with Marc Kasowitz, Trump’s personal attorney who’s been tapped to lead the group of lawyers representing the administration in the Mueller probe and related congressional investigations, would be easier to shield.”
But legal experts say there are limits and hazards to pushing scandal-related matters to outside lawyers: “One danger is pushing too much responsibility to Kasowitz, who may face challenges interfacing with White House staffers other than Trump as well as with officials at federal agencies like the Justice Department and FBI,” Josh notes. “Some lawyers said it is even possible Kasowitz could be deemed a White House staffer if he takes on too large a role. … Tensions between White House counsel and outside lawyers are also common, since the government-paid team is often more responsive to political concerns while the outside lawyers tend to be focused more on avoiding criminal liability.”
Lanny Davis, who served on the Clinton White House team handling scandal-related matters, said protecting the secrecy of legal strategy could be especially tricky for the undisciplined Trump, who likes holding large and freewheeling meetings. “They’ve got to be very careful because waiver is very easy and can even be unintentional. If you’re sitting in the Oval Office with Kasowitz and he’s talking to Donald Trump and [Sean] Spicer walks into the room … that discussion could be subject to compelled testimony,” Lanny, who now runs his own crisis communications firm, told Josh.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
– Congressman-elect Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) formally apologized last night to Ben Jacobs, the reporter who he assaulted the day before last month’s special election, as the two reached a civil settlement. David Weigel reports: Gianforte said in his apology: “Notwithstanding anyone’s statements to the contrary, you did not initiate any physical contact with me, and I had no right to assault you…I am sorry for what I did and the unwanted notoriety this has created for you. I take full responsibility.” He pledged to give $50,000 toward an organization that supports press freedom. Gianforte still faces criminal charges for misdemeanor assault.
– The Golden State Warriors continued their winning streak with a 118-113 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. Tim Bontemps reports: “Now the Warriors, who haven’t lost since April 10, will have a chance to do something no team has done: go 16-0 en route to winning a championship.” The win was made possible, in part, by Kevin Durant’s jump shot, which brought the Warriors from a two-point deficit to a one-point lead in the final minutes. Durant’s mother said of her son’s jumper: “Ever since he started playing basketball I’ve seen that shot. But I don’t think any of them meant more than this one here tonight.”
GET SMART FAST:
North Korea launched another set of missiles. It was not immediately clear how many or what type of missiles were fired. (Anna Fifield)
Iran’s foreign minister lambasted Trump’s statement on Tehran’s terrorist attack as “repugnant.” The U.S. statement concluded with the phrase, “States that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote.” (Paul Schemm)
Bill Cosby’s defense attorney grilled one of his accusers. Andrea Constand, who says Cosby drugged and assaulted her, was forced to admit that the original date of the assault she provided to the police was off by several weeks. (Manuel Roig-Franzia)
A former Metro Access bus driver was found guilty of supporting terrorism. Mohamad Khweis quit his transportation job in 2015 and traveled to Syria in support of ISIS. (Rachel Weiner)
Puerto Rico’s citizens will hold a vote Sunday on whether they would like their territory to become a U.S. state. The voters are expected to come down in favor of statehood, in which case a delegation would come to Washington demanding to be seated. But Republicans would never accept this, so it’s moot. (The Hill)
Republicans in the Kansas legislature overrode Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto of their bill to raise taxes. The state faces a $1.2 billion budget hole, and Brownback’s experiment with supply side economics has failed miserably. (Max Ehrenfreund)
Jane Sanders launched her own think tank. The wife of the Vermont senator said the Sanders Institute will “revitalize democracy in the support of progressive institutions.” (David Weigel)
Up to 100 girls may have undergone female genital mutilation by a Michigan doctor, who is now facing trial. A prosecutor said that, due to the procedure’s secretive nature, “we are unlikely to ever know how many children were cut.” (Detroit Free Press)
DRIVING THE DAY:
– Comey will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, beginning at 10 a.m. today. (Ed O’Keefe made a handy viewer’s guide with logistical info and some background on every senator who will question him.)
– The fired director’s opening statement, released yesterday afternoon, clocks in at seven pages and just over 3,000 words. You really should read the whole thing. Devlin Barrett flags some of the key passages:
- During a January 27 dinner: “The President said, ‘I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.’ I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence. The conversation then moved on.”
- Later during the same dinner: “[Trump] then said, ‘I need loyalty.’ I replied, ‘You will always get honesty from me.’ He paused and then said, ‘That’s what I want, honest loyalty.’ I paused, and then said, ‘You will get that from me.’ As I wrote in the memo I created immediately after the dinner, it is possible we understood the phrase ‘honest loyalty’ differently, but I decided it wouldn’t be productive to push it further. The term – honest loyalty – had helped end a very awkward conversation.”
- “I spoke alone with President Obama twice in person (and never on the phone) … I can recall nine one-on-one conversations with President Trump in four months – three in person and six on the phone.”
- During a February 14 meeting in the Oval Office: “The President then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn, saying, ‘He is a good guy and has been through a lot.’ He repeated that Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice President. He then said, ‘I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.’ I replied only that ‘he is a good guy’ … I did not say I would let this go.”
- After Comey publicly confirmed the bureau’s investigation into potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign: “[Trump] described the Russia investigation as ‘a cloud’ that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country. He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia. He asked what we could do to ‘lift the cloud.’”
- “I explained that we had briefed the leadership of Congress on exactly which individuals we were investigating and that we had told those Congressional leaders that we were not personally investigating President Trump. I reminded him I had previously told him that. He repeatedly told me, ‘We need to get that fact out.’”
– Sneak peek at the opening statement of Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the vice-chair of the Intel Committee: “Mr. Comey, let me say at the outset that we haven’t always agreed on every issue – in fact I’ve occasionally questioned actions you’ve taken – but I’ve never had any reason to question your integrity, expertise or intelligence. You have been a straight shooter with this Committee and have been willing to speak truth to power, even at the risk of your career. Which makes the way in which you were fired by the President utterly shocking. Recall: we began this entire process with the President and his staff first denying that the Russians were ever involved, and then falsely claiming that no one from his team was ever in touch with any Russians. We now know that this is not true. … Regardless of the outcome of our investigation into those Russia links, Director Comey’s firing and his testimony raise separate and troubling questions that we must get to the bottom of.”
REACTION TO COMEY’S WRITTEN STATEMENT:
– For the president himself, the Russia investigation (like just about everything else) is really about his victory in November’s election. WaPo White House bureau chief Philip Rucker explains: “Trump views the Russia scandal as a threat to the legitimacy of his election. Trump feels immense pride that he ran as a political outsider and defied the polls and pundits to handily win an electoral college majority … To Trump, the Russia matter challenges the validity of that win. And for that, he exhibits a feeling of victimization.”
– Comey’s testimony places Trump’s style of communication under a microscope that he never encountered as a businessman. Marc Fisher explains in a smart analysis piece: “As president, Trump has found that at least some of the people on the receiving end of his strong-arming are far more likely to push back publicly. Which is what Comey did Wednesday in a seven-page, single-spaced statement that portrays the president as a stereotypical tough guy out of a B movie.”
– Depending on Comey’s exact testimony today, the focus of the congressional investigations may shift to the obstruction question, especially given this week’s bombshell that Trump asked top intelligence officials to intervene with the FBI’s Russia probe. Ed O’Keefe and Karoun Demirjian report: “A series of such revelations in recent weeks have fueled accusations of obstruction, but at least four congressional inquiries have remained wide-ranging, with some lawmakers expressing greater concern about whether Trump campaign associates colluded with Russian officials to meddle in the 2016 election and others more focused on prosecuting those who have leaked classified information to the media.”
– Even if Comey’s testimony today proves more damning than his prepared statement indicates, Trump will not go without a fight—likely a raucous one. Dan Balz writes: “Trump is a survivor above all, particularly in a he-said-he-said situation. Whether tweeting in real time to contest what Comey says or offering his side of the story in the aftermath, the president is a fighter and a counterpuncher of extraordinary skill and determination. He will not shrink from the moment or slink away.”
– Former Watergate prosecutor Philip Allen Lacovara writes that “any experienced prosecutor would see these facts as establishing a prima facie case of obstruction of justice”: “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.”
– CNN’s Chris Cillizza: “The testimony…reads like a point-by-point dismissal of Trump’s version of events — casting Comey as wary from the get-go of a chief executive who seemed to presume too much and know too little.”
– LA Times columnist Robin Abcarian: “Trump thought he had some kind of bromance going with Comey. He wined him. He dined him. And because he is transactional to his core, he expected a little somethin’ somethin’ in return.”
– Jonathan Turley in USA Today: “To treat the desire of a private conversation as inescapable evidence of obstruction is to deny the obvious defenses in the case. In the end, a prosecutor should never seek to indict a president absent a lead-pipe cinch of a case. This is no lead-pipe cinch.”
– National Review Editor Rich Lowry (in Politico): “Judging only by his statement for the record provided to the Senate Intelligence Committee (perhaps the live testimony will play differently), Comey doesn’t have Trump nailed for high crimes and misdemeanors. Rather, he has him dead to rights for amateurish and ham-handed scheming, which is not an impeachable offense.”
– National Review columnist David French: “Obstruction of justice is a legal term with a legal meaning, and Trump’s request on its face and by itself simply doesn’t satisfy the elements of the crime.”
– Conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin: “The critical question for Comey on Thursday will be: Given the tone, conversations, frequency of contacts and every other signal, did he feel that Trump was pushing him to dismiss the Flynn case for improper reasons…and/or to drop the Russia investigation, or clear him, since it was a political problem?”
– New York Times liberal columnist Charles Blow: “If you believe the Comey statement, you must take away from it that Trump is a liar, a bully and a criminal … You must take away that this is the most comprehensive and compelling case thus far that Trump did indeed engage in obstruction of justice.”
– The Fix’s Philip Bump: “Comey wasn’t going to declare publicly that Trump wasn’t under investigation so that he wouldn’t need to then tell the public if Trump was. But the FBI isn’t suddenly bound by that duty to correct simply because of Comey’s testimony. Trump could be under investigation at this very moment — though there’s no evidence that he is.”
– Legal scholar and Comey friend Benjamin Wittes on Lawfare: “Comey is describing here conduct that a society committed to the rule of law simply cannot accept in a president.”
– Nicholas Schmidle writes for The New Yorker: “There has been little focus on Comey’s moral and intellectual leanings. Despite Comey’s protestations that he has no interest in politics, he has signalled some abiding concerns over the years.”
TRUMP’S PUSHBACK PLAN:
– The White House staff itself is largely outsourcing Comey criticism to external surrogates. Politico’s Matthew Nussbaum , Josh Dawsey , Darren Samuelsohn and Tara Palmeri report: “Administration officials have told surrogates to question Comey’s credibility — but the White House is cautious about doing it, given Trump’s campaign aides and allies are operating under the cloud of investigation. White House officials ‘want it particularly noted’ … that Comey had previously said the investigation had not been obstructed.”
– Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.), who is likely angling to get a job in the Trump administration next year, defended the president in a surreal MSNBC interview: “What people don’t understand is that they elected an outsider president … so, I think over the course of time, we can talk about different examples, what you’re seeing is a president who is now very publicly learning about the way people react to what he considers to be normal New York City.”
– The RNC sent out essentially contradictory talking points to surrogates, advising people to say Comey is both vindicating Trump and also that he has no credibility.
THE LEAD-UP TO COMEY:
– Top intelligence officials at a Senate hearing yesterday refused to discuss conversations with the president in detail, including conversations that have already been thoroughly covered in the media. Ellen Nakashima and Karoun Demirjian report: “Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and National Security Agency Director Michael S. Rogers struggled to provide a consistent rationale for why they could not discuss the conversations with Trump in public. Rogers offered that the conversations were classified. But when pressed by Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), he could not specify what was classified about the conversation. The intelligence officials’ refusal to publicly address whether Trump asked them to play down or somehow impede the probe disturbed the committee’s Democrats, who were visibly frustrated.”
THE NEW JIM COMEY?
– Get to know Christopher Wray, Trump’s pick to lead the FBI. A few biographic points on Wray from Matt Zapotosky:
- Wray served as Christie’s attorney during the Bridgegate controversy and, observers say, offered a “comforting presence” to the scandal-ridden governor. “When I was at the absolute lowest point of my professional life, he’s who I called,” Christie said. “I don’t think you can get a better recommendation than that.”
- “His name appears on several redacted records in the ACLU’s database of torture documents” related to his work for the Bush administration.
- Wray served as counsel to Credit Suisse in a major tax evasion case, which resulted in a $2.6 billion settlement.
– The president’s tweet announcing Wray caught his own press staff off guard. There was no official release or back-up material prepared ahead of time. And the White House did not even give a heads up to top Republicans on the Hill.
“Most of us learned about it from the tweet,” a WH official tells me of the Wray pick and Trump’s morning social media announcement.
— Ali Vitali (@alivitali) June 7, 2017
THE LATEST FROM LONDON:
– The U.K., still reeling from a terrorist attack that struck less than a week ago, heads to the polls today. As Brits consider who will lead their nation through a European Union exit, a question arises: how did authorities let Saturday’s attack happen when two of the assailants were on police radar? Rick Noack and Karla Adam report: “The criticism also extends to Prime Minister Theresa May, who was Britain’s home secretary until last year and for whom the latest bloodshed in London — the attack killed eight people — has become a major factor in Thursday’s election.”
– That piece of criticism and several others have caused May’s position in recent polls to slip. Adam Taylor reports: “The snap election was called by Prime Minister Theresa May in April in a bid to boost her support in Parliament ahead of complicated negotiations to leave the European Union. But polls show the race has unexpectedly tightened over the past few weeks, leading to a much closer battle than anyone expected.” Adam has a full guide on what the polls have said about today’s race, but late-breaking developments could also affect the results.
– May pivoted back to last year’s Brexit vote yesterday in a last-ditch attempt to woo anti-EU voters, Reuters’ William James and Kylie MacLellan report. Sounding downright Trumpian, May told a campaign rally crowd, “When it comes to the election tomorrow, I think the choices and the questions that people need to ask are exactly the same today as they were right at the beginning of the campaign…And the first is a question of who do you trust to actually have the strong and stable leadership that is going to deliver the best deal for Britain in Europe.“
– May’s Conservatives are still expected to win, but the Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, has had a resurgence no one expected, Griff Witte reports. One political science professor summarized it this way: “[May will] still win the election, but she’ll be weaker for it…Jeremy Corbyn will lose the election, but he’ll be stronger for it.”
– A third party is almost entirely absent from election observers’ victory predictions: the Liberal Democrats. Post reporters write of the center-left group, “The party’s difficulty gaining ground, despite apparent advantages, offers a case study of how political alternatives wither, even as distrust for politics as usual mounts … The two leading parties, the ruling Conservatives and the opposition Labour Party, had moved to the extremes, reflecting — or magnifying — the polarization of public opinion. At the same time, neither has offered a comfortable home for those who believe the country is doing itself harm by cutting ties with Europe.”
– London Mayor Sadiq Khan continues to receive high marks for how he has navigated his city through Saturday’s attack. William Booth reports: “Khan is not only mayor but also probably the most prominent Muslim politician in the West, in a city attacked not once but twice by Islamist extremists during his first year in office … The son of a Pakistani immigrant who worked as a bus driver, from the Tooting borough of London, Khan has been a steady fixture on television screens and social media since the attack, channeling the city’s anger, sorrow and defiance.” But politics still factor into the popular mayor’s media appearances: “Khan is a star in the Labour Party — and though he is not a big booster of Corbyn, Khan has played off the London Bridge attack to warn that if the Conservative Party wins the election Thursday, they would probably slash budgets for front-line police officers.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
– By encouraging Saudi Arabia to more harshly crack down on terrorism, Trump may have made a bad problem worse. Greg Jaffe and Karen DeYoung report: “In his push to empower the Saudis, Trump may have unleashed problems, including increased sectarianism and regional strife, that are as bad as the one he was trying to fix, inflaming tensions that could imperil the battle against the Islamic State and other critical U.S. priorities.”
THE SWAMP IS NOT BEING DRAINED:
– Trump’s policies are making it easier for lobbyists to join his administration. Matea Gold and Juliet Eilperin report: “Although dozens of lobbyists have joined the Trump administration, only one received an ethics waiver addressing his previous lobbying work … That’s because an executive order that Trump signed in January did away with a rule laid down by former president Barack Obama banning lobbyists from joining agencies they had lobbied in the previous two years. Instead, Trump’s order allows former lobbyists to enter the administration, but prohibits them for two years from working on a specific issue that they lobbied on during the previous two years.”
DECONSTRUCTING THE ADMINISTRATIVE STATE:
– Republicans are quickly moving to loosen hiring requirements for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency. Maria Sacchetti reports: “The bill would allow the CBP commissioner to waive a polygraph in the case of a full-time state or local law enforcement officer who has passed the test during the prior 10 years, among other requirements. … Critics worried that waiving polygraph tests — even for experienced military and law enforcement officers — risks having problem candidates slip through. CBP is still recovering from allegations of corruption and excessive use of force that led Congress to require polygraphs at the agency in 2010.”
– The administration yesterday signaled plans to roll back protections for the sage grouse. Darryl Fears reports: “The two-month review will take into consideration issues that concern some western politicians: jobs and energy development, some of the very things that scientists say led to the bird’s decline … The greater sage grouse population is estimated to have fallen by as much as 90 percent because of industrial mining, oil and gas drilling, and other disturbances … The health of sage grouse is an indication of the health of the sagebrush, which hundreds of animals depend on.”
– A new Georgetown study finds that Trump’s rural supporters would be disproportionately hurt by the House GOP health care bill. Jose A. DelReal reports: “The ACA led to an 11 percent decrease in the number of uninsured rural Americans in states that chose to participate in Medicaid expansion, a linchpin of the law, according to the new report by the Georgetown Center for Children and Families.”
INFRASTRUCTURE WEEK ISN’T WORKING:
– Trump traveled to Ohio yesterday to talk up his infrastructure plan and meet with “Obamacare victims.” Damian Paletta and David Nakamura report: “Trump’s trip, part of a week of events aimed at promoting the White House initiative, was heavy on symbolism as he spoke at the Rivertowne Marina to a crowd of 400 steelworkers, coal miners and construction workers … Yet if part of the aim was to build crucial bipartisan support for a plan he has claimed will boost jobs, Trump was unable to mask his disdain for his political rivals.” The president said in his remarks: “I’m calling on all Democrats, who honestly have really been obstructionists — boy, have they tried on every single thing … Every single thing is obstruction … if I was in that party, I would not do it that way. I’d be doing positive things. That’s why they lost the House, it’s why they lost the Senate, it’s why they lost the White House.”
– Democrats who previously irked hard-core members of the “resistance” by saying they would work with Trump to pass an infrastructure bill now feel no need to move on the legislation. David Weigel reports: “The Trump infrastructure push, meant to be at the very least a welcome political distraction in a scandal-dominated week, has become the latest example of the president’s vanishing clout. A White House “signing ceremony” had the president sending a toothless letter to Congress. A speech in Cincinnati offered few details and plenty of digressions … The result: Democrats, who once worried about the president barnstorming the country to take credit for new jobs and investment, are feeling no pressure to act on an amorphous and easily demonized plan.”
– The stalled infrastructure plan may explain why Trump has turned to health care with renewed interest. Politico’s Burgess Everett and Josh Dawsey report: “President Donald Trump is increasingly invested in Senate passage of a bill to repeal Obamacare, realizing that a successful vote in the upper chamber will provide a major boost to his domestic agenda … Trump even wondered if Congress could delay a vote to raise the debt ceiling until the fall to keep Congress and the public focused on healthcare.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
If you’re already dreading today, there are options:
The RNC tried to do some damage control after Comey’s opening statement was released:
To which conservative thought leader Bill Kristol replied:
Not every Republican is parroting the RNC talking points:
McCAIN reacts to Comey’s written testimony. “Just as I suspected… I think there’s going to be many shoes to drop before this one is over.”
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) June 7, 2017
George W. Bush’s former chief strategist:
If it looks like obstruction, sounds like obstruction, and tweets like obstruction, well then you know the rest.
— Matthew Dowd (@matthewjdowd) June 8, 2017
From a former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell:
From an MSNBC host:
Can you *imagine* the GOP response if we’d learned Obama had privately asked the FBI director to drop its investigation of Sen. Menendez?
— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) June 7, 2017
The New Yorker’s Washington correspondent:
The President of the United States asked his FBI Director to investigate whether there was a video of him with Russian hookers.
— Ryan Lizza (@RyanLizza) June 7, 2017
Ted Cruz’s former communications director:
The Trump folks are trying to repeat the ol’ “locker room talk” defense. Yeah, this is just how he talks. All obstruction-y. Yeah.
— Amanda Carpenter (@amandacarpenter) June 7, 2017
Nixon knew better than to directly ask the FBI director:
The bigger picture, from a Dartmouth political science professor:
Today illustrates the threat to democratic norms we face. Post-Watergate consensus against politicization of law enforcement breaking down.
— Brendan Nyhan (@BrendanNyhan) June 7, 2017
Good context on polarization:
From former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s scandal-plagued police commissioner Bernard Kerik:
There were a lot of harsh words for Dan Coats:
Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) shared this image on Twitter:
He also closed ranks behind Trump on Comey:
For the good of the country, Dems need to find another way to get over their embarrassing 2016 losses than attempting to delegitimize Trump
— Rep. Jeff Duncan (@RepJeffDuncan) June 7, 2017
A Democratic congresswoman from California seized on the story that Comey asked Sessions not to leave him alone with Trump:
So Comey told Jeff Sessions he didn’t want to be alone with Trump. Women across the country can relate.
— Maxine Waters (@MaxineWaters) June 7, 2017
One of The Post’s national security correspondents ran into the founder of Blackwater:
Just ran into Erik Prince on sidewalk. Offered business card and said, ‘if you’re ever inclined to talk.’ ‘Don’t count on it,’ he said.
— Greg Miller (@gregpmiller) June 7, 2017
One of Orrin Hatch’s constituents tweeted that he hopes the senator “dies painfully”:
He’s my Senator and literally hate him. I hope he dies painfully when the time comes.
— Gerald P Dracula, MD (@Boogar_Sugar) June 7, 2017
The 83-year-old senator replied with this sick burn:
Ellen photo-shopped herself into the picture of Barack Obama and Justin Trudeau having dinner, which a lot of people were calling a “man date”:
A post shared by Ellen (@theellenshow) on Jun 7, 2017 at 12:22pm PDT
Ivanka learned to code with daughter Arabella:
Learning to code with Arabella tonight! By supporting computer science curriculum in our schools, I hope that all children will have the opportunity to become fluent in this language of the future. #WomenInSTEM
A post shared by Ivanka Trump (@ivankatrump) on Jun 7, 2017 at 3:42pm PDT
Photo of the day?
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
– Politico, “Melania Trump set to make her D.C. move next week,” by Annie Karni: “With the school year over, the first lady and the couple’s son Barron are expected to finally make their official move to Washington on June 14 … The long-anticipated move — Trump is the first first lady in modern history to delay her arrival — is expected to lend some degree of normalcy to a presidency defined by its abnormality in substance and style.” And an interesting note: “It’s still not clear exactly what initiative Melania Trump will make her platform — during the campaign, she said she would use the role of first lady to speak out against cyberbullying. But that initiative has since been cast aside.”
POTUS will speak at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority Conference this afternoon and then host an infrastructure summit with governors and mayors. Trump’s doesn’t have anything scheduled during Comey’s testimony.
Vice President Pence will also discuss infrastructure with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney over a working luncheon. He will meet with the president of Cyprus later in the day.
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
– D.C. will see spurts of sunlight while enjoying temperatures in the 70’s, the Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Clouds are plentiful through much of the day as a storm just off the East Coast sails by. The sun still manages to break through enough at times to warm us to the low-to-mid 70s. Light north winds do nothing to detract and very low humidity is a plus.”
– The Dodgers beat the Nationals 2-1.
– Ride-sharing services will now be able to pick up and drop off passengers at BWI airport for a $2.50 fee following a Maryland panel’s ruling, Luz Lazo reports.
– D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s campaign committee was charged $13,000 for accepting contributions in excess of legal limits during her 2014 race. Aaron C. Davis reports: “The fines come at an inopportune time for Bowser, highlighting her close ties to some of the city’s largest developers and property managers as she has begun gearing up for a reelection fight in which displacement from gentrification is likely to be a major theme in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods across the city.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Senate Democrats were frustrated with the lack of clear answers from intelligence officials yesterday:
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) was criticized by Richard Burr for asking tough questions of Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, which prompted charges of sexism against the Intelligence chairman:
Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) again called for articles of impeachment against Trump:
There’s a feeding frenzy on the Hill. Journalists are crowding Capitol hallways:
A man tried to break into an ATM using a backhoe:
And Cleveland Cavalier Kyle Korver dunked in last night’s game: