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Thursday, June 8, 2017

RSN: Comey's Testimony Could Turn Congressional Probes Toward Question of Obstruction



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Comey's Testimony Could Turn Congressional Probes Toward Question of Obstruction 
Ousted FBI Director James Comey. (photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
Ed O'Keefe and Karoun Demirjian, The Washington Post
Excerpt: "Former FBI director James B. Comey's highly anticipated appearance on Capitol Hill Thursday could bring the question of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice to the forefront of several wide-ranging congressional investigations."
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Robert Reich | The Real Leaky Problem
Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog
Reich writes: "But let's be clear. This particular leak of an NSA report is not the central problem. The problem is Russia has directly and brazenly interfered in our democratic system."
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Robert Reich. (photo: Getty)
Robert Reich. (photo: Getty)
he arrest of Reality Leigh Winner, a 25-year-old federal contractor from Atlanta, Georgia, for leaking a National Security Agency report describing in far more detail than previously known Russian efforts to intrude in the 2016 election on behalf of Trump, comes in the midst of a deluge of Trump tweets and leaks.
Among the most sensitive leaks about national security since the start of the Trump administration was Trump’s own Oval Office conversation with top Russian officials last month, in which he revealed allied intelligence information apparently coming from Israel. At that same meeting, Trump discussed his firing of former FBI Director James Comey the previous day, thereby relieving “great pressure” on him, he said. (Comey will be testifying before Congress Thursday).
How do we even know about these discussions between Trump and Russian officials? They were leaked! So we had a leak about a leak, coupled with a leak about a potential coverup by the president of his attempt to obstruct justice.
The essential message of the Justice Department’s decision to go after Reality Winner is that those who leak will be targeted for prosecution if the information they give journalists is about Russia helping Trump win the election.
But let’s be clear. This particular leak of an NSA report is not the central problem.
The problem is Russia has directly and brazenly interfered in our democratic system. Yet we don’t know exactly how – and we don’t have a means of stopping Russia from doing it again.
The other part of the problem is that instead of resolutely focusing on this brazen attack on American democracy, we have president who’s been actively trying to obstruct public knowledge of what happened.
Trump's New FBI Pick Shouldn't Get a Hearing
Jesse Berney, Rolling Stone
Berney writes: "I don't care about Christopher Wray's qualifications. People who know him consider him a 'serious, respectable' pick or a 'smart, serious, and professional' one. It doesn't matter."
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Christopher Wray with Mary Beth Buchanan, then the director of the Executive Office for US Attorneys, at a 2005 press conference in Washington. (photo: Lawrence Jackson/AP)
Christopher Wray with Mary Beth Buchanan, then the director of the Executive Office for US Attorneys, at a 2005 press conference in Washington. (photo: Lawrence Jackson/AP)


Christopher Wray might be qualified, but Trump shouldn't get to pick someone who will investigate him

 don't care about Christopher Wray's qualifications. People who know him consider him a "serious, respectable" pick or a "smart, serious, and professional" one. It doesn't matter.
Donald Trump told James Comey to back off his investigation of Michael Flynn. He asked him for his loyalty. After Comey refused both requests, Trump fired him for (sorry) trumped-up reasons. He then admitted in an interview with Lester Holt he fired Comey because of the Russia investigation.
Let that sink in: The president fired the director of the FBI to impede and obstruct an investigation into himself and his staff. Why on earth would we even consider allowing that same man to nominate Jim Comey's successor?
How could we possibly trust that anyone Trump chooses to head the FBI hasn't offered him some kind of assurance? Or that Trump hasn't made it clear to him he too will be fired if the FBI continues its investigations?
When Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, Republicans claimed Obama couldn't nominate his replacement because of an election nine months away. They refused to give Merrick Garland, a well-qualified, consensus choice, even a hearing on his nomination.
Wray may be well-qualified. He may be a consensus pick. But unlike the GOP's laughable obstruction of Garland, not allowing Wray a hearing on his nomination as FBI director is clearly the right thing to do.
Why would we even consider allowing a man who is under investigation to name someone who will be a key figure in that investigation? Yes, special counsel Robert Mueller is now running his own investigation, but the FBI's inquiries are likely to play a key part in the work Mueller does.
There are other options. Acting Director Andrew McCabe – whom Trump considered for the permanent position, and rejected – could be allowed to stay in the position until the investigations into the Trump campaign's ties with Russia are complete. Or Trump could agree to appoint, with no input, a nominee for FBI director selected by an independent, bipartisan commission. (Better yet, Trump could resign.)
But it makes no sense to allow the president, who is not just the subject of an investigation but who has done so much to interfere with the investigation, to choose the next FBI head. Remember, it's not just Comey Trump asked to impede the investigation. He asked the head of the National Security Agency and the director of national intelligence to publicly claim there was no evidence of wrongdoing. (They refused.) He has repeatedly tried to distract from his own wrongdoing, making up stories about President Obama ordering wiretaps of Trump Tower and insisting the real story is that D.C. officials keep leaking what he's done – and not, of course, his own leaks of classified information. He was reportedly furious about Attorney General Jeff Sessions' recusal from the investigation.
President Trump has, in short, been acting like someone who is guilty. And whether he is or not, he certainly should not be allowed to appoint anyone involved in the investigation.
Wray may be eminently qualified to serve as FBI director, or he may have troubling blemishes on his record that make him a terrible choice. Under normal circumstances, we'd rely on the confirmation process to suss that out.
But Wray shouldn't get a confirmation hearing. No one nominated for the job by Trump should. It's not a hard question. If you're under a cloud of suspicion, you shouldn't get to pick the guy looking into you. And no matter how experienced and serious Wray may be, he accepted a job Trump never should have been allowed to fill. That alone marks his judgment as questionable. 


Facebook Wants to Secretly Watch You Through Your Smartphone Camera
James Billington, International Business Times
Billington writes: "Facebook wants to get up close and personal with its users after a patent was revealed detailing a desire to secretly watch users through their webcam or smartphone camera, spying on your mood in order to sell you tailored content or advertisements."
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Native Americans and Alaska Natives Will Disproportionately Suffer Under the GOP Health Care Plan
Amanda Michelle, ThinkProgress
Michelle writes: "As Senate Republicans attempt to produce their own health care blueprint this week, beneficiaries of the Affordable Care Act are left wondering: what will happen to me?"
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A New 'Citizens United?' The Trump Plan That Could Shake Up Political Fundraising
Lydia O'Neal, International Business Times
O'Neal writes: "President Donald Trump's pledge to 'destroy' the Johnson Amendment could boost the kinds of group that launched adviser Steve Bannon's political career, flooding them with tax-exempt cash."
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Trump Names BP Oil Spill Lawyer as Top Environmental Attorney
Lorraine Chow, EcoWatch
Chow writes: "President Donald Trump announced Tuesday his intention to nominate Jeffrey Bossert Clark - who defended BP in lawsuits surrounding the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill and challenged the Obama administration over greenhouse gas rules on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce - to head the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division."
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