Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Into the abyss

As you've heard, Donald Trump has fired James Comey, Director of the FBI, the guy who has been running an investigation into Russian interference with the recent election and possible collusion with Trump and his campaign team.

This is big news! This brings to mind the so-called Saturday Night Massacre of the Nixon administration, when President Nixon was desperately trying to stave off impeachment.

But this situation is potentially much worse - a hostile foreign power influencing our elections and possible blackmail reaching into the White House itself - and the details are even more incredible (and I say this as someone who has no respect for James Comey's actions during the campaign).

Here's Josh Marshall at TPM:
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote the memo articulating the argument for why James Comey should be fired. I was just speaking to one of my colleagues who said that in isolation, Rosenstein’s memo was not totally off base. Comey has made a number of big mistakes as FBI Director. (You can see the memo at the bottom of this article.) But that is really beside the point. As an argument in the abstract to justify why Comey could be fired, it’s an interesting argument. As an explanation of why Comey was in fact fired it is flatly ridiculous.

We heard earlier from CNN’s Jeff Zeleny that President Trump decided he wanted to fire Comey a week ago and then tasked Jeff Sessions with coming up with a rationale. But we don’t need Zeleny to tell us that. It’s obvious that this a rationale and not an explanation.

The idea that Trump fired Comey because he was unfair to Hillary Clinton or set aside DOJ guidelines in a way that was damaging to her is clearly not true. Indeed, it is so transparently nonsensical that putting it forward as a rationale suggests a certain presidential indifference to what anyone thinks.

As an accomplished lawyer, Rosenstein may have been able to justify the memo as an argument within the four corners of the document. But he knew that he was preparing an argument for firing the FBI Director while the FBI is investigating the President and his top associates for colluding with a foreign power to subvert a US election. The theory isn’t the point. The nature of the act is. This is a massive abuse of office. It is a very plausible basis for impeachment, though its plausibility in that regard is irrelevant unless and until there is political will in the Congress to take that step. Impeachment is a political not a legal process. ...

Months ago Jeff Sessions recused himself from any involvement in the Russia probe. That recusal put the investigation in the hands of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Whatever his reputation to this point, Rosenstein has zero credibility to run this investigation. The taint of corruption and disgrace on him permanent and irreversible.

Here’s the fundamental issue facing the country right now.

In criminal trials there are certain actions defendants can take from which judges will tell juries they can infer guilt. In a political context, this is one of those moments. We are now hearing word from White House officials that the White House is stunned at the backlash at Comey’s firing. Didn’t Democrats think he was doing a bad job? We’re even hearing commentators speculate that maybe this may have been a huge miscalculation. The White House didn’t realize how big a deal this was. In the final analysis I think this will be judged a major miscalculation – just not in the sense they mean. Frankly, no one is that naive. It doesn’t wash.

There is only one reasonable conclusion that can be drawn from the decision to fire Comey: that there is grave wrongdoing at the center of the Russia scandal and that it implicates the President. As I write this, I have a difficult time believing that last sentence myself. But sometimes you have to step back from your assumptions and simply look at what the available evidence is telling you. It’s speaking clearly: the only reasonable explanation is that the President has something immense to hide and needs someone in charge of the FBI who he believes is loyal. Like Jeff Sessions. Like Rod Rosenstein.

You don't do something like this unless you have something to hide. It's the same reason why Donald Trump didn't release his tax returns. We all know that. You can't be so naive as to think otherwise.

What he's hiding, I don't know. And we may never know. The Republican Party certainly isn't eager to investigate. Yeah, the President of the United States might be colluding with Russia, possibly under blackmail by Vladimir Putin, and Republicans aren't interested.

Well, if Republicans cared about anything other than their own political ambitions, we would have noticed that by now, don't you think?


Jim Harris said...

This is all getting very depressing. Last night I was watching The Handmaid's Tale on Hulu with friends. It shows how a right-wing political group slowly taking over America. We watched this show just after hearing the news about James Comey, and it made the show eerily disturbing.

jeff725 said...

Trump's bullshit excuse for firing Comey: He botched the Hillary e-mail investigation.

Jeffrey Toobin, like every other thinking human being, isn't buying it:

Yup....right on cue:

Bill Garthright said...

Guys, the funniest thing about this - if you can call the collapse of American civilization "funny" - is the latest news that Donald Trump has apparently been pissed at James Comey ever since Comey's "mildly nauseous" comment at his last congressional hearing.

Here's the link. Note that "Trump's Razor" is the idea that, when it comes to Donald Trump, the dumbest explanation is most likely to be the correct one.

Do we have a constitutional crisis because the giant orange baby we elected as president thought that Comey implied Trump's election made him "nauseous"? (Obviously, that wasn't what Comey meant, but again... Trump's Razor.)