Prelude to Comey: A breaking news cornucopia

     President Donald Trump is shown in the White House on Tuesday, March 28, 2017. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

    President Donald Trump is shown in the White House on Tuesday, March 28, 2017. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

    To properly set the stage for James Comey’s Senate testimony — even the broadcast networks plan to cover his Thursday gig; as Trump would say, “great ratings!” — we should contextualize this historic moment by aggregating the latest scandal-related whoppers.

    Who among us can keep up? Let’s at least give it a try.

    For instance: “Top lawyers with at least four major law firms rebuffed White House overtures to represent President Trump in the Russia investigations, in part over concerns that the president would be unwilling to listen to their advice, according to five sources familiar with discussions about the matter.”

    Sounds about right. What job in America, aside from plugging a stinky septic tank, could possibly be worse than defending Trump from the fallout of scandal? And this may well be the quote of the year: According to the prestigious lawyers who’ve already said no, “The guy won’t pay and he won’t listen.”

    For instance: “The nation’s top intelligence official told associates in March that President Trump asked him if he could intervene with then-FBI Director James B. Comey to get the bureau to back off its focus on former national security adviser Michael Flynn in its Russia probe, according to officials.”

    The nation’s top intel official is Daniel Coats, who testified on Capitol Hill today. Trump’s request — that Coats should tell the FBI to back off — is precisely what drove Richard Nixon from office. (Nixon had asked the CIA to get the FBI to back off its Watergate probe.) Coats was in a well-attended briefing on March 22 when Trump “asked everyone to leave the room.” Then he reportedly asked Coats to put the arm on Comey.

    When asked about that today, Coats told the inquiring senators nothing. He didn’t invoke executive privilege, or claim the info was classified; he just said he didn’t want to answer. We’ve apparently devolved from the Watergate witness mantra (“To the best of my recollection…”) to the Kremlingate witness mantra (“To the best of what I feel like recollecting…”).

    In any event, there’s clearly a big risk of being alone with Trump …

    For instance: “The day after President Trump asked James B. Comey, the FBI director, to end an investigation into his former national security adviser, Mr. Comey confronted Attorney General Jeff Sessions and said he did not want to be left alone again with the president.” The 10 women who came forward last autumn can certainly relate.

    For instance: “James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence, said Wednesday that Watergate pales in comparison to the controversy surrounding the Trump administration and Russia. [He said,] ‘I think when you compare the two, that Watergate pales really in my view compared to what we’re confronting now.'”

    “Regarding Comey’s firing, Clapper [said], ‘Apart from the egregious, inexcusable manner in which it was conducted, this episode reflected complete disregard for the independence and autonomy of the FBI, our premier law enforcement organization.'”

    Trump apparatchiks often assail Clapper as an Obama partisan, somehow forgetting (or never knowing) that Clapper helmed key intelligence jobs under both Bush presidents.

    For instance: Eric Trump told Sean Hannity yesterday that “we don’t have projects in Russia, we don’t have loans from Russia … We had no involvement in Russia.” But that doesn’t jibe with what Eric has said in the past: “We don’t rely on American banks. We have all the finding we need out of Russia.” Or with what his brother Donald Jr. has said in the past: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

    For instance: Some presidential tweets are too absurd even for the gang at Fox News. Trump thumbed yesterday morning that “The FAKE MSM is working so hard trying to get me not to use Social Media. They hate that I can get the honest and unfiltered message out.” But Fox host Neil Cavuto blew him away later in the day.

    “Mr. President,” Cavuto said, “it’s not the ‘fake news media’ that’s your problem, it’s you. It’s not just your tweeting, it’s your scapegoating, it’s your refusal to see that sometimes you’re the one who’s feeding your own beast. [The media] didn’t tweet disparaging comments about a London mayor in the middle of a murder spree. You did. They didn’t create that needless distraction. You did. They didn’t get you off your very valid and very promising agenda. You did. They didn’t turn on a travel ban that you signed. You did … They’re not the problem, Mr. President. Like I said, these days you are.”

    And, for instance: A new scandal — unearthed yesterday by Forbes magazine — would be topping the charts if this were a normal era. The headline alone is a show-stopper.

    “How Donald Trump Shifted Kids-Cancer Charity Money Into His Business.”

    Turns out that Eric, the aforementioned princeling, has a foundation that raises money for seriously sick children … heck, just read the meticulously detailed Forbes story:

    “The Donald J. Trump Foundation, which has come under previous scrutiny for self-dealing and advancing the interests of its namesake rather than those of charity, apparently used the Eric Trump Foundation to funnel $100,000 in donations into revenue for the Trump Organization. And while donors to the Eric Trump Foundation were told their money was going to help sick kids, more than $500,000 was re-donated to other charities, many of which were connected to Trump family members or interests, including at least four groups that subsequently paid to hold golf tournaments at Trump courses. All of this seems to defy federal tax rules and state laws that ban self-dealing and misleading donors.”

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

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