Donald Trump: ‘James Comey better hope there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations’

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President Donald Trump talks to reporters during a meeting with Henry Kissinger, former secretary of state and national security adviser under President Richard Nixon, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Wednesday. AP/Evan Vucci

Leading the day on Donald Trump’s morning Twitter thoughts has become something of a cliché. Even so, we can’t remember the last time a sitting U.S. president implied that the public shouldn’t rely on the words that come out of the mouths of those who run his daily White House briefings:

After which comes a more serious message with truly Nixonian overtones:

The question is whether Trump is suggesting that there actually are tapes of his talks with Comey.  Shades of Admiral Butterfield.

Comey, the fired FBI director, is scheduled to appear next Tuesday before a closed meeting with members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Trump has claimed that Comey told him three times that he, the president, wasn’t the target of the FBI’s Russian investigation. That’s likely to be a topic for discussion next week. So is this report from the New York Times, which describes a dinner meeting the pair had seven days after the January inauguration:

As they ate, the president and Mr. Comey made small talk about the election and the crowd sizes at Mr. Trump’s rallies. The president then turned the conversation to whether Mr. Comey would pledge his loyalty to him.

 

Mr. Comey declined to make that pledge. Instead, Mr. Comey has recounted to others, he told Mr. Trump that he would always be honest with him, but that he was not “reliable” in the conventional political sense.

And then there’s what could become the most parsed bit of video of the 21st century, in which Trump appears to admit that the FBI probe into connections between his presidential campaign and the Russian government was a factor in Comey’s firing.  Watch:

A brief transcript of the NBC interview:

Trump: “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’.”

 

“And the reason they should have won it, is the Electoral College is almost impossible for a Republican to win. Very hard. Because you start off from such a disadvantage. So everybody was thinking they should have won the election. This was an excuse for having lost an election.”

Lester Holt: “Are you angry with Mr. Comey because of his Russia investigation?”

 

Trump: “I just want somebody that’s competent. I am a big fan of the FBI. I love the FBI.”

 

Holt: “But were you a fan of his for taking up that investigation?”

 

Trump: “About the Hillary Clinton investigation?”

 

Holt: “No, about the Russian investigation.”

 

Trump: “As far as I’m concerned, I want that thing to be absolutely done properly. When I did this now, I said, ‘I probably, maybe will confuse people. Maybe I’ll lengthen the time, because it should be over with. Should have been over a long time ago.’”

In the same interview, Trump admits he called the FBI director to determine whether he was under investigation. Which has huge ethical implications, as many Republicans argued last year when former President Bill Clinton had an airport tarmac conversation with Loretta Lynch, then the U.S. attorney general whose FBI was probing Hillary Clinton’s private email server.

Just one additional note: The Electoral College does not currently give an advantage to Democrats. If anything it lists Republican, as we’ve written before. We’ve had two instances in the last 16 years in which Democrats have won the popular vote, but lost the Electoral College race for the White House. Last year’s was one of them.

***

We told you Tuesday that mayoral candidate and at-large city councilwoman Mary Norwood had been endorsed by IBPO Local 623, the union for Atlanta police officers. It’s an important get.

But since then, we’ve been contacted by two of her rival campaigns, who told us that union officials never allowed their candidates to make their cases for an endorsement. Which, the non-endorsed campaigns implied, smacks of a backroom deal.

***

The Democratic Party of Georgia asked a stinging question this week: Is Republican Karen Handel in hiding?

She’s had few public appearances since her April 28 closed-door fundraiser with President Donald Trump in Atlanta, and her campaign hasn’t spent a dime yet on any advertising even as Democrat Jon Ossoff has laid out $6.6 million on a TV and radio blitz. The campaign also hasn’t agreed to any of the six debates that Ossoff presented in an early challenge.

“With just over one month until the June 20th runoff election, it remains to be seen whether Karen Handel can generate ANY Republican enthusiasm,” read the state party’s attack.

It’s a contrast from Ossoff, who had two public events last weekend and another on Thursday.

We can expect Handel to rev up her campaign’s machinery soon. She has an event Monday with House Speaker Paul Ryan in metro Atlanta, and she was filming ads this week for a likely roll-out next week.

One added note about the timing of Ryan’s visit: That’s the day before voting closes on the Senate District 32 runoff between Democrat Christine Triebsch and Republican Kay Kirkpatrick.

***

Call it counter-programming: Jon Ossoff’s campaign is holding a fundraising featuring members of Yacht Rock Revue on Monday evening at the Vista Room in Decatur.

That’s about the same time when House Speaker Paul Ryan is slated to stump for Republican Karen Handel.

***

House Republicans launched another new attack on Democrat Jon Ossoff, this time targeting his support for President Barack Obama’s Iran deal.

“Terrorists in our shopping centers, jihadists in our streets. And Jon Ossoff supports the dangerous deal allowing Iran billions,” the narrator intones. Watch it here:

The National Republican Congressional Committee’s ad ends with an image of Ossoff with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

In his campaign website, Ossoff calls Iran a “major state sponsor of terrorism and an avowed enemy of Israel” that should be blocked from acquiring nuclear weapons.

“In Congress, Jon will push strongly for strict enforcement and uncompromising monitoring of Iran’s compliance with obligations to restrict uranium enrichment and to cease ballistic tests,” he said on the site.

On the bright side for Ossoff, Republicans seem to have dropped their attacks for the work by his documentary firm that has appeared on Al Jazeera.


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