Ex-FBI official: ‘Crime may have been committed’ by Trump
By ERIC TUCKER
Monday, February 18
WASHINGTON (AP) — Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe said in an interview that aired Sunday that a “crime may have been committed” when President Donald Trump fired the head of the FBI and tried to publicly undermine an investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia.
McCabe also said in the interview with “60 Minutes” that the FBI had good reason to open a counterintelligence investigation into whether Trump was in league with Russia, and therefore a possible national security threat, following the May 2017 firing of then-FBI Director James Comey.
“And the idea is, if the president committed obstruction of justice, fired the director of the of the FBI to negatively impact or to shut down our investigation of Russia’s malign activity and possibly in support of his campaign, as a counterintelligence investigator you have to ask yourself, “Why would a president of the United States do that?” McCabe said.
He added: “So all those same sorts of facts cause us to wonder is there an inappropriate relationship, a connection between this president and our most fearsome enemy, the government of Russia?”
Asked whether Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was onboard with the obstruction and counterintelligence investigations, McCabe replied, “Absolutely.”
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment Sunday night.
McCabe also revealed that when Trump told Rosenstein to put in writing his concerns with Comey — a document the White House initially held up as justification for his firing — the president explicitly asked the Justice Department official to reference Russia in the memo. Rosenstein did not want to, McCabe said, and the memo that was made public upon Comey’s dismissal did not mention Russia and focused instead on Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email server investigation.
“He explained to the president that he did not need Russia in his memo,” McCabe said. “And the president responded, “I understand that, I am asking you to put Russia in the memo anyway.”
Trump said in a TV interview days after Comey’s firing that he was thinking of “this Russia thing” when he fired Comey.
Those actions, including a separate request by Trump that the FBI end an investigation into his first national adviser, Michael Flynn, made the FBI concerned that the president was illegally trying to obstruct the Russia probe.
“Put together, these circumstances were articulable facts that indicated that a crime may have been committed,” McCabe said. “The president may have been engaged in obstruction of justice in the firing of Jim Comey.”
McCabe was fired from the Justice Department last year after being accused of misleading investigators during an internal probe into a news media disclosure. The allegation was referred to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Washington for possible prosecution, but no charges have been brought. McCabe has denied having intentionally lied and said Sunday that he believes his firing was politically motivated.
“I believe I was fired because I opened a case against the president of the United States,” he said.
In the interview Sunday, McCabe also said Rosenstein in the days after Comey’s firing had proposed wearing a wire to secretly record the president. McCabe said he took the remark seriously, though the Justice Department last September — responding last September to a New York Times report that first revealed the conversation — issued a statement from an unnamed official who was in the room and interpreted the remark as sarcastic.
McCabe said the remark was made during a conversation about why Trump had fired Comey.
“And in the context of that conversation, the deputy attorney general offered to wear a wire into the White House. He said, “‘I never get searched when I go into the White House. I could easily wear a recording device. They wouldn’t know it was there,’” McCabe said.
In excerpts released last week by CBS News, McCabe also described a conversation in which Rosenstein had broached the idea of invoking the Constitution’s 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. The Justice Department said in a statement that Rosenstein, based on his dealings with Trump, does not see cause to seek the removal of the president.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat who is seeking her party’s nomination for president, told reporters after a campaign event Sunday in Las Vegas that if the people around Trump believe he cannot fulfill the obligations of his office, then they have a duty to invoke the 25th Amendment.
A favorite target of Trump’s ire, Warren said she has no special knowledge on whether there are grounds to remove Trump from office but said that “there are a whole lot of people who do see him every day who evidently were talking about invoking the 25th Amendment.”
Associated Press writer Michelle Price in Las Vegas contributed to this report.
When image trumps ideology: How JFK created the template for the modern presidency
Updated February 14, 2019
Author: Steven Watts, Professor of History, University of Missouri-Columbia
Disclosure statement: Steven Watts does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
John F. Kennedy remains an enigma.
We still struggle to come to a clear consensus about a leader frozen in time – a man who, in our mind’s eye, is forever young and vigorous, cool and witty.
While historians have portrayed him as everything from a nascent social justice warrior to a proto-Reaganite, his political record actually offers little insight into his legacy. A standard “Cold War liberal,” he endorsed the basic tenets of the New Deal at home and projected a stern, anti-Communist foreign policy. In fact, from an ideological standpoint, he differed little from countless other elected officials in the moderate wing of the Democratic Party or the liberal wing of the Republican Party.
Much greater understanding comes from adopting an altogether different strategy: approaching Kennedy as a cultural figure. From the beginning of his career, JFK’s appeal was always more about image than ideology, the emotions he channeled than the policies he advanced.
Generating an enthusiasm more akin to that of a popular entertainer than a candidate for national office, he was arguably America’s first “modern” president. Many subsequent presidents would follow the template he created, from Republicans Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump to Democrats Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
A cultural icon
JFK pioneered the modern notion of the president as celebrity. The scion of a wealthy family, he became a national figure as a young congressman for his good looks, high-society diversions and status as an “eligible bachelor.”
He hobnobbed with Hollywood actors such as Frank Sinatra and Tony Curtis, hung out with models and befriended singers. He became a fixture in the big national magazines – Life, Look, Time, The Saturday Evening Post – which were more interested in his personal life than his political positions.
Later, Ronald Reagan, the movie actor turned politician, and Donald Trump, the tabloid fixture and star of “The Apprentice,” would translate their celebrity impulses into electoral success. Meanwhile, the saxophone-playing Bill Clinton and the smooth, “no drama” Obama – ever at ease on the talk show circuit – teased out variations of the celebrity role on the Democratic stage.
After Kennedy, it was the candidate with the most celebrity appeal who often triumphed in the presidential sweepstakes.
A master of the media
Kennedy also forged a new path with his skillful utilization of media technology. With his movie-star good looks, understated wit and graceful demeanor, he was a perfect fit for the new medium of television.
He was applauded for his televised speeches at the 1956 Democratic convention, and he later prevailed in the famous television debates of the 1960 presidential election. His televised presidential press conferences became media works of art as he deftly answered complex questions, handled reporters with aplomb and laced his responses with wit, quoting literary figures like the Frenchwoman Madame de Staël.
Two decades later, Reagan proved equally adept with television, using his acting skills to convey an earnest patriotism, while the lip-biting Clinton projected the natural empathy and communication skills of a born politician. Obama’s eloquence before the cameras became legendary, while he also became an early adopter of social media to reach and organize his followers.
Trump, of course, emerged from a background in reality television and adroitly employed Twitter to circumvent a hostile media establishment, generate attention and reach his followers.
The vigorous male
Finally, JFK reshaped public leadership by exuding a powerful, masculine ideal. As I explore in my book, “JFK and the Masculine Mystique: Sex and Power on the New Frontier,” he emerged in a postwar era colored by mounting concern over the degeneration of the American male. Some blamed the shifting labor market for turning men from independent, manual laborers into corpulent, desk-bound drones within sprawling bureaucracies. Others pointed to suburban abundance for transforming men into diaper-changing denizens of the easy chair and backyard barbecue. And many thought that the advancement of women in the workplace would emasculate their male coworkers.
Enter Jack Kennedy, who promised a bracing revival of American manhood as youthful and vigorous, cool and sophisticated.
In his famous “New Frontier” speech, he announced that “young men are coming to power – men who are not bound by the traditions of the past – young men who can cast off the old slogans and delusions and suspicions.”
In a Sports Illustrated article titled “The Soft American,” he advocated a national physical fitness crusade. He endorsed a tough-minded realism to shape the counterinsurgency strategies that were deployed to combat Communism, and he embraced the buccaneering style of the CIA and the Green Berets. He championed the Mercury Seven astronauts as sturdy, courageous males who ventured out to conquer the new frontier of space.
JFK’s successors adopted many of these same masculine themes. Reagan positioned himself as a manly, tough-minded alternative to a weak, vacillating Jimmy Carter. Clinton presented himself as a pragmatic, assertive, virile young man whose hardscrabble road to success contrasted with the privileged, preppy George H.W. Bush. Obama impressed voters as a vigorous, athletic young man who scrimmaged with college basketball teams – a contrast to the cranky, geriatric John McCain and a stiff, pampered Mitt Romney.
More recently, of course, Trump’s outlandish masculinity appealed to many traditionalists unsettled by a wave of gender confusion, women in combat, weeping millennial “snowflakes” and declining numbers of physically challenging manufacturing jobs in the country’s post-industrial economy. No matter how crudely, the theatrically male businessman promised a remedy.
So as we look back at John F. Kennedy a century after his birth, it seems ever clearer that he ascended the national stage as our first modern president. Removed from an American political tradition of grassroots electioneering, sober-minded experience and bourgeois morality, this youthful, charismatic leader reflected a new political atmosphere that favored celebrity appeal, media savvy and masculine vigor. He was the first American president whose place in the cultural imagination dwarfed his political positions and policies.
Just as style made the man with Kennedy, it also remade the American presidency. It continues to do so today.
This is an updated version of an article originally published on May 25, 2017.
If You Hate Campaign Season, Blame Money in Politics
The fact that 2020 candidates are announcing now is a testament to the huge expense of elections. Can a new law change that?
By Sarah Anderson | February 13, 2019
Amy Klobuchar could’ve waited for the temperature to rise above 15 degrees before launching her 2020 presidential bid. Instead, she chose to risk frostbite and make her pitch in the middle of a snowstorm — all for an election more than 600 days away.
The Minnesota senator is just one of around a dozen Democrats who’ve already thrown their hats into the presidential ring or hinted they intend to soon.
What’s the big rush?
People in other countries think we’re insane for having such long political races. By one count, in the timeframe of the 2016 U.S. election, you could’ve fit about four elections in Mexico, seven in Canada, 14 in the UK, and 41 in France.
If lengthy campaigns boosted voter education and turnout, I’d be all for them. But there’s scarce evidence of that. The United States ranks 26th out of 32 industrialized countries in the share of the voting age population that shows up at the polls.
So what can we do to avoid contests that shift politicians’ focus away from governing to endless campaigning?
We could try to compress our interminable primary process. But that wouldn’t make much difference when candidates are launching their bids a full year before the Iowa caucus.
A more effective step would be to slash the cost of competing for higher office. Candidates bolt out of the gates because they know it takes a long time to raise the mega-millions required for a White House run.
Imagine how many phone calls and fundraisers went into amassing the $6.5 billion spent on the 2016 election. A quarter of that huge sum came from donors who contributed at least $100,000.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that it was unconstitutional to place overall limits on federal campaign contributions. But we’re seeing a rise in candidates who voluntarily rebuff deep-pocketed donors.
“We need to end the unwritten rule of politics that says that anyone who wants to run for office has to start by sucking up to a bunch of rich donors on Wall Street and powerful insiders,” Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren told the crowd at her own frigid campaign launch. She won’t be taking a dime from political action committees (PACs).
Senator Bernie Sanders showed in 2016 that it’s possible to raise large sums from individual donors. His total haul: $228 million.
A proposal by House Democrats would go a long way towards boosting small contributions as a counter to the mega-donors.
As part of a sweeping anti-corruption initiative, H.R. 1 would grant tax credits for contributions of no more than $50. Candidates could also volunteer for a public financing option through which the federal government would put $6 into their coffers for every $1 raised in small donations (of no more than $200).
The Democratic proposal would also force Super PACs, which can raise unlimited sums to advocate for or against candidates, to make their donors public. This might discourage some of the shadiest forces from attempting to buy elections.
The bill includes a number of other important pro-democracy proposals. It would crack down on partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts and corrupt lobbying practices. It would also make Election Day a holiday for federal employees, hoping private sector businesses would also give their workers the day off.
None of these changes, I’m afraid, would have an immediate impact on the duration of U.S. election campaigns. But by making the process more equitable, these reforms might make the 600-plus days at least seem shorter.
Sarah Anderson directs the Global Economy Project and co-edits Inequality.org at the Institute for Policy Studies. She tweets at @Anderson_IPS. Distributed by OtherWords.org.
Israeli leaders’ Nazi remarks scuttle summit with Europeans
By ARON HELLER
Monday, February 18
JERUSALEM (AP) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s off-hand comment in Warsaw about Poland and the Holocaust set in motion a diplomatic crisis that on Monday scuttled this week’s summit of central European leaders in Israel.
Poland’s abrupt decision to cancel its participation in the planned Visegrad conference in protest blew up the gathering, which Netanyahu has touted as a major milestone in his outreach to emerging democracies in eastern Europe and his broader goal of countering the criticism Israel typically faces in international forums.
The crisis was sparked last week when Netanyahu told reporters that “Poles cooperated with the Nazis.” The seemingly innocuous comment infuriated his Polish hosts, who reject suggestions that their country collaborated with Hitler.
Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, announced Sunday that he would be skipping this week’s Visegrad summit, a gathering with fellow prime ministers from Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz was supposed to replace him at Tuesday’s meeting in Jerusalem, the first time the gathering is being held outside of Europe.
But after Israel’s acting foreign minister reiterated the collaboration claims, Morawiecki cancelled Poland’s participation altogether, denouncing the comments as “racist.” As a result, the summit was called off and Netanyahu was planning to meet the other leaders independently.
Lost in the diplomatic uproar was that Netanyahu was actually defending his close alliance with Poland and other eastern European leaders when he made his comments.
Historians and domestic critics have accused Netanyahu of cozying up too tightly to nationalistic leaders who have promoted a distorted image of the Holocaust and turning a blind eye to anti-Semitism associated with them.
Morawiecki himself last year equated Polish perpetrators of the Holocaust to supposed “Jewish perpetrators.” Netanyahu has recently hosted leaders of Lithuania, Ukraine and other countries who have engaged in selective World War II-era commemorations that play down their countries’ culpability while making heroes out of anti-Soviet nationalists involved in the mass killing of Jews.
In response to a question from The Associated Press during his two-day visit to Warsaw, Netanyahu said he raises the issue of historical revisionism with the various leaders. He rejected the notion he was a partner to diminishing anyone’s complicity in the genocide of Jews in World War II.
“I know the history. I don’t starch it and I don’t whitewash it. In Lithuania, in particular, there were some horrible things. No one is concealing that,” said Netanyahu, the son of a historian. “This whole idea that we diminish history — we don’t distort, and we don’t hide, and no one has any interest in that, on the contrary.”
In the same briefing with his traveling press corps, Netanyahu tried to deflect prominent criticism by Israeli historians of the deal he struck with Polish leaders over their country’s controversial Holocaust speech law, which criminalized blaming the Polish nation for crimes committed against Jews during World War II.
Israeli officials saw it as an attempt by Poland to suppress discussion of the well-documented killing of Jews by Poles during and after the wartime German occupation.
“Poles collaborated with the Nazis and I don’t know anyone who was ever sued for such a statement,” Netanyahu told the reporters.
However, some media outlets reported him saying “THE Poles,” which set off an angry rebuke in Warsaw, including a summoning of the Israeli ambassador for clarifications. Netanyahu’s office said he was misquoted and blamed the misunderstanding on an editing error in an Israeli newspaper.
Netanyahu’s office then reiterated that he “spoke of Poles and not the Polish people or the country of Poland.” That only got him in hotter water at home for seemingly catering to the Polish obsession over his wording.
“The prime minister of the Jewish state is selling out the memory of the Holocaust for a dubious alliance with an anti-Semitic leader,” said Tamar Zandberg, leader of the opposition Meretz party.
Nonetheless, the Polish government said it considered Netanyahu’s response insufficient and threatened to withdraw from the conference.
With emotions running high in Poland, Israel’s new acting foreign minister, Israel Katz, went on TV Sunday to reiterate that “Poles collaborated with the Nazis” — even mentioning Poles who “sucked anti-Semitism with their mothers’ milk.”
That prompted Poland to withdraw completely. Following that announcement, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said the so-called V4 summit was cancelled altogether and bilateral meetings would be held instead.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon confirmed the summit was off, saying all four prime ministers had to be present for it to take place.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is already in Israel, is another leader who has trod into the sensitive terrain of World War II conduct.
Orban has lavished praise on Miklos Horthy, Hungary’s World War II-era ruler, who introduced anti-Semitic laws and collaborated with the Nazis. Orban also has backed a state-funded museum that experts say plays down the role of Hungarian collaborators and also used anti-Semitic imagery in a campaign against the liberal American-Hungarian billionaire George Soros.
When pressed by the AP, though, Netanyahu came to his ally’s defense.
“His response was the most direct, saying ‘we are not willing to accept this,’” Netanyahu responded. “He (Orban) attacked Horthy at some point. They are going the furthest here.”
Netanyahu also addressed his warm welcome in January to President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine, whose parliament had just designated the birthday of Ukrainian wartime collaborator Stepan Bandera a national holiday.
Bandera’s forces fought alongside the Nazis and were implicated in the murder of thousands of Jews. The same day Poroshenko was visiting Israel, another memorial was being erected in Kiev for Symon Petliura, whose troops are linked to pogroms that killed as many as 50,000 Jews after World War I.
Netanyahu said he was not aware of that specifically but that he had some discussions with Poroshenko on the larger issue.
“I spoke to him too. I speak to them all. It’s not that we can’t raise the issue. We raise it freely,” he insisted.
Still, he then quickly shifted attention toward the contemporary anti-Semitism from the “anarchist left” and Muslim communities.
“I think the mass of anti-Semitism today in Europe is what is happening in western Europe,” Netanyahu said. “What is happening in Britain is astounding. This is the new phenomenon. There is the anti-Semitism of the right that hasn’t changed. That existed and still exists.”
Follow Heller at www.twitter.com/aronhellerap