Russian “Party” Ambassador to Return to Russia, Replaced By “Bull-Terrier”

Russia’s current ambassador to the United States, Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak, is set to return to Russia soon, with a going away party scheduled July 11th.  He is expected to be replaced by Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Anatoly Ivanovich Antonov.  Antonov was named as Kislyak’s replacement in February and was approved for the post by Russia’s Duma (literally, “House;” i.e. the legislature) in May.  While Kislyak is known for his parties, Antonov has been called a “bull-terrier.”

Both men are interesting.

Kislyak is 66 years old, holds a degree in physics, and is an ethnic Ukrainian born in Moscow.  He is a career diplomat and has served as ambassador to the U.S. since 2008, having previously held the post of Russian Deputy Foreign Minister (like Antonov).  He is known for being socially active and throwing parties, attempting to push Russia’s interests through personal relationships.  He had been considered for a counter-terrorism post at the United Nations, but is being recalled to Russia instead.  This may because he has emerged as a central figure in the intrigue surrounding the rumored Russian interference in the U.S. election.  Thus, while many U.S. politicians have met with him (which would be expected as he is the ambassador to the U.S.) most have either denied meeting him or have “forgotten.”  Therefore, it would be difficult for Kislyak to continue to serve in the U.S., since people are now reluctant to meet with him due to the on-going FBI investigation of Russia’s involvement in the U.S. election.

Antonov is 62 years old, holds a degree in international relations, and was born in Siberia.  He is a career diplomat, but also holds the rank of Army general.  He is under sanctions by the European Union due to Russia’s role in the Ukrainian conflict and has been called a “bull-terrier” due to his hardline stance towards the West (he has accused NATO of confronting Russia in Ukraine).

Thus, the ambassadorship will shift from a partying ambassador who seeks to wield influence behind the scenes, but who no one wants to be seen with in public, to a hardline general who seeks to confront the West.  Trump, for his part, has planned to send former Utah governor John Huntsman as ambassador to Russia, replacing the incumbent John Tefft, who has served in that position since 2014.

 

Comey Testimony Was a Ratings BOOM

For political geeks, it was Must-See TV.

The viewership numbers are in for the Senate Intelligence Committee testimony of former FBI Director James Comey, and they are rather impressive. They’re especially impressive when you consider it was mid-morning on a weekday.

According to Nielson data, approximately 19.5 million viewers tuned in to hear what the ousted Comey would say.

The winner of the day, as far as ratings, was ABC, with 3.3 million tuning in from 10am to 1pm.

CBS was a close second.

Also:

Fox News led among cable outlets, with 3.1 million viewers, while CNN scored first in the younger 25 to 54-year-old demographic coveted by advertisers, followed by NBC and ABC.

This should come as no surprise. The buildup to Comey’s Thursday morning testimony was the equivalent of a heavyweight title fight.

In the heat of the congressional probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, Comey became a key player, and politicos breathlessly awaited to see if he would deliver a bombshell, right into President Trump’s lap.

The expected bombshell didn’t come, with only a few surprises.

The knowledge that Comey leaked details of his own memos through a friend to the media, in order to prompt a special investigator to take over is probably the biggest news.

A close second may be that Trump asked all of his advisers and aides to leave the room, before asking Comey to let former national security adviser Michael Flynn go.

According to Comey, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and senior aide Jared Kushner hesitated, lingering as if they knew this was a bad idea, but Trump brushed them out. At that point, he asked Comey if he could see his way clear to let Flynn go.

More than anything, it prompts the question as to why Flynn was so important to Trump, that he would go to those lengths, put himself in awkward, potentially illegal positions, in order to try and make it happen.

As happened with the panel of officials on Wednesday, Comey declined to answer many questions in an open setting, preferring to keep the meat of his answers for the closed meetings.

I’m sure viewers were expecting more, and depending on whose team you’re on, some are celebrating this as either a victory for Trump or an ominous sign of more to come.

Smart money says to reserve judgment until all those called to give testimony have spoken, and all the closed door hearings are conducted. We’re a long way from the end.

In the meantime, fingers crossed for no new eruptions from the White House. Our nation can’t move forward under the weight of this much dysfunction.

BREAKING: Comey’s Statement Paints a Worried, Clueless, Untrustworthy Trump

The Senate Intelligence Committee just published former FBI Director James Comey’s opening statement for tomorrow’s hearing, and it’s a damning document.

It’s not damning in the sense of President Trump committing a crime, or attempting to obstruct justice. There’s no evidence of that in Comey’s account.

What it does show is a president with no working knowledge of the FBI’s purpose, mandate, or value as an independent investigatory arm of the federal government. It shows a president whose understanding of what it means to be president is something akin to a king over a royal court. It shows a man obsessed with his personal image and relationships.

It shows a worried, thin-skinned, petty, and clueless man who doesn’t deserve the trust of those who operate in the public interest.

In short, it makes Trump look clueless, and that’s damning.

I felt compelled to document my first conversation with the President-Elect in a memo. To ensure accuracy, I began to type it on a laptop in an FBI vehicle outside Trump Tower the moment I walked out of the meeting. Creating written records immediately after one-on-one conversations with Mr. Trump was my practice from that point forward. This had not been my practice in the past. I spoke alone with President Obama twice in person (and never on the phone) – once in 2015 to discuss law enforcement policy issues and a second time, briefly, for him to say goodbye in late 2016. In neither of those circumstances did I memorialize the discussions. I can recall nine one-on-one conversations with President Trump in four months – three in person and six on the phone.

Lawyers resort to memorializing every conversation immediately following in a few situations. One is when they meet one-on-one with clients who pay them for representation (for obvious reasons). Another is when they meet with other lawyers or parties in negotiation–typically these are short notes or emails to the other lawyer to ensure everyone’s on the same page.

A third scenario is when they are meeting one-on-one (without corroborating witnesses) with unreliable people, whose version of events may prove troubling in their work. Or when people in positions of power (such as politicians) attempt to manipulate or influence them improperly in such meetings. These memos are, in technical legal terms, called “C-Y-A” (I jest, but not too much).

Comey felt compelled to write a C-Y-A memo every time he interacted with President Trump. The head of the FBI felt that Trump was manipulative, using pretense to gain a “patronage relationship,” and ignoring every fence and guardrail of proper lines of communication to achieve a particular result.

My instincts told me that the one-on-one setting, and the pretense that this was our first discussion about my position, meant the dinner was, at least in part, an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship. That concerned me greatly, given the FBI’s traditionally independent status in the executive branch.

At an oval office meeting on Feb. 14, attended by at least four high-ranking lawyers (Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, senior adviser Jared Kushner, and Comey), the president dismissed everyone, including Comey’s boss, AG Sessions, to talk to Comey alone. Not only is this beyond awkward, it’s also completely improper.

Alone with Comey, Trump said he wanted to talk about Mike Flynn, who had resigned one day earlier.

The President then made a long series of comments about the problem with leaks of classified information – a concern I shared and still share. After he had spoken for a few minutes about leaks, Reince Priebus leaned in through the door by the grandfather clock and I could see a group of people waiting behind him. The President waved at him to close the door, saying he would be done shortly. The door closed.

The cringes and breath-holding in that hallway had to be excruciating. It paints a picture of a man whom everyone is scared to tell “this is a really bad idea,” lest they invite the rage of Poseidon on themselves.

The President then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn, saying, “He is a good guy and has been through a lot.” He repeated that Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice President. He then said, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” I replied only that “he is a good guy.” (In fact, I had a positive experience dealing with Mike Flynn when he was a colleague as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency at the beginning of my term at FBI.) I did not say I would “let this go.”

The president that Comey came to know better than the man who appointed him to office–President Obama–is, to him, a man who cannot be trusted. He’s a man who doesn’t know the boundaries of his own office, or the reason certain actions or statements are simply wrong or unethical.

To Comey, this is a man who values personal loyalty, relationships, and image over truth or integrity. Why else would Comey feel compelled to document, as close to the event as possible, every single conversation with Trump?

Whatever questions follow this positively devastating statement by Comey at Thursday’s hearing, every lawyer, government official, or potential appointee under Trump has to get the message. To paraphrase: Be careful dealing with this man, as he’s a worried, clueless, untrustworthy man who will try to manipulate you into compromising yourself.