James Comey has a lot to say in his new book


Former FBI Director James Comey talks about the White House, while Cuba has a new president and more in this week’s politics roundup.

Raύl Castro steps down

After almost six decades, Cuba now has a head of state who is not a Castro. On Thursday, Miguel Díaz-Canel took over as the 19th and current President of Cuba. Previously, he was the First Vice President of the Council of State. Díaz-Canel was hand-picked by his predecessor, Raύl Castro.

Castro, who will still act as the leader of Cuba’s dominant Communist Party, made no secret of the engineered nature of Díaz-Canel’s new position. “His election is not by chance,” Castro told Cuba’s National Assembly. “It was planned by us in group, and we decided that he’s the best option in our opinion.” Díaz-Canel was voted in 603 to 1.

Castro also promised that, “if he does a good job,” Díaz-Canel will get to take over leadership of the Communist Party once Castro himself is gone.

This all signals continuity from previous administrations, despite the fading of the Castro name in Cuba’s politics. In his own speech to the National Assembly, Díaz-Canel often recalled the accomplishments of both Raύl and his older brother, Fidel Castro.

However, there are also signs that the political climate is shifting in this new era. Relations between Cuba and the United States softened somewhat during Barack Obama’s U.S. presidency (though the same relationship has grown colder under the current White House administration).

Meanwhile, Cuban politicians are now considering term limits, loosened economic restrictions, and more open travel agreements with other countries.

U.S.-North Korea talks still happening, still fraught

How, exactly, would you say whether or not diplomatic talks are successful? What if those talks haven’t even happened yet, beyond some sort-of secret meetings taken on by Mike Pompeo?

Such matters aren’t obviously a concern to the current White House administration. Perhaps a staff member or a few somewhere are thinking about this — we certainly hope so — but the president has given no such indication. He has said that, if the approaching talks between the United States and North Korea are not “fruitful,” he will “respectfully leave.”

That’s a difficult statement to parse, given that the presidential definition of “fruitful” seems to be a moving target. Though North Korea has been subject to U.S.-led sanctions, these talks have been preceded by a conspicuous lack of demands. For instance, three U.S. citizens are currently detained by the North Korean administration, yet the White House has not requested their release ahead of these talks.

However, North Korea has made its own concessions. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has removed requests that U.S. troops leave the region as a condition for talks.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo, the president’s nominee to replace Rex Tillerson as head of the U.S. State Department, recently traveled to North Korea to meet with Kim Jong-un. Pompeo, who has not yet been confirmed as secretary of state, had previously been in communication with North Korean officials via intelligence channels.

James Comey’s book and memos come out

Are you surprised that Comey’s tell-all book about the presidential administration, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership, is not complementary to the president? If not, it’s become abundantly clear during the publicity tour for his book. At various news outlets, including The New York Times, Comey has described how the White House was run during his time.

He also acknowledged that his own ego may have played into the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails in 2016. However, he maintains that no such ego or poor judgment came into play once the current administration took office or when the Russia investigation began.

Previously, Comey had also written memos detailing his interactions with the president. Some had already been leaked to the press by Comey himself, who told reporters that he didn’t trust Justice Department officials to do it themselves.

Now, redacted copies of those memos have been released by the Justice Department to Congress. The documents, released late Thursday night, have quickly made their way to the press and can be read here. In them, the President expresses concerns about Mike Flynn, the former National Security Adviser, before Flynn was fired. The conversations also often turn towards the Russia investigation, the Justice Department’s role in the investigation, and whether or not White House officials are publicly clear of any charges.

Nikki Haley tells White House that she isn’t confused

Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, likely felt like she was just doing her job when she announced the latest U.S. sanctions on Russia. However, it soon became apparent that Haley had made the announcement before the White House, causing public embarrassment now standard to most government officials. The chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, stepped in and said that “there might have been some momentary confusion” for Haley.

“With all due respect, I don’t get confused,” Haley replied.

Haley has a point, given that she’s reportedly one of the most organized officials in the State Department. Indeed, she is known for checking with the President before making public remarks in an effort to stay on message. Such a flub like this one would be decidedly out of character for Haley.

So, is this simply a mortifying mistake or a symptom of a disorganized State Department and federal government in general? Furthermore, if she did, why did the White House wait more than 24 hours to correct her?

And, finally, your palate cleanser

Senator Tammy Duckworth and her newborn daughter are generally a boss duo. Don’t agree? Sorry, did you push for a major change in Congressional procedure when you were just a week old?

To be fair, right now Duckworth’s daughter, Maile Pearl Bowlsbey, is mostly focused on eating, sleeping, and producing full diapers. Most of the credit really goes to her mother and Duckworth’s staff.

Also, of course, credit to all of the lawmakers that voted in favor of a measure this Wednesday allowing lawmakers to bring children under one onto the Senate floor. Previously, only Senators and their staff members were allowed on the Senate floor during votes. This is a significant step forward for women in U.S. politics who are still in the midst of their childbearing years.

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Senator Duckworth also made news when she gave birth on April 9. She is the first U.S. Senator to give birth while in office. Ten women serving in Congress have given birth while in office. Duckworth also gave birth to her first child in 2014, while serving as a U.S. Representative.