One of the challenges of writing about politics in the Trump era is that what you consider news at one moment gets blown out of the water by the next revelation. That’s what happened last night when I assumed that the big story was that Israel provided the intelligence that the president leaked to the Russians. That important news got dropped like a hot potato with the bombshell from the New York Times on Comey’s memo about his meeting with Trump.
I notice that this morning I’m a little gun shy about going with any story that is emanating from this White House. Before I get this one written, they’re likely to do/say something that will make the whole thing passé. But here goes…
The one thing that strikes me about what is happening today is the silence. For example, unlike previous episodes where Trump has been challenged by something akin to the Comey memo story, he didn’t rage-tweet this morning. We’re also hearing a lot of networks say things like this:
— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 17, 2017
The silence suggests that there is something different about this story. But in the meantime, White House sources are floating stories anonymously, like this one:
— Norah O'Donnell🇺🇸 (@NorahODonnell) May 17, 2017
That’s the latest one someone has thrown out there in an attempt to get the president off the hook for firing James Comey: blame Kushner. Personally, I’m skeptical and would guess that it comes from someone in Steve Bannon’s camp, if not the Senior Counselor himself.
But here is one that has some teeth:
A senior WH official tells @PeterAlexander that POTUS wasn't telling Comey to end Flynn investigation and suggest this is the way he speaks
— Marianna Sotomayor (@MariannaNBCNews) May 17, 2017
A lot of the twitter reaction has been to suggest that this takes us back to the old argument over whether we should take Trump seriously or literally. But that misses the point. A senior WH official just affirmed that the Comey memo is accurate by saying that this is the way the president speaks. That’s huge. As a reminder, here’s what Comey’s memo said about the president’s request:
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
It is also important to keep in mind that Trump asked the room to be cleared of everyone but Comey in order to make that request—which indicates that the president took it seriously.
I’m sure that when/if someone figures out the implication of what this senior WH official just said, they’ll be forced to come up with another lie. But there you have it…corroboration of Comey’s memo from the White House.