Comey, Cohen and Stormy: What a whirlwind week means for Trump


Whoever is writing the script for the political drama that Americans are currently living through needs to take it down a notch. The number of threads to the story is getting out of hand, and it’s becoming difficult for even dedicated Washington-watchers, pundits and journalists to keep up.

This week alone has seen multiple developments in the swirling morass of controversy that has engulfed the Trump administration and those who have been or are investigating it.

Here’s a quick review of the (exhausting) week that was.

Fallout from the Cohen raid

Just under two weeks ago, federal investigators raided the office and hotel room of Michael Cohen, Mr Trump’s long-time personal attorney, business associate and all-around fixer of uncomfortable problems.

It represented a new legal front in the investigations into the president – including possible Cohen-orchestrated payments to women alleging affairs with Mr Trump – conducted by the US attorney’s office in Manhattan, not special counsel Robert Mueller.

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Image captionThe week kicked off with a court hearing for Mr Trump’s longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen

This week the legal battle centred around who gets to review the results of that search and determine what is covered by the protected communications lawyers can have with their clients.

Mr Cohen – joined by the president’s legal team – argued that they should have first crack. The judge all but laughed them out of court.

The US attorneys want a special government team not directly connected to the case to do the review. The judge also entertained the possibility of appointing an independent third party to go over the documents and audio recordings.

There’s more than a little concern in the White House (anonymously, on background, of course) that the search could expose misdeeds on Mr Cohen’s part, perhaps involving personal or campaign finance violations, and he may feel pressure to co-operate with investigators, possibly jeopardising the president.

Mr Trump’s critics see the memos as damning corroborating evidence of the ex-director’s accounts. The White House and congressional Republicans argue that they’re proof Mr Comey was out to get the president from the start.

The battle lines were drawn a long time ago, and no one seemed interested in coming out of their trenches this week.

Short presentational grey line

McCabe (and Democrats) in the barrel

One new bit of information the Comey memos revealed is just how suspicious the president was of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe from the very beginning.

Mr Trump had blasted Mr McCabe on the campaign trail, accusing him of pro-Clinton bias in his handling of the email server investigation because his wife had taken campaign contributions from a Clinton ally during her a 2015 Democratic candidate for state office.

McCabeImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionMr McCabe had been sacked one day before his retirement from the FBI was to begin

Last week a Justice Department inspector general report put the former deputy director in a tough spot, finding that he misled federal investigators under oath about his efforts to leak information to essentially protect his reputation. Mr Trump has cited this as vindication, although Mr McCabe’s actions ended up being damaging to the Clinton campaign by revealing an ongoing federal investigation into her family’s charitable foundation.

This week we learned the inspector general referred Mr McCabe’s file to a federal prosecutor who could bring criminal charges. That would probably put Mr Comey in the position of testifying against a former deputy he has vouched for in the past.

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