Wednesday's HOT MIC

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If Trump asked Comey to "end the Flynn investigation," as the New York Times put it, why did Director Comey say this under oath during his appearance before the Senate Intelligence committee on May 3?

HIRONO: So if the Attorney General or senior officials at the Department of Justice opposes a specific investigation, can they halt that FBI investigation?

COMEY: In theory yes.

HIRONO: Has it happened?

COMEY: Not in my experience. Because it would be a big deal to tell the FBI to stop doing something that -- without an appropriate purpose. I mean where oftentimes they give us opinions that we don't see a case there and so you ought to stop investing resources in it. But I'm talking about a situation where we were told to stop something for a political reason, that would be a very big deal. It's not happened in my experience.

Acting Director McCabe also said during a hearing on May 10 that there had been no effort to impede the investigation:

McCabe replied that “the work of the men and women of the FBI continues despite any changes in circumstance, any decisions. There has been no effort to impede our investigation to date.

Simply put, sir, you cannot stop the men and women from the FBI from doing the right thing, protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution.”

However, according to Comey’s notes, Trump had urged him to drop the counterintelligence investigation into Flynn in the wake of the former national security adviser’s resignation.

“I hope you can let this go,” Trump said, according to Comey’s notes, which were described to The Washington Post by the former director’s associates. The associates said Comey wrote a detailed, two-page account of the meeting, noting that Trump described Flynn as “a good guy.”

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, wrote a letter to the FBI Tuesday night requesting any and all communications between Comey and Trump. He said he’s prepared to issue a subpoena if need be to get a copy of Comey’s notes.

“I need to see it sooner rather than later. I have my subpoena pen ready,” he tweeted.

 

This is wonderful. From Benny Johnson:

A role at DHS for Milwaukee sheriff David Clarke:

The Trump administration tapped Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke to serve as assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security for partnership and engagement. Clarke, a tough-talking, conservative firebrand recognized by his penchant for cowboy hats, announced the appointment during an interview with a local Wisconsin radio station Wednesday afternoon.

"I'm both honored and humbled to be a appointed to this position by [DHS Sec. John Kelly], working for the Trump administration in this position," Clarke told WISN Milwaukee. Clarke will begin in the position in June. The position does not require Senate confirmation.

Which promptly elicited this response from Bill Kristol:

 

Good for Clarke. I'm not sure what the job actually entails, but the sheriff is a tremendously impressive man and a great role model for kids tempted to stray. We should all wish him well.

You know, I could see Joe Lieberman.

This seems like good advice.

One vulnerable Democrat senator paid for another vulnerable Democrat senator's trip to Cancún. From NTK Network:

One vulnerable Senate Democrat, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) paid for a $7,500 trip to Cancún, Mexico for another, Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), in February 2016, according to a report filed by Tester with the U.S. Senate this week.

Under Tester’s annual report, which the Senate posted online on Monday, Tester lists under “Travel” almost $7,500 in “Airfare, Lodging, [and] Meals” for him and his spouse, paid for by McCaskill.

This doesn't look good, especially given both senators' electoral vulnerability next year, running in states Trump won in November.

Both Tester and McCaskill are in the fight of their political careers in 2018, as both are up for re-election in states Donald Trump won in 2016.

Was McCaskill intentionally handing fodder to her eventual Republican opponent?

In other "Not the Onion" campaign news, Montana Democrat Rob Quist dodged questions about genital herpes. Yes. These question are legitimate because they are relevant to a decades-old medical malpractice lawsuit which Quist used to excuse not paying $27,000 in taxes and debts.

Ross Douthat doesn't think Trump is guilty of high crime and misdemeanors, nor does he believe the president is conspiring with the Russians in any meaningful way. Instead:

I do not believe that our president sufficiently understands the nature of the office that he holds, the nature of the legal constraints that are supposed to bind him, perhaps even the nature of normal human interactions, to be guilty of obstruction of justice in the Nixonian or even Clintonian sense of the phrase. I do not believe he is really capable of the behind-the-scenes conspiring that the darker Russia theories envision. And it is hard to betray an oath of office whose obligations you evince no sign of really understanding or respecting.

Rather than calling for impeachment, Douthat says members of Trump's cabinet are duty bound to invoke the 25th Amendment, which allows for the removal of a president when a majority of the cabinet informs Congress that he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office."

According to Douthat, Trump's closest allies have lost confidence in him:

Read the things that these people, members of his inner circle, his personally selected appointees, say daily through anonymous quotations to the press. (And I assure you they say worse off the record.) They have no respect for him, indeed they seem to palpitate with contempt for him, and to regard their mission as equivalent to being stewards for a syphilitic emperor.

It is not squishy New York Times conservatives who regard the president as a child, an intellectual void, a hopeless case, a threat to national security; it is people who are self-selected loyalists, who supported him in the campaign, who daily go to work for him. And all this, in the fourth month of his administration.

If he's right, the stakes are high:

Meanwhile, from the perspective of the Republican leadership’s duty to their country, and indeed to the world that our imperium bestrides, leaving a man this witless and unmastered in an office with these powers and responsibilities is an act of gross negligence, which no objective on the near-term political horizon seems remotely significant enough to justify.

Douthat ends with a plea for Republican leadership to do the honorable thing in service to the country:

I respectfully ask Mike Pence and Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to reconsider their support for a man who never should have had his party’s nomination, never should have been elevated to this office, never should have been endorsed and propped up and defended by people who understood his unfitness all along.

Vlad Putin, America's bestest buddy:

Asserting himself abroad with his customary disruptive panache, President Vladimir V. Putin on Wednesday jumped into the furor over President Trump’s disclosure of classified information to Russian diplomats, declaring that nothing secret had been revealed and that he could prove it.

Mr. Putin, who has a long record of seizing on foreign crises to make Russia’s voice heard, announced during a news conference in Sochi, Russia, the Black Sea resort that has become his equivalent of Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago, that he has a “record” of the American president’s meeting at the White House with two senior Russian officials and was ready to give it to Congress — so long as Mr. Trump does not object.

Referring to reports that Mr. Trump had revealed highly classified intelligence, Mr. Putin said, “It’s hard to imagine what else these people who generate such nonsense and rubbish can dream up next.”

Mr. Putin’s offer to release a record of what was said, made after a meeting with the visiting prime minister of Italy, Paulo Gentiloni, suggested less an effort to create clarity over what Mr. Trump actually said in the Oval Office last Wednesday than a headline-grabbing assertion of his own authority and a reminder that he should not be ignored.

The idea that Putin would release a record of his meeting to "prove" Trump's innocence should panic Trump supporters. What earthly reason would Putin have to assist an American president? The Kremlin record of the conversations may, indeed, show that Trump did nothing particularly wrong in revealing secrets. But what else would the record contain? Almost certainly not good news for Trump.

Putin is having a gay old time watching his American counterpart sink into the muck and mire of scandal. He didn't have to order the hacking of anyone, or corrupt any American officials. America is tearing itself apart without any help from anyone outside the country.

That's something Putin's Communist predecessors could only dream of happening.

Chelsea Manning wasn't the only person released from custody today — not even the only person released today whose sentence was commuted by Obama. Paul Crookston at National Review's The Corner has the story:

Oscar Lopez-Rivera was released from house arrest in Puerto Rico today, and next month he will be returning to New York City, where his terrorist group bombed innocent people, to be honored in the Puerto Rican Day parade. His sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama in the final days of his administration, and now the Puerto Rican “nationalist” is a free man.

Lopez-Rivera was convicted for weapons trafficking and conspiracy to overthrow the government. He helped the socialist revolutionary group FALN, of which he was a member, obtain weapons and carry out attacks such as the bombing of Fraunces Tavern in downtown Manhattan, which killed four.

Joe Connor, whose father was killed in the Fraunces Tavern bombing when Joe was nine, told NPR, “I would love to ask people who support his release and say, If not a terrorist, what has Oscar Lopez done to help the Puerto Rican people?” This exposes the contradiction at the heart of the usual case for freeing Lopez-Rivera: that he is a hero for fighting for the revolution but also a political prisoner who did nothing wrong.

This interpretation doesn't square with the facts, naturally. But it seems the Left doesn't quite care for the facts these days.

In addition to his appearance in the city where FALN racked up its greatest body count, Lopez-Rivera has been booked to appear in San Francisco and Chicago, where he will have a streetway named in his honor. But to those affected by FALN’s terrorism, Lopez-Rivera will still be a killer whom Obama gave a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Ouch.

Old movie plots never die:

 

"You're not going out of your mind. You're slowly and systemically being driven out of your mind."