Comey Agrees To Testify Before The Senate Intelligence Committee

Then-FBI Director James Comey testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee during an oversight hearing earlier this month before he was fired by President Trump.

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Eric Thayer/Getty Images

Former FBI Director James Comey has agreed to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee in an open session.

“The Committee looks forward to receiving testimony from the former Director on his role in the development of the Intelligence Community Assessment on Russian interference in the 2016 US elections, and I am hopeful that he will clarify for the American people recent events that have been broadly reported in the media,” Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., said in a statement released Friday evening.

“I hope that former Director Comey’s testimony will help answer some of the questions that have arisen since Director Comey was so suddenly dismissed by the President. I also expect that Director Comey will be able to shed light on issues critical to this Committee’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election,” said Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va. “Director Comey served his country with honor for many years, and he deserves an opportunity to tell his story. Moreover, the American people deserve an opportunity to hear it.”

Comey’s highly anticipated testimony, which will be slated after the Memorial Day congressional recess, comes after he was fired by Trump May 9 amid a mounting investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election and possible ties between Trump campaign associates and that country.

While the White House initially pointed to a memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, outlining Comey’s mismanagement of the investigation into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s private email server, as the impetus for his termination, Trump later admitted that the Russia investigation, which the he has called a “hoax,” played a role.

Earlier on Friday, the New York Timesreported that Trump told Russian officials the day after he fired Comey that the former FBI director was a “nut job” and he had let him go to take off the “great pressure” around the mounting investigation.

Earlier this week, NPR confirmed that Trump had asked Comey to scuttle the investigation into his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, according to a memo of the account written by Comey. Trump has denied that ever happened.

Wednesday, Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel to take over and continue the Justice Department investigation into Russian election interference and possible links with Trump campaign aides.

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Watch Live: Benjamin Booker, Hurray For The Riff Raff, More

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Beginning at 7 p.m. ET on Friday, May 19, watch Benjamin Booker, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Robert Cray and more perform during the final night of public radio’s Non-Comm 2017. The show streams live via VuHaus from World Cafe Live in Philadelphia.

Find Friday evening’s full schedule below; all set times are shown in Eastern time and are subject to change.

Friday, May 19

7 p.m. — Holly Macve

7:30 p.m. — The Growlers

8 p.m. — Lo Moon

8:30 p.m. — Benjamin Booker

9 p.m. — The Dream Syndicate

9:30 p.m. — Hurray For The Riff Raff

10 p.m. — Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm

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Episode 772: Small Change

Technology changes.

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Giordano Poloni/Getty Images/Ikon Images

Here is a thing we hear approximately every day: The world is changing faster than ever before. Robert Gordon doesn’t buy it.

He’s an economist who has spent decades studying technological change and economic growth in America. He argues that, contrary to popular belief, the world is not changing faster than ever before. In fact, it’s not even changing as fast as it was 100 years ago.

He recently made this argument in a book called The Rise and Fall of American Growth. In the New York Times, Paul Krugman called it a “magisterial combination of deep technological history, vivid portraits of daily life… and careful economic analysis.”

On today’s show, we talk to Gordon. His argument has profound implications for everything from how the next generation will live to whether robots really are about to take our jobs.

Music: “Burning In Me,” “Feels So Good” and “Nerd Disco.” Find us: Twitter/ Facebook.

Subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts or PocketCast.

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NAACP Is Looking For New President, 'Retooling' Entire Organization

NAACP President Cornell Brooks speaks on the eve of President Trump’s inauguration outside Trump International Hotel and Tower in New York on Jan. 19. After three years under Brooks’ leadership, NAACP is looking for a new president.

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Bryan R. Smith/AFP/Getty Images

The NAACP, America’s oldest civil rights group, is replacing its president, Cornell William Brooks, and planning a “transformational retooling,” according to the group’s board of directors.

Brooks, who has been the president of the NAACP for three years, will not be retained once his contract is up at the end of June, the chairman and vice chair of the board of directors say.

The NAACP says the change is part of “an organization-wide refresh.”

The group is changing its structure and tactics in response to what it calls “audacious challenges” and “today’s volatile political, media and social climates.”

Brooks has been a high-profile leader of the group, engaging in protests — even getting arrested during a sit-in.

The search for a new leader of the group will start immediately, chairman Leon Russell and vice chair Derrick Johnson told reporters on a conference call.

In the meantime, Russell and Johnson will handle day to day operations, they say, and carry out a listening tour.

“We want to be informed by those who are the people we serve,” Russell said. “And to do so we have to see them, we have to meet them, and we have to listen to them.”

Explaining the choice to replace Brooks, Russell and Johnson didn’t identify a particular thing that Brooks had done wrong — or even one thing that the NAACP, as a whole, had been doing wrong.

But they said the group needs to be stronger in advocacy and education, and better equipped to support local activism.

Brooks told the New York Times he was “baffled” by the choice not to extend his contract.

The NAACP, once the most prominent voice for the rights of black Americans, has recently been accused of losing relevance as new groups — like the Black Lives Matter movement — take the spotlight.

In 2015, NPR’s Adrian Florido reported on the generational shift, noting that Brooks gave a speech forcefully rebutting the idea that the NAACP is out of date:

“Brooks gave a passionate defense against critics who he said think of the NAACP as a diminished organization: ‘We do not crawl on the ground! We do not fall prostrate before problems! We are not relegated to the dust! We are not insects! We are an American iconic institution! We are the NAACP!’

“It is still one of the nation’s most influential black organizations. After all, both Presidents Obama and Clinton attended this week’s convention. So why the need to defend the NAACP so vigorously?

“For years now, some activists have said the NAACP has fallen behind the times. They recognize the crucial role it played in ending legalized discrimination during the Civil Rights Era. But they say it has been less effective in countering racism today, while Black Lives Matter and other protest movements have exploded.”

Brooks was arrested earlier this year in Alabama at a protest against the nomination of Jeff Sessions as attorney general.

The Associated Press reports that Ernest L. Johnson Sr., president of the NAACP Louisiana State Conference, celebrated Brooks’ leadership, saying Brooks “brought some young energy to this 108-year-old organization.”

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New Orleans Prepares To Take Down Statue Of Gen. Robert E. Lee

Workers prepare to take down the statue of Robert E. Lee in New Orleans on Friday, the last of four Confederate-related monuments slated for removal.

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Gerald Herbert/AP

Crowds gathered behind barricades in New Orleans on Friday to watch as workers began the hours-long process of removing a towering statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee.

It is the last of four Confederate-era monuments that New Orleans pledged to remove amid a swirl of controversy. Lee’s is the most prominent of the four — a 20-foot bronze statue atop a roughly 60-foot tall column in Lee Circle.

NOLA.com is broadcasting live video of the removal.

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Mayor Mitch Landrieu began pushing for the monuments’ removal in 2015 after Dylann Roof massacred nine black Charleston church-goers. The New Orleans City Council approved the move later that year.

On April 24, a monument to a deadly 1874 white-supremacist uprising was the first to come down. A couple of weeks later, a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis was toppled. And on Wednesday, a statue of Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard was removed.

But clearing out the monuments — which have loomed for more than 100 years — has been highly controversial. Contractors have received death threats, and Landrieu told The Washington Post. that nearly every heavy-crane company in southern Louisiana was also threatened.

The first three removals took place in the dark of night; workers wore flak jackets and protesters both for and against the process picketed nearby. The statue of Lee — who surrendered the Confederate Army to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in 1865, effectively ending the Civil War — is the first to be taken down in the light of day.

While some residents believe the monuments should bepreserved lest history be forgotten, Landrieu said, “It’s my job to chart the course ahead, not simply to venerate the past.”

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Michael Flynn's Contradictory Line On Russia

Michael Flynn (with his hand to his ear) sits next to Russian President Vladimir Putin at a dinner in Moscow on Dec. 10, 2015, celebrating the 10th anniversary of RT, an English-language TV channel funded by the Russian government.

Mikhail Klimentyev/AP

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Mikhail Klimentyev/AP

What does Michael Flynn, President Trump’s erstwhile national security advisor, think about Russia?

His statements and actions are so contradictory, they could induce whiplash.

In his book, The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies, published last July, here is what Flynn thought about working with Russian President Vladimir Putin: “There’s no reason to believe Putin would welcome cooperation with us. Quite the contrary, in fact.”

Seems clear enough: Russia is an adversary. Be wary of Putin. A standard position in the national security community.

Yet Flynn was also busy making contacts with Russia. In December 2015, Flynn sat next to Putin in Moscow at a celebration for RT, the state-run TV network.

Documents show that Flynn was paid $33,000 for a speech he delivered at the event. As a retired Army lieutenant general, he was required to get permission from the military to receive payments from a foreign government, and according to media reports, it’s not clear whether he requested it.

The Pentagon’s inspector general is looking into the matter, which is just one aspect of Flynn’s legal troubles.

In early 2016, Flynn began advising Trump. They seemed to be on the same page, both willing to explore the possibility of better relations with Moscow.

But Flynn the Trump supporter seemed at odds with Flynn the strategist. In his book, he was sharply critical of recent Russian military moves, including plans for new military bases near the country’s western border and an upgrade for their nuclear forces.

“These are not the actions of a country seeking detente with the West,” he said. “They are, rather, indications that Putin fully intends to do the same thing, as, and in tandem with, the Iranians. Pursue the war against us.”

In Flynn’s view, Russia, Iran and several other countries are part of a “global alliance” that seeks to undermine the U.S.

In an interview with NPR last August, he said:

“When we think about countries like Russia, countries like Cuba, countries like Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, I mean, these are – in many cases, these are criminal enterprises that – that have dictatorships and certainly tyrants.”

However, he also said the U.S. and Russia could work together at times, citing the fight against the Islamic State in Syria.

He told the German magazine Der Spiegel: “We have to work constructively with Russia … You can’t say Russia is bad, they have to go home. It’s not going to happen. Get real.”

Compare that with what he wrote in his book about Russia’s role in Syria, where it supports President Bashar Assad: “They are certainly not fighting terrorists in the Middle East. Theirs is a battle to rescue an embattled ally in Damascus.”

So what’s behind these contradictions? Are they just confusing but perfectly legal?

Flynn hasn’t been accused of any wrongdoing, but investigators are looking closely at Flynn’s contacts with Russian officials. Here’s a quick recap:

Reuters reported Thursday that Flynn was in touch with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, during the presidential campaign. These contacts picked up after the election, when Flynn was named national security adviser.

The two met in New York at Trump Tower in early December. They reportedly spoke by phone on Dec. 19. They texted on Christmas and spoke again on Dec. 28 and 29.

Flynn told Vice President Mike Pence they didn’t discuss sanctions against Russia — but it turned out they did.

Sally Yates, then the acting attorney general, warned the White House.

“I think this was a serious compromise situation that the Russians had real leverage. He [Flynn] also had lied to the vice president of the United States,” she said in an interview this week with CNN.

Trump fired Flynn on Feb. 13, and Flynn has been keeping a low profile since then. But he’s still in the headlines.

As reported by NPR and others, then-FBI director James Comey wrote notes about a meeting with Trump on Feb. 14, saying the president asked if he could “let go” of the Flynn investigation.

The White House disputes this. The investigation continues.

Greg Myre is a national security correspondent. Follow him @gregmyre1.

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