Today’s testimony from former FBI Director James Comey was many things: shocking, unnerving, explosive. But I think it is important to remember that above all else today was a sad day for our republic. Just a little over a hundred days into the Trump Administration, our country has already been subjected to an inordinate amount of trauma as we work to get to the bottom of Russia’s officially-sanctioned attack against our democratic institutions.
The scandals that began on the campaign trail have reached a high-water mark with a former Director of the FBI swearing under oath for the first time that the sitting President sought assurances of loyalty not to the U.S. Constitution, but to himself. Not to truth and justice, but to his cronies and staff. When Director Comey rebuffed the President’s inappropriate efforts to insert himself into the ongoing Russia investigation, particularly as it related to his then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, he was unceremoniously fired.
We’ve seen the lengths that President Trump went to interfere in that ongoing investigation. It is painfully clear that when Director Comey signaled that he would not put loyalty to Donald Trump above his commitment to the pursuit of truth, he paid for it with his job. The message that sends across the government could not be more clear: be loyal to Donald Trump, or get out. That ethos is diametrically opposed to the founding ideals of our system of government. Our Founding Fathers designed a system in which power would be broken up and spread across three separate but co-equal branches of government.
When the President bullies officials in the Executive Branch to put his own well-being over their sworn duties, he’s engaging in the same destructive behavior as when he smears the courts and federal judges who disagree with him, or attacks Congress for going through the legislative process laid out in the Constitution. Pushing back against President Trump’s overreach is not so much a matter of party, as it is patriotism. Democrats and Republicans must stand shoulder to shoulder to signal that we support the wisdom of our Founders who knew that the type of power our President wishes he could wield is far too dangerous to have concentrated in one man.
The President of the United States is not above the law. We have seen the President lash out at democratic norms that he thinks are working against him time and time again, and we must all hold him accountable for his actions. Undue executive influence and flagrant contempt of other branches of government weakens our nation. The picture that Director Comey painted today of President Trump was of a person unworthy of the office he holds. And for the United States, which James Comey correctly described as a “shining city on a hill,” it is a particularly sad day in our nation’s history.