WHITE HOUSE ROCKED

U.S. pres­i­dent tells the Rus­sians in an Oval Of­fice meet­ing that for­mer FBI di­rec­tor James Comey was a ‘nut job,’ ac­cord­ing to a New York Times re­port

Cape Breton Post - - Cape Breton -

Trump ac­cused of call­ing Comey a ‘nut job.’

The pres­i­dent’s plane had barely taken off for his first for­eign trip when two po­lit­i­cal storms slammed into it Fri­day: One re­port in the New York Times, and another in the Washington Post sug­gested se­vere tur­bu­lence ahead for Don­ald Trump.

Air Force One had just left for the Mid­dle East when trou­ble struck.

At 3 p.m. the Times tweeted out its lat­est scoop: the pres­i­dent told the Rus­sians in an Oval Of­fice meet­ing that for­mer FBI di­rec­tor James Comey was a “nut job,” that he had been un­der pres­sure over the Rus­sia af­fair, and that fir­ing Comey eased the pres­sure.

A Demo­cratic mem­ber of Congress, Ted Lieu, drew an in­stant con­clu­sion about the im­pli­ca­tions, tweet­ing: “This. Is. Ob­struc­tion. Of. Jus­tice.”

Spokesman Sean Spicer disputed not the facts of the re­port, but the in­ter­pre­ta­tion, telling the Times that Trump was talk­ing not about the crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion, but about post-elec­tion scru­tiny that was making it hard for him to work with Rus­sia.

The bad news didn’t end there.

A cou­ple of min­utes af­ter that story struck, the Washington Post fol­lowed up with a po­ten­tially even more trou­bling one: It said the law-en­force­ment

in­ves­ti­ga­tion into pos­si­ble co-or­di­na­tion be­tween Rus­sia and the Trump cam­paign had iden­ti­fied a cur­rent White House of­fi­cial as a sig­nif­i­cant per­son of in­ter­est, show­ing that the probe is reach­ing into the high­est lev­els of gov­ern­ment.

“The senior White House ad­viser un­der scru­tiny by in­ves­ti­ga­tors is some­one close to the pres­i­dent, ac­cord­ing to (sources),” said the Post re­port, which added that the FBI

de­clined to com­ment.

Equally in­trigu­ing was the ques­tion of where these re­ports came from. The Times cited a U.S. of­fi­cial read­ing from a doc­u­ment sum­ma­riz­ing Trump’s meet­ing last week with Rus­sia’s for­eign min­is­ter and am­bas­sador.

Trump is on a nine-day trip to the Mid­dle East and Europe, his first for­eign trip as pres­i­dent. Most senior White House staff are trav­el­ling with him, leav­ing few senior of­fi­cials

back in Washington to de­fend the pres­i­dent.

The con­tent of the leaked de­tails in those re­ports, not to men­tion their si­mul­ta­ne­ous tim­ing at a par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble mo­ment for the pres­i­dent, make it clear Trump has some en­e­mies in­side the U.S. gov­ern­ment.

One hot topic of con­ver­sa­tion in Washington these days is whether con­ser­va­tives in town - weary of the Trumprelated drama and long­ing for the com­par­a­tive nor­malcy of a Mike Pence pres­i­dency - are pre­par­ing to abet his down­fall.

Al­ready, since the Comey fir­ing, con­gres­sional com­mit­tees con­trolled by the GOP have be­come more ag­gres­sive in seek­ing doc­u­ments and wit­nesses, plant­ing po­ten­tial seeds for trou­ble to grow later.

“I think most of them are ready to flip,” one Demo­cratic con­gres­sional staffer said of his Repub­li­can col­leagues this week. A Repub­li­can staffer con­curred: “The tide seems to be chang­ing in town, right?”

Both made the point that the slight­est whiff of ob­struc­tion of jus­tice, which grew more pun­gent with Comey’s fir­ing and in re­marks there­after, is more se­ri­ous than talk of pre­vi­ous Trump con­tro­ver­sies re­lated to col­lu­sion and con­flicts of in­ter­est.

Another trou­ble spot for Trump has to do with fi­nances.

Con­gres­sional com­mit­tees have said they want to know more about the pres­i­dent’s busi­nesses, and have re­quested doc­u­ments from a Trea­sury Depart­ment’s money-laun­der­ing unit that fined a Trump casino $10 mil­lion in 2015 for per­sis­tent, wil­ful, and long-term vi­o­la­tions of pro­to­cols de­signed to keep crim­i­nal cash from be­ing laun­dered through casi­nos.

Ad­di­tion­ally, a spe­cial coun­sel was ap­pointed this week the well-re­garded for­mer head of the FBI, Robert Mueller.

AP PHOTO

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and first lady Me­la­nia Trump, wave as they board Air Force One at An­drews Air Force Base, Md., Fri­day, prior to his de­par­ture on his first over­seas trip.

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