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THREAD: the Mueller Report contains important new details on the drafting of the letter dismissing Comey, which, to everyone's surprise, cited the Hillary Clinton investigation and which, even to Trump supporters, seemed disingenuous and "pretextual". It turns out that Trump had
2/ personally (with assistance of Stephen Miller) drafted a logical and non-pretextual letter, which relied on Comey's refusal to declare publicly what he had told Trump privately on multiple occasions: that Trump was not personally under investigation. Trump had a valid reason
3/ that wasn't personal for such a declaration: the Mueller Report states on multiple occasions that Trump had complained to associates that his ability to conduct foreign relations was seriously impaired by cloud resulting from collusion allegations, now known to have been false
4/ the Mueller Report gives an interesting and thus far undiscussed chronology of how the termination letter changed from the seemingly straightforward Trump/Miller original draft to the confusing Rosenstein letter which was eventually published. The topic of this thread.
5/ leading up to these events: Comey had told Trump on several occasions that Trump was not personally under investigation. Trump had asked Comey to state this publicly but Comey refused - initially on grounds that FBI didn't confirm/deny. However, on Mar 20, Comey told House
6/ Intel Committee that there was Russia investigation, but chose not to say that Trump personally wasn't under investigation. Trump, not unreasonably, perceived that Comey was using the policy opportunistically: if policy permitted him to confirm existence of investigation, then
7/ the policy ought to have permitted to say that Trump was not personally under investigation. The March 20 incident marked a major erosion in relations between Trump and Comey.
8/ skipping ahead: on May 3, Comey testified to Senate Judiciary Committee archive.is/8WPkY. Mueller Report: Trump had told McGahn that "perception" that Trump was under investigation "was hurting his ability to carry out presidential duties and deal with foreign leaders"
9/ despite the impact on government and foreign relations, Comey refused to say publicly what he had told Trump privately on multiple occasions: that he personally was not under investigation.
10/ Trump met with McGahn, Sessions and Jody Hunt in May 3 afternoon following Comey testimony. McGahn broke the news that Comey had once again refused to clarify that Trump was not personally under investigation.
11/ Trump got mad at Sessions, complaining that Sessions' recusal was "unfair" and "that it was interfering with his ability to govern and undermining his
authority with foreign leaders."
12/ Jody Hunt, Sessions' chief of staff, told Mueller that Sessions suggested that Trump should "consider replacing Comey" as FBI director and make a "new start", but noted that the termination decision did not appear to have been finalized at that time.
13/ over the following day, Trump repeatedly complained about Comey to Steve Bannon, describing as a "grandstander" and "showboater". Trump continued to express his exasperation about the now conclusively disproven collusion charges.
14/ Bannon told Trump that "firing Comey was not going to stop the investigation" - a point that Trump seems to have understood (see subsequent interview with Lester Holt).
15/ at dinner May 5, Trump "dictated arguments and specific language for" the Comey termination letter with points that, unlike later Rosenstein version, made sense. Trump noted that Comey had told him that he was "not under investigation" for what T called a "fabricated story"..
16/ then telling Comey that "I, and I believe the American public - including Ds and Rs - have lost faith in you as Director of the FBI". Miller worked on further drafts over weekend. Nothing "pretextual" about this original letter. "Pretextual" issues arose later.
17/ Mueller Report observed Miller's final draft tracked first draft, leading with assertion that Comey had told Trump on three occasions that T was not under investigation. Mueller noted that the 4- page letter addressed other issues, including Comey's failure on leakers
18/ on Monday morning May 8, Trump presented letter to McGahn and senior staff. McGahn succeeded in slowing down the process, proposing WH lawyers discuss with Sessions and Rosenstein at regular meeting in afternoon. Corney's status was apparently already being discussed at DOJ
19/ May 8 noon: meeting between WH lawyers McGahn, Dhillon and Sessions, Rosenstein. Latter "criticized Comey and did not raise concerns about replacing him", which re-assured McGahn.
20/ 5 pm May 8: Trump met with WH lawyers, Sessions, Rosenstein about firing Comey. Sessions said that he had already recommended. Rosenstein "described his concerns about Comey's handling of the Clinton email investigation" - a far cry from Trump's draft termination letter
21/ watch how Trump's original clear letter gets sabotaged by bureaucrats. The "group" (McGahn?) suggested that Rosenstein & Sessions provide written recommendation. Trump agrees, but insists on inclusion of Comey's refusal to confirm T not under investigation. However,
22/ Rosenstein was only concerned about Hillary issues and not about the issues that bothered Trump. He didn't want to mention Russia issues, which had been in original Trump letter. McGahn appears to have left the contradiction unresolved, poorly serving Trump on this occasion.
23/ Rosenstein recognized the inconsistency: that his reasons for termination were not the same as Trump's reasons. But it wasn't like Trump was trying to conceal his reasons: at every stage so far, he had insisted on inclusion of the reason set out in his original draft.
24/next day (May 9), Rosenstein returned draft letter relying only on Hillary rationale. Mueller Report states that White House Counsel's Office insisted that Trump's (clear) original termination letter be trashed and "no other rationales" besides Rosenstein's be offered.
25/ Trump directed Miller to redraft letter, including reference to Comey having privately told Trump on three occasions what he refused to say publicly: that Trump was not under investigation.
26/ in footnote, Mueller Report stated that staffers Dhillon and Eisenberg firmly stated that Trump's "desire to include the language about not being under investigation was the "driving animus of the whole thing"
27/ Priebus, who, together with McGahn, had stoutly resisted Trump's language, issued a press statement which seriously over-egged the Rosenstein-Sessions recommendation (based on Hillary), adopting White House Counsel approach that Trump had tried to repudiate
28/ here is Priebus press statement whitehouse.gov/briefings-stat…
29/ Trump called Chris Christie when press reaction to Comey firing was very sour. Christie sensibly asked whether Comey was really fired for what was in Rosenstein memo (Hillary stuff). After Trump inaccurately said yes, Christie told Trump to get Rosenstein to stand up.
30/ Trump's original letter - that he had lost confidence in Comey - would have been much better than the absurd introduction of Rosenstein's Hillary issues which the White House Counsel had insisted on.
31/ Making matters worse, despite the White House Counsel office insisting on Rosenstein's Hillary issues as firing rationale, Rosenstein now refused to stand up for his letter. McGahn's attempt at being cute had totally backfired.
32/ Spicer held an unplanned press conference on evening May 9, making matters worse by over-egging the Rosenstein-Sessions role in the decision to the point of misrepresentation
33/ on May 10, Trump met with Russian ambassador Lavrov, during which he discussed the Comey events which had preoccupied him for the previous few days. Needless to say, his comments were immediately leaked.
34/ later on May 10, dep press secretary Sanders held press conference & advanced and over-egged WH Counsel Office idea of Rosenstein's Hillary rationale. She falsely said "Rosenstein decided "on his own" to review Comey performance" & "decided "on his own" to come to President"
35/ the inaccurate roll-out by Spicer and Sanders led to pushback from Rosenstein and Sessions, with WHC McGahn involved in clean-up. None of this would have been necessary if they hadn't meddled with Trump's original termination letter
36/ Trump's May 11 interview with Lester Holt takes on new meaning from Mueller Report. Trump, frustrated that "communications team could not get the story right", stated accurately that "he had made decision to fire Comey before [he] met" with Rosenstein, Sessions
37/ after (correctly) saying that Trump-Russia was "made-up", Trump said that he wanted Russia inquiry to be done right, recognized perception risk of firing Comey, but was sure that Comey was "wrong man" - a judgement that seems undeniable now that more is known about Comey
38/ in response, Comey stepped up his leaking campaign, using a cut-out to Michael Schmidt of NYTimes to narrate his version of the "loyalty pledge" incident, which, looking back, had been provoked by the original leaks from resistance in January
39/ Mueller Report exposition of these events omitted some important details available in McCabe CBS interview in Feb 2019 web.archive.org/web/2019021921…
40/ McCabe met with Trump in evening May 9. In morning May 10, McCabe met with his Russia team in order to open two investigations: obstruction; and counterintelligence on whether "inappropriate relationship" between Trump and "our most fearsome enemy, the government of Russia".
41/ it appears almost certain that Strzok and/or Page were on McCabe's Russia "team". Indeed, their co-operation with McCabe in opening the two cases naming Trump are perhaps their most questionable contribution.
42/ On May 9 evening, just after McCabe met with Trump, Strzok wrote Lisa "we need to open the case we've been waiting on while Andy is acting". This is surely one of the May 10 case openings. Lisa wanted to "lock in ...in a formal chargeable way. Soon."
43/ for some reason, Mueller was silent on the apparent role of Strzok, Page and McCabe (the "insurance policy" trio) in opening the obstruction and Trump counterintelligence cases.
44/ McCabe's predicate for the two investigations was described in CBS interview and consisted of a couple of incidents, with the events surrounding the Rosenstein memo, described at length above, being key. McCabe said that Trump "specifically asked" Rosenstein to write memo..
45/ "justifying the firing" and "told" R to include Russia in the memo, which R refused.
46/ McCabe also said that R's insistence on limiting letter to Hillary rationale was so that it wouldnt "look like" R was obstructing probe by "suggesting Comey's firing". According to McCabe, R argued that Trump "did not need Russia in his memo" (as Hillary rationale sufficient)
47/ as it turned out, Rosenstein (and White House Counsel McGahn) were both totally incorrect about the Hillary rationale being sufficient: it broke down immediately through sheer implausibility, forcing Trump's attempt to mop up on NBC.
48/ McCabe's understanding of predicate was also totally wrong. McCabe doesn't appear to have known that Trump had been content with his original draft based on Comey's refusal to say publicly what he had said privately and that Rosenstein got drawn into letter drafting due to ..
49/ intervention of McGahn and White House Counsel Office trying to finesse the rationale for firing to Rosenstein's Hillary argument, with Trump adamant in trying to present the actual reason.
50/ needless to say, these highly exculpatory events were omitted from the Mueller (Weissman) chronology of events - Weissman having a long track record of withholding exculpatory information. @sidneypowell1
@SidneyPowell1 51/ more tomorrow
@SidneyPowell1 52/ A riddle. Trump had been content with his original firing letter. McGahn, in effort to delay, involved Sessions and Rosenstein. Sessions was recused from Russia. Rosenstein, confirmed only 14 days earlier, didn't know prior Comey history of lying to/deceiving Trump.
@SidneyPowell1 53/ A reminder: Trump's issue and frustration was that "cloud" was interfering with both foreign affairs and governing and that Comey refused direct request to say publicly what he told Trump privately. Trump viewed Comey as "grandstander" and phony; lost confidence in him.
@SidneyPowell1 54/ The problem: Rosenstein, as DAG, was in charge of Russia investigation, but had been in charge only 2 weeks. McGahn, trying to finesse, asked Rosenstein to write firing letter even though R had no knowledge of incidents that actually bothered Trump.
@SidneyPowell1 55/ Rosenstein was both uncomfortable and unwilling to write a letter that dealt with issues in Trump's original draft both because he wasn't familiar with events and because (ignored by McGahn) he was in charge of Russia case.
@SidneyPowell1 56/ Trump kept insisting that the letter include a statement on the actual reason for firing (as opposed to too cute Hillary rationale promoted by McGahn). McGahn, having unwisely involved Rosenstein in Comey decision, didn't recognize that Rosenstein wasn't the right person to
@SidneyPowell1 57/ write a letter setting out Trump's rationale. Rosenstein himself, new on the job, appears to have been unassertive about his issues. If he'd explained his quandary to McGahn, McGahn would have understood instantly and figured out a solution.
@SidneyPowell1 58/ the situation wasn't nearly as fraught as Rosenstein seems to have imagined. My guess: Rosenstein worried that they were getting him to a write the letter so that he would take the fall, whereas Trump had no such motive, he'd been quite content with original letter.
@SidneyPowell1 59/ a timing issue.

McCabe said that he opened obstruction and CI cases on May 10 (morning).
@SidneyPowell1 60/ McCabe also said that a key, perhaps the key, predicate was Trump's request to Rosenstein for memo firing Comey. Two timing possibilities: a) R talked to McCabe right between May 8 and May 10 a.m.; b) McCabe didnt have that predicate when he opened on May 10 a.m.
@SidneyPowell1 61/ there's another important issue in Rosenstein telling McCabe about the memo request. Rosenstein was at the meeting with Trump and White House Counsel in a legal capacity and was asked for a legal opinion. Why was he yapping to McCabe about the meeting?
@SidneyPowell1 62/ yapping to McCabe was singularly unwise due to McCabe's role in the resistance, but, quite aside from that, surely it was an egregious breach of privilege for Rosenstein to discuss the meeting with McCabe. The breach is made that much worse because Rosenstein was unaware of
@SidneyPowell1 63/ the full context of the termination letter: in particular, R seems to have been unaware (at the time) of Trump's original draft and the full backstory of Trump's frustration with Comey. Rosenstein's apparent unawareness of the full story makes his apparent breach of privilege
@SidneyPowell1 64/ to McCabe all that much worse. I don't perceive Rosenstein as intending to have caused harm by doing so: he undoubtedly viewed McCabe as a colleague, rather than a leader of sedition.
@SidneyPowell1 65/ on May 11, in the heat of these events, McCabe testified to Senate Intelligence Committee web.archive.org/web/2019040314…. The Mueller Report paid little attention to McCabe's interesting evidence.
@SidneyPowell1 66/ in response to a question from Marco Rubio as to whether Comey firing had any impact on investigation, McCabe said "there has been no effort to impede our investigation today"
@SidneyPowell1 67/ in response to question from Susan Collins, McCabe said that there had been no "curtailment of the FBI's activities" in connection with investigation and that Comey firing did not "get in the way" of FBI ability to pursue its investigation.
@SidneyPowell1 68/ in response to question from Sen. Lankford, McCabe confirmed that there were no limitations on resources and that removal of Comey did not impact FBI's ability to conduct investigation in "fair and expeditious way".
@SidneyPowell1 69/ Lankford also asked about special counsel. McCabe told him that not necessary. However, McCabe later told CBS that he had resolved on special counsel after visit to White House (May 9,10) and, on May 12, lobbied Rosenstein to appoint one
@SidneyPowell1 69/ McCabe's Atlantic excerpt theatlantic.com/politics/archi… contains interesting vignette: on May 12 McCabe-Rosenstein meeting, R, under great pressure, told McCabe: "There’s no one that I can talk to about this. There’s no one here that I can trust." Including McCabe, unfortunately.
@SidneyPowell1 70/ in response to Kamala Harris, McCabe observed that "it was completely within the president's authority to take the steps that he did".
@SidneyPowell1 70/ turning now to Mueller Report analysis of Comey firing (II, 74; pdf, 286). Mueller observed that firing Comey was not necessarily even an obstructive act. Mueller observed that FBI operational direction would be unaffected and that this was understanding of Trump & associates
@SidneyPowell1 71/ Mueller didn't cite McCabe's contemporary testimony affirming this understanding, but could have.
@SidneyPowell1 72/ re intent, Mueller accurately reported that "catalyst" for firing was "Corney's unwillingness to publicly state that the President was not personally under investigation, despite the President's repeated requests that Corney make such an announcement."
@SidneyPowell1 73/ Mueller also reported that substantial evidence that Trump believed that "perception" that he was under investigation caused harm to "his ability to manage domestic and foreign affairs" - an entirely legitimate public affairs and national security, not personal, concern.
@SidneyPowell1 74/ Mueller rejected the absurd rationale (promoted by McGahn and WH Counsel Office) that Comey had been fired because of his Hillary conduct, but, in Analysis section, didn't note that this rationale was advocated by lawyers and was not relied on in Trump's own original letter.
@SidneyPowell1 75/ although Mueller Report acknowledged Trump's own legitimate reason for wanting "Comey to announce publicly that he was not under investigation", they said that "other evidence indicate[d] indicates that Trump wanted to protect himself from an investigation into his campaign".
@SidneyPowell1 76/ watch Weissman's dishonest segue. Trump had not taken issue with investigation of people in the campaign (and was rightly confident that there had not been any collusion). He only wanted Comey's announcement re himself. As so often, Weissman dishonest.
@SidneyPowell1 77/ nor did Weissman argument support his conclusion. He first cited Trump's request to Comey for "loyalty", omitting Trump's concern over unprecedented leaks, also omitting key exculpatory statement that, if any associates did anything wrong, it would "be good to find that out"
@SidneyPowell1 78/ watch another sly Weissman mischaracterization in this paragraph. Trump had been furious at Sessions' recusal (as is well known). In his initial anger, he disbelieved that Bobby Kennedy or Eric Holder adhered to the DOJ policy being used against Sessions. Didn't mean that he
@SidneyPowell1 79/ he said that he wanted to tell DOJ "who to investigate", though, given the wildly inequitable DOJ treatment of Trump associates and Hillary associates, he could hardly be blamed for such epithets in private.
@SidneyPowell1 80/ getting now to the "meat" of the very slight Mueller analysis. Weissman asserted that Trump "had a motive to put the FBI's Russia investigation behind him" (aside from the obvious stated motive that it was interfering with his ability to conduct domestic and foreign affairs)
@SidneyPowell1 81/ Weissman acknowledged that termination of Comey was not to cover up collusion between Trump campaign and Russia or any unlawful relationship with Russian official, since there were none.
@SidneyPowell1 82/ Weissman insinuated that Trump's motive was concern that "a thorough FBI investigation would uncover facts about the campaign and the President personally that the President could have understood to be crimes or that would give rise to personal and political concerns"
@SidneyPowell1 83/ but there isn't a shred of evidence that Trump fired Comey because he was worried that Russia investigation would veer into such territory. Weissman had two years to investigate and provided no such evidence.
@SidneyPowell1 84/ Weissman purported to support this argument by pointing to two incidents, neither of which evidence a "crime" or material "personal and political concerns".
@SidneyPowell1 85/ Weissman's first example of "crimes or that would give rise to personal and political concerns" was that Trump Organization was supposedly pursuing Trump Tower Moscow project until Jun 2016, even though Trump said that he had "no connection to Russia"
@SidneyPowell1 86/ first, it is ludicrous to suggest that Trump fired Comey because he was worried about FBI discovering supposed inconsistencies in Trump's statements about Russia. In late 2015, Sater and Cohen had negotiated a non-binding LOI between Trump Org and IC Investment in Russia
@SidneyPowell1 87/ in fall 2015, there was activity including discussions with Ivanka and Don Jr, but correspondence concerning the IC Investment project dried up in Jan 2016. Sater and Cohen seem to have turned to other companies, indicating that IC project hadnt worked out and was dormant
@SidneyPowell1 88/ Sater and Cohen tried to get an invitation to the huge St Petersburg Economic Conference in June 2016, along with thousands of others, but this is not the same thing as a live real estate project.
@SidneyPowell1 89/ the bottom line is that Trump Organization didn't have any real estate investments in Russia, tho they'd kicked tires from time to time. Trump's position was that they didnt have any DEALS or INVESTMENTS in Russia. As someone who's negotiated deals, this assertion seems
@SidneyPowell1 90/ not only defensible but accurate. To prove this, suppose that Trump made the opposite claim - that he had HUGE deals in Russia and personal knowledge of how to do business in Russia. Against this, it would be argued that he had done nothing more than kick tires and that a
@SidneyPowell1 91/ the non-binding LOI was probably dormant and thus not an actual deal. Trump didn't have any INVESTMENTS or property (deals) in Russia. No one can seriously suggest that Trump fired Comey in order to conceal this entirely legal business exploration
@SidneyPowell1 92/ which was dormant by Jan 2016, with a silver spike in it by June 2016.
@SidneyPowell1 93/ Weissman's second, equally implausible, theory is that Trump fired Comey because he was worried that FBI would discover that "Trump privately sought information about future WikiLeaks releases". This sentence presumably refers to Roger Stone-Corsi events.
@SidneyPowell1 94/ it's not clear that Trump personally sought such information, but, even if he did, there was nothing illegal about seeking such information. Lots of people did. Nor was there any certainty in Sep 2016 from public information that DNC emails had been provided to WL by Russian
@SidneyPowell1 95/ intelligence. The idea that Trump fired Comey because he was concerned that Inspector Comey might discover that he had sought "information about future WikiLeaks releases" is absurd on its face once one considers what Weissman's word salad actually means.
@SidneyPowell1 96/ the final sentence in paragraph observed that Trump concerned that press coverage was undermining "legitimacy of his election" (thus interfering with his ability to conduct domestic and foreign relations). This point has no logical connection to Weissman thesis that Trump
@SidneyPowell1 97/ the closing paragraph in Weissman "Analysis" of Comey firing concerns (and distorts) the confused roll-out of the announcement. As noted above, Trump's reason for firing Comey was his refusal to say publicly what he told Trump privately: that Trump was not under investigation
@SidneyPowell1 98/ Weissman said that the original press statement "advanced a pretextual reason" for Comey's termination and that "initial reliance on a pretextual justification could support an inference that the
President had concerns about providing the real reason for the firing".
@SidneyPowell1 99/ the press statement in question (~5:45 pm May 9) whitehouse.gov/briefings-stat… was very short and merely stated that Trump "acted based on" recommendations of both Rosenstein and Sessions.
@SidneyPowell1 100/ in addition to the short press statement, the White House also distributed
vox.com/2017/5/9/15601… a copy of Trump's short termination letter, Sessions' letter and Rosenstein's letter memo (mostly about Hillary rationale.)
@SidneyPowell1 101/ Weissman's closing sentence was that the pretextual justification COULD support an inference that Trump "had concerns about providing the real reason for the firing". But Mueller's own evidence shows that White House Counsel McGahn delayed Trump's original letter and
@SidneyPowell1 102/ introduced the Hillary pretext and that it was McGahn and Priebus who wanted to limit letter to Hillary rationale, not Trump. Weissman has totally twisted and misrepresented events here.
@SidneyPowell1 103/ finally, Weissman's other sentence in closing paragraph is also dishonest. It concerns events in 33-35 above. Trump quickly recognized that the reliance of Hillary rationale advocated by White House Counsel and overemphasized by Press Secretary had confused people.
@SidneyPowell1 104/ Weissman makes it sound like it was Trump who initiated the Hillary rationale because he had "concerns about providing the real reason for the firing". But, to summarize, there was no EVIDENCE that Trump had any concerns about providing the real reason. Any problems or
@SidneyPowell1 105/ Any problems or issues arose because of White House Counsel (McGahn and subordinates) trying to be too cute with the Hillary rationale, while Trump's own original termination was brutally to the point.
@SidneyPowell1 106/ End of too long thread.
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