*Comey, Unsettled by Trump, Is Said to Have Wanted Him Kept at a Distance:
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 inquiries 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. Those interactions included a dinner in which associates of Mr. Comey say Mr. Trump asked him to pledge his loyalty and a meeting in the Oval Office at which Mr. Trump told him he hoped Mr. Comey would shut down an investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn. Mr. Trump has denied making the request.
*Trump, Citing ‘a Witch Hunt,’ Denies Any Collusion With Russia:
President Trump declared angrily on Thursday that he was the victim of a witch hunt, and all but contradicted his deputy attorney general on the firing of the F.B.I. director, in an extensive denial of any collusion between his campaign and Russia. Mr. Trump used a chaotic White House news conference with Colombia’s leader to directly confront a week-long barrage of criticism and questions in a political storm that he said was dividing the nation. He also conspicuously distanced himself from aides like his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in repeating his claim that Moscow and its agents had not secretly assisted his campaign. “I respect the move,” Mr. Trump said of the Justice Department’s decision on Wednesday to appoint a special counsel to investigate the matter. “But the entire thing has been a witch hunt.”
*Biden ‘Never’ Thought Hillary ‘Was a Great Candidate’
Former Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday at a conference in Las Vegas that he “never thought” Hillary Clinton was a “great candidate.” He said, “I never thought she was a great candidate. I thought I was a great candidate.” Biden also stressed that he believed Hillary “would have been a really good president.” Biden said he would “probably not” run for president in 2020, because he then would be 78 years old and would prefer to focus on his family in the wake of his son Beau’s death in 2015. Biden said he also has made financial promises to his wife, but after those things are taken care of, “I may very well do it.” He also confirmed that he’s been approached by some who want him to run, but that he simply can’t commit to it yet. Biden also wagged his finger at the increasing partisan divide in Washington. “Argue like hell… but show some respect,” he said.
*CARLOS DANGER OUT – Anthony Weiner to Plead Guilty to End Sexting Scandal
Anthony Weiner is set to plead guilty in federal court Friday to one charge of transferring obscene material to a minor, The New York Times reported. Weiner reportedly surrendered to authorities in New York early Friday morning and could possibly be registered as a sex offender as a result of the plea deal. The charge could also land the ex-congressman between zero and 10 years in prison, depending on the sentence determined by a judge. The charges came last year when it was revealed that, starting in January 2016, he had been exchanging sexually explicit text messages with a 15-year-old girl. Weiner resigned from Congress five years earlier, after being caught sexting with women who were not his wife, Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin; and then a year after that, another extramarital sexting bout derailed his run for mayor of New York City.
*THINK FREELY – READ LBN:
*Swedish Prosecutor Drops Assange Rape Investigation
Swedish prosecutors have dropped their investigation into sexual-assault allegations against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Officials will hold a press conference later Friday to expand on their decision to halt the seven-year legal standoff. The 45-year-old, who firmly denied the allegations he assaulted a woman in Sweden, took shelter in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London in 2012 and has lived there since. Assange may now be able to leave the embassy, but his legal team said he will not exit the premises without certain assurances regarding extradition. The Metropolitan Police in London issued a statement Friday confirming that an arrest warrant for Assange still stands over his failure to surrender in 2012 and that they are “obliged to execute the warrant should he leave the embassy.”
*Basquiat Painting Sold for $110.5 Million at Auction
A painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat sold for $110.5 million at Sotheby’s on Thursday, becoming the sixth-most-expensive work ever sold at auction. The dramatic 1982 work depicts a skull. Only 10 other works have sold for more than $100 million. The winning buyer was Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese billionaire, who purchased another Basquiat last year for $57.3 million. “He’s now in the same league as Francis Bacon andPablo Picasso,” said the dealer Jeffrey Deitch, an expert on Basquiat.
*CONSIDER THE POSSIBLITIES – READ LBN:
*END OF AN ERA — New Orleans’ Robert E. Lee Statue to Come Down Friday
Authorities in New Orleans plan to dismantle the fourth of the city’s Confederate-era statues Friday, with the mayor to give a speech to mark the removal of a monument to Gen. Robert E. Lee. In a news release, city authorities said the monument was one of several “erected decades after the Civil War to celebrate the ‘Cult of the Lost Cause,’ a movement recognized across the South as celebrating and promoting white supremacy.” While the city has already taken down three other Confederate-era statues in late-night removals, Lee’s statue will be taken down during the day on Friday so that Mayor Mitch Landrieu can give a speech to mark the event. The city said it will have additional security, with the surrounding area to be blocked off. “We understand there are strong emotions surrounding this subject, and we ask that the public remain peaceful and respectful while demonstrating,” authorities said. Landrieu had first proposed the removal of the monuments in 2015, but opponents who say the move is an affront to the South’s heritage put up a legal battle.
*LBN-BUSINESS INSIDER: ***Uber’s top lawyer threatened to fire one of the company’s star engineers if he did not comply with a lawsuit, according to a court filing on Thursday, the latest dramatic turn in a legal battle between two technology giants. The case involves an explosive claim from Waymo, the self-driving car unit spun out of Google. Waymo accused Uber of conspiring with a former Google engineer, Anthony Levandowski, to steal trade secrets from Google for Uber’s autonomous vehicle designs. Uber purchased Otto, the start-up Mr. Levandowski formed after leaving Google, for nearly $700 million. Mr. Levandowski, who is not being sued, has remained silent. In March he exercised his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, an attempt to avoid what his legal counsel said was the potential for criminal charges.
*DID YOU KNOW? Did you know that LBN is read daily by 3 Nobel Prize winners?
*LBN-MUSIC INSIDER: ***Chris Cornell’s widow is speaking out one day after his death. Early Thursday morning, the 52-year-old Soundgarden singer was found unresponsive with a band around his neck inside his bathroom at the MGM Grand Hotel in Detroit. The grunge rocker was pronounced dead on the scene. Later that afternoon, after an initial autopsy had been completed, the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office announced his cause of death “has been determined as suicide by hanging. A full autopsy report has not yet been completed.” Kirk Pasich, an attorney for the Cornell family, said Friday they are disturbed by implications that Chris knowingly and intentionally took his life. “Without the results of toxicology tests, we do not know what was going on with Chris—or if any substances contributed to his demise. Chris, a recovering addict, had a prescription for Ativan and may have taken more Ativan than recommended dosages,” Pasich said. The family believes that if Chris took his life, he did not know what he was doing, and that drugs or other substances may have affected his actions.”
*LBN-MEDIA INSIDER: ***Fox News Channel is parting ways – again – with Bob Beckel, the co-host of its primetime program, “The Five.” “Bob Beckel was terminated today for making an insensitive remark to an African-American employee,” the network said in a statement.
*LBN-NOTICED: ***John Turturro having a 6-ounce petite filet mignon at NYY Steakhouse in NYC. ***Bill Clintonbeing honored by the Thea Foundation at the Cutting Room in NYC. ***“Veep” star Matt Walsh seeing “Sleep No More” in NYC. ***” Glee” star Darren Criss polishing off a $139, 34-ounce wagyu tomahawk steak at DÔA Miami Beach. ***ModelAshley Graham at Kingside in NYC. ***Luke Perry with pals at the Fat Monk on the Upper West Side in NYC. ***Audrey Gruss hosting a book party for Daphne Merkin at the Metropolitan Club in NYC.
*WHO READS LBN? Prominent literary agent Bob Diforio
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*LBN-SPOTLIGHT: “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” – Arthur Schopenhauer —– www.TheExcelCommunity.com
*LBN-COMMENTARY by David Brooks: After an eruption, volcanoes sometimes collapse at the center. The magma chamber empties out and the volcano falls in on itself, leaving a caldera and a fractured ring of stone around the void, covered by deadening ash. That’s about the shape of Washington after the last stunning fortnight. The White House at the center just collapsed in on itself and the nation’s policy apparatus is covered in ash. I don’t say that because I think the Comey-Russia scandal will necessarily lead to impeachment. I have no idea where the investigations will go. I say it because White Houses, like all organizations, run on talent, and the TrumpWhite House has just become a Human Resources disaster area.
*LBN-COMMENTARY by Thomas McEwen: Birth control has worked so well that Western Europe is disappearing from the map and will be renamed Islamostan.
*LBN-COMMENTARY by Jimmy Fallon: A new study found that more than half of American doctors are burnt out, exhausted, and losing their sense of purpose. So, if your doctor seems burnt out, exhausted, and losing their sense of purpose, ask if Zoloft might be right for them.
*LBN-A DIFFERENT VIEW:….
*LBN-OVERHEARD: ***Liev Schreiber seems to have fallen into the arms of Gerard Butler’s on-again, off-again girlfriendMorgan Brown, after splitting with actress Naomi Watts last fall. Schreiber and Brown were photographed cuddling during a stroll in Los Angeles on Wednesday after stopping for coffee. “Ray Donovan” star Schreiber split with Watts in September, after 11 years, and we’re told things between them are amicable. They have two kids but never married. ***The wealthy former chairman of color giant Pantone, Larry Herbert, 88, is divorcing his society fixture wife, Michele, after 30 years. Larry, who invented the world-renowned Pantone [Color] Matching System, has had “something of a late-life crisis” and has asked Michele, an attractive former dancer, actress and talk show host, for a divorce, multiple sources say.
LBN E-Lert Edited By Dan Gaylord