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On the roster: Comey does unto Trump as he did unto Hillary - I’ll Tell You What: Meaty testimony - May, Conservatives count on late surge to carry U.K. vote today - Audible: Troll rating, omega-3 - And she didn’t even know it…
COMEY DOES UNTO TRUMP AS HE DID UNTO HILLARY
About a year ago, James Comey offered legal reprieve but political punishment for Hillary Clinton. Today, it was Donald Trump’s turn.
Stung by the intentionally humiliating manner of his firing, Comey, whose sense of his own dignity may exceed even his height, today cast long shadows over Trump’s presidency.
Yes, Comey spared Trump an accusation of criminal misconduct, but made plain that the investigation into Trump’s campaign and associates is deep and serious. And, just as he did of Clinton, Comey said Trump did not tell Americans the truth.
Comey even went so far as to let Trump know today that it was because of the way the president had handled the firing – specifically a cryptic tweet about White House tapes – that moved Comey to leak his account of the president’s pressure plays. And the purpose of that leak was to precipitate the special counsel probe that now hangs over Trump's presidency.
It’s a tough spot for Trump’s supporters and Republicans who were under orders to try to crush Comey’s credibility.
They want to tear Comey down, but they also want to do as Sen. Marco Rubio, Trump’s ablest advocate in the hearing, did and use Comey’s own testimony to cast Trump in the most favorable legal light possible.
If you want Comey’s testimony corroborating Trump’s assertion that he wasn’t the target of a criminal investigation as of a month ago, then you have to also take Comey's word for the rest of his recollections. As the former director himself said today, “you can’t cherry-pick it.”
And just as it was with Democrats in confronting Comey and his investigation into Clinton’s mishandling of state secrets, how Team Trump has handled and will handle this, ahem, “matter,” will have enormous consequences.
While the former FBI director told the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee that it was “not for [him] to say” whether Trump’s leaning on him to lay off former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn or to “lift the cloud” over his administration was an effort to obstruct justice, Comey certainly suggested it could end up being exactly that.
Trump has been absolute and vehement in his denials that neither he nor anyone on his campaign had any inappropriate contact with any Russian operatives. Period.
And if that bears out, or at least it is shown that Trump had no knowledge of any wrongdoing, then the president can rightly be said to have been only clumsy or overeager in efforts to clear his name. But if Trump knew of any wrongdoing, Nellie bar the door.
As Comey warned, “when you start turning over rocks” in an investigation, you sometimes find criminal conduct far beyond the initial probe.
The one turning rocks now is Comey’s friend and predecessor, Robert Mueller. And that is so, as Comey went to pains to demonstrate today, because of the way Trump dealt with Comey before, during and after his firing. Now we wait to see how Trump & Co. deal with today’s slap in the face. Can the president control himself or will there be further reprisals against investigators or the Justice Department?
Trump wanted Comey to lift “the cloud” from his administration so the president could advance his agenda. But no sane person in Congress of either party listening to Comey today could conclude that this storm front is anywhere close to passing.
Like his 2016 opponent learned when she and then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch tried to control Comey, Trump now knows well that the former G-Man understands how to inflict political pain.
THE RULEBOOK: LEAVE IT TO THE EXPERTS
“The danger of disturbing the public tranquility by interesting too strongly the public passions, is a still more serious objection against a frequent reference of constitutional questions to the decision of the whole society.” – Alexander Hamilton or James Madison, Federalist No. 49
TIME OUT: CRADLE ROCKED
BBC: “The idea that modern people evolved in a single ‘cradle of humanity’ in East Africa some 200,000 years ago is no longer tenable, new research suggests. Fossils of five early humans have been found in North Africa that show Homo sapiens emerged at least 100,000 years earlier than previously recognized. It suggests that our species evolved all across the continent, the scientists involved say. Their work is published in the journal Nature. Prof Jean-Jacques Hublin, of the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, told me that the discovery would ‘rewrite the textbooks’ about our emergence as a species. ‘It is not the story of it happening in a rapid way in a ‘Garden of Eden’ somewhere in Africa. Our view is that it was a more gradual development and it involved the whole continent. So if there was a Garden of Eden, it was all of Africa.’”
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Trump net job-approval rating: -18.6 points
Change from one week ago: -2.4 points
TRUMP SAID TO BE WILLING TO SPARE SESSIONS
Bloomberg: “President Donald Trump has no intention to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions despite his frustration with Sessions for the handling of the administration’s failed travel ban and for recusing himself from the Russia probe, according to two White House officials. Trump has been frustrated and angry on a few occasions with Sessions, but not enough to seriously consider replacing him as attorney general, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a personnel matter. Sessions had suggested in the past several weeks he might resign amid the widening discord, according to another U.S. official. Yet none of Trump’s aides has encouraged him to fire Sessions and instead they have urged the president to keep him on the job... Sessions has come under fire from the president over his recusal from the federal investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, an inquiry that’s now exploring whether Trump associates colluded with Moscow.”
Sen. Grassley threatens to subpoena Comey - The Hill: “Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is opening the door to summoning James Comey to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee after the former FBI director declined an invitation. ‘Under our rules on our committee, if Sen. [Dianne Feinstein] [D-Calif.] would agree to subpoena, I would,’ Grassley, the chairman of the committee, told CNN on Wednesday. A spokesman for Feinstein said later Wednesday that she supports subpoenaing Comey to testify before the Judiciary Committee.”
The Judge’s Ruling: Reality check - Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano discusses what the American public has the right to know: “Reality Winner may very well be a patriot who risked her career and freedom to warn the American public of what the government was afraid to acknowledge -- that mass spying keeps us neither safe nor free.” More here.
I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: MEATY TESTIMONY
This week Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt have an in-depth discussion previewing former FBI Director James Comey's testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, the standard of right versus wrong, the debt ceiling and what exactly gyro meat is. Plus, Chris breaks down the chemistry of smoking meat… mmmmm. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE
MAY, CONSERVATIVES COUNT ON LATE SURGE TO CARRY U.K. VOTE TODAY
AP: “British voters went to the polls Thursday for an election envisioned to be dominated by the country's pending departure from the European Union but that ended up focusing on international terrorism following attacks in London and Manchester. Voters are choosing 650 lawmakers for the House of Commons after Prime Minister Theresa May called the vote three years early, hoping to boost her majority before starting Brexit negotiations. But the attacks forced her to defend the government's record on terrorism, and she's promised to crack down on extremism if she wins. Voter Rachel Sheard, who was casting her ballot near the site of Saturday's attack in London, said the election had not gone as expected. … Atrocities near Parliament, a Manchester concert venue and London Bridge have left Britain on high alert, with the official threat level at severe, the second-highest rating, indicating an attack is ‘highly likely.’”
Britons vote in election seen strengthening May's Brexit hand - Reuters: “A final survey backed other opinion polls in the last 24 hours, suggesting that the Conservatives had widened their lead following a tricky campaign in which their support appeared at times to be ebbing away. But as many as one in five voters was still undecided this week after a seven-week campaign overshadowed in the later stages by two Islamist attacks that killed 30 people in Manchester and London in less than two weeks. Most polling stations had increased security as they opened at 0600 GMT, with armed police expected to reinforce regular officers at some locations.”
Read this: David French says we’re not in a civil war, but we are drifting toward divorce - National Review
The Trump plays up business ties with Saudi Arabia - WaPo
‘Infrastructure week,’ designed to challenge Democrats, finds no takers - WaPo
House to vote on killing financial regulations today - CNN
Georgia Republicans won’t let Comey testimony affect their views before special election - WashEx
Gianforte donates to press group as charges loom after assault of reporter - Guardian
AUDIBLE: TROLL RATING, OMEGA-3
“The plan is to live forever with the help of essential oils and dietary supplements but we'll just have to see.” – Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, in response to a Twitter troll.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Would someone please clarify for me who actually is calling President Trump a ‘creep’, or describes him as ‘creepy’? Is it former FBI Director Comey? Or is it Chris Stirewalt? That term is, IMHO, one of the lowest, most demeaning names a person can assign to another, and I am surprised and offended that either man, Comey or Stirewalt, would use such a term in describing any President, especially in such a public way. I believe a little bit of decorum and respect should be shown, if not for the man, then for the office.” – Gail Bragg, Newton, Miss.
[Ed. note: Whatever adjectives Comey has used in public or in private, I think it’s pretty safe to assume that he holds the president’s character in very low regard. Perhaps characterizing that evidently low esteem as equivalent to deeming the president a “creep” was unfairly putting words in the former director’s mouth. It’s true that as a man of enormous decorum if not self-regard he wouldn’t use the term publicly, so we were certainly taking some license. But based on his written and prepared testimony, I’m pretty sure that’s where his heart is.]
“I’m a big fan of your style, and look forward to the Halftime Report. Being that you seem so evenhanded, I want to know your take on something. With the Trump White House so seemingly chaotic, why do the Democrats not simply take the high road, be as neutral as possible and focus exclusively on policy? Vote against him where needed, but sound less condescending. Just let Trump implode on his own. Being so hell-bent on bringing him down doesn’t seem to be winning any voters to their side. Is there something I’m not seeing here? Or is it simply a case of politicians being politicians?” – Mike Doyle, Irvine, Calif.
[Ed. note: You have rightly identified the worst part of living in a world of total political warfare: There’s never a safe place to stop. In the ongoing efforts by Democrats and Republicans to look for total victory, no charity can be permissible. You’re exactly right that the patriotic thing for Democrats to do right now would be to let the Trump stay tangled in his own netting and start pushing their own policy provisions. But having seen the way in which siege warfare benefitted Republicans since 2010, rank-and-file Democrats are not likely to be much interested in taking any kind of political risk. So the demolition derby rolls on…]
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AND SHE DIDN’T EVEN KNOW IT…
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Donna Kikkert said she didn't think her poetry professor's reading selection served her needs as a ‘mainstream’ student. Kikkert, 59, who is pursuing a bachelor's degree at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, said she wanted to study the classics. When the professor of her Advanced Creative Writing Poetry course selected works other than those of Robert Frost, Edgar Allan Poe and others of interest to Kikkert, she said she asked faculty to reconsider the assignments to round out the studies. The selected texts, Kikkert said in court records, focused on ‘lesbians, illicit sexual relationships, incest and frequent swearing.’ She asserts her complaints resulted in her earning an F in the course. Unable to persuade the university to raise her mark, Kikkert took Professor Patricia Dyjak to court, asking a judge to order her to assign Kikkert an A for the class.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“I hate to say it, but it's rather Clintonian. It depends what ‘directed’ means. And it sounds like it's very carefully crafted. The senators have a right to know. I'm not sure that the public has to. But fight it out on executive privilege and what you can tell us, let us know. Otherwise if you're going to testify, speak.” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.