Thanks for Voting for Trumpcare, Mr. Zeldin!

Printed in the Three Village Times Herald this week:

Thank you Rep. Lee Zeldin for voting “yes” for Trumpcare in the U.S. House of Representatives. This bill slashes insurance subsidies, makes drastic cuts to Medicaid, guts pre-existing condition protection, de-funds planned parenthood and makes insurance less comprehensive. The bill was passed without holding any hearings or giving the bi-partisan Congressional Budget Office time to do an analysis. Thank you for stripping health insurance from at least 24 million Americans. Thank you because you will be held to your unconscionable vote when voters go to the polls in 2018 and vote against Trumpcare and the Republicans who voted for it. The voters will not forget.

Terry S. Shapiro, D.M.D., East Setauket, NY 11733

Posted in AHCA, trumpcare, Uncategorized, Zeldin | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Offshore Drilling Coming to the Atlantic — Former LA. Official Tapped as Lead Offshore Drilling Regulator

Published in The Hill

Former La. official tapped as lead offshore drilling regulator
The Trump administration has tapped a former Louisiana utility regulator to lead the agency responsible for offshore oil and natural gas drilling safety.
Scott Angelle, most recently vice chairman of Louisiana’s Public Service Commission, is now the head of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), the agency said Monday.
Scott Angelle brings a wealth of experience to BSEE, having spent many years working for the safe and efficient energy production of both Louisiana’s and our country’s offshore resources,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in a statement.“
As we set our path towards energy dominance, I am confident that Scott has the expertise, vision, and the leadership necessary to effectively enhance our program, and to promote the safe and environmentally responsible exploration, development, and production of our country’s offshore oil and gas resources.”Zinke has the power to appoint Angelle without Senate confirmation.
“It is an exciting and challenging time for BSEE; I look forward to leading our efforts to empower the offshore oil and gas industry while ensuring safe and environmentally responsible operations,” Angelle said in the statement.
Angelle, a Republican, ran unsuccessfully last year for a House seat in Louisiana’s third congressional district, in the southwestern corner of the state. He lost in the runoff to Clay Higgins, also a Republican. He also ran for governor in 2015, losing the primary narrowly to then-Sen. David Vitter.
For a brief time in 2010, Angelle was Louisiana’s lieutenant governor under Gov. Bobby Jindal. He led a rally in July 2010 against the offshore drilling moratorium instituted by then-President Barack Obama in the wake of the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon explosion, while oil was still spilling uncontrolled in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the Los Angeles Times.
He was secretary of Louisiana’s Department of Natural Resources for eight years, during which time the state overhauled its permitting system for coastal use. Drillers must get such permits for pipelines or other infrastructure that passes the coast.
BSEE was created after the Deepwater Horizon disaster after numerous reports concluded that the former Minerals Management Service had a conflict of interest as the single agency in charge of offshore leasing, safety regulation, and revenue collection.
Zinke is considering changes to the structure of Interior’s agencies, including potentially reuniting BSEE with the Bureauof Ocean Energy Management, the office responsible for offshore leasing after the BP disaster.
The Gulf of Mexico, which Louisiana borders, is the epicenter of the country’s offshore oil and gas industry. Louisiana hosts much of the support facilities for the industry, is home to many of its employees and shares some of the revenue with the federal government from the oil and natural gas production.
Posted in climate change, Environment, Offshore Drilling | Leave a comment

Is Zeldin Untruthful about Healthcare?

In a recent OpEd in the Riverhead Local, Lee Zeldin asserts:

“We must also improve health care on Long Island as a top priority”

And this week, Rep. Lee Zeldin released an op-ed he said is meant to address “the misinformation campaign targeting the American Health Care Act.” Here, are Zeldin’s own words followed by my comments.

“Obamacare has resulted in higher premiums, higher deductibles, lost doctors, and canceled policies, among many other challenges…”  “We must also improve health care on Long Island as a top priority. Obamacare has been nothing short of a disaster for countless hardworking families and our economy. This flawed law has resulted in higher deductibles, higher premiums, canceled policies, fewer choices and lost doctors, among many other challenges.

Response: The Republicans in Congress have made it their No 1 priority to sabotage Obamacare since 2009. If you want to improve something, you don’t go about sabotaging it!

“Obamacare has resulted in higher premiums, higher deductibles, lost doctors, and canceled policies, among many other challenges…”

Response: Higher premiums and deductibles have multiple causes. They have been going up for many years and guess what, they will continue to go up, even more so under AHCA compared with ACA, and especially for the old, and the sick. Only the young and healthy may see some temporary relief. The issue about the insurances pulling out of certain markets is due to congressional resistance to support those insurances as called for originally under Obamacare via so-called “risk corridors”. It was Sen. Marco Rubio who scuttled risk corridors. The main point is that the risk-reducing features were never put to work. When Republicans state that premiums, co-pays, deductibles are rising — well here is the main reason.

Marco Rubio Quietly Undermines Affordable Care Act

Non-payment of funds promised to the insurance companies is simply more sabotage. Of course, they will leave a program that Congress is not supporting. Likewise for docs, if you don’t make it worth they’re while they won’t participate. All of these were fixable problems.

“Under the American Health Care Act, the individual and employer mandates are being removed, Obamacare’s taxes are almost entirely eliminated — over $800 billion in tax relief — and there will be more choices, competition, and affordability than under current law, while continuing to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions and allowing children to stay on their parents’ policy as they can under current law. This is one important step of a three-step process to ensure a smooth transition to a better reality for health care in our country”

Response: Basic household economics tells you that this is impossible: get rid of all moneys/taxes that are meant to fund Obamacare and simultaneously provide “more choices, competition, and affordability” – that just does not add up.   So what is missing from this equation: perhaps 24 Mio people losing health care insurance? Perhaps getting all chronically ill (expensive) and older patients off of health care and just allowing them to die? Zeldin’s constituents can see right through this.

“There is so much misinformation being circulated on this bill…Here are some specific facts to set the record straight regarding untruthful claims …”

Is it true that under the current plan Members of Congress will be exempt? No. At the same exact time the American Health Care Act was passed in the House of Representatives, the House also passed legislation. or H.R. 2192, to make it crystal clear that members of Congress would not receive any special treatment whatsoever.

Response: LZ is WRONG. Congress did exempt itself and here is why: The House passed the American Health Care Act with the exemption intact after first passing a separate bill that would repeal the exemption that would be created by the AHCA if both bills became law. That sounds crazy. Here is the reason. Republicans are attempting to pass the AHCA through a process called reconciliation. This process, created by the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, allows the Senate to pass certain bills relating to the federal budget with just a simple majority. There is no need to get 60 votes, i.e. democratic support.

Is it true that the American Health Care Act changes the definition of pre-existing conditions? No.

Response: Prohibition on pre-existing condition exclusion periods is not changed. But short term non-renewable policies can continue to exclude pre-existing conditions.

Is it true that under the American Health Care Act, 310,000 NY-1 residents with pre-existing conditions will lose their health insurance? Not within a million degrees of accuracy in any way, shape or form.

Response: I don’t know where this comes from!

A perhaps more accurate and alarming set of predicted numbers for NY CD-1 are as follows:

1) The uninsured rate has gone from 9.5% to 5.6% under the ACA – this could be reversed

2) 423,300 likely to lose cancer screenings and flu shots currently covered by ACA

3) 482,000 with employer-sponsored insurance, likely to lose protection against annual and lifetime limits, protection against unfair policy rescissions, and coverage of preexisting health conditions

4) 23,100 who have purchased high quality Marketplace coverage now stand to lose their coverage as ACA marketplaces are dismantled

5) 4,700 individuals in the district who received financial assistance to purchase Marketplace coverage in 2016, risk that coverage will become unaffordable when premium tax credits are eliminated

6) 1,600 individuals receiving cost-sharing reductions to help with deductibles, co-pays, and coinsurance, now at risk as cost-sharing reductions are eliminated

7) 41,800 individuals covered by Medicaid expansion now stand to lose coverage

LZ gives no references and has no data for example from OMB – rather than loose talk about “million degrees of accurate” perhaps it would be wise to get some official predictions by experts?

Is it true that in New York insurers will be able to charge people more if they have a pre-existing condition? No. New Yorkers with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied health insurance coverage for their pre-existing condition and cannot be charged more for their pre-existing condition.

ResponseUhm? Not so fast. The blast of organized and grass-roots energy in opposition to the bill had all been generated by one measure, added to the legislation to assure its passage, that allowed states to seek federal waivers to ignore certain mandates in the Affordable Care Act — including the one blocking insurance companies from charging people more because of pre-existing conditions:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/05/us/politics/republican-health-care-bill-pre-existing-conditions.html?_r=0

“But what if New York asks for a waiver? New York is not asking for a waiver, but even if it did, New Yorkers still cannot be denied health insurance coverage for their pre-existing condition and as long as they maintain continuous coverage without a lapse for more than 63 days then they cannot be charged more either. Even if there is a lapse for more than 63 days, states remain required to protect people with pre-existing conditions to ensure they have access to affordable policies, which comes with financial help from the federal government. It is hysteria to claim that people with pre-existing conditions are not protected even if the protection is a little different than in non-waiver states.

Response: So now LZ is guaranteeing what the State will do in the future? His “friend” Gov. Cuomo, perhaps? People lose jobs, people get divorced, etc. and that means people may have a lapse of coverage and not be able to get affordable coverage within 63 days. This is not far fetched. I know someone who lost her coverage after a divorce and got cancer 3 months later and went broke paying USD 400,000 for her chemotherapy.  Why play Russian Roulette with people’s lives?

Is it true that there was no Congressional Budget Office, or CBO, score for the American Health Care Act? No. The CBO has already weighed in on almost this entire bill.

Response: Wrong again. http://www.snopes.com/cbo-ahca-score/

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed during a press briefing on 4 May 2017 that the bill hadn’t yet been scored when the House voted on it, saying:

Look, I think even if they were to score it it’s impossible to score a lot of the things that would go into this because it has so many different factors that you simply can’t predict what governors may do in their states, specific conditions that patients may have.

So even if it was to be scored, I think it would be impossible to predict how that might actually affect and impact.

CBO did score previous iterations of the bill on 13 March and 23 March and both times determined that if passed as-is, both versions would have resulted in increased numbers of people lacking health insurance in comparison with the current legislation, the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“Is it true that no one actually read the bill? No. Speaking for myself, I sure did. It’s only 138 pages long. Three amendments were added last week, and I read those myself before the vote.”

Response: No comment on whether he read the bill.  But I don’t care whether he read it or not.  I want professionals to weigh in.  Professionals that study health care policies and nothing else.  It is astounding that every professional organization representing patients, doctors, nurses, and hospitals have been highly critical of AHCA/Trumpcare. So who cares whether he read it or not.

 

 

Posted in AHCA, Uncategorized, Zeldin | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Rosenstein Prepared Remarks Before Congress

BRIEFING FOR MEMBERS OF THE UNITED STATES SENATE and HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL ROD J. ROSENSTEIN
WASHINGTON, DC

MAY 18th and 19th, 2017

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.
** *
Finally, I want to address the media claims that the FBI asked for additional resources for the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. I am not aware of any such request. Moreover, I consulted my staff and Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, and none of them recalls such a request.

***

Posted in FBI, Politics, Trump | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Offshore Drilling on the Horizon?

Published in The East Hampton Star

Re: Letter to the Editor: Offshore Drilling on the Horizon?

 

Dear David:

On Sunday, Guild Hall hosted a program concerned with the preservation of the waters surrounding the East End. Flanked by scientists supporting their efforts, Deputy Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc and County Legislator Bridget Fleming spoke of their accomplishments in and plans for protecting our marine environment. These efforts have been effective and, at this very moment, the work of our dedicated government could not be more important.

This week, after weeks of publicity, Mr. Trump will sign an executive order designed to rescind regulations adopted by the Obama administration banning offshore oil and gas drilling in dozens of canyons off the East Coast in an area extending from New England to Virginia. Mr. Trump’s order does the bidding of the fossil fuel interests by potentially making these areas open to offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling. The devastating spill in the Gulf of Mexico, caused by the negligence of the oil industry, offers a stark picture of the potential catastrophe posed by drilling off our coast.

Where are our congressmen? In the pockets of the fossil fuel interests. In February, both Lee Zeldin (our Congressman) and Peter King (from neighboring Nassau County) voted to allow coal mining companies to dump toxic coal residue in neighboring waterways. This is despite Mr. Zeldin’s empty boast to “work tirelessly … to protect our national treasures.” And, despite a promise to “protect Long Island’s waterways,” Mr. Zeldin has sat stone-faced in the face of Trump’s highly publicized intentions. And, this is despite his crowing about the need to protect the fishing industry. Yet to stand up to Mr. Trump, we should all expect Mr. Zeldin to cave to the fossil fuel industry (read donation dollars) and put our shoreline, and fishing industry, in peril.

The new GOP team that would like to govern our town also has failed to voice any opposition to Mr. Trump’s proposal, despite cloaking themselves in the garb of environmentalists. So, one can only assume by their silence they, too, are sycophants to the dictates of oil and gas interests. By their silence, we should also assume that their professed interest in environmental issues and the fishing industry is nothing more than political posturing.

I can think of no greater threat to our tourism and fishing industries, not to mention real estate values, than the sight of oil rigs on the horizon from our beaches or the devastation to the fishing grounds from an oil spill of any size.

Thankfully, there already is a group protecting our beautiful communities – It is the current Town Board (and Ms. Fleming). Trust what they have done as opposed to what the wannabes say. Actions do speak louder than words – or silence.

 

Posted in climate change, Congress, Environment, Executive Order, Offshore Drilling, Zeldin | 3 Comments

What James Comey Told Me About Donald Trump

Published by the Lawfare Institute in Cooperation With

By Benjamin Wittes

Thursday, May 18, 2017, 8:02 PM

The New York Times is reporting tonight:

President Trump called the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, weeks after he took office and asked him when federal authorities were going to put out word that Mr. Trump was not personally under investigation, according to two people briefed on the call.

Mr. Comey told the president that if he wanted to know details about the bureau’s investigations, he should not contact him directly but instead follow the proper procedures and have the White House counsel send any inquires to the Justice Department, according to those people.

After explaining to Mr. Trump how communications with the F.B.I. should work, Mr. Comey believed he had effectively drawn the line after a series of encounters he had with the president and other White House officials that he felt jeopardized the F.B.I.’s independence. At the time, Mr. Comey was overseeing the investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia.

I did not know this particular fact, but it doesn’t surprise me at all. The principal source for the rest of this story is, well, me—specifically a long interview I gave to reporter Michael Schmidt on Friday about my conversations with FBI Director James Comey over the last few months, and particularly about one such conversation that took place on March 27 over lunch in Comey’s FBI office.

This story breaks hard on the heels of this week’s revelation—also by the Times—that Trump had asked Comey to bury the investigation of Gen. Michael Flynn. A few words of elaboration are in order.

I called Schmidt Friday morning after reading his earlier story, which ran the previous evening, about Comey’s dinner with President Trump and the President’s demands at that dinner for a vow of loyalty. Schmidt had reported that Trump requested that Comey commit to personal loyalty to the President, and that Comey declined, telling the President that he would always have Comey’s “honesty.” When I read Schmidt’s account, I immediately understood certain things Comey had said to me over the previous few months in a different, and frankly more menacing, light. While I am not in the habit of discussing with reporters my confidential communications with friends, I decided that the things Comey had told me needed to be made public.

As I told Schmidt, I did not act in any sense at Comey’s request. The information I provided, however, dovetails neatly with the Times‘s subsequent discovery of the personal confrontation described above between Comey and the President over investigative inquiries and inquiries directly to the Bureau from the White House. 

I did this interview on the record because the President that morning was already issuing threatening tweets suggesting that Comey was leaking things, and I didn’t want any room for misunderstanding that any kind of leak had taken place with respect to the information I was providing. There was no leak from Comey, no leak from anyone else at the FBI, and no leak from anyone outside of the bureau either—just conversations between friends, the contents of which one friend is now disclosing. For the same reason, I insisted that Schmidt record the conversation and give me a copy of the recording, so that we had a good record of what was said: both what was said by Comey as reported by me, and what was said by me about the conversation. Schmidt and I have had a few clarifying phone calls since then that were not recorded.

Before I go on, let me pause briefly to explain my relationship with Comey, which has been the subject of a lot of misinformation since I disclosed that we are friends in a piece in his defense a few months back. Ever since then, and particularly since Gizmodoused me as forensic evidence in its weird effort to out a supposed Comey Twitter account, people have developed this idea that Comey and I are especially close. Some people have even started following me on Twitter because they think I’m channeling Comey or am some secret line into his thinking. The truth is rather more pedestrian: We’re friends. We communicate regularly, but I am not among his close intimates or advisers. I know nothing about the Russia investigation that isn’t public. Comey has never talked to me about a live investigative matter—and I’ve never asked him to.

That said, sometimes, as friends do, we have lunch, and when we do so, we talk about things of mutual interest, like how Lawfare is going or how life running the FBI is going. And those latter conversations necessarily involve President Trump—and President Obama before him.

Note that in the conversations I’m going to describe here, I was not interviewing Comey. There are any number of follow-up questions I would ask were I meeting him in a journalistic capacity that I did not ask. So in the conversations I’m about to relate, the answers to all questions about whether I followed up on this or that point is that I did not. I never expected to be giving a public account of his thinking during this period. I took no notes. What follows is just my recollection of things he told about his interactions with Trump that I now believe flesh out the relationship between the two men in the weeks after that dinner about which the New York Times reported and in the period in which Trump also apparently asked Comey to back off of Flynn—and in which I now learn that Comey also told the President to stop asking the FBI about investigative matters.

The first point is a general one: Comey was preoccupied throughout this period with the need to protect the FBI from these inquiries on investigative matters from the White House. Two incidents involving such inquiries have become public: the Flynn discussion and Reince Priebus’s query to Andrew McCabe about whether the then-Deputy FBI Director could publicly dispute the New York Timesreporting regarding communications between Trump associates and Russian officials. Whether there were other such incidents I do not know, but I suspect there were. What I do know is that Comey spent a great deal of energy doing what he alternately described as “training” the White House that officials had to go through the Justice Department and “reestablishing” normal hands-off White House-Bureau relations.

Comey never said specifically that this policing was about the Russia matter, but I certainly assumed that it was—probably alongside other things. While I do not know how many incidents we’re talking about, how severe they were, or their particular character, I do know this: Comey understood Trump’s people as having neither knowledge of nor respect for the independence of the law enforcement function. And he saw it as an ongoing task on his part to protect the rest of the Bureau from improper contacts and interferences from a group of people he did not regard as honorable. This was a general preoccupation of Comey’s in the months he and Trump overlapped—and the difference between this relationship and his regard for Obama (which was deep) was profound and palpable.

Second, Comey described at least two incidents which he regarded as efforts on the part of the President personally to compromise him or implicate him with either shows of closeness or actual chumminess with the President.

The first incident he told me about was the infamous “hug” from Trump after the inauguration:

The hug took place at a White House meeting to which Trump had invited law enforcement leadership to thank them for their role in the inauguration. Comey described really not wanting to go to that meeting, for the same reason he later did not want to go to the private dinner with Trump: the FBI director should be always at arm’s length from the President, in his view. There was an additional sensitivity here too, because many Democrats blamed Comey for Trump’s election, so he didn’t want any shows of closeness between the two that might reinforce a perception that he had put a thumb on the scale in Trump’s favor. But he also felt that he could not refuse a presidential invitation, particularly not one that went to a broad array of law enforcement leadership. So he went. But as he told me the story, he tried hard to blend into the background and avoid any one-on-one interaction. He was wearing a blue blazer and noticed that the drapes were blue. So he stood in the back, right in front of the drapes, hoping Trump wouldn’t notice him camouflaged against the wall. If you look at the video, Comey is standing about as far from Trump as it is physically possible to be in that room.

And for a long time, he reported, Trump didn’t seem to notice him. The meeting was nearly over, he said, and he really thought he was going to get away without an individual interaction. But when you’re six foot, eight inches tall, it’s hard to blend in forever, and Trump ultimately singled him out—and did so with the most damning faint praise possible: “Oh, and there’s Jim. He’s become more famous than me!”

Comey took the long walk across the room determined, he told me, that there was not going to be a hug. Bad enough that he was there; bad enough that there would be a handshake; he emphatically did not want any show of warmth.

Again, look at the video, and you’ll see Comey preemptively reaching out to shake hands. Trump grabs his hand and attempts an embrace. The embrace, however, is entirely one sided.

Comey was disgusted. He regarded the episode as a physical attempt to show closeness and warmth in a fashion calculated to compromise him before Democrats who already mistrusted him.

The loyalty dinner took place five days later.

Comey never told me the details of the dinner meeting; I don’t think I even knew that there had been a meeting over dinner until I learned it from the Times story. But he did tell me in general terms that early on, Trump had “asked for loyalty” and that Comey had promised him only honesty. He also told me that Trump was perceptibly uncomfortable with this answer. And he said that ever since, the President had been trying to be chummy in a fashion that Comey felt was designed to absorb him into Trump’s world—to make him part of the team. Comey was deeply uncomfortable with these episodes. He told me that Trump sometimes talked to him a fashion designed to implicate him in Trump’s way of thinking. While I was not sure quite what this meant, it clearly disquieted Comey. He felt that these conversations were efforts to probe how resistant he would be to becoming a loyalist. In light of the dramatic dinner meeting and the Flynn request, it’s easy to see why they would be upsetting and feel like attempts at pressure.

On March 27, he described one incident in particular that had bothered him. Comey was about to get on a helicopter when his phone rang. It was the White House saying that the President wanted to speak with him. Figuring there must be something urgent going on, he delayed his flight to take the call. To his surprise, the President just wanted to chitchat. He was trying to be social, Comey related; there was no agenda, much less an urgent one. Notably, since the President has claimed that Comey told him in two phone conversations that he was not under investigation, Comey said nothing to me about the subject coming up in this call. Indeed, he regarded the call as weird for how substanceless it was. What bothered Comey was twofold—the fact that the conversation happened at all (why was Trump calling him to exchange pleasantries?) and the fact that there was an undercurrent of Trump’s trying to get him to kiss the ring.

By the time we had lunch that day, Comey thought he had the situation under control. It had required a lot of work, he said, to train the White House that there were questions officials couldn’t ask and that all contacts had to go through the Justice Department. But he thought the work had been done. After reading the top few paragraphs of the Times story, I now have no doubt that he was referring among other things to the conversation with the President, which he did not mention specifically to me. He also thought that policing the lines he had established was going to require constant vigilance on his part in the future.

He said repeatedly that it was going to be a very long few years. And he joked that the hashtag I use on Twitter—#NotesFromUnderTrump, which identifies the particular day of the Trump presidency—was ticking very slowly.

He said one other thing that day that, in retrospect, stands out in my memory: he expressed wariness about the then-still-unconfirmed deputy attorney general nominee, Rod Rosenstein. This surprised me because I had always thought well of Rosenstein and had mentioned his impending confirmation as a good thing. But Comey did not seem enthusiastic. The DOJ does need Senate-confirmed leadership, he agreed, noting that Dana Boente had done a fine job as acting deputy but that having confirmed people to make important decisions was critical. And he agreed with me that Rosenstein had a good reputation as a solid career guy.

That said, his reservations were palpable. “Rod is a survivor,” he said. And you don’t get to survive that long across administrations without making compromises. “So I have concerns.”

In retrospect, I think I know what Comey must have been thinking at that moment. He had been asked to pledge loyalty by Trump. When he had declined, and even before, he had seen repeated efforts to—from his point of view—undermine his independence and probe the FBI’s defenses against political interference. He had been asked to drop an investigation. He had spent the last few months working to defend the normative lines that protect the FBI from the White House. And he had felt the need personally to make clear to the President that there were questions he couldn’t ask about investigative matters. So he was asking himself, I suspect: What loyalty oath had Rosenstein been asked to swear, and what happened at whatever dinner that request took place?

I don’t want to make a unified field theory out of these incidents, which are pieces of a much larger mosaic—a mosaic that surely includes whatever Comey knew about the Russia investigation, among many other things. But I am confident that these incidents tell a story about Comey’s thinking over the months that he and Trump were in office together. And I think they also sketch a trajectory in which Trump kept Comey on board only as long as it took him to figure out that there was no way to make Comey part of the team. Once he realized that he couldn’t do that—and that the Russia matter was thus not going away—he pulled the trigger.

Posted in FBI, New York Times, Politics, Trump | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Is Atlantic Oil Drilling In Our Future?

Published in Smithtown Matters on Thursday, May 18, 2017 at 11:35AM.

By Karl Grossman

[A similar Opinion OpEd appeared in the East Hampton Press, page A8, on May 17th, 2017]

Nearly 50 years ago I broke the story of the oil industry’s interest in drilling in the offshore Atlantic. Largely because of moratoria enacted by Congress, it didn’t happen in the U.S. Atlantic in the decades since. But now with President Donald Trump’s having just signed an executive order on offshore drilling in the Atlantic, Arctic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, it could.

Here in Suffolk, John V. N. Klein of Smithtown was a leader in the opposition to offshore Atlantic drilling—first as presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature and then when he became Suffolk County executive. Earlier, Mr. Klein, a Republican, was Smithtown Town supervisor.

“We’re opening it up,” said Mr. Trump adding that “offshore energy production will reduce the cost of energy, create countless new jobs, and make America more secure and far more energy independent.”

It was in 1970 that a Montauk fisherman told me that east of Long Island he saw the same kind of ship he observed searching for oil when he was a shrimper in the Gulf of Mexico. As an investigative reporter for the daily Long Island Press, I spent a day calling oil companies to be told by PR people from each that their companies were not involved in searching in the Atlantic. As the day ended and I was leaving the office, there was a return call from a Gulf PR man who said, yes, Gulf was out there looking for oil and gas as part of a “consortium” of 32 oil companies. These included the companies which all day had issued denials. It was an initial experience in oil industry honesty, an oxymoron.

I pursued the story up and down the Atlantic. In 1971, I visited the first drilling rig set up, off Nova Scotia.  On the rig were capsules designed to eject workers. A rescue boat went round and round “We treat every foot of hole like a potential disaster,” explained the Shell Canada executive. It was obvious on the rig that offshore drilling is fraught with danger.

As to the booms proclaimed by the oil industry then and now as capable of cleaning up spills, the Shell Canada man said they “just don’t work in over five foot-foot seas.” In Nova Scotia or in the Atlantic off the U.S., five foot seas are common. So the oil could be expected in many, if not most, circumstances to hit shore.

U.S. Department of Interior records I examined acknowledged spillage being chronic in offshore oil drilling. And, it was admitted by the federal government that the Atlantic is a far more problematic place to drill. The President’s Council on Environmental Quality declared:
“The Atlantic is a hostile environment for oil and gas operations. Storm and seismic conditions may be more severe than in either the North Sea or the Gulf of Mexico.”

The 2010 blowout and massive spill from BP Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf provided an exclamation point to the accident-prone, indeed disaster-prone process. It’s drill, baby, spill.

In the wake of Mr. Trump’s order, 16 U.S. senators put forth the Clean Ocean and Safe Tourism (COAST) Anti-Drilling Act which would ban oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic. They include: Kirsten Gillibrand of New York; Bob Menendez and Cory Booker of New Jersey;

Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut; Dianne Feinstein of California; Ben Cardin and  Chris Van Hollen of Maryland; Bill Nelson of Florida; all Democrats; and Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

From the House of Representatives, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican from Miami, declared: “The potential damage to our world-renowned coral reefs, robust fisheries, pristine beaches and tourism-supported small businesses should far outweigh any short-term benefit anticipated in the administration’s plan. Tourism is the driving force behind our state’s economy and offshore drilling threatens the very resources that these visitors come to Florida to enjoy.” .” Congressman Charlie Christ, a former Florida governor, a Democrat, asked Mr. Trump to reverse course and put “the well-being of our coastal communities above oil industry profits.”

In South Carolina, Frank Knapp, president of the Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic, said: “President Trump referred to offshore drilling creating good jobs and showed no concern for those who will lose their jobs due to oil spills and leaks,”

A coalition of environmental groups has filed a lawsuit challenging it. These include the League of Conservation Voters—its first lawsuit in its 50 years, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Greenpeace, Center for Biological Diversity, Wilderness Society and Defenders of Wildlife. Defenders of Wildlife President Jamie Rappaport Clark said: “We do not need and cannot use the oil that may lie under these waters if we ever hope to meet our nation’s commitment to addressing climate change.”

In fact, the order comes while there is a glut of petroleum in the world—why the price of gasoline at the pump here in Suffolk these days has dropped to $2.45 a gallon and less.

And why spend many millions for exploration and test-drilling for unneeded oil instead of advancing the further implementation of solar and wind energy? These clean, green, renewable sources are the fastest-growing energy sources worldwide.

The only part of the Atlantic off North America where there’s been drilling has been off Nova Scotia, the site of my visit to a rig decades ago. A report from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation earlier this year was headed: “Nova Scotia offshore oil and gas ‘doesn’t look good’ after Shell seals two wells.” It began: “Shell’s decision to seal two exploration wells off Nova Scotia has set back the province’s dream of offshore riches.”

Turns out the dream of a barrel of oil “gold” in the Atlantic could be an illusion.

Karl Grossman is a veteran investigative reporter and columnist, the winner of numerous awards for his work and a member of the L.I. Journalism Hall of Fame. He is a professor of journalism at SUNY/College at Old Westbury and the author of six books.

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