Rod Rosenstein full remarks to Congress on Comey memo - Axios
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Rod Rosenstein full remarks to Congress on Comey memo

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

"Good afternoon. I welcome the opportunity to discuss my role in the removal of FBI Director James Comey, although I know you understand that I will not discuss the special counsel's ongoing investigation.
Most importantly, I want to emphasize my unshakeable commitment to protecting the integrity of every federal criminal investigation. There never has been, and never will be, any political interference in any matter under my supervision in the United States Department of Justice.
Before I discuss the events of the past two weeks, I want to provide some background about my previous relationship with former Director Comey. I have known Jim Comey since approximately 2002. In 2005, when Mr. Comey was Deputy Attorney General, he participated in selecting me to serve as a U.S. Attorney. As a federal prosecutor, he was a role model. His speeches about leadership and public service inspired me.
On July 5, 2016, Director Comey held his press conference concerning the federal grand jury investigation of Secretary Clinton's emails. At the start of the press conference, the Director stated that he had "not coordinated or reviewed this statement in any way with the Department of Justice…. They do not know what I am about to say."
Director Comey went on to declare that he would publicly disclose "what we did; what we found; and what we are recommending to the Department of Justice." He proceeded to disclose details about the evidence; assert that the American people "deserve" to know details; declare that no "reasonable" prosecutor would file charges; and criticize Secretary Clinton.
I thought the July 5 press conference was profoundly wrong and unfair both to the Department of Justice and Secretary Clinton. It explicitly usurped the role of the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General and the entire Department of Justice; it violated deeply engrained rules and traditions; and it guaranteed that some people would accuse the FBI of interfering in the election.There are lawful and appropriate mechanisms to deal with unusual circumstances in which public confidence in the rule of law may be jeopardized. Such mechanisms preserve the traditional balance of power between investigators and prosecutors, and protect the rights of citizens.
Director Comey attended the Maryland U.S. Attorney's Office training seminar on October 27, 2016, and gave a detailed explanation of his reasons for making public statements about the conclusion of the Secretary Clinton email investigation. I strongly disagreed with his analysis, but I believe that he made his decisions in good faith.
The next day, October 28, Mr. Comey sent his letter to the Congress announcing that the FBI was reopening the Clinton email investigation. He subsequently has said that he believed he was obligated to send the letter. I completely disagree. He again usurped the authority of the Department of Justice, by sending the letter over the objection of the Department of Justice; flouted rules and deeply engrained traditions; and guaranteed that some people would accuse the FBI of interfering in the election.
Before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 3, 2017, Director Comey testified under oath about his public statements concerning the Secretary Clinton email investigation. I strongly disagreed with his explanations, particularly his assertion that maintaining confidentiality about criminal investigations constitutes concealment. Nonetheless, I respected him personally.
Former Department of Justice officials from both political parties have criticized Director Comey's decisions. It was not just an isolated mistake; the series of public statements about the email investigation, in my opinion, departed from the proper role of the FBI Director and damaged public confidence in the Bureau and the Department.
In one of my first meetings with then-Senator Jeff Sessions last winter, we discussed the need for new leadership at the FBI. Among the concerns that I recall were to restore the credibility of the FBI, respect the established authority of the Department of Justice, limit public statements and eliminate leaks.
On May 8, I learned that President Trump intended to remove Director Comey and sought my advice and input. Notwithstanding my personal affection for Director Comey, I thought it was appropriate to seek a new leader.
I wrote a brief memorandum to the Attorney General summarizing my longstanding concerns about Director Comey's public statements concerning the Secretary Clinton email investigation. I chose the issues to include in my memorandum. Before finalizing the memorandum on May 9, I asked a senior career attorney on my staff to review it. That attorney is an ethics expert who has worked in the Office of the Deputy Attorney General during multiple administrations. He was familiar with the issues. I informed the senior attorney that the President was going to remove Director Comey, that I was writing a memorandum to the Attorney General summarizing my own concerns, and that I wanted to confirm that everything in my memorandum was accurate. He concurred with the points raised in my memorandum. I also asked several other career Department attorneys to review the memorandum and provide edits.
My memorandum is not a legal brief; these are not issues of law. My memorandum is not a finding of official misconduct; the Inspector General will render his judgment about that issue in due course. My memorandum is not a statement of reasons to justify a for-cause termination. My memorandum is not a survey of FBI morale or performance. My memorandum is not a press release. It is a candid internal memorandum about the FBI Director's public statements concerning a high-profile criminal investigation. I sent my signed memorandum to the Attorney General after noon on Tuesday, May 9.
I wrote it. I believe it. I stand by it."
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Thousands of strangers have been sending letters to Hillary

Win McNamee / AP

BuzzFeed's Ruby Cramer pulls off a Hillary Clinton story that reminds her colleagues of Jimmy Breslin's classic on JFK's gravedigger — an unsung everyman, just off the grand stage ... The Place Where Letters To Hillary Clinton Go:

At just 30 years old, Rob Russo has been one of Hillary Clinton's closest aides for a decade, organizing and drafting her political and personal correspondence. After the election, his job changed as thousands of strangers starting writing to Clinton. Now he's living through the end of an era, one letter at a time.
Interviews with Russo over the last three years — before, during, and after the campaign — depict a career spent producing the materials that, as he describes it, "neatly catalogue the experience" of Hillary Clinton's life. So he was not prepared, a few days after the blow of Nov. 8, for the letters that started showing up in P.O. Box 5256, the one listed on Clinton's website. They came by the hundreds, most from people his boss had never met — all about the loss.
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JFK would have turned 100 today

AP

President John F. Kennedy was born 100 years ago today — May 29, 1917, in Brookline, Mass. He was 43 when he was elected, and lived 3 more years.

  • "JFK's life, legacy to be celebrated on his centennial," by AP's Crystal Hill in Boston: The Postal Service today will dedicate a new JFK postage stamp in Brookline ... "Joe Kennedy III, a great-nephew of JFK, will deliver the keynote at a ceremony at the birthplace and childhood home this afternoon. A wreath-laying ceremony will honor the 35th president at his gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery.
  • "New JFK exhibit offers a glimpse into the president's humanity," by Boston Globe's Andy Rosen: "The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum [in Boston] has included ... items like pencils from the Oval Office bearing bite marks, a childhood sketch of a tree on a hillside, and the suitcase he used during his presidential campaign give a glimpse into Kennedy's everyday life." Photos of items from the exhibit.
  • JFK's life, in 34 pictures.
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Latest social media craze: lip syncing

Alexi McCammond / Axios

Lip-syncing to popular songs is the latest video craze. Apps like Dubsmash and musical.ly each claim to have more than 100 million users.

Why it matters: With video becoming the new focus in social media, Dubsmash and musical.ly have caught the eye of the entertainment industry; one organically making its way into the hands of celebrities, while the latter has been inking a string of content, advertising, and distribution deals. They could prove to be a new threat to the mainstream social giants like Facebook and Snapchat.

Dubsmash:

  • Content: In 2015, singer Rihanna teased an upcoming song on Dubsmash, letting fans listen to and lip-sync to a 10-second clip of the tune — one of more than 100 campaigns on the platform to promote music, entertainment, and TV content. Late last year, the company also announced the ability for advertisers to sponsor a channel and promote branded content. Warner Brothers did so to promote its movie, Storks, prior to its release.
  • Publicity: A slew of celebrities, including Jennifer Lopez, Hugh Jackman, and Khloe Kardashian have posted videos recorded with Dubsmash. The app has also been featured on NBC's The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon several times.

musical.ly:

  • Content: Musical.ly is reportedly in talks with Viacom and NBC to produce original shows for the networks that feel interactive and authentic, instead of heavily produced. The startup also teamed up the Billboard Music Awards' production company to host fan votes for one of the awards. The strategy is very much like rival Snapchat's, which serves similar Gen Z audiences, and has been inking content deals with shows for months.
  • Advertising: At this year's NewFronts, Hearst announced the first official ad partnership with Musical.ly, produced by Seventeen Magazine.
  • Distribution: Earlier this year, Apple struck a deal with musical.ly to provide songs for the platform's users to create videos around. The Apple Music partnership reportedly gives musical.ly cues to expand its market reach from 30 countries to 120.
  • Licensing: Musical.ly struck its first major music label deal with Warner Music in 2016.
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Trump's mystery tweet: "add more dollars" to health care

President Trump is back on Twitter, and tonight he tweeted about an intriguing idea that's disconnected from pretty much all of the current Republican health care plans: he wants to "add more dollars" to health care.

What the House health care bill does: It would cut overall health care spending by $1.1 trillion over 10 years, including $834 billion in Medicaid savings, according to the latest Congressional Budget Office estimate.

What his budget does: It would cut Medicaid by an additional $610 billion.

Why it matters: It's not clear whether Trump's tweet is an actual policy proposal or just a stray thought that we'll never hear again (a White House spokesman said they have nothing to add). Either way, it's not helpful to Republicans who are have already gone on record supporting an Affordable Care Act repeal plan that cuts spending.

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Trump jolts Europe

Andrew Medichini / AP

After spending time with President Trump at the G7, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has concluded that the United States can no longer be relied upon as a security blanket for Europe. Merkel's comments foreshadow a transformation of the U.S.-European alliances that have underwritten post-WWII stability.

What's behind this: Trump publicly lectured NATO allies that they must stop shirking their financial commitments and begin paying for their own defense rather than relying on the U.S. While the White House publicly rejects this interpretation, Trump's unmistakable message to Europe on his first foreign trip was that the days of unquestioning protection from the U.S. are over.

Merkel's comments, per the AFP:

  • Europe "must take its fate into its own hands" faced with a western alliance divided by Brexit and Donald Trump's presidency, Merkel told a crowd Sunday at an election rally in Munich, southern Germany.
  • While Germany and Europe would strive to remain on good terms with America and Britain, "we have to fight for our own destiny", Merkel went on. Special emphasis was needed on warm relations between Berlin and newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron, she said.
  • "We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands."
  • "The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out. I've experienced that in the last few days."

Side note: As the NYT's Maggie Haberman points out, the place where Merkel's comments will be best received is Russia. Putin is constantly looking for ways to sow discord between European countries and the United States. (Though, it's also worth noting that if NATO countries respond to Trump's pressure by meeting their defense spending commitments, this is bad news for Putin.)

What's next: Trump unsettled Merkel by making the U.S. the only G7 nation to refusing to reaffirm the Paris Accord on climate change. We scooped yesterday that Trump has told confidants he's planning to exit the Paris deal. With Trump there's always the caveat that he could change his mind...But based on my conversations over the past 24 hours, I expect EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt will present a detailed withdrawal plan to Trump and Trump will act on it.

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Dems to tie Russia to Iran on sanctions

Sergie Karpukhin / AP

A well-placed Senate Democratic aide emails this tip: "Expect many Senate Dems to push for the Senate to not do Iran sanctions without Russian sanctions."

What this means: Democratic leaders will exploit the ties between Iran and Russia — and the administration's weak position with regard to anything concerning Russia — to demand that no new sanctions are imposed on Iran without additional sanctions to Russia.

Our thought bubble: Democrats who support the Iran nuke deal, like former Secretary of State John Kerry, are worried about a bill that passed through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week. The bill imposes new sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile tests and other destabilizing behavior. These additional sanctions don't relate to the nuclear deal, but some Democrats are anxious that imposing these sanctions could unravel the Iran deal.

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Hardliners turn on Gary Cohn over coal

Evan Vucci / AP

Almost three days have passed since Gary Cohn expressed skepticism about the future of the U.S. coal industry, but expect conservative hardliners to keep weaponizing Cohn's comments.

The offending comments, made by the President's top economic advisor Thursday aboard Air Force One: "Coal doesn't even make that much sense anymore as a feedstock. Natural gas ... is such a cleaner fuel ... If you think about how solar and how much wind power we've created in the United States, we can be a manufacturing powerhouse and still be environmentally friendly."

  • Breitbart News, the right-wing website formerly run by Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon, ran an immediate hit piece accusing Cohn of launching a "war on coal." The website followed by interviewing Joe Manchin — "a Democratic U.S. Senator from the heart of coal country in West Virginia" — who attacked Cohn from the right.
  • Myron Ebell, who ran Trump's EPA transition team and wrote the agency's action plan, isn't happy about Cohn's comments and emails me: "NEC Chairman Gary Cohn does not represent the people who voted for Donald J. Trump ... I hope that what President Trump learned is that the other G7 leaders are marching in lockstep in the wrong direction and that it is up to him to lead the world towards energy abundance and prosperity."
  • Thomas Pyle, who headed Trump's energy transition team, emailed me this in response to Cohn's comments: "The wind and solar industry has been built on the backs of American taxpayers and yet still produce a tiny fraction of the energy we consume in the U.S., significantly less than coal. President Trump is a successful businessman who understands the severe impacts that the policies of politicians past have had on working class families in the American Rust Belt. He hardly needs to evolve on this subject."
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Hotels try to reclaim bookings from travel sites

John Locher / AP

According to the Wall St Journal, the hotel industry is trying to cut out middlemen like Priceline and Expedia that take 10-30% commissions on bookings, but hasn't yet figured out how to bring customers direct to them.

  • Booking sites "were crucial for hotels during down periods such as after 9/11, but they have gradually eaten into the share of overall bookings ever since."
  • Per Kalibri Labs, the commissions cost the industry "an estimated $4.5 billion for the 12 months ending last June."
  • Generation gap: "A survey conducted by travel-data firm Adara Inc. showed that 52% of U.S. travelers between the ages of 18 and 34 prefer booking hotels through online search engines... compared with 37% age 35 and older.
  • Priceline's CEO Glenn Fogel: "Free is best. Everyone would like people to come direct to their business. That's not the way the world works, though."
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Exploring caves to fight superbugs​

Popular Science has an eye-opening report on scientists spelunking in caves in search of microbes that could be used in medicine. A few highlights from the report:

  • Why caves? Only about one percent of microbes have been discovered, and caves are "a rich source of new microbes."
  • The danger: They're not always easy to reach, and can be dangerous: "Several of the caves [one scientist] investigates are deep in grizzly bear country, so the scientists have to be carried in by helicopter."
  • The hope: "The idea is that if conditions are harsh they need more advantages to outcompete other microbes," and could fight infections resistant to current antibiotics.
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Merkel suggests Europe can no longer rely on U.S.

Domenico Stinellis / AP

German chancellor Angela Merkel issued a call for unity within the E.U. at a campaign event Sunday, stating that she learned over "the past few days" that "the times in which we can fully count on others are somewhat over."
Merkel's comments came after President Trump scolded NATO members over defense spending and was at odds with the rest of the G7 over climate change.
"We Europeans must really take our destiny into our own hands."
Why it matters: These are extraordinary words from Merkel, revealing fractures within the transatlantic alliance — long underpinned by close cooperation between the U.S., U.K., France and Germany — after the seismic events of Trump's election and Brexit. Times have changed — just a few months ago, Merkel was Barack Obama's closest foreign partner.
Symbolism alert: It was no accident that France's Emmanuel Macron embraced Merkel before shaking hands with Trump at the NATO summit last week. European alliances are being strengthened, and the U.S. is increasingly on the outside looking in.