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James Comey Testifies: Open Thread

I daresay these are the most explosive congressional hearings since Anita Hill’s testimoy.

I don’t think we need to pretend that there’s anything other than James Comey’s testimony on top of the headline page today. Consider this an open thread to discuss Director Comey’s testimony and the implications thereof.

For reference, here’s a link to his prepared remarks submitted in writing before the oral testimony.


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292 thoughts on “James Comey Testifies: Open Thread

  1. There’s actually nothing all that dramatic in this whole thing, aside from maybe some Sessions underbussing. (Which itself has interesting timing, given all the media trial balloons on Sessions’s job in jeopardy)

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    • Well yeah. Trump tried to kill the investigation of Flynn. That isn’t new. All the claims about Trump’s wrongness were out there. It’s like the dreaded MSM reports were all sort of true. The only question is the R evasions, as in “of course it was wrong, but he just didn’t know it was wrong so we’ll take a mulligan on this. Thanks.”

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    • There shouldn’t be. As there is an ongoing investigation, nobody should be prying into the details of that — and I’d imagine Comey would refuse to answer. Same with anything classified.

      In short, the entire discussion is limited to, well, what we already knew. Just under oath, and with some clarifications.

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      • And of course, if you’re not a hardcore Trump fan, it’s already pretty clear that he tried to kill the Flynn investigation. If you are a hardcore Trump fan, this is just more evidence that he didn’t try to kill the Flynn investigation and there’s a massive conspiracy of media, government, the pod people, and perhaps ((others)) to make Trump fail.

        But it’s still interesting to watch. We sure are living through a lot of history right now.

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    • There’s actually nothing all that dramatic in this whole thing,

      The nature of the testimony was not set up for dramatic outcomes, but there were some interesting nuggets. Comey implied that Sessions has more dirt on him that we’re aware of right now; he implied that Lynch’s alliance with Clinton campaign goes deeper than we’re aware of; he indicated that the FBI has been looking at Kushner’s connection to the Russian bank as mediated by meetings with Kislyak which Flynn was present at.

      No bombshells regarding Trump’s effort to obstruct the investigation into Flynn. But that’s already obvious for folks who can see what’s right in front of their nose. Even Trump admitted it.

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      • Also we get a chance to weigh Comey’s credibility and demeanor as a witness and we get to see how particular Senators are going to assert themselves in response to the information. The standout performance, IMO was Burr’s cross-examination of Comey at the very start of the back-and-forth, taking full advantage of his ability to go first and thus to put a fence around the possible impact of the testimony to follow.

        We also learned that “But her emails” and the Tarmac Conference are not dead political letters yet. Which leads me to join one of our distinguished alumni in this opinion:

        https://twitter.com/JasonKuznicki/status/872854047790858246

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        • One other interesting nugget: Comey said he informed Rosenstein of Trump’s pattern of behavior re: isolating the FBI director for private conversations a couple months before he was fired. Which brings Rosenstein back into some questionable loops, one of which is that he didn’t give Mueller complete independence in the course of the investigation. When pressed on the issue yesterday by Sen. Harris Rosenstein looked like cornered rat, offering assurances that he wouldn’t interfere based on his promise not to. IT was a really strange exchange, and Rosenstein looked bloody after it. Adding it all up, including R’s letter ostensibly justifying Comey’s firing, I tend to think there’s a lot more goiing on there than we’re aware of as well.

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  2. Trump’s approval ratings are getting lower and lower but I am still an ur-cynic that this matters for the GOP. A lot of my more optimistic liberal friends (who possibly read too much Louise Mensch and the Palmer Report) think that Trump’s impeachment is coming any day now.

    I disagree and for reasons that Chait largely laid out in a column yesterday. The Republicans control Congress and we are more partisan than we were during Watergate. Plus Trump has proven himself to be very willing to pursue a Grover Norquist fantasy of a budget with deep slashes to funding nearly everything including the State and Defense department not to mention social programs.

    I was born in 1980 and always knew the GOP as the party of “Government is the Problem” but they seem to be marching more and more to the right and see Trump as possibly their last chance to destruct all aspects of the Social safety net and have the minimalist government of their dreams no matter how unpopular. Look at how the AHCA collapses and revives, collapses and revives. All the reports show that it is deeply unpopular, will take 26 million people off insurance, and might even mess with Employer based insurance in unknown ways.

    There is still the fact that Trump hasn’t appointed hundreds if not thousands of positions to the Federal Government especially in Defense and State (and Rex Tillerson seems dandy about it. Mattis is a harder read). Sessions offered to resign is something we found out this week. I feel like this is an experiment in how bad things can get and whether the U.S. will not have a functioning government at some point. Will there come a time when people just don’t get mail, passports, airports take forever to get through, etc. Authoritarianism by incompetence more than anything else.

    The other big thing is Erik Trump denying the humanity of Democrats in a conversation with Hannity. It is easy to commit violence against people if you deny them their humanity.

    The Kansas GOP finally overrode Brownback’s deep tax cuts after six or so years. The question I have is whether something similar can happen on a national scale.

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    • I think impeachment will become possible when Trump hits 70 percent disapproval. That’s a long slog, if it ever gets there. His supporters, and R’s in general, are dug in. They made a choice and are doing the human thing, which is doubling down on it.

      Nevertheless, I hold to my prediction that Trump will not serve out his term. There are a lot of ways that can happen besides impeachment.

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    • Trump’s approval ratings are getting lower and lower but I am still an ur-cynic that this matters for the GOP. A lot of my more optimistic liberal friends (who possibly read too much Louise Mensch and the Palmer Report) think that Trump’s impeachment is coming any day now.

      As various people have pointed out, the Democrats must not impeach Trump, or it will be the new Lost Cause of the Confederacy.

      We have to demand the *Republicans* do it. Or at least in some manner that can reasonably be called bipartisan, not ‘barely enough Republicans defect’.

      The Republicans control Congress and we are more partisan than we were during Watergate. Plus Trump has proven himself to be very willing to pursue a Grover Norquist fantasy of a budget with deep slashes to funding nearly everything including the State and Defense department not to mention social programs.

      Here’s the interesting fact about political bribery and lying: When you don’t have power, you can *pretend* to your donors and voters that you’re trying to slash every ounce of spending. And you can claim it to shoot down primary opponents.

      When you do have power, you suddenly look around and go ‘Erm, wait, if I cut this, my voters will hate me. It doesn’t really matter what I’m being paid to do.’.

      And suddenly all your motivations disappear. In fact, because the best case scenario is you never having to vote on it, it suddenly becomes incredibly difficult for such things to make it to the floor.

      We already saw this with the AHCA.

      There are basically two ways to act as an elected official. You can act within the possible, or you can claim you’re acting within the impossible but being foiled. The possible is where most people have to be located, doing the things that actually have to get done, making compromises, etc. The impossible, which can *only* be done by the powerless, is partisan signaling and deliberately impotent nonsense, stuff that people *do not actually want*, but donors and extremist voters think they do.

      This has happened on *both sides*, for quite some time, in politics. It’s how politics works. It’s the reason the minority party often doesn’t vote to raise the debt ceiling. At a more individual level, bills get introduced all the time that cannot pass, and *the person pushing them doesn’t want them to pass*, but wants to able to claim they ‘introduced a bill to…’ to their voters.

      Everyone in politics is *normally* some mix of the possible and the impossible. They use the possible to get things done, and the impossible to signal.

      The problem is that Republicans, thanks to the media, found the impossible more profitable than anything, and ramped it up to 300 (on a scale of 1 to 10). And they *also* forgot how to do anything else, at least in the House. And a few of them honestly don’t appear to understand how this works…there are Republicans in the House who *honestly* think they will be praised as a hero for taking away social security.

      But don’t confuse their impossible rhetoric for what will actually happen. I know we’ve been reducing our sanity check points that will veto obviously nonsensical ‘impossible’ bills, but we still have the Senate, which is already pretty damn iffy with the AHCA, and isn’t going to let insane budgets pass. A *conservative* budget, yes, but not an insane one.

      Edit: Of course, when I say the impossible ‘can *only* be done by the powerless’, I was not including Trump, who has, rather stupidly, attempted to do the impossible repeatedly, and thus, being technically powerful, has lost fights not against other politicians, but either against the courts…or has technically succeeded (like in firing Comey), resulting in crippling public opinion turns. I’m generally talking about the rules for *plausibly competent* politicians.

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      • This is pretty much how I’ve come to understand politics. The “anti-flag-burning” amendments are a show. They know it can’t happen, but the pass it anyway and make a lot of noise, and let the opposition sweat about being on the side of flag burners.

        Or, to invoke BSDI, you introduce a bill to deny gun ownership to people on the terrorist watch list. As a political move, fantastic. As policy, bloody awful. I hate the terrorist watch list, which was the point, I think.

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      • I largely but don’t completely agree.

        From what I’ve read, it looks like there is now a 50/50 chance that the AHCA passes in the Senate. Even if it fails that drags us into another attempt where something goes through the House and then to the Senate. Since the GOP spent nearly ten years bashing the ACA and crippling it, they need to replace it. They can’t just let repeal Obamacare die. And a lot of GOP Congresscritters seem to live in constant fear of being primaried from the far right even the rock-solid conservatives ones.

        I largely agree with you that politics is the art of the possible but this usually requires a very centrist outlook. The thing that strikes me about the GOP and the right-wing in general is that they have become the party of true believing ideologues and might not care about political popularity. Whether this is admirable or not is another question. But they honestly don’t believe that the government should have a welfare state and are willing to go for it on hell or highwater. They have also become the party of rolling coal/Cleek’s Law and too many of them are equally animated by “what will piss off a liberal?”

        I don’t know what marches the GOP back from this brink but as Lee points out, many European conservatives made their peace with the welfare state and the social changes of the 1960s. They might limit funding but no Tory or even UKIP member would dream of throwing out the NHS. Our conservatives still think they can roll back the clock to the Harding administration and nothing can stop them from believing this.

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        • Even if it fails that drags us into another attempt where something goes through the House and then to the Senate.

          Tactically, though, they need to finish before the end of September. They only get to do one reconciliation bill per fiscal year, and McConnell already has an understanding with Ryan that the FY18 bill will be tax cuts. Once reconciliation is not an option, a Senate health care bill needs 60 votes and McConnell has given no indication that he’s willing to kill the legislative filibuster over Obamacare repeal.

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            • Who knows? We don’t know what the bill looks like yet. We do know that it will be written by McConnell’s Gang of 13, instead of in committee. We know that it has to be scored by the CBO in order to be considered under reconciliation rules. We know that some of the (R) Senators are getting an earful from the (R) governors of their states in cases where Medicaid was expanded (I assume variations on the theme of “Don’t you dare hang me out to dry by killing the expansion.”). We know that two (R) Senators have said they won’t vote for a bill that defunds Planned Parenthood. Will all of those give in when the Whip comes calling?

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              • They’re treating this legislation like they’re running hooch during prohibition: work up a secret plan in committee, get clearance from the CBO boss, drive like maniacs to deliver it in the dead of night to a prearranged drop in the House, muscle anyone who interferes on the floor vote, pocket the cash.

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                • There’s legislating done the way they teach in civics class, and then there’s legislating in real life. A session or three on the staff of a state legislature is a very educational experience (I wouldn’t wish a Congressional staff job on anyone.)

                  Thought for Will Truman: During your exercises drafting a potential WSA constitution, give consideration to imposing restrictions on the rules for legislative bodies. From my time with the Colorado General Assembly, I’m fond of: (1) every bill goes through the committee process; (2) every bill gets a full hearing in at least one committee; and (3) every member is entitled to introduce at least one amendment when a bill is debated on the floor.

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        • From what I’ve read, it looks like there is now a 50/50 chance that the AHCA passes in the Senate. Even if it fails that drags us into another attempt where something goes through the House and then to the Senate.

          Truth be told, I’m not actually that worried about the AHCA. Here’s the question no one has been asking themselves about the AHCA: What happens when it passes?

          Or, more to the point, how do *insurance companies* react?

          They already are *extremely* unhappy with how the Republicans are acting. I can see a lot of them simply refusing to offer any plans. Huge areas of the country without any insurance at all.

          Seriously, it’s like everyone forgot the ACA and the AHCA are laws that, to work, require private insurers to sell insurance.

          *ONE* of those got insurance company sign-on before becoming law. One of them…uh…didn’t. Everyone is just *assuming* insurance companies will go along with it.

          Why the hell would they do that? The Republicans have *constantly* been undermining the plan they did sign on to, and, hell, *filed a lawsuit* to try to not pay them. And then forced this thing on them.

          The insurance companies are just going to say ‘Nope. We’re walking. We’re back to just corporate insurance. Have fun.’

          Alternately, they might troll Republicans by offering plans for a million dollars a year. (Yes, *technically* they can only keep 20% of premiums not used for medical care, so they’d have to pay it all back at the end of the year, if anyone signed up…but the point is to troll them.)

          And we get a meltdown of the GOP, and some sort of emergency fix. This fix will almost certainly require *Democrats*, and working with insurance companies, which means…tada.

          You know how people talk about how some people can be ‘ten steps ahead’ of other people? The AHCA is, strangely, an example of the GOP being about five steps behind *themselves*. Like, their plans for that don’t even make sense *from where they are standing*, much less based on what the obvious end result will be.

          Since the GOP spent nearly ten years bashing the ACA and crippling it, they need to replace it.

          Well, yes, they *need* to, but that doesn’t mean they *can*, or that doing so *also* won’t be extremely harmful to them.

          The guy who painted himself in a corner may *need to* go to the restroom. That doesn’t mean he *can*, or that he is going to accomplish it through sheer willpower.

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      • McConnell and Boehner went all in on what was termed “fake fighting” against Obama, and the result was that the Republican base got fed up and made Trump the nominee, and then made him President.

        The reason is that we saw Trump as General Grant. He may be uncouth, hard drinking, and the bane of polite Washington circles, but by God he fights. Unlike all the other generals we’d tried, who kept demanding more and more supplies and troops but eschewed an actual all-out bloody battle that would produce a decisive outcome, Grant fights. That’s all we needed.

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          • Back during the primaries I wrote a more detailed version which got very good responses from conservatives who suddenly “got it”. McConnell, Boehner, and the rest told the Republican base that they could stop Obama if they won the House. So we gave them the House and they didn’t stop anything, just turned around and told us they needed to win the Senate to stop Obama. So we gave them the Senate. They still didn’t stop Obama because they wouldn’t fight, only fake fight. They’d give Obama whatever Obama wanted as long as they could set up a pointless stand on the floor where they could speak against it.

            They were like generals McClellan. Buell, and Halleck, unwilling to fight no matter how great their advantages. Like the Union public in the first year of the Civil War, we were fed up and disgusted at providing all the instruments of victory to people who didn’t have the spunk to actually try and achieve a victory. We were fed up with armchair generals who could talk about the principles of Napoleonic maneuvers on the DC cocktail circuit (or Sunday talk shows), but wouldn’t charge into the mud and bloody clash required to actually defeat an enemy, and who weren’t willing to break their polished tin soldiers to achieve an objective.

            And then came Trump, or Grant. A loud mouthed buffoon, a joke to the experienced, well-heeled generals, a failed store clerk from nowhere – who would lead his army into hell and back because he wanted to crush the enemy, anywhere and any time.

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        • Grant was a master tactician. (Read his memoirs; the guy knew what he was doing at every step.) Trump likes to stay up all night and Tweet.

          Grant knew that the enemies were the Confederate armies and Northerners who wanted to settle instead of win. Trump thinks the enemy is anyone who’s mean to him.

          Grant was a West Point graduate. Trump is a moron.

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          • Grant graduated in the bottom half of his class. His first name was literally chosen from a hat. He eventually made captain but was forced to resign from the military for drinking. He supported Douglas in the 1860 election and only rejoined the Army after the war started, again being made a captain. Since he’d been in the Army before, they promoted him, and then he started kicking ass, attacking on his own initiative. The rest is history.

            Trump went to a military school and then got an economics degree from Wharton. Then he began beating everyone at their own game, eventually taking on the top brains in the both the Republican and Democratic parties, and in the media, and beat them like bongo drums.

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              • Grant was considered a drunken idiot with no knowledge of tactics or strategy. The New York Times was viciously denouncing him in 1863 for being an antisemitic ass, after he committed the most blatant antisemitic act of the entire century. Shortly after, general McClernand and other generals kept leaking stories about Grant and his drinking. An Ohio paper lamented “”Our whole Army of the Mississippi is being wasted by a foolish, drunken, stupid Grant.” A lot of people, especially in DC, utterly despised him.

                Sound familiar?

                But Lincoln responded to the constant call to relieve Grant with “I can’t spare him. He fights.”

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            • Q: What do you call the West Point graduate at the very bottom on his class?
              A: If you’re enlisted, you’d better call him “sir.”

              I disagree with the notion that Trump is a “moron” or otherwise dumb. He’s “foolish.” “Unwise.” There is obviously intellectual capacity there, but some sort of cloud or miswiring between that and what he actually does. I hesitate to make armchair diagnoses but the “dementia” hypothesis is tempting indeed — the Donald Trump of 20 years ago was brash, egoistical, sarcastic, and opportunistic like today’s Trump, but back then he conducted himself in interviews much much better: he answered the questions he was asked, for sentences at a time. Today’s Trump doesn’t seem able to sustain that sort of mental focus.

              At minimum, Trump is somehow out of his element in politics and therefore stressed in a way that someone experienced with this sort of pressure would not be. Perhaps (if the various guesses about cognitive impairment are wrong, as we all should hope they are) he will eventually learn the sorts of emotional and intellectual skills that other politicians have drawn upon to handle the stresses of serving as President.

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              • You’re right. He’s very astute at understanding people’s motivations, as well as how they might respond to events or actions. And he’s structured his business career around that.

                He doesn’t impose his will by maneuvering through big bureaucracies. He manages his relationships of maybe a dozen people at a time, and everything else through them. He does that because he can’t ingest information by reading the way the rest of white collar America does. It wouldn’t surprise me if he had a reading disability actually.

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        • I read this and it makes me want to cry. Donald Trump is a weakness of the political representation of Greater Red State America, not a strength.

          And that comment is about as clear an expression of that weakness as you could hope for. Mitch McConnell has ran circles around Dems for 30 years and George wants to go to the fcuking mattresses for Donald Fcuking Trump.

          I think it’s useful to note one thing that everybody should be able to agree on. Donald Trump intimidates nobody. The antifas, the Demos in Congress, the judiciary, James Comey, everybody else who opposes Trump really. There’s barely a couple of solitary examples that I can think of where somebody ended up the worse in their personal or professional circumstances for getting on the other side of Trump politically.

          Yet we still have some conservatives/populists/nationalists/whatever who want nothing else other than to buy the idea that Donald Trump is John Wayne in a suit.

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    • The Internet in general exposed a lot of people to concepts like minarchism and anarcho-cap in the 1990s. If you’d read the better writers on that subject, most of those were pretty careful to caveat the things they were saying. The hardcore Murray Rothbard devotees just got more and more shrill until they went off the air.

      By the time the Weekly Standard became the base camp for the “get the Clintons” movement, most of that was pretty much over. In order to get the message out over cheap (mis)communications channels, that message had to be reduced in information – in essence Bowdlerized – to where it could be widely disseminated, even TWS was too high-brow for it. William Kristol had an on-camera “what will I do now?” thing at the end of the 2016 Republican convention. Ann Coulter was making “we had a good run” noises.

      The thing I find stunning still is that also during the ’90s, Newt Gingrich ran it all on term limits. So there’s very little long-term leadership in the Republican Party any more. Meanwhile, people still have to get elected and that process has expanded to occupy all the available bandwidth.

      Meanwhile, all forms of debt mount, employment is much worse[1] and we can’t maintain GDP. The present Tea Party looks a lot like a one-time demographic anomaly and we begin to understand that people sort of *like* all these programs after all.

      [1] or something something blah blah.

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    • Still another 4 hours or so until the polls close, and my understanding is that they do most of the counting by hand.

      (Iirc, the end result of the Brexit vote didn’t come out until midday eastern US time the next day)

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              • I have had a number of jobs that made me sign pieces of paper that said “if the press comes to talk to you about any event in the past, present, or future, you agree to say that you cannot comment and you will direct the press to the appropriate media person”.

                “How often does the media talk to us?”, I tend to ask. “Never, as far as I know”, I tend to get answered.

                But I have signed such pieces of paper at my last few jobs.

                It wouldn’t surprise me to hear that the FBI has a similar policy. I’d actually be shocked if they didn’t, honestly.

                Of course, I’m pretty sure that Comey will be able to get away with violating the policy given that he didn’t break any laws. What can they threaten him with? Firing?

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                  • I’m only assuming that one exists, based on nothing more than the fact that my IT jobs have one (and all of the IT jobs I’ve had have had once since the 90’s).

                    So I don’t know if the FBI has one.

                    Let me google it! BRB.

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                    • Oooh, jeez! Top link!

                      From the middle:

                      The FBI policy overhaul is intended to underscore that media contacts are limited to those managers in charge of the field offices, in addition to designated public relations employees and others given specific authorization, the officials said.

                      I’d say that Comey is definitely covered under the umbrella of “managers in charge of the field offices” and, even if he’s not, he’s well under “specific authorization” because he’s the top guy who could possibly provide specific authorization.

                      So he didn’t even break the rules when he gave that info out.

                      Something to tell Snowden, I suppose.

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                      • I’m really surprised you had to look it up to realize that if there is a policy saying “Thou shalt not talk to the press without authorization”, that the people doing the authorizing were, by default, not subject to it.

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                        • Hey, I was asked if the policy existed and I had to admit that I didn’t know for sure, one way or the other.

                          I knew that it was *PROBABLE* that such a policy existed (I mean, *I* had to sign such pieces of paper) but I didn’t *KNOW*.

                          I’m pleased to have found that it not only existed but even have evidence that I can offer to say “it doesn’t apply to Comey, though”.

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                          • In this case, you had material that was never classified being told to people. It was a “leak” in the traditional Washington sense (that is it was unclassified info someone wanted into circulation, but without a name attached) not in the Snowden sense.

                            What gets me is Trump and the WH clearly never thought Comey might have created a paper trail. You threatened his job, and not subtly, and couldn’t imagine he wouldn’t make a few contingencies?

                            And out of all the stuff Comey could have leaked to make Trump look bad, he did so with…”Things Trump said to my face”.

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                      • I’d say that Comey is definitely covered under the umbrella of “managers in charge of the field offices” and, even if he’s not, he’s well under “specific authorization” because he’s the top guy who could possibly provide specific authorization.

                        This sort of thing also makes a claim by the right kinda moot. A few of them are like ‘If Comey had evidence of obstruction of justice, he was required to notify someone, not keep it secret. Ergo, Comey broke the rules!’.

                        Ignoring the fact that there doesn’t appear to be any such mandatory reporting requirement that anyone can really point to, the obviously correct people to notify about obstruction of justice would be…the FBI. That’s who you would tell.

                        So, uh, if we assume that Comey had an obligation to tell the FBI of the obstruction of justice….erm, didn’t he do that? What was he supposed to do? Look in a mirror and tell himself that?

                        I guess he could have written a memo to himself…hey, wait a second!

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                    • Practically any government job that gets you in contact with classified documents should have it. I signed something like that when I joined the army. I would be surprised if Comey didn’t have to sign something like that.

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                • I have had a number of jobs that made me sign pieces of paper that said “if the press comes to talk to you about any event in the past, present, or future, you agree to say that you cannot comment and you will direct the press to the appropriate media person”.

                  Did the CEO routinely sign such paperwork? In fact, wouldn’t the CEO be the one responsible (although I’m sure he delegated most of it) for determining what should and shouldn’t be released to the press?

                  Comey wasn’t a low-level staffer, he was, you know, the head of the organization.

                  NASA employees aren’t supposed to talk to the press without permission, but I know for a fact that doesn’t apply to the head of NASA. Nor the head of various branches. Or the PR staff….

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    • Comey admitted to leaking an unclassified document he wrote himself on his own initiative about an unprivileged conversation he had between himself and one other person.

      Snowden continues to be Putin’s useful idiot.

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        • Laura Ingraham was rolling with, “It was illegal for Comey to fail to report the crime Trump didn’t commit.”

          That’s a great line if you’re Captain Kirk and you need to blow up an evil computer.

          As a defense of Trump, it leaves something to be desired.

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          • As David, I believe, pointed out — the proper person to report it to was….Comey. :)

            It’s a bit of a stretch, but I’m pretty sure he learned about it almost instantly. He even wrote it down, shared it with a few other people.

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        • Come on, you know how it works on the internet: half the people you talk to take one angle, half the other. It’s the fallacy of composition to assume that the group holds both views.

          I forget which fallacy it is to cite Laura Ingraham, but it’s one of the bad ones.

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      • *Most* of the stuff that Trump keeps calling ‘leaks’, and the media keeps going along with, are not classified.

        Apparently ‘leaking’ now means ‘People telling other people about conversations that Trump had with them’.

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        • Wait, a “leak” has to be classified info to be called a leak?

          That’s honestly something that I didn’t know.

          My familiarity with the term was that it was a staffer telling stuff that was insider info. Secret in the “this information stays in this room, let’s keep this a secret” sense of the term and not the “government classification” sense of the term.

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          • Wait, a “leak” has to be classified info to be called a leak?

            No, it doesn’t. It would be perfectly fine to call any information that gets out a leak. Classified leaks could be called just that, ‘classified leaks’.

            The problem is that *Trump* has been constantly demanding someone investigate ‘leaks’, and a lot of the right-wing media has picked that up

            And none of them are making any distinction between the *illegal* leaks of classified information, which have been few and far between, and perfectly legal leaks, which not only are not criminal, but it would be inappropriate to use Justice Department resources to investigate to find out who to fire.

            Trump, of course, could investigate those himself, or use his own staff to do so. But he, of course, is calling for others to do so.

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        • Blame the media for letting Trump get away with that. Most people hear the word “leak” and think classified or otherwise protected information is being illegally promulgated and the media feeds that confusion by calling anything anyone in Washington says a “leak”.

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      • Those are leaks, and have always been called leaks – things that people in government tell reporters anonymously about what’s going on outside public view. Up until a few minutes ago, apparently, all those constant rumors about what was going on in Trump’s inner circle were being called leaks by the entire main stream media, opining that the stream of leaks would doom Trump. Did they decide to change that narrative today by redefining the word “leak”?

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  3. One thing I wish was better fleshed out in public instead of theit closed session:

    Comey’s pretty emphatic that the Russians interfered with the election. But he seem to dismiss any stories (or maybe just one in particular) about collusion between GOP & Trump campaign officials and the Russians.

    Which does fit into my notion that *no way* the Republicans were the smart ones last year with a well oiled data analytic machine – and no way Reince is a Supergenius, to borrow a term.

    But it’s still also a little baffling to me how the Russians were able to pull it off, if the integrity of the mechanics of the election was sound, and all they did was fake news and social media bots.

    Hard to beleive a voting population in the hundred millions would be succeptible to that much misinformation – and also kinda destroys the theories about the wisdom of crowds

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    • But it’s still also a little baffling to me how the Russians were able to pull it off, if the integrity of the mechanics of the election was sound, and all they did was fake news and social media bots.

      The investigation, as they say, is ongoing. More to come. But there are reports of Russians contacting and coordinating with GOP PACs and operatives for purposes of disseminating propaganda. They’re Googleable.

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    • Microtargeted advertising, is in fact very powerful. Injected into a social media stream, it’s more powerful. Linked with feedback data on what the target engages with makes it even more powerful.

      Part of what makes the whole thing so valuable is so much of the stuff goes without any rebuttal, because the whole thing is invisible to even people who know you pretty well.

      It’s like a whispering campaign, only it’s been treated with whatever Hank Pym used to make Ant Man so gigantic.

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    • Also, stealing and disseminating campaign information is criminal tampering. I’ve seen already at least one report of a R operative contacting “Guccifer 2.0” for DNC data for a Congressional race, and using the data to tune their campaign.

      That’s criminal collusion, with, it turns out, a foreign agent. But it wasn’t the Trump campaign.

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      • Also, stealing and disseminating campaign information is criminal tampering. I’ve seen already at least one report of a R operative contacting “Guccifer 2.0” for DNC data for a Congressional race, and using the data to tune their campaign.

        Yes. Aaron Nevins.

        Fun fact: Aaron Nevins also attempted to shut down a major highway, through black communities, on election day, exactly the hours of the election, for a ‘car race’, apparently under the impression that a 1905 law allows people to randomly shut down whatever road they want for ‘races’ as long as they just give notice and pay deputies $2 a day to police the race.

        http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/broward-politics-blog/sfl-disgrunted-gop-voter-aaron-nevins-threatens-to-shut-down-u-s-441-for-car-race-on-election-day-20161014-story.html

        Spoiler alert: Florida Man might be known for all sorts of dumb things, but Florida law is *nowhere near* that stupid. Yes, there’s a law saying you have to notify the sheriff if you are holding a car race, but you also *have to get permits* and all sorts of permission to actually shut down roads, as the law *also* says. Although the fact the rate is still set at $2 a day per deputy for public-road car races is kinda funny…I wonder if anyone ever remembers to collect and distribute that on top of the fees and stuff that the permits cost? (Does anyone even *hold* car races on public roads?)

        That’s criminal collusion, with, it turns out, a foreign agent. But it wasn’t the Trump campaign.

        But it’s pretty important, nevertheless, because it made it obvious that ‘Guccifer 2.0’ was, in fact, willing to work with US political operatives.

        As I said, if someone were to ask me to place a bet on this entire thing, my money is on ‘Roger Stone was in communication with Guccifer 2.0 and worked out their release schedule’. That’s my bet. It’s exactly the sort of thing he would do.

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    • Well, like many, I was going to vote for Clinton until I got into the polling booth. Then this guy with a funny accent leaned in and said “Comrade, machine is broken. To vote Clinton you must hit Trump button.” I said, “Thanks!” and hit the Trump button.

      It wasn’t until much later that I suspected that the Old World guy in the Putin T-shirt might have been lying.

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    • A few thoughts:

      1) Collusion would be part of the investigation, and not something Comey would talk about period.
      2) Comey also got fired as they were still working through who else was in contact with the Russians.
      3) Comey was pretty keen on explaining how counter-intelligence operations work and how they are ‘targeted’. They are not, at the outset, criminal investigations. (Foreign agents foreign agent. That’s what they do). They exist to determine the extent of the operation, the fallout, and who was involved — and how they got involved. And how, in the future, to guard against it.

      So the FBI investigation proper is a counter-intelligence one: What did the Russians do, where did they do it, how did they do it, etc. As such, it targets not a person but a thing (the Russian influence). Crimes by citizens committed as part of this operation, if discovered while mapping out the full parameters of the event, would be a different matter. (Still under Mueller’s and the FBI’s bailiwick, but more akin to finding additional crimes to the one you’re investigating).

      So Flynn, Manafort, Page — whether or not they committed crimes (and the criminal investigations thereof) would be secondary to the counter-intelligence investigations.

      So the short version: Comey made it very clear that his investigation (and now Mueller’s) was a counter-intelligence one focused on the Russian interference. The subtext of which is “If Americans committed crimes in furtherance of this, we will of course open a criminal investigation into them running parallel to the main investigation”. Non-partisan, not aimed at the President or a party, but aimed at intolerable interference by a foreign power.

      (Not that, if I were Flynn, Page, or Manafort, I would be comforted by this distinction. Nor Trump, for that matter. The FBI will map out the parameters of this operation, to the fullest extent they can. They’re not going to ignore any lawbreaking they find along the way, even if “Looking for criminals” isn’t their primary goal).

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  4. This is feels like kind of the core of it right here:

    Sen. James Risch: Words matter. You wrote down the words so we can all have the words in front of us now. There’s 28 words now in quotes. It says, quote, I hope — this is the president speaking — “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” Now, those are his exact words, is that correct?

    James Comey: Correct.

    Risch: You wrote them here and put them in quotes.

    Comey: Correct.

    Risch: Thank you for that. He did not direct you to let it go?

    Comey: Not in his words, no.

    Risch: He did not order you to let it go?

    Comey: Again, those words are not an order.

    Risch: He said, I hope. Now, like me, you probably did hundreds of cases, maybe thousands of cases, charging people with criminal offenses and, of course, you have knowledge of the thousands of cases out there where people have been charged. Do you know of any case where a person has been charged for obstruction of justice or, for that matter, any other criminal offense, where they said or thought they hoped for an outcome?

    Comey: I don’t know well enough to answer. The reason I keep saying his words is I took it as a direction.

    Risch: Right.

    Comey: I mean, this is a president of the United States with me alone saying I hope this. I took it as, this is what he wants me to do. I didn’t obey that, but that’s the way I took it.

    So yes, this information came out in the leak — a leak we now know that Comey engineered, in a move he intended to force the appointment of a special counsel, which then actually happened — and that’s now part of the record.

    It looks to me like whether obstruction of justice took place or not depends on whether one believes that Comey’s interpretation of Trump’s words, in context, were reasonably interpreted as an instruction.

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      • That’s my take. Maybe the legalities would align such that convicting Trump of obstruction would be difficult or impossible.

        But politically, this is the kind of defense that accomplishes nothing but making the person advancing it look like a brain-damaged weasel.

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      • That’s exactly it. “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest” or something like that. I thought I was the only one who caught it, because it’s not in the media. Henry 2?

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    • Yes. If your editor’s boss invites you to dinner, and at some point sends the other guests from the room, and then says to you, “I really hope that Cuban boa story doesn’t get finished,” every adult with the sense God gave a garden slug knows what is meant. Whether it would be actionable is open to question, but everyone knows what the message was.

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    • It looks to me like whether obstruction of justice took place or not depends on whether one believes that Comey’s interpretation of Trump’s words, in context, were reasonably interpreted as an instruction.

      If you want to instruct your subordinate to do something, you send a memo. Otherwise, you just send all of the witnesses out of the room so you’re alone with that subordinate and idly mention hopes and dreams that they could potentially fulfill. That’s what I do whenever I don’t want one of my subordinates to take any action.

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    • Burt: Trump did follow up the “hope” conversation by actually firing Comey, and he has admitted that he fired Comey because of the status of the Russia investigation.

      So it’s not someone else getting rid of the meddlesome priest. The king himself swung the axe.

      Put another way, let’s say that the hope conversation never came out. Instead the only evidence is that Trump fired Comey and admits doing so because Comey refused to drop the Flynn investigation. Obstruction?

      The meta-question, as noted above, is that obstruction of justice is that which can get the necessary impeachment/removal votes in the House and Senate. There’s no statute or case law as to when the President obstructs justice.

      (Crim law analysis: When the gangster says that he hopes you take care of something, that may or may not be a criminal threat. When he follows the conversation by shooting you when you don’t perform, I think that most juries would have their thinking about the speech act influenced by the later action. Defense counsel are not going to succeed in keeping the shooting out of the trial on the threat; it’s directly probative as to what the speaker meant.)

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    • We’re treating the word “obstruction” here the same as we’re treating “leak” above. The word can refer to a non-criminal or a criminal action, and we’re not paying enough attention to which definition we’re implying.

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      • I don’t think whether or not it meets the legal definition of obstruction is relevant here (although I think it’s open-and-shut at this point). E question is whether or not it’s an abuse of power by the President.

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        • I don’t know if most of the comments have been wrong, but they’ve been messy. I’m not sure what some people mean. But no one should use the term “obstruction of justice” in a non-legal sense.

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    • It looks to me like whether obstruction of justice took place or not depends on whether one believes that Comey’s interpretation of Trump’s words, in context, were reasonably interpreted as an instruction.

      IANAL disclaimer up front, but I don’t think it’s quite that simple. The limited, narrow context of that single statement may not suffice for a determination of obstruction, but other evidence could. Eg., that Trump approached DNI and head of NSA to ask them if they could do anything to ramp down the investigation; the expectation of personal loyalty (if that could be corroborated); that Trump asked everyone in the room to leave, including the AG; and of course the fact, often lost in this discussion, that Comey was in fact fired and Trump himself said he was fired to end the Russia investigation.

      I’m certainly not arguing that all this evidence and more suffice to convict of obstruction but doesn’t it strike you as a prima facie case of obstruction, one in which charges would be entirely justified? (Leaving aside sticky issues about charging the President.)

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    • Whether you believe obstruction of justice took place also depends on the fact that Comey’s investigation was a witch hunt. He was using it to imply that the government was in league with witches and consorting with Satan. He was leaking information to keep the witch hunters fired up, little tidbits that said “We are going to burn the witches!”

      Trump was saying the nonsense needs to stop. There was no underlying crime. Collusion with Russia, if it did occur, still wouldn’t be a criminal offense. The whole things was just probably started by Hillary and Podesta to deflect attention from Seth Rich being the person who actually sent the DNC’s documents to Wikileaks.

      Should a President be impeached for trying to end an out-of-control witch hunt?

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      • Well, whether it was a “witch hunt” or not depends on whether or not there is a reasonable suspicion that actual crimes were being, or had been, committed. Note that the theoretical criminal in that case might be Trump or might be some other person. Note also that it’s not necessary for a law enforcement agency to be able to prove that a crime has taken place before initiating an investigation.

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        • Collusion with Russia isn’t covered by any criminal statute. If it was, Hillary would be in jail. Well, actually she wouldn’t because laws don’t apply to her.

          Her husband was paid $500,000 by the Russians for giving a speech in Moscow. Her foundation got over a hundred million dollars by the person who arranged the sale of US uranium to Russia. Tony Podesta was being paid $170,000, by the Russians, to get US sanctions dropped against Putin and his croanies.

          Was Hillary being paid by the Russians? Yes, she was being paid millions. Was she being black mailed by the Russians who she claimed hacked her server? We don’t know, but why else would they hack it?

          Was any of that being investigated? Perhaps in theory, but that’s not what the media or Comey was relating. They were relating information about a witch hunt, in which Putin wanted Trump to win because he wanted the US to plummet the price of oil and natural gas, spread fracking into Europe, bankrupt his government, deploy anti-missile defenses all around him, and do all the other things that Putin hates.

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          • Collusion with Russia isn’t covered by any criminal statute.

            Depending on the nature of the “collusion” it is a legitimate target for FBI investigation for counterintelligence purposes. And since we don’t really know the nature of it–just the fact that everybody involved in it is doing a lot of work to cover it up–it seems like the FBI has a pretty legitimate interest in laying its suspicions to rest.

            To put it a different way, if you’re a peon with a security clearance and it turns out one of your best friends works for Iranian Intelligence, people are going to have very legitimate questions. Especially if, say, you never mentioned that on your SF86. Sure, maybe you’re just friends. Being somebody’s friend isn’t illegal. In fact, it’s probably not illegal to be friends with an Iranian Intelligence agent. But that doesn’t mean that when the FBI knocks at that peon’s door that it’s some sort of witch hunt. There are serious questions to be answered.

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            • And yet Comey said there wasn’t any evidence of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

              Even Chris Mathews said it was dead, dead, dead.

              And of course every President colludes with foreign leaders to help their re-election. Obama did it continually. It’s not a crime. It’s not even abnormal.

              “criminal collusion” refers to price fixing, not elections.

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              • And yet Comey said there wasn’t any evidence of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

                Which of course means that there’s nothing else that might be illegal going on. If the Trump campaign didn’t collude with Russia, it follows logically that Flynn couldn’t have left information off of his SF-86 or misled investigators about the existence or nature of his contacts with Russian agents. I mean, as long as my Iranian Intelligence peon wasn’t involved in any election rigging, he’s in the clear, right?

                This whole thing would be a lot less creepy if Flynn was the only person with ties to Russia that he wanted to keep under wraps. But there’s a weird theme that has been developing since the Paul Manafort debacle last summer.

                Fortunately for all of these guys, since they didn’t rig the election, it’s not possible that anything else illegal is going on.

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                • There’s also the fact that the investigation hadn’t completed and then, of course, after failing to shut it down the President fired the FBI director and then told Russians he’d dealt with it.

                  So, you know, maybe there’s no collusion. But for some reason, the President really didn’t want the investigation to continue, and bragged that he’d shut it down to the the very party’s he’s being investigated for colluding with.

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            • It seems like you are trying to give a serious answer to the words “Collusion with Russia isn’t covered by any criminal statute. ” That is the problem, you are trying to answer crazypants with sense. Like somehow colluding with another country to sway our elections is just ducky. The excuse is damning in itself.

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              • It’s not illegal. Obama did it – constantly. He promised Russia things if they’d wait till “after the election.” Obama also blatantly interfered with other countries elections, including those of our allies. He sent money and his campaign teams to Israel to try an unseat Netanyahu. He inserted himself into the Brexit campaign. Hillary intervened all over the place, including Central America.

                Hillary also got millions of dollars from her dealings with the Russians. She was for sale to the highest bidder, and we now have statements from a foreign prime minister that she used diplomatic pressure while at the State Department to try to illegally benefit Clinton Foundation donors.

                She committed actual crimes, crimes punishable by years in federal prison.

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                • At core, this is a political question, not a legal one.

                  You believe Seth Rich handed over the data, notwithstanding testimony from highly credible sources to the contrary. Very well, then, hypothetically, let us imagine that someone, a state actor from a rival government, had stolen the data, and then handed it over to political opponents.
                  Suppose you knew that they (the foreign state) were motivated to tip the election away from someone they didn’t like?

                  Hypothetically, would you be ok with that?

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          • Making a living is not covered by any criminal statute, but people do, from time to time, break criminal statutes while trying to make a living.

            Russian interference into the election was not, after all, entirely lawful. Given that at least some of what the Russians did to interfere was illegal, if Trump or his “satellites” were colluding with the Russians, they may also have done some illegal things.

            Hence the investigation.

            Your argument is very silly, and you should feel silly for making it.

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      • Should a President be impeached for trying to end an out-of-control witch hunt?

        As I have pointed out to you before, attempting to end an out-of-control witch hunt being done by the justice system IS STILL OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE.

        This is *spectacularly* stupid line of defense you are making.

        Saying ‘I obstructed that investigation because the investigation was made up bullshit’ is, to repeat, *still a criminal act* even if your claim is 100% true!

        It’s akin to someone saying he shot that cop because the drugs the cop ‘found’ on him were actually planted by the cop. Well, if true, that’s a good defense for the *drug charges*, but it also is a confession of murder!

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        • No, it’s not. Ending an investigation is not obstruction of justice or every single DoJ and FBI director would be in jail, because investigations are ended all the time. Many because they were witch hunts. Comey himself testified that what Trump told him was not obstruction, and that Trump would have been within his powers to stop an investigation.

          To qualify as obstruction of justice under 18 USC 1510, Trump would have had to have offered Comey a bribe.

          How are all those investigations into Hillary’s e-mail server going? Who ended them? The possible answers are Comey, Lynch, and Obama, and we know they weren’t properly concluded.

          We know Hillary obstructed justice because she couldn’t stop bragging about wiping her server. She also obstructed justice by tampering with evidence being sought by Congress (They e-mails she turned over had been altered). You could toss in witness tampering and lying to investigators. She probably or likely violated some or all of 18 USC 1505, 1509, 1510, 1512, 1513.

          And Comey said he was pressured by Lynch to lie about the nature of the Hillary investgation. And then Comey decided to stop it.

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          • It’s very easy to see, reading this, why the right and you so desperately want to believe that Hillary Clinton is going to run again in 2020. I bet you could re-type that second to last paragraph blindfolded with muscle memory.

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          • To qualify as obstruction of justice under 18 USC 1510, Trump would have had to have offered Comey a bribe.

            Yes, 1510 is where the *bribery* rules are.

            You might want to notice that ‘Obstruction of Justice’ is not actually a specific statute (The thing in 1510 is ‘Obstruction of criminal investigations’), but is instead the *blanket term* for everything under 18 U.S. Code Chapter 73, which is titled ‘Obstruction of Justice’.

            That means everything from 1501 to 1521 can be properly called ‘Obstruction of Justice’, although presumably if there are going to be charges the people filing them would cite the exact statute.

            The statute you want to take note of is ’18 U.S. Code § 1505 – Obstruction of proceedings before departments, agencies, and committees’. Specifically, the second part:

            Whoever corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication influences, obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law under which any pending proceeding is being had before any department or agency of the United States, or the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress—

            https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/1505

            Note that’s ‘threats *or* force’. (Easy to misread that as ‘threats of force’.) Threatening someone’s job is, indeed, a threat.

            BTW, before you dispute the idea that Trump threatened Comey’s job if he didn’t drop the investigation, which I’m sure you’re about to do, please note you literally just made the claim that he *did* fire Comey *because* of the investigation. The easiest threat in the world to prove is one in which the person who made the threat *followed through on it*.

            This is why, as I pointed out, that was an *incredibly* stupid defense.

            Comey himself testified that what Trump told him was not obstruction, and that Trump would have been within his powers to stop an investigation.

            Weirdly, you are for some reason reduced to *paraphrasing* Comey, instead of citing the actual transcript or his prepared statement.

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            • This is a true comment but also irrelevant. There is zero, literally zero, chance that the DOJ would ever indict and prosecute a sitting President for conduct that arose within the scope of the performance of his duties. (Even if they tried, I can’t believe that a court would allow such a case to go forward.) That is a political question to be resolved by Congress.

              Obstruction, for a President, is defined by votes in Congress. Congresspersons may choose to rely on the statute and case law in making their decision (or not), but there’s no judge instructing them on the law.

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              • This is a true comment but also irrelevant. There is zero, literally zero, chance that the DOJ would ever indict and prosecute a sitting President for conduct that arose within the scope of the performance of his duties. (Even if they tried, I can’t believe that a court would allow such a case to go forward.) That is a political question to be resolved by Congress.

                I didn’t say they would.

                I said that if President Trump threatened to fire Comey unless he ended the investigation, it is clearly, *legally*, obstruction of justice. (Or, yes, technically it’s ‘Obstruction of proceedings before departments, agencies, and committees’, one of the many forms of Obstruction of Justice.) That doesn’t mean he will be *charged*, but it clearly fits the legal requirements.

                (Which is why asserting, as a matter of fact, that he *actually* carried out this threat…is a very dubious ‘defense’ of anything.)

                However, to your point, I actually *do* think if the DoJ indicted him on obstruction, the courts would go along with it…except I think he could fire any district attorney who was prosecuting him. So it’s not going to happen.

                The reason impeachment exists is that a president *can make investigations disappear*. There’s nothing in the constitution that says investigations and even trials *can’t* move forward if he doesn’t do that! As far as I can tell, he can be convicted of crimes while president.

                Although, as president, he could probably order his jailers to release him. It’d be kind of a stupid solution all around to have a supposed-to-be imprisoned president.

                Could, paradoxically, 25th him, I guess….they file that paperwork, and now he *can’t* order his jailers to release him, so he *actually can’t* fulfill the duties of the presidency.

                But what I would like to see here is impeachment, removal, and an actual trial afterward.

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                • Well, what if President Trump took Comey into the Oval Office and shot him in the forehead? We could then impeach him for murder and obstruction!

                  We can discuss all kinds of things Trump didn’t do, and according to Comey, threatening to fire Comey was one of those things he didn’t do.

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                  • George has insisted, repeatedly, that Trump fired Comey because Comey refused to end the investigation.

                    George also insists, now, that Trump did not threaten to fire Comey unless Comey ended the investigation.

                    And all those conversations with Comey where he asked Comey to drop it should not, under any circumstances, be understood as threats. Especially not the one on Jan. 27 where he also asked if Comey wanted to keep his job.

                    Everyone got that? Trump did not threaten to do anything…he just did it. Completely different, and surely entirely legal.

                    Except, erm, wait. That would be a very very stupid law, forbidding someone from threatening to do something, but allowing them to actually do it. That surely can’t be right, let’s check the law again:

                    Whoever corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication influences, obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law under which any pending proceeding is being had before any department or agency of the United States, or the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress—

                    Let’s get some of those clauses out of the way: ‘Whoever corruptly endeavors to impede the due and proper administration of the law under which any pending proceeding is being had before any department or agency of the United States…’

                    And right now you’re wondering what ‘corruptly’ means there. It…really just means ‘with the intent of’. Here, have some jury instructions: http://www3.ce9.uscourts.gov/jury-instructions/node/590

                    ‘As used in § 1503, “corruptly” means that the act must be done with the purpose of obstructing justice. United States v. Rasheed, 663 F.2d 843, 851 (9th Cir.1981).’

                    (Yes, that’s for 1503 which is influencing a jury, but it’s literally the same phrasing so ‘corruptly’ presumably means the exactly same thing in 1505.)

                    So the question is ‘Did Trump intentionally endeavor to obstruct or impede the due and proper administration of the law under which any pending proceeding is being had before any department or agency of the United States?’

                    And, as I said, you have been *literally arguing* that he did that! (To be fair, *he* is also arguing he did that!) You have been, absurdly, arguing he committed an obstruction of justice…but it’s okay, because that that investigation was a bogus investigation making up stuff to damage him.

                    And, as I *keep pointing out*, there is absolutely no ‘unless the investigation is made-up bullshit’ exception to obstruction of justice. None whatsoever. There is literally no such thing as obstructing an investigation in self-defense or whatever you think should be a valid defense.

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                    • Did he threaten Comey? No, he did not. Comey says he did not.

                      He was completely within his powers to fire Comey for all the reasons listed by the Assistant AG.

                      Everyone in Washington would have fired Comey.

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                      • And thus we reach the point where George has finally realized that Trump firing Comey over the investigation into Trump would really, legally, be obstruction of justice, regardless of how unjustified the investigation is.

                        Finally.

                        Despite me repeatedly pointing it out every time he tries that excuse.

                        So he instead attempts to rewrite history into pretending he was arguing it was legal for Trump to fire Comey over the handling of the Clinton stuff.

                        The problem is, dude, we really can see the last couple of hours of your posts. Some relevant quotes:

                        Whether you believe obstruction of justice took place also depends on the fact that Comey’s investigation was a witch hunt.

                        Should a President be impeached for trying to end an out-of-control witch hunt?

                        Ending an investigation is not obstruction of justice or every single DoJ and FBI director would be in jail, because investigations are ended all the time. Many because they were witch hunts.

                        Gee, George, it sure looks like you spent hours arguing that Trump fired Comey because Comey refused to shut down an out-of-control witch-hunt investigation into Trump. Oh well. Maybe you’ll stop now.

                        I will also point out that your brand new claim that it was entirely about the Clinton investigation announcements…uh…suffers a bit from your previous apparent complaints that Comey hasn’t said more about the Clinton investigation. You can’t argue that Comey should have been fired for disclosing information about an investigation while also arguing he should have disclosed more information about that same investigation!

                        And that’s basically the same problem that both the Attorney General and Trump have, in that they praised Comey for releasing that information at the time, so deciding to fire him for that, months later, seems a bit dubious.

                        That, along with the fact that Trump has explicitly to Lester Holt said he was going to fire Comey regardless of the reasons given by the Assistant AG, along with Trump seeming to indicating that he did fire Comey because of the investigation (Although he is vague enough in talking about it that there is enough wiggle room to deny he was saying he fired him to impede the investigation.), along with Trump talking to the Russians about how he fired Comey and now the pressure of the investigation is now off…means that is a tough defense.

                        That’s all in addition to what we learned yesterday/today, that Trump behaved in ways that seem to be trying to pressure Comey about that investigation. (1)

                        It’s not an impossible defense, but it’s a tough one. If Trump was indicted for this, he might make it through. Or maybe not. Of course, that’s not how this works.

                        But it is, finally, an actual defense from you. At least, you are now attempting to argue that Trump’s behavior was comprised of legal things, instead of arguing it was ‘illegal but had a good reason!’, which you didn’t seem to notice was…still illegal!

                        1) And, weirdly, these discussions never once seem to touch upon the behavior that Trump claims was the firing offense. Instead, both Trump and Sessions praised him for it months earlier, and then left it entirely alone when they became his bosses. They didn’t ever say ‘Hey, you get that that was a political statement we were making, right? And we actually don’t approve of that, and if you do it again you’re getting fired…in fact, we might fire you anyway!’.

                        Nope! They just left him with the entirely wrong impression they wanted him to make statements on active investigations, and then went and fired him for one he already made month earlier that they had apparently been okay with at the time!

                        Ah, the joys of Trump: When you state the most hypothetical legal and justified explanation of his behavior, he sounds like a complete asshole and a horrible boss.

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                        • he [Trump] sounds like a complete asshole

                          This is not new information. Even to the people who voted for him, it’s not new information.

                          He gets a pass on that if he can be reasonably viewed as making things better.

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  5. Does anyone else want to be a fly on the wall of a GOP Rep or Senate office? Surely there has to be some of them that realize Trump is bad, bad news. Are they talking about it? Are there orders to keep mum and pretend someone else is in the Whitehouse? Are they in deep denial?

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    • The problem is, if they had that conversation, they had it by this time last year.

      The conventional wisdom (myself included) *was* that the Trump clinching the nomination would be a serious down ticket drag making a Dem Senate a sure thing and putting many House seats in jeopardy.

      That turned out…not to be the case.

      So warnings of Trump being bad news are almost certainly being ignored, like a fire alarm that keeps on going off without a traceable cause.

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  6. Kasowitz (sp?) pushing the line that Comey “leaked” “privileged” communications with Trump, implying that doing so was a violation of the law. He then fails to say what law was violated or why conversations with the President are privileged in the absence of invoking executive privilege. Also leaves it up to “authorities” to determine whether they’ll investigate whether a law was broken.

    This is an excellent example of how Trump-logic demands/compels turning everything upside down. Words have no meaning, reality is not what it seems.

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    • He then fails to say what law was violated or why conversations with the President are privileged in the absence of invoking executive privilege.

      As far as I know, literally *nothing* is ‘privileged’ to the extent of the government not *allowing* you to tell it to the government. ‘Privileged information’, as a concept, is that the government cannot *force* someone to testify, or punish them if they refuse. Privilege is when someone has the *privilege* not to testify about something…it’s right there in the name.

      This isn’t just ‘cite the law’, this is ‘a clear *utter misunderstanding* of what the law could even possibly mean’. That isn’t even vaguely how privilege works. Privilege is about Congress’s inability to punish people for what they *refuse* to tell Congress, not forbidding people from telling Congress stuff they *do* want to tell.

      Even with various professions, like doctors and lawyers, they have professional ethics that forbid that, but *legally*, if a doctor or lawyer wanted to testify in violation of their oath…they could. They’d lose their license or be disbarred, and perhaps be subject to fines and lawsuits, but they *could* testify, strictly speaking. Right? I’m not 100% sure about that…but even if I’m wrong and there is some sort of ‘tainted tree’ doctrine about incorrect testimony from lawyers and doctors…that doesn’t apply to *Congress*, which is not trying a criminal case. (And doesn’t apply here anyway. Comey was not operating as the Administration’s lawyer, or as anyone’s lawyer.)

      So I’m having troubling figuring out how the President can legally stop any employees of the Executive from telling Congress *anything they wanted*, at all, in any circumstances, with the obvious requirement of classified information only being told in a closed session. I don’t mean ‘I don’t see the law’, I mean ‘I do not understand how such a law or rule could exist’

      It would be, like, *super*-unconstitutional to have a rule that let the president stop people from speaking to Congress. It’s a free speech violation, it’s a petition-the-government-for-a-redress-of-grievances violation, it’s a Each-House-may-determine-the-Rules-of-its-Proceedings violation (Man, that’s a weird constitutional violation.), and it’s a fundamental violation of the separations of powers.

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    • Another thing I just saw about the Kasowitz statement: he categorically asserted that Trump never mentioned loyalty to Comey. Comey made that statement under oath, so he accused Comey of perjury. Which is pretty fucking ballsy, if you ask me. Without a tape, the natural response would be to put Trump on the stand. They’re seriously playing with fire, seems to me. Really amazing.

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        • Ooooh, shit just got realer! Trump willing to testify under oath before Mueller that Comey perjured himself. Trump is playing a very dicey game here.

          Also, two things about the tapes assuming he has them: first is that if he does and they corroborate his story there must be a reason to not agree to provide them right now to prevent Trump either having to go on stand or fabricate a reason not to. What would that reason be? Hmmm…. Why…..

          Second, again, if he does have tapes, will they be doctored? Is that why the delay in definitively saying they exist/don’t exist? Hmmmm…..

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            • That part is obvious. The interesting bit is that he’s inviting is an invitation from Mueller. Accusing the ex-FBI Director of perjury is a big deal, one Mueller won’t take as lightly, and one Trump will have a harder time getting away from by doing his usual “threat, bluff called, retreat” strategy. He just upped the ante, and is now pot-committed to appearing, seems to me. One way or the other.

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              • We’ll see. I expect a lot of the people involved who ultimately have the power to bring Trump to heel (i.e., Congressional Republicans) are used to this, and are either craven, fully committed themselves, or just in the grip of learned helplessness. As such, they’ll hem and haw, someone will leak a bunch more damaging crap about the WH, Trump will bleed another half a point in the polls, and it will get that much more likely that the Dems retake the House in 2018.

                That’s when it’s gonna get really nuts, I think.

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          • Ooooh, shit just got realer! Trump willing to testify under oath before Mueller that Comey perjured himself. Trump is playing a very dicey game here.

            Am I the only person who things, if Trump ends up under oath, answering questions, he almost certainly will perjury himself solely with his own testimony?

            Like, he will say one thing, and then contradict it. And not in the ‘Okay, I’m going to stop lying now’ way (Which generally isn’t treated as perjury if you admit you were lying in the same session.), but just because he doesn’t register the concept of lying exists.

            I read an article recently that really made me suddenly start wondering abut Comey….it pointed out that Comey seemed to go to extreme lengths to stop Trump from crossing the line into obstruction of justice.

            This is a weird thing for the FBI to do! Normally, when you have something like that happening, you with the FBI agent up and send him back in, and have him wait for the person to do something illegal.

            But Comey seemed to treat the president as some sort of mentally-challenged person, someone who isn’t fully responsibly for their actions, so the nice police officer carefully guided him away from committing crimes…

            I’m pretty sure that was a mistake.

            (Yes, I am aware I have specifically stated, in the past, that it is the job of law enforcement to prevent crime, not to allow crime to happen in front of them so they can arrest people for it. But that concept really doesn’t apply when it’s someone trying to commit obstruction of justice via the police.)

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  7. Another interesting tidbit floating out there:

    Comey mentioned that he expected Sessions to have recused himself. That’s a bombshell. Unexploded, so far. But very, very interesting.

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    • If there’s one impression I never get from this administration, it’s, “Well, that’s the last detail. All the dirty laundry is surely out in the open now.”

      I keep going back to David Frum saying, “With Trump, there are many secrets but there are no mysteries.” I think that’s why we get revelation after revelation but nothing seems like anything more than confirmation of what we already know. These things would be big deals under any other circumstances, but they feel like nothing interesting now.

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  8. Well, I would call this a “Nothing Burger” but it doen’t even rise to that level, so “Nothing Fishwitch” it is. “Hope” is not an order. Could it be a suggestion that Comey drop it? Sure, but it is deniable. Which is the game in DC. We did find out that Comey has all the integrity of a wet paper towel, but lets be honest, we figured that out during the election, what with all the pressers about HRC’s investigations. Though, we did find out that Lynch was shaky ethically, not that it matters at this point. Or not, as she might have hoped also (for a change…) We may have found out that POTUS was never under investigation, but again, integrity.

    So, no silver bullet, no impeachment, no “high crimes and misdemeanors.” If there was something, than POTUS covered it adroitly, using the preferred weasel speech of DC. Which is interesting, as we have been told that he is such a dunce… But then again, he is polling better that Bill Clinton did at this point in his presidency.

    But your just a big ol’ Trump Head!

    No, I am indifferent to the Cheetoh Jesus. I know that people think he is the worst thing since sliced cheese and Republicans combined, a veritable younger cousin to Pol Pot. You might hate how he is running amok in the institutions you care so much about, but if he is doing damage, its because the institution was not built on solid ground, nor were they as universally beloved as you think. But there isn’t a secret trick to getting rid of presidents you don’t like, just the old fashioned way.

    Watching the left and others reenact the idiocy of the Repubs in the depths of the birther days has been sad.

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        • What is reality here?

          I’m going through various tidbits and trying to figure out whether this will result in Trump’s impeachment (willing to bet no at this point), whether this will result in Trump’s approval ratings going down (probably 2-3%, but I don’t see minds changed by this stuff), whether it will harm Republicans In General (it seems like a bloodbath in 2018 is a little bit more likely than it was this time last week), and what actually changes due to the revelations from this hearing.

          I’m seeing a lot of suspicions confirmed but not a lot of minds changed.

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          • What’s the reality?

            A. Trump is not going to be impeached in the next two years and unlikely to be impeached thereafter. The Dems are quickly going to figure out that having him in office is preferable to Pence for their electoral chances.

            B. Norms of government really do matter. No govt organization is perfect, but it really is preferable to have a nominally independent FBI to one that openly serves the current President. GT’s Hillary-is-worse is really off-point; the question is what precedent this President is setting and how future politicians will use that precedent. It seemed to me that (McCain excepted) a lot of the Republicans on the panel understand the importance of backing the FBI as an institution against direct presidential interference.

            What are the breaches of norms of govt so far?

            Russia’s interference in our election. That is a foreign intelligence matter that should be taken very seriously. Stealing and leaking campaign emails, launching bots and fake news and penetrating companies that providing election services are tactics that can be used by a foreign power against either side, so this shouldn’t be a partisan issue. The FBI should investigate and develop tools for blocking foreign interference.

            Firing the FBI director for refusing to suppress a legitimate investigation. My suspicion is that anyone who thinks that Trump did no harm would be taking a very different view if Hillary had won and directed the FBI to terminate any assistance that it was providing to the House and Senate regarding their ongoing investigations of her. Police departments really should be non-partisan.

            There are plenty of others: insulting allies, encouraging authoritarians, lying to Americans about health care policy, etc., but those didn’t come up today.

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              • Yeah. One reason, perhaps the reason, I’d be much less alarmed with President Pence is that, while he’d break a bunch of stuff, he wouldn’t break all the stuff we’d need to fix the stuff he’d break.

                Pence would, IMO, be a very lousy President.

                But he would be a President.

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              • But he’s not taking bags of Chinese cash from China. The Clinton’s quite literally did that. Charlie Trie went to jail for it, and Ng Seng, the source of the Clinton cash, was recently arrested for bringing in another $4.5 million in cash.

                Trump, on the other hand, doesn’t need money because he’s already a billionaire.

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                • Trump, on the other hand, doesn’t need money because he’s already a billionaire.

                  He sure runs a lot of petty scams for chump change for a guy who doesn’t need money.

                  The main difference between contributions to Clinton’s campaign or charity and contributions to Trump’s campaign or charity is that the latter will largely end up lining Trump’s pockets rather than just benefiting his campaign and or his ego.

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                  • Contributions to Clinton’s criminal syndicate masquerading as a charity all go to enrich the Clintons. That’s how she affords all her private jets and many mansions.

                    She has such a pathological need for money that she had her campaign pay her a salary for running.

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                    • Contributions to Clinton’s criminal syndicate masquerading as a charity all go to enrich the Clintons. That’s how she affords all her private jets and many mansions.

                      I’m interested in knowing the actual mechanics of this. It’s not exactly easy to take money out of a charitable foundation without people knowing about it. It shows up on paper if you do.

                      She has such a pathological need for money that she had her campaign pay her a salary for running.

                      Is that referring to this? Note the correction.

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                      • Interesting.

                        When the DNC documents leaked I was amused to find that one of their biggest recurring payments was to Donald J Trump. ^_^

                        “I’m going to knock down the blue wall, and Hillary is going to pay for it!”

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              • And that makes two times the people operating the British government have decided to hold a vote they did not have to hold, to try to make a point about Brexit that went the exactly opposite way it was intended, resulting in total chaos and confusion.

                Go home, Britain, you’re drunk.

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                • May was in a tough spot.

                  We forget that she became PM sort of by accident. It would be a little bit like President Orrin Hatch negotiating CalExit having become president because Trump got impeached, Pence was just in it for the pension, and Ryan resigned when he found out he’d have to travel.

                  …plus all the other stuff about votes of confidence and collapsing governments that a President Hatch wouldn’t have to worry about, but May does.

                  Good news, though, it appears that we can all switch to talking about how bad a candidate May was!

                  Or we could drag it out a bit and assign the class a compare and contrast paper between Clinton and May.

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                  • May was in a tough spot.

                    Well, yeah. She’s been tasked with doing something that is, basically, impossible.

                    Brexit is, like, the weird indictment of direct democracy I’ve ever seen.

                    Hey, dumbasses, don’t put politically impossible options up for a single nay/yea vote.

                    It turns out they can win. Oops.

                    Even if you think Brexit was a good idea, that wasn’t the way to do it. If Brexit was going to happen, it needed at least a decade of work.

                    And at least some thought of how to deal with both Scotland, which was already teetering on independence, and loves the EU, and Northern Ireland, which is really dangerous. Because closing the totally open border there will be disastrous, just for one. And, I should point out, unlike Scotland, Northern Ireland doesn’t need anyone’s permission to hold a vote to leave the UK and join the Republican of Ireland.(1) They can just call a vote, and if reuniting Ireland wins, they’re out. It’s part of the Good Friday Agreement.

                    Oh, and a realization Brexit would remove London as the financial hub of Europe. Which is, uh, important?

                    It needed cooler heads figuring out how to disentangle, and a realization that the EU was extremely unlikely to play along with any of this, and maybe making some secret trade agreements with other countries like the US that it can have at the ready.

                    Not some morons yammering about Polish plumbers taking all the jobs, and, then herp derp, let’s vote.

                    1) Weirdly, there are a lot of articles talking about if Northern Ireland leaves the UK and joins Ireland, will it be allowed to join the EU, and I’m like ‘Huh? How is that a question?’. Surely if you join a country that is part of the EU, you, yourself, are now part of the EU. How could only part of a united Ireland be in the EU? (Yes, I’m aware there are a few weird exceptions for countries that have European and non-European parts, but this…isn’t that.)

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                  • Look guys, the Tories haven’t lost yet. They could still form a coalition government with the Lib Dems. She still won a plurality of the votes and the standard procedure is that the party which got the plurality gets to try to form a coalition government first. Even if May gets no confidenced we might still end up with Cameron who was a fairly decent PM

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                    • No, the Queen will step in and appoint Simon Cowell as Prime Minister. He’s the only Brit who can stand up to Trump, because he is the British Trump. Then the press will discover that he’s the Reich Chancellor and the spawn of Satan, just as they did with Trump.

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