“Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, did not dispute the account.”

Matt Apuzzo, Maggie Haberman, and Matthew Rosenberg for the Times:

President Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office this month that firing the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, had relieved “great pressure” on him, according to a document summarizing the meeting.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to the document, which was read to The New York Times by an American official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

Mr. Trump added, “I’m not under investigation.”

It Gets Worse

This morning, the Times’ Michael S. Schmidt reported that Comey left a fantastic paper trail before he was fired:

President Trump asked the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting.

“I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo.

The existence of Mr. Trump’s request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and F.B.I. investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia.

Mr. Comey wrote the memo detailing his conversation with the president immediately after the meeting, which took place the day after Mr. Flynn resigned, according to two people who read the memo. The memo was part of a paper trail Mr. Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president’s improper efforts to influence a continuing investigation. An F.B.I. agent’s contemporaneous notes are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations.

There’s also this incredible buried lede:

Alone in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump began the discussion by condemning leaks to the news media, saying that Mr. Comey should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.

An Idiot’s Guide to Mishandling Classified Information

Absolutely insane series of events.

Yesterday the Washington Post’s Greg Miller and Greg Jaffe reported that Trump gave classified information to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in front of the Russian press during their jovial meeting at the White House:

The information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.

The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said Trump’s decision to do so endangers cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State. After Trump’s meeting, senior White House officials took steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and the National Security Agency.

“This is code-word information,” said a U.S. official familiar with the matter, using terminology that refers to one of the highest classification levels used by American spy agencies. Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”

This isn’t the first time the embarrassment has mishandled classified information, but the follow-up was so flawed.

The LA Times’ Michael A. Memoli and Noah Bierman quoting the national security advisor:

McMaster said Trump “wasn’t even aware” of the source of the information and again called “the premise” of a Washington Post report that Trump had improperly shared highly classified intelligence “false.”

This morning, the embarrassment confirmed the original article:

That isn’t how that works. The president casually gave classified information to a foreign adversary in front of their state media.

National Embarrassment Threatens Former FBI Director With Blackmail

After lying about his predecessor recording his calls, Trump has threatened to release secret recordings of his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey:

If the White House records something it can be subpoenaed as Nixon’s recordings were during Watergate.

More Details About Comey

The WSJ’s Shane Harris and Carol E. Lee:

Mr. Comey started receiving daily instead of weekly updates on the investigation, beginning at least three weeks ago, according to people with knowledge of the matter and the progress of the Federal Bureau of Investigation probe. Mr. Comey was concerned by information showing possible evidence of collusion, according to these people.

The collusion might be entirely overstated, but the cover-up is amazing.

 

Who Do You Meet With After Firing The FBI Director Investigating Your Collusion With Russia?

David E. Sanger and Neil MacFarquhar for the Times:

Only hours after dismissing James B. Comey as director of the F.B.I., amid an investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russian officials, the president met with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, at the White House. The Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey I. Kislyak — best known to many Americans as the man who discussed lifting sanctions on Russia with Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser — was also in the Oval Office for the meeting.

The world’s only glimpse of this session came from the Russian news agency Tass, which distributed photos of the meeting, with a grinning Mr. Trump shaking hands with the two visitors. No reporters were allowed in to ask questions — though they were ushered in minutes later for Mr. Trump’s session with Henry A. Kissinger, the former secretary of state.

Breaking here to note how insane it is that journalists weren’t allowed to  witness the meeting with Trump and the Russian kleptocrats. Very reassuring.

And, at the State Department, there was no briefing on an earlier meeting between Mr. Lavrov and Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson. Mr. Tillerson is famously reluctant to talk with the press. So that left the field clear for Mr. Lavrov, who has now sat opposite four American secretaries of state and knows how to work the news media well, to describe the conversations.

A Brief History of the President’s Lies

David Leonhardt in the opinion pages:

The president of the United States is lying again.

He is lying about the reason he fired James Comey, the F.B.I. director. Trump claimed that he was doing so because Comey bungled the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email, which meant that Comey was “not able to effectively lead the bureau.”

There is no reason to believe Trump’s version of the facts and many reasons to believe he is lying. How can I be so confident?

First, it’s important to remember just how often Trump lies. Virtually whenever he finds it more convenient to tell a falsehood than to tell a truth, he chooses the falsehood.

An incomplete list of the things he has lied about include: Barack Obama’s birthplace, Obama’s phone “tapp,” John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Sept. 11, the Iraq war, ISIS, NATO, military veterans, Mexican immigrants, Muslim immigrants, anti-Semitic attacks, the unemployment rate, the murder rate, the Electoral College, voter fraud, the size of his inaugural crowd, his health care bill and his own groping of women.

Great article, you should read the whole thing.

Trump Fires FBI Director Running Investigation Into Trump’s Campaign

(Now former) FBI Director Comey back in March, quoted by the New York Times:

Mr. Comey said the F.B.I. was “investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”

Yesterday Trump wrote this letter informing Comey of his termination:

Dear Director Comey:

I have received the attached letters from the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General of the United States recommending your dismissal as the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I have accepted their recommendation and you are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately.

While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgement of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.

It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission.

I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.

Why include that second paragraph when the letters referenced in the first aren’t about an investigation into Trump’s campaign?

Phil Helsel at NBC, yesterday:

President Donald Trump has hired a Washington law firm to send a letter to a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee saying he has no connections to Russia, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday.

Spicer’s revelation was in response to a question from reporters on a briefing about committee member Sen. Lindsey Graham’s remarks that he wants to look into whether Trump has any business dealings with Russia.

“The president, obviously, was aware of Senator Graham’s suggestion after he made it today and he’s fine with that. He has no business in Russia. He has no connections to Russia. So he welcomes that,” Spicer said.

“In fact, he is already charged a leading law firm in Washington, D.C., to send a certified letter to Senator Graham to that point that he has no connections to Russia,” Spicer said.

Benjamin Wittes and Susan Hennessey of Lawfare, yesterday:

On November 10, we wrote that that Trump’s firing of Comey would be a “a clear bellwether to both the national security and civil libertarian communities that things are going terribly wrong.” At the time we wrote those words, Comey was deeply unpopular with both the Left, which blamed Hillary Clinton’s defeat on his eleventh hour letter to Congress, and the Right, which criticized his decision to recommend that Clinton not be charged over her handling of government emails. Whatever the merit of Comey’s actions during the campaign, the fact that he managed to anger both sides of the political spectrum demonstrated his storied political independence. And that political independence, we argued, would serve as a critical check against any efforts on the part of President Trump to trample the rule of law.
The FBI Director serves a ten-year term precisely in order to insulate against the whims of a President who does not like what—or whom—the FBI is investigating. While the President has legal authority to fire an FBI director, the fact that Trump has done so under circumstances of an active FBI investigation of the President’s own campaign violates profoundly important norms of an independent, non-political FBI. The situation has no parallel with the only previous FBI director to be removed by a president: President Clinton’s firing of William Sessions, whose ethical misconduct was so extensive that it resulted in a six-month Justice Department investigation and a blistering 161-page report detailing his illicit activities, including flagrant misuse of public funds. Trump’s firing Comey at a time when Comey is investigating Russian intervention in the election on Trump’s behalf and the specific conduct of a number of people close to Trump undermines the credibility of his own presidency. And it deeply threatens the integrity of and public confidence in ongoing law enforcement and intelligence operations.

Trump’s offered rationale does nothing to assuage the fears we expressed in November regarding the meaning of this event.

If this is truly about his actions during the election, why fire Comey now, months after the inauguration?

Matthew Rosenberg and Matt Apuzzo for the Times, today:

Days before he was fired, James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, asked the Justice Department for a significant increase in resources for the bureau’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the presidential election, according to four congressional officials, including Senator Richard J. Durbin.

If it’s not about Russia and this happened months after the inauguration, surely the administration would have planned this transition to occur smoothly, right?
Michael S. Schmidt, nytimes:

Mr. Comey was addressing a group of F.B.I. employees in Los Angeles when a television in the background flashed the news that he had been fired.
In response, Mr. Comey laughed, saying he thought it was a fairly funny prank.

Then his staff started scurrying around in the background and told Mr. Comey that he should step into a nearby office.

Mr. Comey stopped addressing the group. He proceeded to shake hands with the employees he had been speaking to. Then he stepped into a side office, where he confirmed that he had been fired. At that point, he had not heard from the White House.

Shortly thereafter, a letter from Mr. Trump was delivered to the F.B.I.’s headquarters, just seven blocks from the White House.

“We’re not gonna be big on vacation”

Before January 20th one of our national embarrassment’s favorite things to criticize President Obama about (over Twitter) was his penchant for golfing:

This shameful embarrassment has been golfing 12 times in his first few months as president. Each trip costs us a few million dollars, and of course he promised “We’re not gonna be big on vacation.” while he was decrying the Obama administration.

Clearly Wrong

Phillip Rucker at The Washington Post reporting on an interview with Trump:

“I’ve been reading about things,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News Channel. Trump said that after noticing an article in the New York Times and commentary by Fox anchor Bret Baier, Trump said he told himself, “Wait a minute, there’s a lot of wiretapping being talked about.’”

In the interview Wednesday with Fox host Tucker Carlson, Trump maintained that information would soon be revealed that could prove him right, but he would not explain what that information might be. He said he would be “submitting certain things” to a congressional committee investigating the matter and that he was considering speaking about the topic next week.

“I think you’re going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks,” Trump said.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who was a member of Trump’s transition team, said Wednesday that there was no evidence that Trump Tower was wiretapped while Trump was a candidate. He told reporters that if Trump’s tweets were taken literally, then “clearly the president was wrong.”