10/05/2017 Newsnight


With Evan Davis. Donald Trump's sacking of FBI director James Comey, and should foreigners be banned from buying houses?

Similar Content

Browse content similar to 10/05/2017. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!



It's not the way they meant to release it, but a draft


of the Labour manifesto has found its way into the press.


A radical manifesto - but is it 1983 again?


The Mirror journalist, Jack Blanchard, with


Is he trying to run the US like it's a game show?


We'll ask if the President is irreversibly undermining


and politicising justice and security in the US.


And Noam Chomsky hasn't mellowed much, aged 88.


the most dangerous organisation on Earth?


Probably not the news that Labour wanted -


but a draft of their manifesto has been leaked.


The Telegraph and Daily Mirror have it and wrote it up


Labour's NEC is gathering tomorrow in what is called a Clause five


meeting, to agree the final version, so it could in theory


"We do not comment on leaks. We will announce our policies


in our manifesto, which is our plan to transform Britain for the many


Well, many not the few is the kind of theme of the draft -


with, for example, a plan for there to be at least one


publicly owned energy company in every part of the UK.


National Grid, railways and bus companies are to be nationalised.


Well, I'm joined by Jack Blanchard, the Mirror's political editor -


And with our own political editor, Nick Watt.


Just to be clear, Jack, what you have there is a print out. It's not


a typeset, formalised version? I'm afraid not. No cover, no glossy


feel. It is a dodgy, leaked document. But it does have their


draft measures. Give us some of the eye-catching ones. There's a lot in


there. As you mention, there is the plan to bring a big part of the


energy industry back into public ownership. There is a huge


investment plans for the NHS, ?6 billion extra a year, which will be


funded with new taxes on people earning more than ?80,000 a year.


There's council houses to be built every year, tuition fees abolished


entirely... We kind of knew that anyway. And then the creation of new


Whitehall departments, a Ministry of Labour, a Department for housing,


because Labour seat workers' rights and housing as central. Lots and


lots on workers' rights. The Telegraph have written it up


tonight. You take a slightly different spin than the Daily


Mirror. They are saying it is 1983 all over again. The moderates in the


Labour Party are relatively relaxed about this draft manifesto which


they had obviously seen. They are saying this is the closest the


Labour Party has got to the 1980s, the famous 1983 manifesto, the


longest suicide note in history, as the late Sir Gerald Kaufman calls


it. They are saying that they are upholding Labour's commitment to


renewing Trident in this manifesto, that there was a curious paragraph


after that, saying any Prime Minister would want to use the


nuclear deterrent with caution. Which I think they have done up


until now! 82%... Commitment to the 2% spending on defence. They are


saying that Robin Cook could've written that in 1997. Who has


written this? Is it Corbin 's team? Absolutely. Two or three key members


in his team. They obviously have not had very much time to do it. They


started looking at all the things they wanted to do, and they have


reached out from there. Labour are not doing well in the polls, but


when you look at the policies, like nationalising railways, people will


like it. Would you describe this as quite populist in flavour, taxing


the rich more to pay more into the NHS? A nationalised energy company


in all regions? I spoke to a senior member of Corbyn's team tonight


asking if they wanted to say anything. They didn't want to


comment on record, but when I said some of this looks quite left-wing,


they said, no, it is popular. If you look at these individual policies,


like energy and privatised railways, and higher taxes on some people,


people agree with them on that. I was talking to one moderate this


afternoon. The moderates said that the abolition of university fees


would connect people. And they said, oh, dear me, is this going to raise


questions about their strategy? The moderate strategy is to let Jeremy


Corbyn own it. The one red line was a Trident renewal commitment. For


everything else, they are taking the tragedy -- the strategy owned by


John Golding. They say that he must own this so he can own the general


election result. Let's think about the process. This goes to this


Clause 5 meeting tomorrow. Is that just a formality? Will they not it


through, or will the NEC be over each other's shoulders, trying to...


I think it is tweets more than anything more serious. -- it is


tweaks. I don't think they will change much. In the past, you had


battles, although that would take place beforehand. It's not just the


NEC, it is the Shadow Cabinet, and it is the trade union liaison and


contact group. The trade unions have a big say. I was told one thing that


might cause a problem at the meeting tomorrow is what it says about


immigration. The trades union do not think it goes fast -- far enough.


Will the party be really annoyed? Is it a shambles or a clever media


strategy? Lets leak it out, let's get people talking... It's not that.


It looks slightly shambolic. My understanding is this has happened


before. Because Labour has this process, this big meeting full of


senior people who all discuss it, leaks can happen because of this


process. But it is in their constitution and it's how they work.


It's not what they planned, but it was all due to come next week


anyway. Whose interest is it to leak this, and for what motive? You could


say that the Corbyn Knights have a good reason for leaking it, to get


away with any problem. And to stop anybody watering it down? And you


could play that game, so I don't exactly know. Thank you for coming


in with it. Thanks very much. So - a President fires the head


of the internal security service, on perplexing grounds that


are months' old. Just as the security


service is investigating It doesn't sound like


the US, but it is. Today, the New York Times


reported that the terminated director of the FBI


James Comey had just been asking for more resources


for the investigation into Russian Was he sacked to thwart


an inconvenient investigation? Or, do we believe the Trump line -


that Mr Comey had lost the trust of Democrats and Republicans alike


and the FBI needed a fresh start? Well, for many, the President has


crossed a dangerous threshold - the constitution has checks


and balances on his power, but it has to allow him some


discretion, and to them, he's broken the spirit of US


convention, by exploiting his powers Our diplomatic editor


Mark Urban is with me. In FBI terms, the history of the


FBI, how big a deal is it for the FBI director to be sacked? I think


you know the answer to this question. One has been sacked


before, by Bill Clinton back in 1993. William Sessions. People say


this was a move like Nixon. Nixon fired the special prosecutor who had


been appointed to investigate the Watergate burglary, so that's where


there are parallels. Consternation in Washington today, and all sorts


of versions coming out of a beleaguered president becoming


obsessed with this Russia issue, finally boiling over and doing this.


That is from anti-Trump media, but it is true that he hadn't been doing


public engagements in recent days, and it's also true that even his


press people seemed unaware until moments before this happened that it


was going to happen. They have been putting some other lines out today,


like saying, we thought the Democrats would really like this and


be supportive. Everybody has jumped to their own conclusion about why it


happened, and that is largely to do with the Russian thing. But that


Russian investigation will go on. It all comes back to the investigation


of the connection between the trump campaign and the Russians.


No-one has produced evidence of it yet, but there's a lurking suspicion


that team Trump might have encouraged, co-ordinated,


or been in some way complicit with Russian hacking


If that was true, well, let's just say it's not a good thing to do.


Paul Wood is in Washington, and looks at what's left


of the investigations into the Russian connection


The political melodrama "House of Trump" is a ratings smash.


But at times it's a little dark, and the plot does stretch credulity.


In part one, the FBI investigates whether the Trump campaign conspired


with a foreign power, Russia, to steal the US


In part two, Trump fires the FBI director, James Comey.


It was not to derail the FBI investigation,


Yes, that is Henry Kissinger next to him.


The question is, naturally, were about Comey's sacking.


He wasn't doing a good job, very simply.


The president wrote a terse letter to Comey,


saying it was "Vital to restore public trust and


Significantly, he recalled Comey "Informing me on three


separate occasions that I am not under investigation".


At the White House briefing, an avalanche of scepticism...


Look, I think it was something that...


Above my pay grade was decided to be included, and I'm not going to get


Trump's critics paint a different picture.


They don't believe that Comey was sacked,


as the White House says, because he was too tough


The White House should perhaps recall what another president, LBJ,


said about another FBI director, J Edgar Hoover.


Better to have him inside the tent pissing out than outside pissing in.


It is a delicious irony that Russia's Foreign Minister should be


visiting Washington today to see Mr Trump.


Never forget that the US intelligence agencies all say that


Russia interfered in the election, and they did it to put


That assessment was made by James Clapper, when he was director


He told Congress this week that Russia had hacked leading Democrats


and then leaked out damaging information a sophisticated


They must be congratulating themselves for having


exceeded their wildest expectations with a minimal


And I believe they are now emboldened to continue such


activities in the future both here and around the world,


No evidence has been made public proving


There's no evidence either for the claim that the Kremlin


is blackmailing the president, using a tape of him


Nor has it yet been shown that Trump's business dealings put him


But the FBI investigation will continue after Comey's departure.


There are also four separate congressional enquiries.


All these investigations now have many more questions


following the events of the last 24 hours.


What does he know that's yet to be made public?


And, was Trump reassured that he himself was not the subject


Washington echoes to talk that a special


Inevitably, the President's critics compare this to Watergate.


There is a clear and present danger of a cover-up,


history doesn't repeat but it rhymes.


And this firing very much has the look and feel of an effort


to stop an investigation and politically interfere with it.


Not since Watergate has a president dismissed the person leading


But, President Trump may be right, that only his aides and associates


Then the question will be that which came to define Watergate -


what did the president know, and when did he know it?


How much of a danger do you think this Russian investigation is to


President Trump? Well, we know that the idea mesmerises the intelligence


community. Ex-director Comey and others, as well as the President's


political opponents. It is that there is some kind of connectivity


that is provable between the Trump campaign, and the hacking and


leaking of e-mails during last year's presidential election. That


is clearly the main thing they are going for. There are peripheral


issues with money, meetings coordinating policy, other things.


But that is the central thing they want to prove. Clearly, if they get


there, if it is possible to prove that connection of people meeting,


and money going... You know, actual connectivity, let's leaked this


one... In the coming days, then it is an absolute major bombshell. But


they are a long way off. The President's defences are holding up


in certain respects. For example, today more than 75 Democrats and


independents joined the call for the appointment of a special prosecutor.


No Republicans, just three in Congress and the Senate, led by John


McCain, backing the idea of a special committee of enquiry. On the


whole come his defences are holding up. Self-evidently they've not got


the point where they could launch a charge against individuals on these


very serious potential allegations, and of course even if they do, they


may well be arms lengths associates people who were dismissed from the


campaign at some point during the campaign. It may be, if there is in


the end a parallel to Watergate, the attempts to cover up or disrupts


investigations that could finally do for him. Mark, thank you.


One concern is whether the President is somehow undermining


the institutions of the US, politicising justice


and damaging morale at the FBI and Department of Justice.


The kind of thing that you might expect of lesser countries.


Let's talk to Sidney Blumenthal, a senior aide to Bill Clinton


who worked at the Clinton Foundation.


First - Charlotte Laws, an author and political commentator


who was one of President Trump's earliest supporters.


Charlotte, why do you think the President acted now on this? This


question of why now seems to be one that has least satisfactory answers?


Well, I think it was a cumulative effect. I think it had been building


like a storm for President Trump. This goes all the way back to


January. Comey was increasingly viewed as a political figure which


is inappropriate for someone who is the director of the FBI. There were


calls from the Republicans to sack him. Here in Los Angeles, I'm


independent but I know a lot of Republicans and they were all saying


to me back in January, why doesn't Trump fire Comey? There was a big


push for this. I think that Trump had it in his ear like I had it in


my ear. The Democrats were calling for Comey to be fired during the


campaign and there were reports that within the FBI there is


disgruntlement and they were unhappy with the leadership. That was


happening at the same time. You have controversy from a few days ago


where Comey went out and misstated information regarding e-mails which


created huge controversy and he had to come out and change what he had


said, clarifying it. Then you have the deputy who made a recommendation


that he was fired. All of these things had come together and I think


that Trump had an erosion of confidence. You've given me a big


list there. And people will judge whether they think those things on


that list are convincing or not. Do you not think that the president


should have thought about how it looks? He is being investigated, or


his campaigners, by the FBI. He sacks the director. Maybe he should


have said, I do not like this guy that I will wait until the


investigation is over before I sack him? Well, I think you don't do


something like this unless you have a pure heart. It is like if you or


did tractors say that you stole a red Corvette, you don't go out and


borrow one and put it in your driveway if you don't have a pure


heart. I think his detractors would have criticised him no matter when


he fired Comey. The investigation may not be over the years, and


secondly, if he did it back in January when he first came into


office, he still would have been criticised for the same basic


reasons. I think so many people are anti-Trump in the media and the


Democrats and political figures that it is hard for him to do anything


that is seen as right or proper. I want to ask you one question. This


perplexes me. In the letter that Trump sent to Comey, he used the


line "While I greatly appreciate you informing me on three separate


occasions that I am not under investigation, blah blah blah... ",


what a strange thing to write. It is like it is on Trump's mind, as he


terminates this guy, is the investigation into his team. Why


would you write that in there? It is very strange to me. Because being


president is very much public relations. He wants to make it clear


to America that he is not personally under investigation. As I understand


he isn't. Personally. He wants to make it clear. I also think that the


reason why he did not call Comey himself was because Trump has a


reputation of not liking to confront people and make them feel bad. It's


very hard for him to fire people. I've heard many people say it with


regards to the Trump Organization, he would leave people in the company


even though he wanted them gone because he couldn't bring himself to


fire them face-to-face or he would get someone else to do it. That's


probably the reason why he did not call him and that is the reason for


that comment in the letter. His catchphrase was "You're fired". But


you are ironically saying he was incapable of firing people. Let me


go to Sidney Blumenthal now. I may come back to you afterwards. Do you


think that this is a constitutional crisis? Or at least a constitutional


moment? It is a crisis in democracy and it has been ever since the


moment that Donald Trump was inaugurated. He declared war on the


free press and called them enemies of the people. There hasn't been


that kind of language since Middle Europe in the 1930s. Against the


free press. And, he has attacked judges. He has called them so-called


judges, and attacked the judicial system on cases that he is involved


in, attempting to ban people based on their religion from the


country... We know all of that, but I'm just wondering whether that


really undermines the institutions of democracy in the USA... It puts


enormous stress on those institutions. There has not been a


president like Donald Trump in the entire history of the US. Not even


Nixon. While Nixon was guilty of crimes which were the articles of a


peach mint, there hasn't been such a systematic assault on the


institutions of democracy in the US. Then under Donald Trump --


impeachment. We heard this from Charlotte earlier, he basically


blamed Comey for losing Hillary Clinton the election. It's


interesting the Democrats are the great defenders of Comey, because


Comey is now Trump's enemy and they had to rally round. What is going on


there? I would say that the approximate cause given for the


firing of Comey by the assistant Attorney General was ridiculous on


its face. It is entirely true that Comey is guilty of everything listed


there and how he behaves, that happened back in July 20 16. After


that event, Donald Trump conducted a very public campaign claiming that


even though Hillary Clinton had been exonerated, that she should have


been locked up and that she was a criminal. He even used the


Republican convention to express that theme. Mike Glennon let chance


of "Lock her up" from the platform of the Republican convention. It's


ridiculous. Everybody knows it is a ridiculous reason. The reason is


that he is attempting to obstruct the investigation into Russia's


intervention in the US election. That is your charge, the


congressional investigations will continue. But tell me, what are you


meant to do if you are the President of the United States, and you do not


like your FBI director? And you don't think he is doing a good job?


And there is chatter all over the place saying that the guy is not up


to it? You are going to sack him, right? It's an interesting question.


Had he wanted to change his FBI director, who has a term of nine


years, he could have done that during his transition or when he


first came into office. Instead, he praised him and he had a public


meeting with him that was filmed in which he embraced him. So something


else has happened. What we've learned in the last 24 hours is that


there is a grand jury that has been convened by James Comey and it is


hearing testimony from associates of Michael Flynn, who says he has a


story to tell. We learned James Comey asked for a vast increase in


funding for his investigation. There are other elements involved here.


Sidney Blumenthal, fax Charlotte, you are not go to blame anyone for


putting two and two together, saying he has obviously done this as he is


leading an investigation which is effective into his campaign? I do


not think you can read into President Trump's mind. I think he


wants this investigation concluded. I do not think he has tried to


thwart it but get it behind him. It's a handicap to his presidency. I


do not think it is logical to think that that was the goal behind his


actions. Charlotte, don't you agree it should be pretty difficult for a


president? The president has the power to sack the director of the


FBI, wouldn't it be better if presidents used it with restraint


and it was fairly difficult to do? Thinking about it for awhile, have


consultations and enquiry? I cannot quite hear you, the sound has got


rough? It should be difficult to sack the director of the FBI and not


too easy for a president to do that? Well, presidents can have anybody


that they want is the director of the FBI. It is his decision and I do


not think he was praising Komi initially, but I think he wanted him


to have a chance. -- Comey. Face-to-face, he has a reputation


for getting along with everybody, and being friends with people. And


getting them to do what he wants them to do, building relationships.


I do not think it is unusual at all. It is obviously President Trump's


choice, and I think he likely has a pure heart in this. I cannot read


into his mind like Sidney Blumenthal cannot, that is what I think. Thank


you both very much. One potential threat hanging over


the Conservative campaign was that of possible prosecutions


for breeches of election This is all to do with the party


spending national money on local campaigns, and counting it


in the wrong box, in order to override rules about


how much can be spent. Well, today that threat


almost went away. 15 police forces looking at multiple


constituencies reported to the Crown Prosecution Service,


and in 14 of those, However, it's not a get out of gaol


free card for the Tory campaign. In one prominent case -


a decision is still to come. The Conservative Party has already


been in trouble over its election Tory HQ has paid a ?70,000 fine


for misreported spending the result of an exhaustive


Channel 4 News investigation. The Crown Prosecution Service said


today that it was now only considering criminal charges


relating to overspending There was an error made


in our national returns And the Electoral Commission


fined us for that, The cases dropped today relate


to a battle bus campaign which took Tory activists and shipped them


into target seats. Now, what these cases actually


demonstrate is a real oddity Specifically, there would have been


no investigation at all, and no problems at all,


had those Tory activists simply handed out leaflets that only


mentioned David Cameron The problem was that, and I quote


the Electoral Commission, "they found social media posts


where activists from the coaches "were holding campaign material


promoting individual candidates." The reason they drew that


distinction is that our law distinguishes between national


spending - promoting parties - and local election spending -


promoting candidates. Take two activists for a party


who both want their man, Joe Bloggs, Let's say both get on a bus paid


for by the party on the same And both are going leafleting


to help Mr Bloggs. Let's say, by the luck of the draw,


one of them gets a bundle of leaflets that praise local man


Joe Bloggs, and the other gets leaflets that only


mention the party leader The activists delivering


the local Joe Bloggs leaflet will count as local spending,


but the activists delivering the national leaflets will count


as national all-party spending. Never mind the fact that a vote


for the national party in this seat In Victorian times, an MP was simply


returned for his constituencies without any regard for his party


label whatsoever, and the parties were not creatures really


recognised by the law. They were certainly not


controlled by the law. More recently, that is to say


within the last 20 years, we've had a system which has


recognised political parties and sought to control party


expenditure, hence we've got one system left over from Victorian


times for individual MPs, and one system recently introduced


for national expenses, for national campaigns, for now


recognised political parties. The case whose fate is yet


to be decided, though, South Thanet in Kent,


is the most serious, and it's not about activists handing


out the wrong leaflets. It's about one party


using its spending superiority It's precisely the sort


of activity that these rules This case is so high profile


because Nick Timothy, now the Prime Minister's co-chief


of staff, ran that campaign. The CPS might not prosecute, though,


for the same reason they declined They have to prove the local MP


or agent broke their spending limits deliberately,


not by accident, because Tory Central Office gave candidates duff


advice about receipts. The law draws quite odd lines,


and prosecution is difficult. Our political editor


Nick Watt is here... Viewsnight now, and in the run up


to the election we've been devoting this spot to provocative ideas


for the party manifestos. Should they be minded


to look for some. Tonight Faiza Shaheen,


director of the Thinktank Class Noam Chomsky is not


just one of the world's most famous academics -


his work on linguistics has shaped the field in the modern era -


he is also one of the world's most famous supporters of


the political left. Well, Professor Chomsky has been


at the University of Reading this evening; giving a lecture


on the state of western democracy. He is 88. He has campaigned for


socialism for decades, and just as rage on social injustice erupts and


there's an overthrow of established thinking, he finds that President


Trump is in office for him. I went over to Reading this afternoon to


talk to him about everything that's going on. I asked what it was about


Donald Trump that appealed to American voters. What is the


alternative? The Democrats gave up on the working class 40 years ago.


The working class is not their constituency. No one in the


political system is. The Republicans claim to be, but they are basically


their class enemy, however they can appeal to people on the basis of


claims about religion, white supremacy... So you think there was


quite a racist motivation? No doubt about that. Are we talking 3%, 30%


of the voters? Roughly? There's a substantial streak of fundamentalist


religion. Trump took an enormous quantity of the Christian


fundamentalists, who are a big segment of the US population.


Remember, in the United States, about 40% of the population think


the second coming is going to be in their lifetimes. The United States


is off the spectrum in this respect. Do you think Trump will do much


damage while he is there, and will it be permanent damage to the


institutions of the US? I think the main damage he will do is to the


world, and it is already happening. The most significant aspect of the


Trump election, and not just Trump, the whole Republican Party, is their


departing from the rest of the world on climate change. You have called


the Republican party the most dangerous organisation on earth. In


human history. It is an outrageous statement. When I said it, I said it


was very outrageous. But is it true? You are rating them as worse than


Kim Jong-un of North Korea, or as Isis? Is Isis dedicated to


destroying the prospects for organised human existence? It's that


bad? What does it mean to say we are not doing anything about climate


change, and we are trying to accelerate the race to the


precipice? And you don't entertain the possibility that they might be


genuine in their belief... Doesn't matter. If the consequence of that


is, let's use more fossil fuels, let's refuse to subsidise developing


countries, if that is the consequence, that is extremely


dangerous. Macron won the French election, Emmanuel Macron, and


internationalist, liberal, loves the EU. All the things, in a way, that


the Trump voters have tried to reject. Can he succeed? Is this the


end of populism in Europe? By no means. Macron is a good example


about how the core of the institutions have collapsed. He came


from the outside. A vote for him was substantially a vote against Le Pen,


who is recognised to be a serious danger. What about the British


election? Jeremy Corbyn has been leading the Labour Party. They have


an uphill task, according to the opinion polls. Have you any advice


or thoughts about how Labour refines its pitch and makes it to government


in the UK? If you asked me to vote, I would vote for them. They have a


problem. I think he is a very decent and good person, and I've followed


his career for some years. He is evidently not inspiring the


population. Labour has not come out with its programme, so we don't


really know what it will be. There is a sense of a lack of clarity


about what he stands for, which is odd because he was someone who was


most clear about it. What has happened to the Labour Party through


the neoliberal years is, it became is, as many call it, Thatcherite,


especially under Blair. It did not represent the working class. I want


to talk to you about Julian Assange. You have been a big supporter of him


and WikiLeaks. Many progressive people have looked at WikiLeaks and


said, this organisation is on the wrong side of history. Do you still


believe in Julian Assange, despite the fact that they published e-mails


of Hillary Clinton's... I believe that the persecution of him is


completely wrong. The threats against him are completely wrong.


They should be withdrawn. He should be freed. He shouldn't be


imprisoned. Judicial process. He needs to be questioned about the


accusations. It is pretty much a front. There is no reason why


Swedish prosecutors can't interrogate him on the charge that


they think they have. In fact, they've already begun to do so.


What's keeping him in prison... In an embassy, is his desire to go in


there. Is the threat that the US will go after him. Is he right to


worry about it? Of course. It is the threat that is wrong. As to what


WikiLeaks has decided to release, you can have various opinions. What


is your opinion of stolen e-mails, perfectly legitimate e-mails, stolen


and put in the public domain? I would not have been in favour of


doing that, but the general idea of informing the public, informing


citizens, of what you are doing and keeping from them, that's a good


idea. Gnome Chomsky, thank you very much indeed.


Noam Chomsky there, in all fairness speaking before The Mirror


And you can see a longer version of that on the Newsnight YouTube page.


And if the election has been spoiling the vibe


of your springtime, we leave you with a celebration


of seasonal fertility courtesy of film-maker Jamie Scott.


Mr Scott has a genius for filming flowers blooming in time lapse,


and his latest work took three years to make.


# A friend with breasts and all the rest


# A friend who's dressed in leather


In-depth investigation and analysis of the stories behind the day's headlines with Evan Davis.

Donald Trump's sacking of FBI director James Comey, and should foreigners be banned from buying houses?

Download Subtitles