Former Counterterrorism Official Slams ‘Coward’ Trump Over Comey Firing

A former FBI and CIA counterterrorism official had harsh words for President Donald Trump over his firing of FBI Director James Comey.

“I don’t think the president exercised bad judgment,” Philip Mudd, now a CNN counterterrorism analyst, said on CNN’s “New Day” on Wednesday. “I think he’s a coward.”

Comey was fired via a letter from Trump that was delivered while he was out of the office. Comey learned of his ouster from a TV newscast

Mudd said: 

“Number one, if you’re gonna fire somebody with this experience, pick up the damn phone. Number two, if you’re going to fire somebody when you get a memo in the morning, don’t tell me the memo was the cause of the firing. That’s a fig leaf. That’s an excuse.” 

“The president acted cowardly in this case,” Mudd said. “He should’ve had the courtesy and the humanity to fire a man who’s done great service despite the mistakes he’s made.” 

He made similar comments later in the day to Wolf Blitzer on CNN’s “The Situation Room.” 

“This looks political from the outside. Let me tell you what it looks like as a practitioner,” he said. “This is emotional. The president acted in a cowardly fashion. He’s a coward.”

Mudd, who was deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center and held high-level roles at the FBI and CIA, has often been highly critical of Trump.

In January, he slammed Trump’s speech at CIA headquarters after Trump attacked the media and bragged about his inauguration crowds while standing in front of the Memorial Wall, which honors agents killed in action. Mudd called it “disgusting.”

And last year he called the Trump transition effort a “clown show.”

 

(h/t Mediaite

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This year’s biggest night in D.C. sports history ended like all the others

This is getting kind of sad.

Washington D.C. sports fans did not have a great Wednesday night. The Wizards were facing the Celtics in a crucial Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the NBA playoffs, and the Capitals were taking on the Penguins in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the NHL playoffs. They both lost.

The Capitals were the first to go down, falling 2-0 to the Penguins, ending their season. A feeling all too familiar for D.C. fans, and especially Caps fans.

Then the Wizards lost Game 5, 123-101 to the Celtics. No, the Wizards aren’t eliminated yet. But they now face elimination heading back to D.C. for Game 6, rather than looking to close out the series on their home floor. They’ll now have to win a Game 7 in Boston to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.

D.C. had an extremely similar night in 2015. The Capitals lost a Game 7 that night to the Rangers, and the Wizards lost on an Al Horford tip in. That all happened with 15 minutes of each other. At least this year’s disappointment was a little more evenly spread out. Or maybe that’s actually worse. Like ripping off a band-aid, just make it happen quickly.

Not all is lost though. The Nationals won Wednesday night thanks to a walk-off home run from Matt Wieters to win 7-6 against the Orioles.

Better luck next year!

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Why the Penguins could lose to the Senators in the conference finals

The defending champions are great, but they’re vulnerable entering the Eastern Conference Final.

The Pittsburgh Penguins, defending champions of the NHL, are heading to the Eastern Conference Final. They’ll be facing the Ottawa Senators, a team that got outscored during the regular season and again in its second-round series against the New York Rangers. From a distance, you’d think this has the makings of a sweep.

And you might be right. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are historically splendid talents leading a diverse, deep forward group. Marc-Andre Fleury has rediscovered former success with his Penguins career seemingly on its last legs. This is a group that’s been there, done that.

But even after getting past the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington Capitals in Game 7, the Penguins don’t look as imposing as a year ago. They still might win another Stanley Cup in the wild free-for-all that is the NHL postseason, but it’s not because they’re infallible.

Even with a relatively underwhelming opponent waiting in the conference finals, Pittsburgh should be weary of the areas where it doesn’t look like a champion. With the Penguins set to face the Senators to determine who reaches the Stanley Cup Final, here are the reasons why we shouldn’t expect a bunch of blowouts.

The Senators have the only true No. 1 defenseman

There’s at least one area where Ottawa will definitely have an advantage, and that’s because of Erik Karlsson. He’s going to be the unmatchable piece for the Penguins, who don’t have a proper No. 1 defenseman due to Kris Letang’s absence. In Game 7 against Washington, their starting pairing featured Brian Dumoulin and Ron Hainsey.

Even with just one good foot, Karlsson has been a force this postseason. When the two-time Norris Trophy winner is on the ice in 5-on-5 situations, the Senators have outscored opponents, 14-7. When he’s off, they get outscored, 18-9. That’s an incredible 16-goal swing that shows how the Senators’ game hinges on their best player.

This is going to be a challenge for the Penguins the remainder of the postseason. They have the clear star power advantage at forward with Malkin, Crosby, Phil Kessel, and Patric Hornqvist, but they’re depending on a defensive group without an elite talent. And sans Letang, they haven’t exactly looked dominant.

The Pens’ poor possession numbers

The Penguins of the past couple years have never quite been an elite possession team like the Kings, Bruins, or Capitals. They finished No. 16 in 5-on-5 Corsi during the 2016-17 regular season, per Natural Stat Trick. During the 2016 Stanley Cup run, they posted a 51.7 percent 5-on-5 Corsi, which was right in the middle of the playoff pack.

But as you’ll notice, the Penguins were usually at least pretty good. Even if they weren’t dominating even strength possession like the best teams in that area, they usually held their own. Combined with their stellar scoring ability and strong goaltending, you had a good mix to win a lot of games.

This postseason has been different. Through two series, the Penguins have a 42 percent 5-on-5 Corsi. That’s dead last among the 16 playoff teams, even though 12 of the teams ahead of them have been eliminated. You can largely thank Fleury, and some timely shooting from Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust, and the stars, for that.

But this is a bad omen for Pittsburgh. Even if you buy that the Penguins don’t need to dominate possession to win, a 10 percent drop from last postseason shows this team isn’t winning the same way. It’s a lot more about shooting and save percentages than tilting the ice in their direction right now.

You don’t need to post a 60 percent Corsi in every series to win a Stanley Cup. But you generally need to do better than 42 percent, as shown by recent Cup winners and their postseason 5-on-5 Corsi numbers, via Corsica Hockey:

2015-16 Penguins: 51.7 percent
2014-15 Blackhawks: 51.2 percent
2013-14 Kings: 53.8 percent
2012-13 Blackhawks: 55.5 percent
2011-12 Kings: 51.8 percent
2010-11 Bruins: 50.3 percent
2009-10 Blackhawks: 51.4 percent
2008-09 Penguins: 48.3 percent
2007-08 Red Wings: 60.4 percent

Even the 2009 Penguins, the only team of the past 10 years to win a Cup without hitting 50 percent, still had possession numbers well above what the current edition has done. This should be considered a red flag for anyone already pegging Pittsburgh to repeat as champions.

The challenge of repeating

Putting aside how they’ve played and their upcoming opponent, the reality is that winning two Stanley Cups in a row is quite hard. No team has done it since the Red Wings in 1997-98, when the game looked a lot different than it does today. In the current era, even the best teams have taken breaks between their victorious playoff runs.

This one may be least important for actually gauging the Penguins’ ability to win another eight games, but it shows how difficult it is to win through the wear and tear of two straight NHL postseasons. That’s a lot of games combined with the regular season and international play (which many top players participate in), so you have to wonder if Pittsburgh will run out of gas at some point, especially given how it has walked the tight rope winning games despite losing the possession battle.

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[UPDATE:] Square Enix breaks up with Hitman developer IO Interactive

[UPDATE:] Square Enix breaks up with Hitman developer IO Interactive screenshot

[Update: IO Interactive has taken to Twitter, assuaging fans’ fears. There’s not much to glean from the post, but it seems like IO will have a lot to say later, possibly about Square’s history with high expectations.]

[Original story follows:] Today, Square Enix announced that it has “decided to withdraw from the business of IO Interactive,” a Square-owned studio responsible for the Hitman series – including last year’s critically acclaimed Hitman – as well the Kane and Lynch games & cult classic one-off Freedom Fighters.

The news comes from Square Enix’s quarterly financial report, which you can find here. According to the press release, Square has “started discussions with potential new investors and is currently in negotiations to secure this investment,” which likely means they’re looking to sell the company. There’s currently no word as to what might happen if Square fails to secure funding for the Danish studio, but we’ve sent a request for comment and will update the story as necessary. The press release also fails to mention what might happen to the ownership of IO’s many properties, including Hitman.

The break-up will cost Square Enix “4,898 million yen” or approximately $42 million USD. That comes out to about 14% of Square’s operating profit of 33,310 million yen (around $292 million), which is curious. Square Enix isn’t doing poorly overall, reporting consistent increase in year over year sales and earnings. Its liability cost has dropped, but its “selling, general, and administrative expenses” have marginally gone up, as you can expect when a mainline Final Fantasy game needs to be shipped – nothing unexpected.

So we’re not looking at a company that needs to tighten its belt after a poor quarter; the simple explanation is that Hitman likely didn’t sell well enough to convince Square that IO was worth the money.  Square’s press release says the split is motivated by an increased focus on “key franchises and studios,” which implies a lot of crummy things about Hitman’s numbers.

Despite hypothetically low sales, IO Interactive has continued to support last year’s Hitman with Escalation contracts and limited-time Elusive Targets, even posting a content schedule for May last week Thursday.

Wario64 [Twitter]

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