News & Politics

The Morning Briefing: Possible Deep State Coup, Nat. Sec. Strategy Preview and Much, Much More

President Donald Trump talks with reporters during an event on federal regulations in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Good Friday morning.

Here is what’s on the President’s agenda today:

  • In the afternoon, President Donald J. Trump will depart the White House for Quantico, VA, en route to the FBI National Academy, where he will participate in the FBI National Academy graduation ceremony.
  • The President will then depart the FBI National Academy for the Quantico Landing Zone en route to the Marine Corps Air Facility, where he will visit Marine Helicopter Squadron One.
  • In the afternoon, the President will depart Quantico, VA, en route to Camp David.

Must-read of the day: Sara Carter writes about “Who’s spying on who? FBI’s use of NSA foreign surveillance program needs to be investigated, say whistleblowers”

Comey’s limp speech on Clinton email scandal; eyes on “Andy” McCabe

Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) has released the drafts of Comey’s famous exoneration of Hillary Clinton.

In an early draft, Comey said it was “reasonably likely” that “hostile actors” gained access to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email account. That was changed later to say the scenario was merely “possible.”

Another edit showed language was changed to describe the actions of Clinton and her colleagues as “extremely careless” as opposed to “grossly negligent.” This is a key legal distinction.

Johnson wrote to FBI Director Wray asking if an earlier iteration of the speech “could be read as a finding of criminality in Secretary Clinton’s handling of classified material.”

“While the precise dates of the edits and identities of the editors are not apparent from the documents, the edits appear to change the tone and substance of Director Comey’s statement in at least three respects,” including “repeated edits to reduce Secretary Clinton’s culpability in mishandling classified information, Johnson wrote.

Meanwhile, Republican eyes are focused on Neil McCabe, the once acting director of the FBI, about this purported “insurance policy” referenced in the text messages between DOJ official Peter Strzok and his DOJ official side piece.

“Andy is presumably Andrew McCabe … and this text is very troubling because it suggests that they’re doing something, they have a plan to take action to make sure that Donald Trump does not get elected president of the United States at the highest levels of the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, chair of the House Judiciary Committee.

The Senate Judiciary chairman, Chuck Grassley (R-IA), is also not pleased.

“Some of these texts appear to go beyond merely expressing a private political opinion, and appear to cross the line into taking some official action to create an ‘insurance policy’ against a Trump presidency,” Grassley wrote Thursday. “Presumably, ‘Andy’ refers to Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe. So whatever was being discussed extended beyond just Page and Strzok at least to Mr. McCabe, who was involved in supervising both investigations.”

Sounds like we have a soft coup going on here. Was the insurance policy letting Hillary off the hook for the criminal act of mishandling classified information because if they didn’t, Trump would sail into office while Hillary was frogmarched to prison? This assumes letting Hillary off the hook would ensure Trump’s defeat and we know that didn’t happen. I’m just throwing my idea out there. If I’m right, and I usually am, Comey had to know about the plot discussed in “Andy’s office.”

File this under narrative whiplash: The Democrats are angry the Strzok text messages were released to the public. I’m old enough to remember when the Democrats on the intel committees were (are!) leaking documents like a sieve.

Your rules, guys, your rules.

National Security Strategy to be released next week, here’s a preview

AP reporter Matt Lee has a piece previewing some of the National Security Strategy (just a draft) that will be released next week. Here are some excerpts:

“America’s achievements and standing in the world were neither inevitable nor accidental,” the draft says. “On many occasions Americans have had to compete with adversarial forces to preserve and advance our security, prosperity, and the principles we hold dear.”

“Strengthening control over our borders and immigration system is central to national security, economic prosperity, and the rule of law,” the draft says. “Terrorists, drug traffickers, and criminal cartels exploit porous borders and threaten U.S. security and public safety. These actors adapt quickly to outpace our defenses. The United States affirms its sovereign right to determine who should enter our country and under what circumstances.”

And Lee explains:

The early draft of the strategy lamented that America had put itself at a disadvantage by entering into multi-national agreements, such as those aimed at combatting climate change, and introducing domestic policies to implement them. That draft downplayed the national security risk of climate change and emphasized the costs to the U.S. economy of environmental and other regulations aimed at mitigating it.

It was not immediately clear if the climate change language would be in the final version of the strategy.

Trump will reveal the strategy on Monday. Stay tuned for the guaranteed freak-out.

Who’s watching the watchers?

This is rich.

A top congressional ethics official who oversees investigations into misconduct by lawmakers is accused in a federal lawsuit of verbally abusing and physically assaulting women and using his federal position to influence local law enforcement, according to a complaint filed in a federal court in Pennsylvania last month.

This guy was staff director and chief counsel for the Office of Congressional Ethics!

Ashmawy’s office conducts the preliminary investigations into allegations of misconduct in the House of Representatives, deciding which cases to pursue or refer to the Committee on Ethics. He is named in congressional documents as the official who presented one of the investigations into John Conyers, the Democratic lawmaker from Michigan accused of sexual harassment, to the ethics committee for further action.

Among other allegations, Ashmawy is accused in the lawsuit of “threatening to use his position as staff director and chief counsel of the Office of Congressional Ethics to induce a criminal proceeding to be brought against Plaintiff and/or others,” according to the federal lawsuit filed against him.

Incredible.

[Alleged] harassment update:

There’s so many I can’t write them all up….

4 senior managers at Interior Dept. fired for harassment

Five new accounts of sexual misconduct hit Dustin Hoffman

The New York Times is reportedly divided over the fate of a top reporter accused of sexual harassment

Clerks Resign As 9th Circuit Launches Harassment Probe Of Kozinski

Amid sexual assault scandal, USA Gymnastics loses major corporate sponsors

NFL Media’s VP tried to hide Twitter convos with porn stars, then just deleted his account

A woman accused this football star of rape after he stopped replying to her texts

Actresses Plan To Wear Black At The Golden Globes In Solidarity With #MeToo Movement

Republican set to propose harassment response overhaul

Fashion PR guru Kelly Cutrone claims Russell Simmons tried to rape her at his apartment

NYPD says it is reviewing rape claims against Russell Simmons

Former makeup artist claims HGTV’s Carter Oosterhouse coerced her into oral sex

Matt Lauer scandal: Ex-intern describes their brief ‘consensual’ affair as predatory

Sexual assault victims are seeking justice on social media. Experts warn it’s not bulletproof

Rape report at UC Berkeley under investigation, police say

Walmart is cutting ties with celebrity chef Mario Batali in the wake of sexual misconduct and groping allegations

Historical picture of the day:

A German prisoner of war camp was captured when General Patton’s men overran the Lorraine pottery town of Sarreguemines. The camp held about one thousand Russian, Serbian, Italian, Polish and French prisoners, many had been in German hands since the Nazi occupation of Warsaw. Before leaving, the retreating Germans took most of the able bodied men with them. Prisoners complained bitterly of the food situation which was bad and many died from undernourishment. Freed prisoners, carrying bucket, pass through the stockade gate, to collect their water ration, in France, on Dec. 15, 1944. (AP Photo)

Other morsels:

It’s national “free shipping day” so check out the retailers offering free shipping for your holiday purchases

Trump cut literal red tape while standing next to a massive pile of paper to make a point about big government

Middle East TV Correspondents Prepared for an Armageddon That Didn’t Arrive

Omarosa Manigault says it was ‘very lonely’ working with White House staffers who ‘had never worked with minorities’

Spicer: ‘I don’t know’ why Omarosa was hired to White House

Nigerian man pleads guilty to taking part in global email scams

Woman charged with laundering money via bitcoin to support ISIS

Senate GOP breaks record on confirming Trump’s court picks

Official: Tillerson ‘not really speaking’ for Trump anymore

Net neutrality is repealed, and critics are very angry with the FCC

FCC receives bomb threat during net neutrality repeal hearing

Here’s What Getting Rid Of Net Neutrality Will Do To Netflix

White House: Trump would be ‘very unhappy’ if Speaker Ryan left

Ryan On Retirement Rumors: ‘I Ain’t Going Anywhere’

Japan freezes assets of companies tied to North Korea

Jesus tackled in Midtown after calling City Council speaker ‘devil’

Sarah Huckabee Sanders puts ‘piegate’ to rest with photographic evidence of her baking process

Police Remove White Woman From Starbucks After She Rants About Students ‘Speaking Oriental’

Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock’s $5M estate to be settled in court, judge says

US prosecutors move to cash in on $8.5M in seized bitcoin

Alleged driver in ‘Unite the Right’ rally violence in Charlottesville charged with first-degree murder

And that’s all I’ve got, so go beat back the angry mob!