Comey memos add to Trump legal woes

Saturday, April 21, 2018

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WASHINGTON, DC, United States (AFP) — Donald Trump lashed out yesterday after memos of his meetings with the FBI's then chief, James Comey, depicted the president as obsessed with the Russia probe and a smutty video allegedly showing him with two prostitutes.

But the memos were just the latest twist in a week of difficult headlines for Trump: from the release of a best-selling book in which Comey labels him “morally unfit”, to a courtroom circus featuring his embattled personal lawyer and a porn star who alleges a tryst with him.

Trump's legal and personal woes — and wall-to-wall Comey book interviews — overshadowed his summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at which the president confirmed CIA chief Mike Pompeo had met Kim Jong- Un in Pyongyang to lay the groundwork for an upcoming summit with Trump himself.

As the week drew to a close, the flurry of developments on the North Korean front were once again eclipsed by the Comey memos — which depict Trump pressuring the FBI chief over the probe into his campaign's links to Russia before firing him, and could bolster potential obstruction of justice allegations.

“James Comey Memos just out and show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION. Also, he leaked classified information. WOW! Will the Witch Hunt continue?” Trump tweeted yesterday in response to the documents.

And to top it off, yesterday the Democratic Party filed a lawsuit in New York alleging the Trump campaign, the Russian Government and WikiLeaks conspired to skew the 2016 Presidential Election toward the Republican.

“We must prevent future attacks on our democracy, and that's exactly what we're doing today,” said Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez.

“If the occupant of the Oval Office won't protect our democracy, Democrats will.”

Trump's legal problems reach back to the beginning of his presidency, but have multiplied.

Two weeks ago FBI agents raided the New York residences and offices of his long-time personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, seizing files that could bare Trump's past business dealings and expose more about his relationships with several women in the 2000s, when he was married.

One of them, the porn actress Stormy Daniels whom Cohen paid US$130,000 to keep quiet about an alleged affair with Trump in 2006, showed up to much publicity at the first hearing over the Cohen raid.

Days later she went on the hit show The View, where she said she was threatened not to talk about her Trump affair.

Daniels and Trump are now locked in duelling lawsuits that serve to keep the alleged tryst in the headlines.

Separately, Trump is battling a lawsuit that alleges he is breaking anti-corruption clauses in the US Constitution by profiting from the use of his namesake Washington hotel by foreign dignitaries.

Most ominous of all, Trump is under pressure from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into links between his campaign and Russia, a probe that is also examining possible obstruction by the president.

That investigation has numerous top aides and possibly family members of Trump in its sights. In recent weeks, according to reports, Trump has considered firing both Mueller and the Justice Department's number two, Rod Rosenstein, whom Trump himself appointed a year ago.

Trump and the Republicans have sought to undermine Mueller's probe by discrediting him and his team as biased and corrupt.

But Comey's new book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership, has deflected questions back to the president. Comey likens Trump to a Mafia boss who demands absolute loyalty, and lacks any moral foundation.

“This president is unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values,” he writes.

“His leadership is transactional, ego-driven and about personal loyalty.”

The book, and the memos released by Congress, add support to allegations Trump wanted to suppress the Russia probe and fired Comey because of it.

The strain on the White House is clear. On Thursday, Trump added three new attorneys, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and two white-collar criminal defence specialists.

According to Axios, the Trump team is still seeking to add more firepower to the legal team, and is pitching for Emmet Flood, who represented former president Bill Clinton is his fight against impeachment in 1998-99.

While Trump doesn't yet face any personal charges, both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have warned him he could face impeachment if he fires Mueller.

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