Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Comey Memo Fallout: Senate Committee Invites Comey to Testify

■ The Senate Intelligence Committee invited the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey to testify on reports that President Trump asked him to scuttle the investigation into Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser.
■ Representative Justin Amash, a Michigan Republican, said that if the allegations were true, they constituted grounds for impeachment.
■ Mr. Trump delivered the commencement address at the Coast Guard Academy. In his address he complained that no politician has “been treated worse or more unfairly” than he has.
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Senators Richard Burr, left, and Mark Warner, chairman and ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, held a news conference at the Capitol on Tuesday. Credit Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

A Senate panel invited Comey to testify.

The Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday invited Mr. Comey to testify in both open and closed-door hearings, offering him the opportunity to address reports Mr. Trump asked him to scuttle the investigation into Mr. Flynn.
Continue reading the main story
“I don’t think I know any member that I’ve talked to, publicly or privately, Democrat or Republican, that doesn’t think that Jim Comey deserves a chance to tell his side of the story,” said Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the committee’s top Democrat.
It was unclear when Mr. Comey would appear. Mr. Warner said he did not expect Mr. Comey to respond immediately to their invitation.
The committee also requested that Andrew McCabe, the acting F.B.I. director, hand over any related documents prepared by Mr. Comey about his communications with senior officials from the White House and Justice Department regarding the Russia investigation — including the so-called Comey memo.
On Tuesday, the House Oversight Committee also asked for any materials related to Mr. Comey’s interactions with Mr. Trump. The leaders of both committees have said they are prepared to subpoena those materials if necessary.
— Emmarie Huetteman on Capitol Hill

Amash raises the specter of impeachment.


Photo

Representative Justin Amash, a Michigan Republican, leaving a meeting of the Freedom Caucus at the Capitol in March. Credit J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

Representative Justin Amash, a Michigan Republican who has a history of openly criticizing President Trump and bucking his party, told reporters on Wednesday that if the allegations contained in the so-called Comey memo were true, they constituted grounds for impeachment.
He was the first Republican to join a growing chorus of Democrats suggesting Mr. Trump may be guilty of an impeachable offense, a determination that would be ultimately made by the House.
— Emmarie Huetteman on Capitol Hill

Trump addressed the Coast Guard Academy graduation.


Watch Live: Trump Speaks at Coast Guard Academy Video by The New York Times

Mr. Trump used his first commencement address to a service academy as president to defend himself, telling graduates of the Coast Guard Academy that no leader in history has “been treated worse or more unfairly” by the news media and Washington elites.
Mr. Trump began this speech with a long tribute to the Coast Guard’s efforts to stop drug dealers on American waterways and the open seas, but near the end he turned the focus to himself, after a week of damaging disclosures.
“You will find things are not always fair,” the president said, blurring the lines between speech and self-encouragement.
“You have to put your head down and fight,” he said, switching to an explicit defense of himself. “Look at the way I’ve been treated lately, especially by the media. No politician in history — and I say this with great surety — has been treated worse or more unfairly.”
When the audience applauded, Mr. Trump — whom aides have described as angry and defiant in recent days — smiled and said, “I guess that’s why I won.”
He bestowed his personal credo to the group: “Fight, fight, fight.” It is, his aides said, how he plans on addressing the latest scandal enveloping him.
“You can’t let them get you down,” the president said. “You can’t let the critics or the naysayers get in the way of your dreams.”
— Maggie Haberman in New London, Conn.

Anyone have Comey’s phone number?

Representative Jason Chaffetz, Republican of Utah and the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said he planned to invite Mr. Comey to testify in an open session next week.
On Tuesday, Mr. Chaffetz vowed to obtain a memo that Mr. Comey wrote in which he said Mr. Trump asked him to scuttle the Flynn investigation. He said he had his “subpoena pen ready.”
But on Wednesday, as he hoped to reach Mr. Comey with his invitation, Mr. Chaffetz encountered a stumbling block.
“Since he’s left government, the old telephone number that I had for him, I haven’t been able to get through,” Mr. Chaffetz said by phone from Utah, where he is recovering from foot surgery. “I used to be able to text and call him on it.”
As of early afternoon, the chairman’s strategy was not entirely clear.
“I need to actually be able to contact him and other than looking him up on Google, I need to network out how to be able do that,” he said.
Mr. Chaffetz added that he hoped Mr. Comey would be able to appear “potentially for next Wednesday,” if his schedule permits. The request comes as the Senate Intelligence Committee also asked the former director to appear in both open and closed sessions.
— Matt Flegenheimer on Capitol Hill

Democrats push for an independent commission — or more.

House Democratic leaders on Wednesday seized on the mounting allegations against Mr. Trump to jump-start their push for an independent commission to investigate the ties between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia, as some Democrats took to the floor to press for a stronger statement: impeachment.
Representative Joseph Crowley of New York said it is the “general consensus” of himself and other Democratic leaders that an independent investigation is the appropriate path forward.
“Members can come to their own conclusions,” he told reporters. “There needs to be a full investigation first.”
Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, a former United States prosecutor and the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said impeachment required first answering a few legal questions, including determining Mr. Trump’s intent.
“It cannot serve as a method to nullify the election by other means,” he said.
Mr. Schiff said the commission, similar to the 9/11 commission, would not replace his committee’s investigation but rather serve as an additional inquiry “completely removed from political considerations.”
Emmarie Huetteman on Capitol Hill

Democrats accuse the G.O.P. of foot-dragging.

At a news conference at the Capitol, House Democrats accused Republicans of slow-walking any relevant oversight of the administration, despite an onslaught of troubling revelations.
“House Republicans have shown repeatedly that they refuse to conduct credible, robust oversight over this president,” said Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee. “They do as little as humanly possible just to claim that they’re doing something.”
— Matt Flegenheimer on Capitol Hill

A weary Trump questions the memo’s authenticity.

In conversations Tuesday and Wednesday about his predicament, Mr. Trump focused on the question of whether the memo was authentically written by Mr. Comey at the time, according to people briefed on the discussions.
The president has sounded subdued and weary in these conversations with aides.
— Maggie Haberman in New London, Conn.

A way around the majority?

As the minority party in a chamber with no filibuster, House Democrats have little power to force an independent investigation.
They turned Wednesday to one of the few parliamentary procedures at their disposal to bypass the Republican leadership’s control of what legislation comes to the floor, a rarely used method known as a discharge petition. If they succeed in collecting signatures from a majority — a challenge in the Republican-controlled House — their legislation can then leapfrog the committee process and come to the floor for a vote.
Two Republicans known for defying their party — Representative Walter Jones of North Carolina and Mr. Amash — are co-sponsors on the measure.
But the process could still take months, a concern that Democrats dismissed.
“These are extraordinary times, and people are counting on us to do something about this,” said Representative Eric Swalwell of California, who co-wrote the legislation to establish an independent commission. “There’s an urgency to act,” he added.
Emmarie Huetteman on Capitol Hill

More on the Comey memos from The Times

■ Read our exclusive from Tuesday, reporting that, in a meeting the day after Michael T. Flynn resigned as national security adviser, President Trump asked that the investigation into Mr. Flynn’s ties to Russia be shut down, according to a memo by James B. Comey.
On conservative media, Mr. Trump’s supporters have used unfounded allegations, diversions and conspiracies to keep his troops behind him. The latest controversies rocking the White House have not seemed to stir Republican leaders to any new level of urgency, Carl Hulse writes.
Read about how the other side thinks: Writers from across the political spectrum consider the consequences of Mr. Comey’s memo on his meeting with the president.
■ Take a look at what qualifies as obstructing justice, and whether the accusations against President Trump could fit in that definition.
Stocks are tumbling as investors show sign of skittishness amid growing political turmoil in Washington.

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