* Earlier today I disputed the notion that things would calm down around the Trump administration now that a special prosecutor had been appointed. Little did I know that prediction would be so completely vindicated in less that 12 hours. The wheels of Air Force One were barely up for Trump’s nine-day trip abroad when the bombshells once again began to drop. This one came from the New York Times:
President Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office this month that firing the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, had relieved “great pressure” on him, according to a document summarizing the meeting.
“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to the document, which was read to The New York Times by an American official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
Mr. Trump added, “I’m not under investigation.”
The conversation, during a May 10 meeting — the day after he fired Mr. Comey — reinforces the notion that Mr. Trump dismissed him primarily because of the bureau’s investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and Russian operatives.
* Richard Painter and Norman Eisen, chief White House ethics lawyers for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, respectively, wrote the following:
After the revelations of the past 24 hours, it appears that President Trump’s conduct in and around the firing of the F.B.I. director, James Comey, may have crossed the line into criminality. The combination of what is known and what is credibly alleged would, if fully substantiated, constitute obstruction of justice.
After recounting the events that led to that conclusion, they say this:
Taken together, this evidence is already more than sufficient to make out a prima facie case of obstruction of justice — and there are likely many more shoes to drop…
At least for now, we need not address the question, fully briefed to the Supreme Court during Watergate, but never resolved, of whether a special prosecutor could indict the president; as with Nixon, the question may again be obviated by other events, like the House initiating impeachment proceedings and the president resigning.
* But wait…there’s more. Here’s the scoop from the Washington Post:
The law enforcement investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign has identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest, showing that the probe is reaching into the highest levels of government, according to people familiar with the matter.
The senior White House adviser under scrutiny by investigators is someone close to the president, according to these people, who would not further identify the official.
Speculation about the identity of this White House adviser is underway. The usual suspects in this probe have been people like Paul Manafort, Carter Page and Michael Flynn. But none of them are currently working in the White House. So the focus right now is on the possibility of it being Jared Kushner – which would be huge.
* Here is McClatchy’s contribution:
Investigators into Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential elections are now also probing whether White House officials have engaged in a cover-up, according to members of Congress who were briefed Friday by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
That avenue of investigation was added in recent weeks after assertions by former FBI Director James Comey that President Donald Trump had tried to dissuade him from pressing an investigation into the actions of Trump’s first national security adviser, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, members of Congress said, though it was not clear whom that part of the probe might target.
* Finally, it’s been a wild week in the world of politics. So here’s my go-to song for when the craziness of the world feels like it’s challenging my own sanity. Sit back, listen, and enjoy your weekend.