On Tuesday, President Donald Trump fired James Comey, director of the FBI. Although Comey had been widely criticized for his handling of investigations related to the 2016 election, his dismissal was a shock to many observers, because he was overseeing an investigation into Russian interference in the election and whether any members of the Trump administration were involved. We're liveblogging the aftermath of the dismissal below; here are some highlights from our ongoing coverage:
The Senate Intelligence Committee Subpoenas Michael Flynn
The Senate Intelligence Committee formally issued a subpoena Wednesday to Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national-security adviser, for “documents relevant to the Committee’s investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 election.” In a press release announcing the subpoena, Richard Burr, the committee’s Republican chairman, and Mark Warner, its Democratic ranking member, said they had originally requested the documents in an April 28 letter but Flynn declined to offer them voluntarily.
The subpoena is among the most advanced steps yet in either congressional investigation into Russian electoral interference. While the committee indicated it was the natural outcome of Flynn’s refusal to cooperate, it also sends a signal that the committee’s work will go forward despite FBI Director James Comey’s controversial ouster on Tuesday. NBC News reported that it’s the first of its kind from the Senate Intelligence Committee since the 9/11 attacks investigation and the first subpoena for documents from the committee since the Church Committee in the 1970s, which investigated U.S. intelligence-community abuses.
Was Comey Fired After Asking for More Resources in the Russian Meddling Investigation?
The Department of Justice is denying reports that former FBI Director James Comey was fired just days after he asked for more resources to investigate alleged connections between the Trump administration and Russian election meddling.
The New York Timesfirst reported the news Wednesday morning, saying Comey met with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein last week, according to three anonymous sources. Rosenstein is the top official in charge of the investigation, because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself after it was learned he failed to disclose meetings with the Russian ambassador. Rosenstein also wrote the memo recommending Comey’s dismissal.
Whether or not Comey asked for more resources and then found himself without a job a few days later is important because it bolsters the narrative that the Trump administration is seeking to undermine the investigation into Russia’s alleged election meddling. In a terse response to The Atlantic, when asked if the reports were true, DOJ spokesman Ian Prior said, “totally false.”
The Times reported that Comey briefed members of Congress after his meeting with Rosenstein, and told them he was frustrated by the lack of personnel and money provided to his agency for the investigation. He said he hoped to speed up the investigation, but in order to do so he needed more resources.
At a press briefing Wednesday afternoon, White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Comey’s dismissal had nothing to do with the investigation into Russia. She said Rosenstein and Sessions both told Trump they had concerns about Comey, and that Trump asked them to “put those concerns in writing.” Not long after, Trump fired Comey.
In Full Hockey Gear, Putin Responds to Comey's Firing
While President Donald Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Wednesday morning at the White House, President Vladimir Putin was back in Russia preparing for a hockey game. As he was about to take the ice, CBS News stopped Putin at the rink’s entryway. Putin greeted reporter Elizabeth Palmer with a smirk. Dressed in hockey pads and a jersey, through a translator, Putin played off Comey’s dismissal as a purely domestic issue. Here’s a transcription of the quick conversation, and below it the video.
“Sir,” Palmer said, “how will the firing of James Comey affect U.S.-Russia relations?
“There will be no effect,” Putin replied. “Your question looks very funny for me. Don't be angry with me. We have nothing to do with that. President Trump is acting in accordance with his competence, in accordance with his law and constitution. What about us? Why we?”
“You see,” Putin told Palmer, “I am going to play hockey with the hockey fans. And I invite you to do the same.”
According to Russian media, Putin only learned to ice skate six years ago. He finished the game with seven points.
The Republicans Who Find Trump's Timing Suspicious
Democrats say James Comey’s firing comes conveniently as the investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the presidential election ramps up. And while there are plenty of conservatives who’ve rushed to support Trump’s decision, as my colleague Russell Berman notes, some Republicans have also called the timing suspicious. Arizona Senator John McCain, who has long been a critic of Trump, said he was “disappointed” in the decision. McCain acknowledged that the “president does have that constitutional authority. But I can’t help but think that this is not a good thing for America.”
Tennessee Senator Bob Corker said it was important the investigation be free of political interference, and that Comey’s “removal at this particular time will raise questions.” Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, who is also chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s Oversight Subcommittee, said the “timing of this firing is very troubling.” And North Carolina Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr also said he was “troubled by the timing and reasoning” of Comey’s dismissal.
Dir. Comey has been more forthcoming w/ information than any FBI Director I can recall in my tenure on the congressional intel committees.
Other Congressional Republicans who are skeptical of Trump’s decision include Michigan Representative Justin Amash, who called part of Trump’s dismissal letter to Comey “bizarre,” because the president thanked the FBI director for assuring him on three occasions that he was not being investigated. Arizona Senator Jeff Flake tweeted Tuesday night that he’d “spent the last several hours trying to find an acceptable rationale for the timing of Comey's firing. I just can't do it.”
The untold story of how anger became the dominant emotion in our politics and personal lives—and what we can do about it.
I. An Angry Little Town
Soon after the snows of 1977 began to thaw, the residents of Greenfield, Massachusetts, received a strange questionnaire in the mail. “Try to recall the number of times you became annoyed and/or angry during the past week,” the survey instructed. “Describe the most angry of these experiences.” One woman knew her answer: Recently, her husband had bought a new car. Then he had driven it to his mistress’s house so she could admire the purchase. When the wife found out, she was livid. Furious. Her rage felt like an eruption she couldn’t control.
The survey was interested in the particulars of respondents’ anger. In its 14 pages, it sought an almost voyeuristic level of detail. It asked the woman to describe the stages of her fury, which words she had shouted, whether punches had been thrown. “In becoming angry, did you wish to get back at, or gain revenge?” the survey inquired. Afterward, did you feel “triumphant, confident and dominant” or “ashamed, embarrassed and guilty”? There were also questions for people like her husband, who had been on the receiving end: “Did the other person’s anger come as a surprise to you, or did you expect that it would occur?”
The two Democratic leaders went to the White House for a negotiation, ended up with a public fight, and left all smiles with a political gift from the president.
It was Chuck Schumer’s smirk that said it all.
The Senate minority leader had just lobbed an honest-to-goodness zinger at President Donald Trump. Inside the Oval Office. With the television cameras running.
“When the president brags that he won North Dakota and Indiana, he’s in real trouble,” Schumer cracked to the press in the middle of a White House meeting on government funding between the president and Democratic congressional leaders that had quickly devolved into a verbal brawl in full view of reporters. His quip pulled off, the New York Democrat then peered around the room with a look of supreme self-satisfaction and a smile that would stay on his face until the end of the extraordinary, if wholly unproductive, summit.
President Trump’s interruptions of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are part of a long tradition of men talking over female colleagues.
It’s a situation familiar to many women: You’re in a contentious meeting with male colleagues. Your turn to talk comes around, and just as you get going, someone else raises their voice. Then another person. Within seconds, your colleagues are talking among themselves, and you’re trying to find a place to jump back into the conversation you were leading just moments before.
Today it happened in front of national media at the White House, during a heated exchange over funding for the border wall and a looming government shutdown. This particular conversation included President Donald Trump and the Democratic congressional leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, the latter of whom Trump interrupted 15 times in a short discussion.
Like all but a handful of people, I saw this exchange first online, then in TV replays. Here are two body-language questions I wish I’d had the opportunity to judge up-close and in person:
Did Donald Trump register that Chuck Schumer was mocking him, to his face, with his “When the president brags he won North Dakota and Indiana, he’s in real trouble” line?
I gasped when I saw that the first time. I’m conscious of having seen presidents from John F. Kennedy onward perform on TV, but never before have I seen one of them directly ridiculed by another senior governmental official. (To spell it out, the ridicule was Trump’s boasting about big Senate wins, based on unseating two endangered Democrats in very Republican states. Trump wasn’t talking about the results in West Virginia, Ohio, Arizona, Nevada, etc., nor of course about the House.) The closest comparison might be the labored humor of White House Correspondents Association dinners, in which the featured comedian would give the president—seated a few feet away—a celebrity-roast experience. But that was ritualized joshing, sometimes more pointed and sometimes less. What Schumer did was impromptu and meant to convey, “Can you believe this guy?”
That Schumer would dare make this taunt was surprising—though I suppose he could have thought to himself, “We’re two New Yorkers, we’ve known each other for decades, this is give and take.” The more surprising aspect was that Trump, hyper-alert to slights of any sort, didn’t seem to register what had happened at all. He came back with a bland, “Well we did win! We did win North Dakota, and Indiana”—as if Schumer had been challenging him on that factual point. It’s as if the response to “Ooooh, you won a participation award! You must be so proud!” had not been “Shut up!” but “Yes, I did win that.” You can see the back-and-forth starting around time 11:45 of this video.
Did the president of the United States recognize that the minority leader of the Senate intentionally mocked him, and even turned to the press pool while doing so? From a distance, it appears that Trump did not catch this in real time. I would love to have been there to see for myself.
Did Mike Pence register any emotion whatsoever, during the 15-minutes plus of this extraordinary exchange?
An eight-year campaign to slash the IRS’s budget has left the agency understaffed, hamstrung, and operating with archaic equipment. The result: a hundred-billion-dollar heist.
In the summer of 2008, William Pfeil made a startling discovery: Hundreds of foreign companies that operated in the U.S. weren’t paying U.S. taxes, and his employer, the Internal Revenue Service, had no idea. Under U.S. law, companies that do business in the Gulf of Mexico owe the American government a piece of what they make drilling for oil there or helping those that do. But the vast majority of the foreign companies weren’t paying anything, and taxpaying American companies were upset, arguing that it unfairly allowed the foreign rivals to underbid for contracts.
Pfeil and the IRS started pursuing the non-U.S. entities. Ultimately, he figures he brought in more than $50 million in previously unpaid taxes over the course of about five years. It was an example of how the tax-collecting agency is supposed to work.
Google's CEO struggled to explain the reality of his company's power to a House committee convinced of liberal conspiracy.
The parade of Silicon Valley figures to Capitol Hill continued today when Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, the core of the Alphabet holding company, went before the House Judiciary Committee.
Like every other tech company hearing, it was more hackneyed than illuminating, more painful than inspiring. Pichai is a polished executive who rose through Google’s ranks. He is not a boy king like Mark Zuckerberg or Jack Dorsey. You knew he’d do the hard work of preparing. It seemed likely he’d sail through the hearing.
Yet, as the hearing got under way, Pichai struggled to make sense of the questions that lawmakers put to him. Even friendly Democratic queries asking him to explain how search-engine rankings worked were met with hesitation and stilted rhetoric. If a rep said a keyword he was prepared for, he gave a scripted response, even if it was only sort of responsive.
Proving white-collar crimes is an exceedingly difficult task for prosecutors. Trump is doing his best to make it easier.
Donald Trump can’t stop telling on himself.
Just two years into his presidency, the New York real-estate mogul turned politician faces at least two separate criminal investigations, while half a dozen former advisers, including his former campaign chair, deputy campaign chair, national-security adviser, foreign-policy adviser, and personal attorney have all pleaded guilty to or been convicted of serious crimes. That’s even more remarkable when you consider that the American legal system makes white-collar crimes difficult to prove, by making guilt conditional on a defendant’s state of mind, a notoriously high standard.
Nevertheless, Trump has done his best to ensure that we all know what he’s thinking, even as his legal peril grows. Last Friday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York claimed in a filing that Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, had been directed during the campaign to pay hush money to women who claimed to have had affairs with the president. Those payments, according to the filing, were laundered through shell corporations and reimbursed by the president’s private company. Effectively, the president’s own Justice Department accused him of ordering his personal attorney to commit a felony.
Research suggests that elite colleges don’t really help rich white guys. But they can have a big effect if you’re not rich, not white, or not a guy.
This year, more than 2 million Americans will apply to college. Most will aim for nearby schools without global brands or billion-dollar endowments. But for the tens of thousands of families applying to America’s most elite institutions, the admissions process is a high-cost, high-stress gantlet.
American parents now spend almost half a billion dollars each year on “independent education consultants,” and that’s not counting the cost of test prep or flights and hotels for campus visits. These collegiate sweepstakes leave a trail of frazzled parents and emotionally wrecked teens already burdened with rising anxiety, which raises a big question: Does it really matter whether you attend an elite college?
During a photo op that morphed into a bizarre spectacle, the president brawled with Democratic leaders over funding his border wall.
It was clear almost immediately at the start of Trump’s administration that Mexico would not be funding a border wall. Two years in, it’s unclear whether the United States will ever be funding one either.
On Tuesday, the president gathered in the Oval Office with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to negotiate the terms of spending bills needed to keep the government open. The pressure point, as it has been for nearly every spending fight in the 115th Congress, was the wall: Trump demanded $5 billion to fund it, and Schumer and Pelosi refused to budge.
The three sparred openly in front of reporters, with Trump threatening a shutdown over wall funding in one of the more bizarre spectacles of this administration. “The experts say you can do border security without a wall, which totally does not solve the problem,” Schumer said.
Trying to keep other kids from finding out the truth can cause a holiday-season-long headache.
In 2018, the measures parents can take to protect a child’s belief in Santa are impressively sophisticated. In addition to the old “Leave a note signed ‘S.C.’ alongside some half-eaten cookies” trick, and the slightly more advanced Oh-look-a-tuft-of-red-and-white-fabric-caught-on-the-fireplace! maneuver, parents can now also set their kids up to follow @Santa or @OfficialSanta on Twitter, quickly doctor webcam footage so that it appears to show Santa in their living room through an app, and make “video calls” to Santa through another app. They can even enable a Google Chrome extension that filters out any pages that might reveal the truth about Santa while kids browse the internet. (This article, I assume, would be detected as a threat, but let’s just make sure it gets filtered out: KIDS, SANTA ISN’T REAL.)