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Former FBI Director James Comey will tell a Senate panel today that President Trump repeatedly demanded his loyalty and pressured Comey to end a probe into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Comey, who was fired by Trump last month amid a growing FBI investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. election, released his planned opening remarks to lawmakers on Wednesday, ahead of today’s highly anticipated appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee. In his statement, Comey reveals he was summoned to the White House for a one-on-one dinner with the president on January 27, where Trump asked whether Comey wished to keep his job, before declaring, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.” Comey states Trump later asked him to “lift the cloud” of the FBI’s investigation into ties between Russia and top Trump officials. Comey also states that during a Valentine’s Day meeting in the Oval Office, Trump asked other top officials to leave the room before asking Comey to drop the investigation into Michael Flynn, saying, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy.” Comey’s prepared remarks directly contradict President Trump’s denial at a May 18 news conference that he pressured Comey to back down on the FBI’s investigation.
Peter Baker: “Did you at any time urge former FBI Director James Comey in any way, shape or form to close or to back down the investigation into Michael Flynn? And also, as you look back”—
President Donald Trump: “No. No. Next question.”
Comey’s appearance on Capitol Hill comes a day after senior national security officials repeatedly ducked questions by Senate Intelligence Committee members over whether President Trump asked them to try to influence former FBI Director Comey’s investigation. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats repeatedly declined to comment when asked about a Washington Post report that Trump asked him to pressure Comey to ease up on his probe into Michael Flynn. And Maine independent Senator Angus King pressed unsuccessfully for NSA Director Michael Rogers to answer questions about the report.
Sen. Angus King: “I don’t understand why you’re not answering our questions. You can’t—when you were confirmed before the Armed Services Committee, you took an oath: Do you solemnly swear to give the committee the truth, the full truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God.”
Michael Rogers: “I do.”
Sen. Angus King: “You answered yes to that.”
Michael Rogers: “And I’ve also answered that those conversations were classified, and it is not appropriate in an open forum to discuss those classified conversations.”
Meanwhile, a pair of House Democrats have drafted articles of impeachment against President Trump. Reps. Brad Sherman of California and Al Green of Texas say Trump is guilty of obstruction of justice for firing the FBI director during an investigation into alleged ties between Russia and top administration officials. This is Rep. Al Green.
Rep. Al Green: “The question really is not whether the president has obstructed justice. The question really is whether the president can obstruct justice with impunity. The question is whether the House of Representatives will allow an obstruction of justice with impunity. The president, like all others, is not above the law.”
Congressmember Brad Sherman said he joined Green’s call for impeachment in part because his colleague, who is African-American, received a deluge of death threats and racist slurs after he called for Trump’s impeachment from the House floor last month.
President Trump on Thursday formally named Christopher Wray to replace James Comey as FBI director. Wray served as assistant attorney general under George W. Bush from 2003 to 2005, at a time when the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel signed off on the use of torture against detainees in CIA and military custody. In a statement, ACLU political director Faiz Shakir questioned whether Wray could lead the FBI independently, and said, “Given that Wray touts his deep involvement in the Bush administration’s response to the 9/11 attacks, which includes his connections to some of the most unlawful legal memos on Bush-era torture programs, the Senate should press Wray to come clean about his role in the programs.”
On Capitol Hill, the White House is pressuring senators for a vote on a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act ahead of a congressional recess in July. Speaking from Ohio Wednesday, President Trump praised the House healthcare bill, passed in May, which would bring billions of dollars in tax breaks to wealthy Americans while adding an estimated 23 million people to the ranks of the uninsured.
President Donald Trump: “The House of Representatives has done its job. It’s sent a plan to the Senate, and the Senate is working it over. We spent a lot of time yesterday with Mitch McConnell and a lot of the great senators. They happen to be Republicans, because we’re having no help—it’s only obstruction from the Democrats.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he’s confident he’ll deliver a vote on healthcare before the July 4 recess.
North Korea has conducted another weapons test, firing several missiles off its east coast. South Korea’s military called the missiles a new land-to-ship weapon. The test firings came less than a week after the U.N. Security Council voted to ratchet up sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear weapons program.
In Nigeria, fighters with the Boko Haram movement launched an assault on the city of Maiduguri Thursday, sending thousands of residents fleeing in panic. One eyewitness said three children were struck by bullets during the failed assault. The raid came six months after Nigeria’s president claimed the militant group had been largely defeated. The continuing violence has hampered relief efforts in northeastern Nigeria, where the U.N. warns nearly 1.5 million people are on the brink of famine.
In climate news, a new study predicts coastal U.S. cities will be deluged by frequent and massive floods unless greenhouse gas emissions are slashed dramatically. Researchers at Princeton and Rutgers University estimate that so-called once-in-a-century floods could become commonplace by 2050, with the risk of major flooding events increasing 40-fold.
In the United Kingdom, polls are open today in an election that pits Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May against a resurgent Labour Party led by anti-austerity and antiwar candidate Jeremy Corbyn. On the final day of campaigning, May told voters she’s the only candidate to lead Britain out of the European Union—the so-called Brexit.
Prime Minister Theresa May: “The question is, who do you trust to have the strong and stable leadership to get the best deal for Britain in Europe, because Brexit matters. … So, yes, we need to get the Brexit deal right, bring back that control of our money, our laws and our borders.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn spent Wednesday making a final push for his party’s platform of taxing the wealthiest 5 percent of Britons to pay for universal healthcare, free university tuition, free child care, expanded workers’ rights and other programs.
Jeremy Corbyn: “Hope that austerity can be ended, that we can stand up to the elites and to the cynics, hope that we can give our health service, our schools, our police, our social care the money they need and deserve, and need it now.”
Prime Minister Theresa May and her Tory Party are widely expected to win, but the race has tightened dramatically since May called for snap elections in April.
A federal grand jury has indicted a journalist from New Mexico on charges that he participated in a riot while he covered protests against Donald Trump on Inauguration Day in Washington, D.C. Aaron Cantú, a staff writer at the Santa Fe Reporter, faces eight felonies, including inciting a riot, participating in a riot and criminal conspiracy. Cantú previously said he will plead not guilty. He’s one of two journalists who continue to face charges over the January 20 protests, where more than 200 people were arrested. The legal support group Defend J20 Resistance says some protesters face up to 75 years in prison.
In Montana, Republican Congressmember-elect Greg Gianforte has apologized and will donate $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists, after he was accused of “body slamming” a Guardian reporter the day before he was elected to Congress last month. On May 24, Gianforte slammed reporter Ben Jacobs to the floor and repeatedly punched him, after Jacobs tried to ask about the Republican healthcare plan. Gianforte still faces a misdemeanor assault charge, which carries a maximum six-month jail term.
In St. Paul, Minnesota, a police use-of-force expert said from the witness stand Wednesday there was “absolutely no reason” for officer Jeronimo Yanez to open fire on Philando Castile during a traffic stop last year, as Yanez’s trial on manslaughter charges entered its third day of testimony. Prosecutors opened the trial by playing a police dash cam video of Castille’s killing on July 6. It shows officer Yanez opening fire on Castile seven times. A medical expert testified Castile was struck with five of the rounds, including two which pierced his heart. Castile’s death was live-streamed on Facebook by his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, in an extraordinary video, in which she narrated the aftermath of the shooting while she was still in the car, with officer Yanez pointing a gun at her and her 4-year-old daughter.
In North Miami, Florida, the family of Arnaldo Rios, a highly autistic man who was shot at by police, has filed suit in federal court, claiming officers endangered his life, interrogated him without a caretaker present and handcuffed him for hours after shooting his behavioral therapist in the leg. Video of the incident shows Charles Kinsey, an unarmed African-American therapist, lying on his back when he was shot by North Miami police, who were aiming at Rios. At the time of the shooting, Kinsey was helping to calm Rios, who had wandered away from a group home. In the video, Kinsey is seen lying on his back with his hands in the air and telling police, “All he has is a toy truck. A toy truck.”
And the Black Lives Matter movement has won the 2017 Sydney Peace Foundation prize. The award cites leaders Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, who began organizing under the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter campaign in 2013, when white neighborhood watch vigilante George Zimmerman was acquitted in Florida of murdering unarmed African-American teenager Trayvon Martin. Past winners of the Sydney Peace Foundation prize include former Irish President Mary Robinson, South Africa’s Desmond Tutu and renowned activist Noam Chomsky.