Worst treat­ment ever, Pres­i­dent grum­bles

Democrats de­mand deep probe

Cape Breton Post - - News - BY NANCY BENAC, ERIC TUCKER AND CATHER­INE LUCEY

Sur­rounded by mul­ti­ply­ing ques­tions, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump com­plained Wed­nes­day that “no politi­cian in his­tory’’ has been treated worse. Democrats de­manded an in­de­pen­dent commission to dig into his fir­ing of FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey, but Repub­li­can House Speaker Paul Ryan cau­tioned against “rush­ing to judg­ment.’’

Ryan said Congress needs to get the facts, but “it is ob­vi­ous there are some peo­ple out there who want to harm the pres­i­dent.’’ Eli­jah Cum­mings, top Demo­crat on a key House over­sight panel, coun­tered that Ryan and the Repub­li­cans had shown “zero, zero, zero ap­petite for any in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Pres­i­dent Trump.’’

The White House has de­nied re­ports that Trump pressed Comey to drop an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Trump’s first na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, Michael Flynn. In ad­di­tion Trump is fac­ing pointed ques­tions about his dis­cus­sions with Rus­sian diplo­mats dur­ing which he is re­ported to have dis­closed clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion.

Also Tues­day, in an ex­tra­or­di­nary turn of events, Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin of­fered to turn over to Congress records of Trump’s dis­cus­sions with the diplo­mats.

The White House has played down the im­por­tance and se­crecy of the in­for­ma­tion Trump gave to the Rus­sians, which had been sup­plied by Is­rael un­der an in­tel­li­gence-shar­ing agree­ment. Trump him­self said he had “an ab­so­lute right’’ as pres­i­dent to share “facts per­tain­ing to ter­ror­ism’’ and air­line safety with Rus­sia. Yet U.S. al­lies and some mem­bers of Congress have ex­pressed alarm.

Repub­li­cans and Democrats alike were ea­ger to hear from Comey, who has in­creas­ingly emerged as a cen­tral fig­ure in the un­fold­ing drama.

The Se­nate in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee on Wed­nes­day asked Comey to ap­pear be­fore the panel in both open and closed ses­sions. The com­mit­tee also asked act­ing FBI Di­rec­tor An­drew McCabe to give the com­mit­tee any notes that Comey might have made re­gard­ing dis­cus­sions he had with White House or Jus­tice De­part­ment of­fi­cials about Rus­sia’s ef­forts to in­flu­ence the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Putin told a news con­fer­ence that he would be will­ing to turn over notes of Trump’s meet­ing with the Rus­sian diplo­mats if the White House agreed. He dis­missed out­rage over Trump’s dis­clo­sures as U.S. politi­cians whip­ping up “anti-Rus­sian sen­ti­ment.’’

Asked what he thinks of the Trump pres­i­dency, Putin said it’s up to the Amer­i­can peo­ple to judge and his per­for­mance can be rated “only when he’s al­lowed to work at full ca­pac­ity,’’ im­ply­ing that some­one is ham­per­ing Trump’s ef­forts.

Trump him­self hasn’t di­rectly ad­dressed the lat­est al­le­ga­tions that he pres­sured Comey to drop the Flynn in­ves­ti­ga­tion. But the swirling ques­tions about his con­duct were clearly on his mind when he told grad­u­ates at the U.S. Coast Guard Acad­emy in Con­necti­cut that “no politi­cian in his­tory, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more un­fairly.’’

Strik­ing a de­fi­ant stance, he added: “You can’t let the crit­ics and the naysay­ers get in the way of your dreams. ... I guess that’s why we won. Ad­ver­sity makes you stronger. Don’t give in, don’t back down. ... And the more right­eous your fight, the more op­po­si­tion that you will face.’’

As for Comey, whom Trump fired last week, the FBI di­rec­tor wrote in a memo af­ter a Fe­bru­ary meet­ing at the White House that the new pres­i­dent had asked him to shut down the FBI’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Flynn and his Rus­sian con­tacts, said a per­son who had read the memo. The Flynn in­ves­ti­ga­tion was part of a broader probe into Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in last year’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Comey’s memo, an ap­par­ent ef­fort to cre­ate a pa­per trail of his con­tacts with the White House, would be the clear­est ev­i­dence to date that the pres­i­dent has tried to in­flu­ence the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

AP PHOTO

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump walks down the steps of Air Force One at An­drews Air Force Base in Md., Wed­nes­day. Trump went to the U.S. Coast Guard Acad­emy in New Lon­don, Conn., where he gave the com­mence­ment ad­dress.

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