As U.S. president flies, Twitter gossip abounds
Among the juicy tidbits: Trump called Comey a ‘nut job’
WASHINGTON — The president’s plane had barely taken off for his first foreign trip when two political storms slammed into it Friday:
One report i n 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 i n an Oval Office meeting that former FBI director James Comey was a “nut job,” that he had been under pressure over the Russia aff air, 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.”
Spokesperson 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 lawenforcement 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.
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.
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 US in 2015 for persistent, wilful and long-term violations of protocols designed to keep criminal cash from being laundered through casinos.
Nonetheless, Trump retains a powerful retinue of defenders.
Outside Washington, he has skyhigh approval ratings — among Republican voters.
He has also had the full-throated backing of conservative media. One example of that was the Breitbart News headline published instantly after the Times scoop Friday.
“New York Times collaborates with deep state to smear Trump again,” read the headline.