The termination of FBI Director James Comey haunted President Trump through the weekend as Democrats seized the ensuing controversy to promote their own ends.
Trump unexpectedly fired Comey on Tuesday following recommendations of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The latter stated in a letter that Comey improperly attempted to "usurp" the attorney general's authority when he recommended in the midst of the 2016 presidential campaign that the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails should be closed without charges.
Trump claims he was going to fire Comey "regardless." He also expressed surprise that the Democrats cried foul when he let Comey go because they previously called into question Comey's credibility after he re-opened, then closed, the investigation into the Clinton emails just days before the election that she lost. "Look, it's politics," Trump said during a Fox News interview that aired Saturday evening.
The Trump administration is considering and interviewed a number of potential nominees this weekend, including former homeland security adviser Frances Townsend, former House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers and a slew of others. Trump said he expects to announce his pick by the end of next week, when he departs on his first foreign travel trip as president to Saudi Arabia, the Vatican and Israel.
In the aftermath of Comey's ouster, the Democratic leadership is poised for a full-court press to resist President Trump's nominations, with his soon-to-be-announced FBI director nominee as their prime target. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" that he "would support" a Democratic push to stonewall Trump's pick until a special prosecutor to investigate potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. It would seem prioritizing a special prosecutor also has the backing of the American people. An NBC News/Walls Street Journal poll released Sunday found more than three-quarters of Americans, 78 percent, want an independent commission or special prosecutor to investigate Russian interference, while only 15 percent picked Congress.
Not helping Trump's image amid the fallout of Comey's departure was his implicit threat, via Twitter, that "tapes" of their conversations might leak to the press and a New York Times report about how just a week into his presidency Trump demanded a loyalty pledge from Comey, which Comey declined. The White House denies that Trump ever floated a loyalty pledge, but neither Trump nor his spokesman, Sean Spicer, were willing to comment on whether any tapes do exist.
Not only are Democrats calling for Trump to release any recordings he might have, but he's also being pressed on the Republican front as well. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that the president "can't be cute" about tapes.
Trump delivered the commencement address at Liberty University on Saturday, an evangelical stronghold whose president, Jerry Falwell Jr., supported Trump during the presidential campaign. In a wide-ranging speech, Trump not only bashed his "critics," but also touted God over government and even discussed briefly the Senate's consideration of the House-passed bill that would repeal and replace Obamacare. Falwell later praised it as the "best commencement speech Liberty has ever had."
The shadow of the threat posed by North Korea's nuclear program lenghened into alarming territory as the country test-fired yet another missile on Sunday. While the U.S. contends there is still no threat posed by North Korea to the U.S., Kim Jong-un and his regime declared the test of a new missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead a success. There is some evidence to suggest that this latest demonstration shows North Korean missiles may now be capable of reaching Guam a U.S. territory, which is about 2,100 miles southeast of North Korea's capital, Pyonyang.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson miffed some when he said Trump may not live up to his campaign promise to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, long a contentious issue, pending an elusive peace deal between Israeli and the Palestinians.
The world was realing after a massive ransomware attack, tied to a leaked trove of NSA spy tools, hit at least 150 countries beginning on Friday. Microsoft scolded the United States and other countries on Sunday for "stockpiling" software "vulnerabilities" that can cripple computers. A U.K. security researcher, known only as "MalwareTech," who is credited with helping to limiting at least part of the ransomware attack, warned another assault may be coming "quite likely on Monday."
Following a quiet Mother's Day spent at the White House and his golf course in Virginia, Trump has a busy week ahead of him. On Monday he will deliver remarks at the 36th Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service at the U.S. Capitol and meet with Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayid Al Nuhayyan of the United Arab Emirates, according to his public schedule. Spicer, who was once again spoofed by actress Melissa McCarthy on "Saturday Night Live" fighting to keep his job, will once again hold the White House press briefing after a week where he was off several days due to Navy Reserve duty and media speculation that Trump might let him go. Trump is reportedly mulling a shakeup of his press team.
Before the week is over Trump will meet with Turkish President Tayyip Ergodan and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. He will also deliver another commencement address at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut.