Team of Rivals

In what many news outlets have described as a “bombshell” revelation, FBI director James Comey confirmed that the agency has been investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russia since last July, prompting a backlash from both Democrats – who believe Comey swung the election by making public updates regarding Hillary Clinton’s email use – and by the White House, most notably Trump himself, who called Comey’s testimony “FAKE NEWS!” During the hearing, Comey also responded to Trump’s assertion that the Obama administration had wiretapped the Trump Tower during the 2016 election, claiming the FBI had “no information that supports those tweets.”

On Wednesday Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, announced that Trump and members of his staff had been “caught up in U.S. surveillance of foreign targets overseas in the months after the election” – a charge for which he provided no evidence. Nor did he immediately brief the fellow members of the House Intelligence Committee, instead heading to the White House to brief the president, after which he spoke with reporters again before finally updating committee members. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the top ranking Democrat on the committee, denounced Nunes’ behavior and called for an independent investigation, a call that Senator John McCain (R-AZ) soon echoed. On Thursday, Nunes apologized to committee members for his behavior.

To compound the confusion and intrigue, the Associated Press just a day earlier reported that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had “secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago and proposed an ambitious political strategy to undermine anti-Russian opposition across former Soviet republics and at the highest levels of the U.S. government — the White House, Capitol Hill and the State Department.” According to the AP, in 2006 Manafort signed a contract to work in some capacity for Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch and close ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin, for $10 million a year, a contract which lasted at least through 2009. In responding to the story, Press Secretary Sean Spicer asserted that "nothing in this morning's report references any actions by the president, the White House, or any Trump administration official."

At the National Review, Andrew C. McCarthy explains why Comey’s testimony does not, in fact, contradict Nunes’s assertion.

At the New Yorker, Evan Osnos offers a clear analysis of Comey’s congressional testimony and what it might mean for the Trump administration going forward.

Terrorist attacks Parliament in London

A terrorist drove a car into a crowd of pedestrians on the Westminster Bridge in London, killing two “before crashing it outside parliament and trying to enter the complex, armed with a knife.” Ultimately five people died from the attack, including the terrorist, identified as Khalid Masood, and 40 more sustained injuries. Among those killed was an American, Kurt Cochran of Utah, who’d been on the final day of an anniversary trip with his wife. Prime Minister Theresa May described the attack as “sick and deprived,” while London mayor Sadiq Khan declared that “Londoners will never be cowed by terrorism.” In the US, President Trump in a tweet and press release offered his condolences to PM May and “pledged the full cooperation and support” of the United States.


At The National Interest, Daniel R. DePetris touches on the terrifying truth about terrorism.  

Trump meets with Angela Merkel

In an awkward meeting at the White House last Friday that prompted an internet reaction, President Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel touched on a number of topics, among them NATO, immigration, and the trade relationship between the two countries. During the meeting, Trump appeared to ignore or not hear Merkel when she suggested they shake hands for the reporters present, and reiterated his claim that the Obama administration had wiretapped the phones in Trump Tower during the 2016 election, telling Merkel that “as far as wiretapping, I guess, by this past administration, at least we have something in common perhaps,” – a reference to a 2013 claim by the German government that the US was monitoring Merkel’s phone.

Other notes:

Trump demanded vote after House Republican leadership postponed voting on the American Health Care act, the proposed replacement bill for Obamacare…Despite a relatively uneventful week of confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced his plans to filibuster Gorsuch’s confirmation, asserting the nominee will need to “earn 60 votes for confirmation”…State Department “instructed consular officials to broadly increase scrutiny” of people seeking entry to the US, the New York Times reported Thursday…Senate voted 50-48 to strike down Obama-era rule requiring internet providers to seek consent before “using precise geolocation, financial information, health information, children's information and web browsing history for advertising and internal marketing”…Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced he’ll skip a meeting with NATO next month to be present for a visit by Chinese president Xi Jinping, and will visit Russia later in the month.

above image: thierry ehrmann / flickr

busy week.

busy week.

America first?

America first?