Last week, Michael Wolff’s book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, dominated the news. A far more important story is unfolding in real time: As new facts emerge about Trump’s attempts to obstruct the Trump-Russia investigation, the GOP is intensifying efforts to thwart serious inquiry into the scandal.
The Obstruction Story Line Continues To Develop
The New York Times reported that in March 2017, as Attorney General Jeff Sessions faced increasing pressure to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, Trump gave White House counsel Don McGahn an assignment: lobby Sessions to remain where he could protect Trump. When McGahn failed, Trump was furious.
“Where’s my Roy Cohn?” he reportedly asked, referring to Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s dark aide — a “fixer” who, decades ago, had represented Trump personally.
Students of the Trump-Russia Timeline aren’t surprised at this latest news about Trump’s obstruction efforts. Go to the Timeline and click on “James Comey” to see the complete story, which includes these highlights:
— On Jan. 27, 2017, then-Acting Attorney General Sally Yates told the White House that Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn was in serious legal trouble over Russia. Immediately thereafter, Trump had a private dinner with then-FBI Director James Comey and asked for Comey’s personal loyalty.
— In February, Trump talked to Comey about “letting Flynn go,” despite the FBI’s ongoing criminal investigation of Flynn and other Trump players in the Russia story.
— In March, Trump reportedly sought assistance from the CIA director and the director of national intelligence in getting Comey to back off the Russia investigation.
— In March and April, Trump asked Comey to help him “lift the cloud” of Russia from his presidency.
— In May, Trump fired Comey — admittedly because of the Russia investigation — and turned to witness intimidation, a standard element in Trump’s Russia playbook.
A short video of these and other key items prepared in August 2017 appears here.
A More Insidious Story In Real Time
With every new revelation about Trump’s pressure on federal law enforcement officials to protect him from whatever truth he fears, the congressional GOP doubles down on aiding and abetting his wrongdoing. Here are the new Timeline entries on that subject:
— Jan. 2: The founders of Fusion GPS described the GOP’s continued obfuscation of the Trump-Russia investigation and its refusal to follow obvious leads that could produce disastrous news for Trump. Rather than focus on the message, congressional Republicans have directed their fire at the messenger. (Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) just released the 300-page transcript of Simpson’s Senate Judiciary Committee staff interview; more about that in the next update.)
— Jan. 3: House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) sided with a former Trump transition team member, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), and against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray. Ryan allowed Nunes to continue diverting attention away from the Trump-Russia story and toward questions about the integrity of the FBI itself. (To understand Nunes’ ongoing role as a Trump enabler, go to the Timeline and click on “Devin Nunes.”)
— Jan. 4-5: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) joined Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) in a letter to Rosenstein and Wray. Their missive completed a circle: It referred Christopher Steele to the Justice Department for criminal investigation based on alleged misstatements to the FBI as supposedly revealed in FBI documents that the Senate had received from the FBI!
Consulting the Timeline and clicking on “Christopher Steele” reveals, among other notable entries, December 2016: Graham’s closest ally in the Senate, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), personally delivered Steele’s material to the FBI. Only a year ago, Graham sat with McCain on national television and said that Congress should follow the Trump-Russia investigation “wherever it leads.” Reporters should be asking Graham what happened. In fact, it’s the only question reporters should be asking Sen. Graham.
Meanwhile, we’ve also learned that the Justice Department has been looking at the Clinton Foundation and the Hillary Clinton email server issues, again. Cynics might conclude that the GOP is setting up a Trump-friendly deal: If Democrats back away from Trump-Russia, Republicans will back away from Fusion FPS, Steele, interviews of FBI employees, the Clintons, and any other sand that congressional Republicans can throw in the public’s face.
In short, the GOP’s eagerness to help Trump undermine the Trump-Russia investigation with diversions, distractions, and attacks should be front page news. It’s not.
One More Thing
Finally, Brad Pascale, digital media director of Trump’s 2016 campaign, issued a tweet last week that put Jared Kushner and Eric Trump on the hot seat: “Not one person made a decision without their approval.” Go to the Timeline and click on Brad Pascale and Cambridge Analytica for more context on the significance of that bombshell.
Kushner also got unpleasant shout-outs from Steve Bannon — first in Fire and Fury, and then in Bannon’s subsequent apology to Don Jr., which notably omitted Kushner and nailed Manafort.
Here’s a complete list of this week’s new Timeline entries:
JULY 30, 2014: Manafort Meets With DOJ
APRIL 27, 2016: Sessions, Kushner and Kislyak at the Mayflower Hotel (revision of previous entry)
JUNE 9, 2016: Don Jr., Manafort, Kushner Meet With Russian Lawyer (revision of previous entry)
LATE FEBRUARY 2017: Attorney General Sessions Decides To Recuse Himself
AROUND MARCH 1, 2017: White House Lobbies Sessions Not To Recuse Himself
MARCH 20, 2017: Trump Tweets; Comey Testifies; Trump Is Infuriated (revision of previous entry)
MAY 3, 2017: Comey Testifies Again; Trump Erupts
MAY 5, 2017: Sessions Aide Looking For “Dirt” On Comey
MAY 6-7, 2017: Trump Decides to Fire FBI Director Comey (revision of previous entry)
JAN. 2, 2018: Fusion GPS Owners Blast GOP Congressional Cover-up
JAN. 3, 2018: Wolff Book: Bannon Bashes Kushner and Don Jr.
JAN. 3, 2018: Trump Breaks With Bannon
JAN. 3, 2018: Manafort Sues Mueller
JAN. 3, 2018: Rosenstein And Nunes Meet with Ryan And Wray
JAN. 3-4, 2018: Trump’s Attorney Seeks To Block Publication Of Fire and Fury
JAN. 4, 2018: The Daily Beast: DOJ Looking At Clinton Private E-Mail Server, Again
JAN. 4, 2018: GOP Lawmakers Call On Sessions To Resign
JAN. 4, 2018: Rebekah Mercer Distances Herself From Bannon
JAN. 4, 2018: Trump Tweets
JAN. 5, 2018: Grassley and Graham Ask DOJ To Investigate Steele
JAN. 5, 2018: Trump Tweets
JAN. 5, 2018: DOJ Reopens Clinton Foundation Investigation
JAN. 5, 2018: Brad Parscale Tweets
JAN. 5, 2018: Dowd Calls NYT Report Another “Nothing Burger”
JAN. 6, 2018: Trump Tweets
JAN. 6, 2018: WSJ: Feds Investigating Kushner Cos.
JAN. 7, 2018: Bannon Apologizes To Don Jr.