As U.S. pres­i­dent flies, Twit­ter gos­sip abounds

Among the juicy tid­bits: Trump called Comey a ‘nut job’

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - ALEXAN­DER PANETTA

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.

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