White House sources reported that Trump was "cursing up a storm—ranting and raving. Yelling at staffers & using the "F" word. He's losing it tonight."
Staffers were scrambling to figure out what was even happening after learning of the Comey story only two hours before it was published: "Aides rushed to ask Trump what he had actually told Comey. But the White House had no memos or tapes of the meeting to rebut the claims, several officials said. Trump didn't even give an entire readout of his conversation, leaving staffers 'actually unaware of what happened,' one official said. 'It's not like we were in on the meeting,' this person said. 'We had no idea. We still don’t really know what was said.'"
A senior official in the administration told the Daily Beast: "I don't see how Trump isn't completely fucked."
The answer to how Trump isn't completely fucked is, of course, that the Republican Party still isn't stepping up to hold him accountable. Most GOP members of Congress have stopped overtly defending him, but they aren't checking and balancing, either. They've disappeared.
People are (understandably) making jokes about no Republicans on cable news tonight, but their rank cowardice is imperiling this country.— Melissa McEwan (@Shakestweetz) May 17, 2017
I'm not surprised, but I'll never stop being vibratingly angry at the lack of national loyalty being demonstrated by the GOP in this moment.— Melissa McEwan (@Shakestweetz) May 17, 2017
So the White House is on its own to try to defend what looks clearly like a textbook case of obstruction of justice.
Naturally, they are once again using the approach that Trump was just being Trump.
A senior WH official tells @PeterAlexander that POTUS wasn't telling Comey to end Flynn investigation and suggest this is the way he speaks— Marianna Sotomayor (@MariannaNBCNews) May 17, 2017
Then why did he ask Pence and Sessions to leave the room? This, like everything else from the Trump White House, is manifest horseshit. https://t.co/FWtVm1OdIk— Melissa McEwan (@Shakestweetz) May 17, 2017
It also appears that Trump may be targeting his own son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as the scapegoat: "Sources tell us Kushner was a prominent voice advocating Comey's firing & the President's angry that move has created a firestorm."
Let us not forget that Kushner had his own reasons for wanting to derail investigations into Russian collusion.
Perhaps Kushner feared he was under FBI investigation. He admitted falsifying his security clearance form by omitting meetings with Russians https://t.co/DGiiMLMhmV— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) May 17, 2017
If Trump is indeed trying to throw Kushner under the bus, good luck with all that. When you're inextricably entangled in the same mess, you're likely to get caught under the wheels yourself.
The White House's best bet for defending Trump is to argue that he did not have corrupt intent in asking Comey to end the investigation of Flynn. But that's going to be a tough road, for reasons detailed by CREW's Richard Painter and Norm Eisen at the New York Times:
The operative word here is "corruptly." It means "an improper purpose," or one that is "evil" or "wicked." There is no precise formula for defining it; those involved in the administration of justice must continually wrestle with its interpretation.Still. The only reason Trump will be obliged to defend himself at all is if Congress takes their role seriously. And there is still precious little evidence that they intend to do so. At this point, it's pretty clear Republicans are hiding out for as long as they can, to see if they can weather the storm without having to impeach their own president.
Here, the evidence strongly suggests that the president acted corruptly. That starts with the demand for loyalty from Mr. Comey, the account of which the White House disputes. That demand can reasonably be understood to mean that Mr. Comey should protect Trump and follow his bidding, rather than honoring his oath to follow the evidence. It is also an implicit threat: Be loyal, or you will be fired.
When Mr. Comey did not seem to take the hint, Mr. Trump made his meaning crystal-clear on Feb. 14: Let the investigation go, and let Mr. Flynn go, too. The president denies this as well, of course, as he has denied so much else that has proven to be true. Who are we to believe: Mr. Comey, who would have no reason to accuse the president of obstruction of justice, and who has apparently preserved meticulous notes of his conversations? Or the president, who fact-checkers have demonstrated has told more lies in less time than any other modern occupant of the Oval Office?
...Taken together, this evidence is already more than sufficient to make out a prima facie case of obstruction of justice — and there are likely many more shoes to drop. Mr. Comey reportedly took notes on all of his encounters with the president. If what has emerged so far is any indication, this is unlikely to offer much comfort to Mr. Trump.
Unfortunately for them, the bad news continues to trickle out on a constant basis.
Last night, the AP re-upped coverage of the Trump transition team mishandling classified information: "The officials said transition officials removed classified materials from secure rooms and carried them between buildings in Washington without permission. Worried about keeping tabs on the highly sensitive material, the Obama administration officials set new limits on some classified information and explicitly barred Trump aides from viewing that material in their transition offices."
And this morning, Vladimir Putin said he would provide a transcript of Trump's Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak—the meeting at which Trump disclosed top-level classified information.
The steady drumbeat of terrible and terrifying news about the Trump administration is clearly taking its toll on Republicans:
I just asked @DarrellIssa abt the Comey news and he flicked me off -- literally gave me the middle finger -- and kept walking. Said nothing— Rachael Bade (@rachaelmbade) May 16, 2017
They only have themselves to blame. This is exactly what a Trump presidency was always going to look like. And a Trump presidency was always the inevitable endgame of Republican politics. Behold your roosting chickens, fuckers.