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Comey effectively admits Trump did not obstruct justice

CNN story shows that former FBI Director Comey can point to no action by President Trump that could constitute interference in the conduct of the Russiagate inquiry.

Alexander Mercouris

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CNN has published a rather odd report in which it says that former FBI Director Comey “now believes” that Donald Trump tried to influence the Russiagate inquiry, but that he clearly does not think this amounted to an obstruction of justice

Former FBI Director James Comey now believes that President Donald Trump was trying to influence his judgment about the Russia probe, a person familiar with his thinking says, but whether that influence amounts to obstruction of justice remains an open question.

“You have to have intent in order to obstruct justice in the criminal sense,” the source said, adding that “intent is hard to prove.”
(bold italics added)
The words “now believes” are the giveaway, since they show that Comey did not think Trump was trying to influence him whilst he was actually in charge of the Russiagate inquiry, and did not think this until after Trump had fired him.  Indeed a later part of the same CNN report – which is obviously sourced from Comey – says as much
Comey’s view of Trump’s intent in their conversations is nuanced, sources say. He initially believed that he could school the new President and White House in what was appropriate during their communications.  But after his firing, the question of Trump’s intent could become more problematic, one source said. Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt in an interview that he was thinking “of the Russia thing” when he dismissed Comey.   Sources say Comey had reached no conclusion about the President’s intent before he was fired. But Comey did immediately recognize that the new President was not following normal protocols during their interactions.
(bold italics added)
This shows quite clearly that Trump at no point directly interfered in the Russiagate inquiry.
In light of that there was and could have been no ‘obstruction of justice’ – a problematic concept anyway given that the Russiagate inquiry is a counter-espionage inquiry not a criminal inquiry – since Trump obviously did nothing which could have amounted to an obstruction of justice.  As I have already pointed out, the wording of Comey’s attendance note of his meeting with Trump on 14th February 2017 – even if it is an accurate record of what Trump said (which for the record, I think it is) – does not show an obstruction of justice.
As for Comey’s speculations after Trump fired him of what Trump’s intentions might have been, in the absence of any action by Trump to interfere in the inquiry these speculations are or should be neither here nor there.  This is quite apart from the fact that speculations about the boss’s intentions by an aggrieved former employee who has just been fired are not normally given much weight.
Anyway this CNN story strongly suggests that Comey’s attendance notes of his meetings with Trump contain no ‘smoking gun’, and that those who are looking forward to them in the hope that they do are going to be disappointed.
I would add that Comey’s deputy FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe has already said that there was no interference by Trump or anyone else in the Russiagate inquiry, so in a sense the CNN story tells us nothing we do not already know.
There are however two further points which can be made about this CNN story.
Firstly, it seems Comey is saying that he was distinctly uncomfortable about his meetings with Trump, and that he tried to explain this to Trump, and pressed Trump not to speak to him directly but to go through the normal Justice Department channels.
If so then Comey was absolutely right to feel this way and to tell Trump this.  As I have previously said, Trump was extremely unwise and arguably wrong to meet with Comey at all whilst the Russiagate inquiry was underway, and if the CNN story is true then Comey tried unsuccessfully to point this out to him.
However it has to be said that Comey himself is also open to criticism here.
If Comey felt it was inappropriate for him to meeting Trump (the CNN story says he was “disgusted” on one occasion when Trump hugged him) then he should have simply refused to meet with Trump, as he was perfectly entitled to do.  He should also in that case have sent a written memo setting out his reasons for not meeting Trump both to Trump himself and to the Justice Department.
There is nothing in the CNN story to suggest that Comey ever wrote or sent such a memo – as there presumably would be if he did – and nothing to suggest Comey ever refused to meet with Trump despite his alleged concerns.  On the contrary the CNN story claims Comey willingly continued to meet with Trump in order to “train” him as to what the ‘proper procedures’ were
Benjamin Wittes, editor in chief of the Lawfare blog and a Comey friend, writes that Comey called his interactions with Trump “training” in order to “re-establish” appropriate boundaries. In his conversations, Wittes writes, “Comey never specifically said this was about the Russia matter” but he assumed that it was. Comey saw his job, Wittes writes, as an effort to “protect the rest of the bureau from improper contacts and interferences from a group of people he did not regard as honorable.”
If so then this was wholly inappropriate.  It is not the FBI Director’s job to “train” the President, and it is not an excuse for having inappropriate contacts with the President that the FBI Director was trying to do this.
As for trying to “protect the rest of the bureau from improper contacts and interferences from a group of people he did not regard as honorable”, the correct way for Comey to have done that was as I have said to set out the ground rules and his concerns in writing in  memo circulated to both Trump and the Justice Department.  Certainly it was not to continue with person-to-person meetings with Trump which Comey felt were inappropriate.
I would add that as a lawyer and a former Deputy Attorney General, Comey ought to have been aware of all of this.  I would add that the sentiment attributed to Comey that some of the President’s people were not “honourable” suggests strong bias against them inappropriate on the part of an impartial investigator tasked with investigating them.
It may be that more information will come to light when Comey gives his evidence which will show his conduct in a better light.  I have to say however that for the moment all this talk about Comey trying to “train” the President looks to me like a desperate attempt by Comey to rationalise and excuse conduct which in hindsight he knows was inappropriate, and which has exposed him to criticism, perhaps from his nemesis, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
The second point is that the CNN story once again shows how disastrously Trump has mishandled Comey’s dismissal.
Since Comey can apparently point to no action of Trump’s which shows interference in the conduct of the Russiagate inquiry, had Trump handled the dismissal properly by first showing Comey the Rosenstein memo and asking him to comment on it and possibly inviting for Comey’s resignation before he fired him, and if Trump had not foolishly told the media that he had the “Russia thing” in mind when he fired Comey, then the whole question of obstruction of justice would never have arisen.
As it is, entirely because of his own actions, Trump has given Comey arguments to make against him, even if as the CNN story shows they are poor arguments lacking in substance.
The result is that Trump must now look forward to the usual terrible headlines after Comey gives evidence, which he could have avoided if he had handled this differently.
On the strength of the CNN story there is nothing there which should however give him undue worry.

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Trump Has Gifted “No More Wars” Policy Position To Bernie Sanders (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 148.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou discuss how US President Donald Tump appears to have ceded his popular 2016 ‘no more wars’ campaign message and policy position to Bernie Sanders and any other US 2020 candidate willing to grad onto a non-interventionist approach to the upcoming Democrat primaries.

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“Is Bernie Stealing Trump’s ‘No More Wars’ Issue?” by Patrick J. Buchanan…


The center of gravity of U.S. politics is shifting toward the Trump position of 2016.

“The president has said that he does not want to see this country involved in endless wars… I agree with that,” Bernie Sanders told the Fox News audience at Monday’s town hall meeting in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Then turning and staring straight into the camera, Bernie added:

“Mr. President, tonight you have the opportunity to do something extraordinary: Sign that resolution. Saudi Arabia should not be determining the military or foreign policy of this country.”

Sanders was talking about a War Powers Act resolution that would have ended U.S. involvement in the five-year civil war in Yemen that has created one of the great humanitarian crises of our time, with thousands of dead children amidst an epidemic of cholera and a famine.

Supported by a united Democratic Party on the Hill, and an anti-interventionist faction of the GOP led by Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee of Utah, the War Powers resolution had passed both houses of Congress.

But 24 hours after Sanders urged him to sign it, Trump, heeding the hawks in his Cabinet and National Security Council, vetoed S.J.Res.7, calling it a “dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities.”

With sufficient Republican votes in both houses to sustain Trump’s veto, that should be the end of the matter.

It is not: Trump may have just ceded the peace issue in 2020 to the Democrats. If Sanders emerges as the nominee, we will have an election with a Democrat running on the “no-more-wars” theme Trump touted in 2016. And Trump will be left defending the bombing of Yemeni rebels and civilians by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia.

Does Trump really want to go into 2020 as a war party president?

Does he want to go into 2020 with Democrats denouncing “Trump’s endless wars” in the Middle East? Because that is where he is headed.

In 2008, John McCain, leading hawk in the Senate, was routed by a left-wing first-term senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, who had won his nomination by defeating the more hawkish Hillary Clinton, who had voted to authorize the war in Iraq.

In 2012, the Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who was far more hawkish than Obama on Russia, lost.

Yet, in 2016, Trump ran as a different kind of Republican, an opponent of the Iraq War and an anti-interventionist who wanted to get along with Russia’s Vladimir Putin and get out of these Middle East wars.

Looking closely at the front-running candidates for the Democratic nomination of 2020 — Joe Biden, Sanders, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker — not one appears to be as hawkish as Trump has become.

Trump pulled us out of the nuclear deal with Iran negotiated by Secretary of State John Kerry and reimposed severe sanctions.

He declared Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization, to which Iran has responded by declaring U.S. Central Command a terrorist organization. Ominously, the IRGC and its trained Shiite militias in Iraq are in close proximity to U.S. troops.

Trump has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moved the U.S. Embassy there, closed the consulate that dealt with Palestinian affairs, cut off aid to the Palestinians, recognized Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights seized from Syria in 1967, and gone silent on Bibi Netanyahu’s threat to annex Jewish settlements on the West Bank.

Sanders, however, though he stands by Israel, is supporting a two-state solution and castigating the “right-wing” Netanyahu regime.

Trump has talked of pulling all U.S. troops out of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet the troops are still there.

Though Trump came into office promising to get along with the Russians, he sent Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine and announced a pullout from Ronald Reagan’s 1987 INF treaty that outlawed all land-based intermediate-range nuclear missiles.

When Putin provocatively sent 100 Russian troops to Caracas — ostensibly to repair the S-400 anti-aircraft and anti-missile system that was damaged in recent blackouts — Trump, drawing a red line, ordered the Russians to “get out.”

Biden is expected to announce next week. If the stands he takes on Russia, China, Israel and the Middle East are more hawkish than the rest of the field, he will be challenged by the left wing of his party, and by Sanders, who voted “no” on the Iraq War that Biden supported.

The center of gravity of U.S. politics is shifting toward the Trump position of 2016. And the anti-interventionist wing of the GOP is growing.

And when added to the anti-interventionist and anti-war wing of the Democratic Party on the Hill, together, they are able, as on the Yemen War Powers resolution, to produce a new bipartisan majority.

Prediction: By the primaries of 2020, foreign policy will be front and center, and the Democratic Party will have captured the “no-more-wars” political high ground that Candidate Donald Trump occupied in 2016.

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Over 200 killed, hundreds injured in series of blasts at Sri Lankan hotels & churches

A series of bombings hit churches and hotels across Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, killing more than 200 people.

RT

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Via RT…


A series of eight explosions rocked Catholic churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka as Christians began Easter Sunday celebrations, with over 200 killed and hundreds injured, media reported, citing police.

The blasts started at around 8:45am local time at St. Anthony’s Church in Colombo and St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, a Catholic-majority town outside of the capital. The Zion Church in Batticaloa on the eastern coast was also targeted. At around the same time, the Shangri-La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury five-star hotels were also hit, police confirmed.

Two more explosions happened later in the day, targeting two more locations in Colombo. All attacks appear to have been coordinated.

At least 207 people were killed, Reuters reported, citing police. More than 450 were injured in the attacks.

Alleged footage of the aftermath, shared on social media, showed chaos and large-scale destruction inside at least one of the churches.

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Mike Pompeo reveals true motto of CIA: ‘We lied, we cheated, we stole’ (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 147.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a look at a Texas A&M University speech, and subsequent interview, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The former CIA Director admitted, ‘as an aside’ to the question asked, that the Intelligence agency he headed up before being appointed as the top US Diplomat had a motto “we lied, we cheated, we stole”…which, according to Pompeo, contained entire CIA training courses based on ‘lying, cheating and stealing.’

Pompeo finally speaks some truth.

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