Trump Obsessed Over Russia On Same Day He Decided to Fire Comey
May 11, 2017
In an interview with TIME on Monday, Donald Trump obsessed over television clips from the Russia investigation, on the very same day that he decided to fire FBI Director James Comey.
Trump’s reported actions corroborate recent reports that Comey was fired over the Russia investigation, despite White House claims.
See it for yourself:
The President raises a remote and flicks on the screen, sorting through old recordings of cable news shows, until he comes to what he is after: a clip from the Senate hearing earlier in the day, as broadcast on Fox News. The first clip he shows is of South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham speaking to former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Graham asks if Clapper stands by his statement that he knows of no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Trump waits quietly, until Clapper admits that nothing has changed. Trump pantomimes a sort of victory.
“Yes. He was choking on that,” the President chortles. “Is there any record at all of collusion? He was the head of the whole thing. He said no. That’s a big statement.” Trump leaves unmentioned the fact that there is an ongoing FBI counterintelligence investigation into possible collusion, which has not yet reached any conclusions. Nor does he note that Clapper, out of government for nearly four months, could not possibly know everything the FBI has learned, and likely would have not known all even when he was in office. Trump also leaves unmentioned that he had a meeting that day with his new Deputy Attorney General about firing Comey, the director of that investigation.
But for now, Trump is focused on his TV. He watches the screen like a coach going over game tape, studying the opposition, plotting next week’s plays. “This is one of the great inventions of all time—TiVo,” he says as he fast-forwards through the hearing.
The next clip starts to play, this time showing Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley asking Clapper and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates if they ever requested that the names of Trump, his associates or members of Congress be identified by name, or unmasked, in a legal intelligence intercept. “Watch them start to choke like dogs,” Trump says, having fun. “Watch what happens. They are desperate for breath.”
Clapper, on the screen, pauses several beats to search his memory. “Ah, he’s choking. Ah, look,” the President says. After a delay, Clapper finally answers, admitting that he had requested an unmasking, which would have been a routine occurrence in his former job. The running Trump commentary continues. “See the people in the back, people are gasping,” he says, though it’s unclear who he is referring to on the screen. He also mentions the sound of photographers’ cameras clicking on the television.
Moments later, the President watches as both Clapper and Yates testify that they had reviewed intercepts containing the unmasked identities of Trump, his associates and members of Congress. This, to Trump, is yet another victory, the lead-lined proof of his still unproven claim that Obama surveilled him before he was sworn in. “So they surveilled me,” he says. “You guys don’t write that—wiretapped in quotes. They surveilled me.”