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The Weekly Arc: June 9, 2017

Welcome to Arc’s newsletter, sent out once per week, highlighting the best and most interesting stories from around the web. The Weekly Arc is curated by Berny Belvedere. Past editions can be accessed here.

Comey Testifies

Former FBI director James B. Comey on Thursday used a dramatic appearance before a national audience to sharply criticize the character of the president, accusing Trump of firing him over the Russia investigation and then misleading the public about the reasons for the dismissal.

Trump and his team, Comey said, told “lies, plain and simple,” about him and the FBI in an effort to cover up the real reason for his sudden sacking last month. Comey said that after one particularly odd private meeting with the president, he feared Trump “might lie” about the conversation, prompting him to begin taking careful notes after each encounter.

Comey revealed that after he was fired, he leaked notes on his interactions with Trump to the media, hoping that sharing the information would prompt the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the administration over possible links to Russia. …

His most damning remarks were directed at the president, but in the course of his testimony, Comey also raised doubts about the judgment of a host of other people, including Justice Department officials such as former attorney general Loretta E. Lynch and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

During questioning, Comey said that while the Hillary Clinton email case was ongoing, Lynch asked him to refer to the probe as a “matter” rather than an “investigation.”

The former FBI director said he thought that that wording “gave the impression that the attorney general was looking to align the way we talked about our work with the way the campaign” talked about it. “That was inaccurate,” he said. “That gave me a queasy feeling.”

Regarding Sessions, Comey said he took his concerns about one particular conversation with Trump to the new attorney general and said he did not want to be left alone again in a room with the president. Comey said Sessions’s body language gave Comey the impression there was nothing to be done.

Comey described his state of mind as he tried to navigate a number of tense conversations with the president about the investigation into possible coordination between Trump associates and Russian operatives.

In his written testimony, released Wednesday, Comey described being summoned to a private dinner at the White House in January with the president, who told him: “I need loyalty. I expect loyalty.”

Comey said the conversation, in which Trump asked whether Comey intended to stay on as FBI director, despite three prior discussions in which Comey had said he did, raised concerns in his mind.

“My common sense told me what’s going on here is he’s looking to get something in exchange for granting my request to stay in the job,” Comey testified. — The Washington Post

One particular item of interest is whether the President can be charged with “obstruction of justice.” On that particular point, Comey declined to comment, saying that it’s now a call Robert S. Mueller III will have to make.

Trump Responds

President Trump, not surprisingly, has characterized Comey’s testimony as a personal victory over Comey himself, much of the media, and his political opponents more broadly.

To Democrats and many legal experts in both parties, the Senate testimony from fired FBI director James B. Comey is devastating to President Trump — portraying him as a liar who sought to halt the federal investigation into a former top aide and putting him in dire legal peril.

But to Trump, many Republicans and a broad constellation of surrogates and conservative media outlets, the takeaway is much different: exoneration.

“Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication,” the president tweeted early on the morning after Comey’s testimony.

That point of view has ricocheted across the conservative media world, both organically and in coordination with a hastily organized rapid-response operation at the Republican National Committee. The result is a parallel narrative — reinforced by the president himself on Twitter and at a Friday news conference — that spun Comey’s testimony as a clear victory and, publicly at least, cast aside any potential dangers that may lie ahead. — The Washington Post

The presence of this “parallel narrative” was explored by Arc contributor Nicholas Grossman in his piece “What Happened in the Comey Hearing Depends on Your Reality.”

In Reality 1, Comey definitively confirmed that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, called Trump a liar, and provided testimony strengthening the case the president obstructed justice.

In Reality 2, Comey exonerated Trump, testified that former Attorney General Loretta Lynch obstructed justice, and implicated himself in a federal crime.

Will Trump Testify?

Trump suggested he might provide testimony to Mueller in order to set the record straight about Comey’s version of events.

This was…not warmly received by his lawyers.

As Axios’ Mike Allen writes:

Here are some of the considerations that cause lawyers to strongly advise against such an appearance:

Danger 1: Lawyers said such a meeting would be “a massive false-statements trap,” because Trump is inclined to remember things selectively, and often embraces a version of events that is the way he would like them to be. And by the time he talked to the president, Mueller would have an arsenal of evidence. So Trump’s characteristic certainty — “I never said that!” or “I never did that!” — could mean trouble. Trump in the Rose Garden yesterday (which made N.Y. Times Quote of the Day): “I didn’t say that. … And there would be nothing wrong if I did say it.”)

Danger 2: Trump would be unlikely to prepare adequately. He has little patience and a short attention span, doesn’t like to study written documents, and prefers to ad lib.

UK Elections

Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain suffered a major setback in a tumultuous election on Thursday, losing her overall majority in Parliament and throwing her government into uncertainty less than two weeks before it is scheduled to begin negotiations over withdrawing from the European Union.

Mrs. May, the Conservative leader, called the snap election three years early, expecting to cruise to a smashing victory that would win her a mandate to see Britain through the long and difficult negotiations with European leaders over the terms of leaving the union.

But according to results reported early Friday morning, the extraordinary gamble Mrs. May made in calling the election backfired. She could no longer command enough seats to avoid a hung Parliament, meaning that no party has enough lawmakers to establish outright control.

With all but one of the 650 seats in the House of Commons accounted for, the BBC reported that Mrs. May’s Conservatives would remain the largest party. But they were projected to win only 318 seats, down from the 331 they won in 2015, and eight seats short of a majority. …

The opposition Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, was projected to be on track for 262 seats, up 30 from 2015, significantly elevating Mr. Corbyn’s standing after predictions that his party would be further weakened.

“Whatever the final result, we have already changed the face of British politics,” Mr. Corbyn said. — The New York Times

Here is a helpful interactive guide to how Britain voted. And here’s a piece by Vox on the three winners and four losers from this incredible election.

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This Week In History

June 9

1549 — The Book of Common Prayer is adopted by the Church of England.

1870 — Charles Dickens (b. 1812), one of the most prolific and celebrated writers in Western literature, passes away.

June 10

1963 — The Equal Pay Act signed into law by President Kennedy.

2004 — Ray Charles (b. 1930), music legend, passes away.

June 11

1776 — The Continental Congress creates the committee that is charged with drafting the Declaration of Independence. The work basically falls to Thomas Jefferson.

1987 — Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher becomes the first PM in 160 years to win a third consecutive term.

June 12

1830 — France begins colonizing Algeria: nearly 35K soldiers land near Algiers.

1942 — Anne Frank receives her diary as a birthday present in Amsterdam.

1964 — Nelson Mandela is sentenced to life in prison in South Africa.

June 15

1215 — King John signs Magna Carta at Runnymede, near Windsor, England.


There’s no democratic state that’s not compromised to the very core by its part in generating human misery.

— Gilles Deleuze



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