Week In Politics: Comey’s Memos and Additions To Trump’s Legal Team

NPR’s Ari Shapiro speaks with Kristen Soltis Anderson, of The Washington Examiner and author of “The Selfie Vote”, and Jason Johnson, politics editor at The Root, about Former FBI director James Comey, new additions to President Trump’s legal team, and the nomination of CIA Director Mike Pompeo to be Secretary of State.


The issue of James Comey’s memos is where we’re going to begin our Friday political chat. Kristen Soltis Anderson of the Washington Examiner and author of “The Selfie Vote” is here in the studio. Hi, Kristen.


SHAPIRO: And Jason Johnson, politics editor at The Root, joins us from Atlanta. Hi, Jason.

JASON JOHNSON: Hi – glad to be here.

SHAPIRO: Well, I don’t know if the two of you, like me, spent last night leafing through those 15 pages. But I wonder what you found in those memos that Comey wrote when he was FBI director before he was fired that really struck you, Kristen.

ANDERSON: What struck me was how much this matched up with what we have already heard Jim Comey say about his interactions with the president. There in some ways was very little in these memos that struck me as surprising because it was so much of what we’ve already heard before.


JOHNSON: Well, a couple of things. Number one, you know, look; he’s the FBI director. He knows what to say. He’s going to be consistent. I’m not surprised that he was consistent. What has been fascinating to me is to see how this guy – he had to have known in his gut that even though it is a 10-year position, that his position was at risk. The fact that he was taking these notes contemporaneously (laughter) suggests to me someone who had a feeling. I don’t trust my boss, and I want to make sure this is on record.

SHAPIRO: So if the two of you both feel like these notes were kind of a nothing burger news-wise, I’m curious about why Republicans in Congress were so eager to release them. This is what Congressman Adam Schiff, Democrat, ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, said on NPR’s Morning Edition today.


ADAM SCHIFF: I think that my colleagues in the GOP who were pushing so hard to get these released or to leak them were hoping that they could find some inconsistencies they could use to attack James Comey. And I think they came up empty because his testimony and statements have been very consistent.

SHAPIRO: I mean, Kristen, do you think he’s right? Why do you think the GOP wanted to do this?

ANDERSON: I think that what they were looking to show was is there anything in these memos that suggests that Comey behaved in a way that was inappropriate? Are there – is there information in his memos that he then had provided to outside sources that should not have been released? And that’s currently something that you’re hearing Republicans try to prosecute – is this idea of, in Jim Comey’s transmission of his interactions with the president to others, did he give up classified information of any kind? That’s sort of the new direction you’re seeing Republicans go.

SHAPIRO: President Trump tweeted, James Comey memos just out and show clearly there was no collusion and no obstruction. Also he leaked classified information – wow. Will the witch hunt continue?

So, Jason, clearly at least the president is hitting on this leaking classified information talking point. Do you think it will work?

JOHNSON: Well, no. I mean, but it depends on what you mean by work. Is it going to have any electoral consequences – no. It’s already sort of dyed in the wool. Most of the American voters either believe what they believe from the president, or they believe what they believe from Comey and this investigation. Is it necessarily going to move members of Congress – not necessarily. They’re all kind of set in.

At this point, it’s just screaming about different kind of narratives. Every single poll has demonstrated that the American public believes what Comey and what Mueller are doing more than they believe what comes out of the president. So no matter how many times he says, aha, it’s a scandal, and it’s this, and it’s fake; oh, but by the way, even though I think this is fake, I’m not under investigation, and there’s no collusion, (laughter) it’s not changing anyone’s belief system. I think both sides are pretty much set in.

SHAPIRO: Well, let’s talk about that…

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