The White House has a new argument for why President Donald Trump fired James Comey earlier this year: The FBI director possibly committed perjury. At her Monday briefing, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders faced a question about former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon’s recent interview on 60 Minutes. Bannon told journalist Charlie Rose that Trump’s firing of Comey in May was the “biggest political mistake in modern history.”
Sanders disputed that characterization by offering a list of reasons Comey was fired. “Since the director’s firing, we've learned new information about his conduct that only provided further justification for that firing, including giving false testimony, leaking privileged information to journalists, he went outside of the chain of command, and politicized an investigation into a presidential candidate,” she said.
The other points are familiar ones, but “giving false testimony”? When and about what did Comey mislead or lie under oath? In front of a congressional committee? As part of a criminal probe? Or the special counsel investigation? The White House won’t say. Sanders referred further questions to the Department of Justice and did not answer me in a follow-up email.
A spokeswoman for the DoJ, Sarah Isgur Flores, declined to comment as well. “We won't have anything beyond the DAG’s memo,” Flores said.
That would be the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, whose memo recommended Trump fire Comey. Rosenstein’s memo does not mention anything about false testimony—only that Comey mishandled the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server.
This new and unexplained criticism of the former director calls to mind Trump’s shifting explanations for why for why he fired Comey in the first place. Even though the White House initially cited the Rosenstein memo as the reason for Comey’s firing on May 9, President Trump contradicted that in an interview the same week with Lester Holt of NBC News. Trump told Holt he was planning on firing Comey “regardless of recommendation” from the Justice Department.
“And in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said ‘you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won’,” he said. In other words, Trump’s frustration with Comey for not publicly saying what he told Trump privately—that Trump himself was not under investigation for colluding with the Russians to interfere with the 2016 election—was the true reason he fired the FBI director.
Mueller Watch—Intriguing, from the >Wall Street Journal: “Some of President Donald Trump’s lawyers earlier this summer concluded that Jared Kushner should step down as senior White House adviser because of possible legal complications related to a probe of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election and aired concerns about him to the president …”
President Trump offered a stern warning Monday to America’s enemies: Sixteen years after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the fight against terrorism is far from over.
“The terrorists who attacked us thought they could incite fear and weaken our spirit. But America cannot be intimidated, and those who try will soon join the long list of vanquished enemies who dared to test our mettle,” Trump said from the Pentagon. “American forces are relentlessly pursuing and destroying the enemies of all civilized people…. We are making plain to these savage killers that there is no dark corner beyond our reach, no sanctuary beyond our grasp, and nowhere to hide anywhere on this very large Earth.”
Trump steered clear of political attacks in his short speech, focusing instead on praising the spirit in which America responded and honoring the families of those who died in the attacks, some of whom were in attendance.
“When Americans are in need, Americans pull together,” Trump said. “And when we face hardship, we emerge closer, stronger, and more determined than ever.”
“Though we can never erase your pain, or bring back those you lost, we can honor their sacrifice by pledging our resolve to do whatever we must to keep our people safe,” he added.
Vice President Mike Pence also delivered a 9/11 address from the crash site of United Flight 93, whose passengers fought to retake control of the plane from terrorists who intended to hit Washington, D.C., and instead crashed the plane in a Pennsylvania field near Shanksville.
“Without regard to personal safety, they rushed forward to save lives,” said Pence, who was a freshman member of the House of Representatives in 2001. “I will always believe that I and many others in our nation’s capital were able to go home that day and hug our families because of the courage and sacrifice of the heroes of Flight 93.”
Trump’s Dinner Date—The president will have dinner Tuesday night at the White House with a bipartisan group of six senators, the >Washington Post reports.
The three Democrats just happen to hail from Republican states and are up for re-election in 2018: Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Joining them are Republicans Orrin Hatch of Utah, John Thune of South Dakota, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
Hatch, Thune, and Toomey are all on the Senate Finance committee, which suggests the dinner conversation could focus on tax reform. Trump is trying to woo Democrats on tax reform—Heitkamp accompanied Trump on Air Force One last week on his trip to her home state, and at an event outside of Bismarck the president encouraged her to support tax reform.
Hollywood Watch—Owen Gleiberman, the film critic for Variety, writes a rave review for the upcoming >Chappaquiddick. The film depicts Ted Kennedy’s involvement in the 1969 death of Mary Jo Kopechne, who likely drowned in a car the U.S. senator and political scion was drunkenly driving.
As Gleiberman puts it, “the movie is fundamentally the portrait of a weasel: a man who, from the moment the accident happens, takes as his premise that he will not suffer the consequences, and then does what it takes to twist reality so that it conforms to that scenario.”
My colleague Phil Terzian makes a great point in a >Wall Street Journal op-ed about Illinois Democrat Luis Gutiérrez’s recent comments about White House chief of staff John Kelly. “America’s political discourse has been painfully coarsened,” Terzian writes.
Gutiérrez last week said Kelly, a retired Marine general, was a “disgrace to his uniform” for presumably signing off on President Trump’s decision to end the DACA program. Terzian notes this kind of talk about a lack of fitness to wear military uniform was what ultimately sank Joseph McCarthy when he said the same thing about Brig. Gen. Ralph Zwicker. But Gutiérrez’s comments got hardly any attention.
The Peress case led directly to the Army-McCarthy hearings and the senator’s descent into oblivion. But the point today is that McCarthy’s assertion that Zwicker—who had gone ashore before the first wave at Omaha Beach to do reconnaissance for D-Day—was “not fit to wear that uniform” struck Americans of the day as deeply shocking.
But that was then … In 1954 such aspersions were regarded as abhorrent. Now they’re just noise in a busy news cycle.”
Song of the Day—“Human” by Rag’n’Bone Man.
Source : http://www.weeklystandard.com/white-house-watch-did-trump-fire-comey-because-of-perjury-by-the-fbi-director/article/2009634