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Wednesday, May 10, 2017


"Every move they make keeps signalling ‘cover-up.’"

by Tom Sullivan

The Justice Department last night, as part of its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections, issued grand jury subpoenas to associates of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. CNN learned of the subpoenas hours before President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Comey heard about his firing when word flashed over televisions in the FBI office in Los Angeles where he was speaking. He first laughed, thinking it was a prank. Nope.

Trump had sent his personal bodyguard, Keith Schiller, now director of Oval Office operations, to FBI headquarters to deliver the letter. In the letter, Trump wrote, "While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to lead the Bureau.”

Even firing letters are propaganda. Trump and his campaign's connections with Russia are under FBI investigation, and the firing, the New York Times reports, "raised the specter of political interference by a sitting president into an existing investigation by the nation’s leading law enforcement agency."

The Times continues:

The officials said that Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, pushed for Mr. Comey’s dismissal. But many in Washington, including veteran F.B.I. officers, saw a carefully choreographed effort by the president to create a pretense for a takedown of the president’s F.B.I. tormentor.
To give the firing bipartisan cover, the memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein recommending Comey be dismissed cited several past Department of Justice officials of both major parties who disapproved of Comey's handing of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails and his election season press conferences about the Clinton inquiry:
Donald Ayer, who served as Deputy Attorneys General under President HW Bush, along with former Justice Department officials, was "astonished and perplexed" by the decision to "break[] with longstanding practices followed by officials of both parties during past elections." Ayer's letter noted, "Perhaps most troubling… is the precedent set by this departure from the Department's widely-respected, non-partisan traditions."

We should reject the departure and return to the traditions.
Suddenly the Trump White House is following rules?

The Washington Post reports on the immediate blowback to the Comey firing:
“The decision by a President whose campaign associates are under investigation by the FBI for collusion with Russia to fire the man overseeing that investigation, upon the recommendation of an Attorney General who has recused himself from that investigation, raises profound questions about whether the White House is brazenly interfering in a criminal matter,” Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement. The House committee is looking into Russian interference in the election.

Some Republicans were also concerned. “I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey’s termination,” said Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is also examining Russian meddling. “I have found Director Comey to be a public servant of the highest order, and his dismissal further confuses an already difficult investigation by the Committee.”
Those of a certain age remember the Nixon-era "Saturday Night Massacre." On October 20, 1973, President Nixon fired independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox during the investigation into the Watergate break-in. Former Nixon White House counsel and Cox prosecution witness, John Dean, reflected on Trump's firing Comey. He told the New Yorker's Jane Mayer, "Every move they make keeps signalling ‘cover-up.’

But amidst all the very serious punditry, I'll throw this out as what is sure to be a far-fetched, alternate explanation. Trump (to corrupt Churchill) is a pathology, wrapped in an insecurity, inside an ego. He is a needy man-child whose boundless insecurity demands he always see himself as a winner and the alpha dog in every situation. And even without Kellyanne Conway's help, he will bend reality itself to maintain that image of himself. Treating this episode as Watergate-esque gives Trump too much credit for being an ordinary corrupt politician who is "not a crook." Simply observe one of his tweets from last night: No normal, well-adjusted, mature adult writes like that. The investigative focus on Russia may simply gnaw at an ego that shows off executive orders for the camera like a kid displaying his latest finger painting to his mother.

Former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum suggests Trump does not have to be guilty of anything nefarious to act this way:
Trump is impulsive and arrogant. His narcissistic ego needs to believe he won a great electoral victory by his own exertions, not that he was tipped into office by a lucky foreign espionage operation. He could well resent the search for truth, even without being particularly guilty of anything heinously bad.
But now Trump's problems are our problems. Trump challenges Republicans in leadership to do their jobs and deal with, rather than kowtow to Trump the man-child:
The question has to be asked searchingly of the Republican members of Congress: Will you allow a president of your party to attack the integrity of the FBI? You impeached Bill Clinton for lying about sex. Will you now condone and protect a Republican administration lying about espionage?

Where are you? Who are you?
Wait, don't answer that. If the fate of the republic depends on them alone, we may see, as the Washington Post's motto suggests, democracy die in darkness.