US Gov't 'Under Assault' by Trump After Comey Firing: Clapper | NBC Southern California
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US Gov't 'Under Assault' by Trump After Comey Firing: Clapper

The U.S.'s former intelligence chief said America's founding fathers had created three co-equal branches of government with checks and balances, but with Trump as president, that was now "eroding"

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    In an exclusive interview with NBC's Lester Holt, President Donald Trump claims that he was going to fire former FBI director James Comey regardless of recommendations to do so, claiming responsibility for an action that sparked instant outrage with most Democratic and some Republican lawmakers. Acting FBI director Andrew McCabe says the Russia probe is still ongoing. 

    (Published Thursday, May 11, 2017)

    American democracy is "under assault" on separate fronts from President Donald Trump and Russia, the U.S.'s former intelligence chief warned Sunday, expressing dismay over the abrupt firing of FBI director James Comey amid a probe into Moscow's meddling in the 2016 U.S. election as well as possible ties with the Trump campaign.

    As Trump works to fast-track Comey's successor, lawmakers from both parties urged him to steer clear of any politicians for the job and say he must "clean up the mess that he mostly created."

    "I think, in many ways, our institutions are under assault, both externally — and that's the big news here, is the Russian interference in our election system," said James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence. "I think as well our institutions are under assault internally."

    When he was asked, "Internally, from the president?" Clapper said, "Exactly."

    Ex-Homeland Security Chief: Putin Orchestrated Cyberattacks on US

    [NATL] Ex-Homeland Security Chief: Putin Orchestrated Cyberattacks on US

    Jeh Johnson, former Homeland Security Secretary under President Barack Obama, testified Tuesday before Congress, claiming Russian leader Vladimir Putin orchestrated cyberattacks during last year's presidential elections, but that such attacks did not change the final vote count. 

    (Published Wednesday, June 21, 2017)

    Clapper spoke following Trump's sudden firing of Comey last week, which drew sharp criticism because it came amid the FBI's investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election. Clapper said America's founding fathers had created three co-equal branches of government with checks and balances, but with Trump as president, that was now "eroding."

    The White House had no immediate comment and no White House aide appeared on the Sunday news shows, leaving Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to defend Trump.

    "The president is the CEO of the country. He can hire and fire whoever he wants," Haley said.

    Lawmakers from both parties reprimanded Trump's actions, which included shifting explanations from the White House for Comey's dismissal and an ominous tweet by Trump that warned Comey against leaks to the press because he may have "tapes" of their conversations. The lawmakers called for a new FBI director without any political background and said Trump would need to hand over to Congress any taped conversations with Comey if they exist.

    Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said selecting an FBI agent to lead the agency would allow the nation to "reset." He dismissed as less desirable at least two of the 14 candidates under consideration by Trump, former Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan and Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, explaining that "these are not normal circumstances."

    Rogers, an ex-FBI agent and former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has drawn the backing of the FBI Agents Association. Cornyn is the No. 2 Republican in the Senate.

    'Secret' GOP Health Care Proposal Takes Shape

    [NATL] 'Secret' GOP Health Care Proposal Takes Shape

    Only a handful of Senators currently know what's in the Republican health care plan they're expected to vote on next week. Senators from both sides of the aisle are raising complaints about the closed door process. 

    (Published Tuesday, June 20, 2017)

    "It's now time to pick somebody who comes from within the ranks, or has such a reputation that has no political background at all that can go into the job on Day 1," said Graham, R-S.C.

    "The president has a chance to clean up the mess he mostly created," he said, adding, "I have no evidence that the president colluded with the Russians at all ... but we don't know all the evidence yet."

    In an interview on NBC's "Meet The Press", Graham also said of the Russia probe: "The president needs to back off here and let the investigation go forward."

    Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah, continued to argue that the president should consider Merrick Garland — the federal judge nominated for Supreme Court justice last year by President Barack Obama. Lee said he was "absolutely serious about it."

    A former top aide to Sen. Mitch McConnell, Josh Holmes, said McConnell is interested in Lee's suggestion. "I think the Senate majority leader thinks that's a fantastic idea," Holmes said.

    Garland never got a hearing due to Republican obstruction, and the high court vacancy was filled last month by Neil Gorsuch.

    AG Rosenstein Praises Sessions at Crime Summit

    [NATL] AG Rosenstein Praises Sessions at Crime Summit

    Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein voiced strong support for law enforcement, as well as praise for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, during an address at Tuesday's National Summit on Crime Reduction and Public Safety. 

    (Published Tuesday, June 20, 2017)

    Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said the new FBI director should be someone "not of partisan background" with "great experience" and "courage." Declining comment on a Garland nomination, Schumer left open the possibility that Democrats might withdraw support for a new FBI director unless the Justice Department names a special prosecutor. Under Senate rules, Republicans could still confirm an FBI director with 51 votes. Republicans hold 52 seats in the chamber to Democrats' 48.

    Calling Trump's remarks about possible taped conversations "outrageous," Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said his panel or another committee would "absolutely" subpoena the tapes.

    "We have got to make sure that these tapes, if they exist, don't mysteriously disappear," Warner said, adding that he hopes to have Comey testify in a public hearing before his committee.

    Less than a week after Trump fired Comey, the administration has interviewed at least eight candidates to be FBI director, and Trump has said a decision could come before he leaves Friday on his first overseas trip as president.

    Trump abruptly fired Comey on Tuesday and later said Comey was a "showboat" and "grandstander" who was not doing a good job. Trump said in an interview with NBC that the Russia investigation factored into his decision to fire Comey.

    The FBI director serves a 10-year term but can be replaced by the president.

    US-Russia Tensions Rise Over Syria

    [NATL] US-Russia Tensions Rise Over Syria

    Russia vows to treat all U.S. planes above Syria as targets after U.S.-backed forces shot down a Syrian fighter jet, further intensifying tensions between the U.S. and Russia. 

    (Published Monday, June 19, 2017)

    So far 14 people have emerged as candidates. Eight met at the Justice Department on Saturday with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein:

    —Alice Fisher, a high-ranking Justice Department official in the George W. Bush administration.

    —Adam Lee, special agent in charge of the FBI's office in Richmond, Virginia.

    — Andrew McCabe, the acting FBI director.

    —Michael J. Garcia, a former prosecutor and associate judge on New York's highest court.

    —Cornyn, a former Texas attorney general.

    The House Fight Over GOP Leaning Georgia District

    [NATL] Candidates Fight Over GOP Leaning Georgia District in House Race

    Democrat candidate Jon Ossoff hopes to win over a GOP-leaning 6th Congressional District in suburban Atlanta over Republican candidate Karen Handel in Tuesday's runoff election, a win that could rattle Washington ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

    (Published Monday, June 19, 2017)

    —U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson, a Bush appointee who struck down the centerpiece of the Obama administration's health care law in 2010.

    —Frances Townsend, a former Bush homeland security and counterterrorism adviser.

    —Rogers. The FBI Agents Association says it believes his diverse background makes him the best choice.

    Clapper and Schumer made their comments on CNN's "State of the Union"; Graham spoke on NBC's "Meet the Press"; Haley and Warner appeared on ABC's "This Week" and Warner also spoke on "Fox News Sunday" along with Lee and Holmes.

    ___

    Associated Press writers Sadie Gurman and Darlene Superville contributed to this report.

    Puerto Rico Governor Presses Congress for Statehood

    [NATL] Puerto Rico Governor Presses Congress for Statehood

    Governor of Puerto Rico Ricardo Rosselló, during a June 15, 2017, address in Washington, D.C., urged Congress to listen to the wishes of the 97 percent of Puerto Rican voters who chose statehood in a June 11 referendum.

    (Published Thursday, June 15, 2017)