The 6'8" Elephant in the Room
In case you didn’t know, James Comey is a really, really tall man and I have been at home since Wednesday recovering from surgery. In two days couch-surfdom, I am nearly caught up on my missed political podcasts, NYT op-eds and Trump Twitter tirades. Through all my research, though, one thing is clear to me: Americans are bearing witness to what would happen if a political alchemist combined inexperience, bureaucratic ineptitude and gross misunderstanding of political procedure into a potion. I’m of course referring to the Trump Administration’s mishandling of the firing of James Comey.
How did we get to where we are today?
First, acting Attorney General Sally Yates was fired when she refused to defend Trump’s Muslim Ban. Next, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself after failing to detail to Congress he had conversations with Russian officials prior to taking office. Then, Assistant Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, wrote an opinion detailing Director Comey’s multiple missteps in the handing of Hillary’s email investigation as well as Comey’s fumbling of the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
What happened next shocked political observers and pundits alike.
Based on Rosenstein’s recap, Trump drafted a letter in which he thanked Comey for confirming on multiple occasions that he was not under investigation for ties to Russia — then fired him. The President dispatched his personal bodyguard to FBI headquarters with the letter firing Comey. Procedurally, there was no lead time given to Trump's communications staff to formalize a media strategy and the FBI was given zero lead time brief top officials. Ironically, Comey learned about his firing while at an FBI recruiting event in California.
The fallout began. But, beyond the political chaos, the whole affair had a cloud of confusion centered around around one question, “Why fire Comey now?”
Paraphrasing Jon Lovett from “Pod Save America,” the answer to this question may be shockingly obvious. Trump — being the misinformed, inexperienced President he is — probably was not even aware he had the executive power to fire Comey! I imagine, an earnest White House intern or staffer casually informed the Donald he had the power to fire Comey and a lightbulb illuminating over his bleached exterior. Lovett lamented, “What would happen if Trump stopped with his nightly cable news binge sessions and actually started to read the constitution? What would he find out he also has power over?!”
All humor aside, where are we now?
Today, in a joint press conference with Columbian President Juan Manuel Santos, Trump was asked the following question:
“In the light of a very busy news week, a lot of people would like to get to the bottom of a couple of things — give you a chance to go on record here. Did you at any time urge former FBI Director James Comey in any way shape or form to close or back down the investigation into Michael Flynn?”
“No. No. Next Question,” Trump responded.
As CNN reported today, Trump may hinge his presidency on those four words. Many liken Trump’s firing of Comey because of the FBI investigation into campaign collusion with Russia to Richard Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre wherein Nixon deliberately obstructed justice and impeded the investigation into the break-in at the Watergate.
Will Trump also face impeachment and could this be the beginning of the end? I’m not convinced.
During Nixon’s years, Democrats enjoyed a majority in both chambers. Had Nixon not resigned, they would have removed him from office. Conversely, during the Clinton impeachment proceedings, Republicans enjoyed a majority in the House and the collegial Senatorial body viewed the House’s articles of impeachment as a joke, failing to reach the two-thirds majority for Clinton’s five-week impeachment hearings.
Despite enjoying majorities in both chamber and despite the GOP having not accomplished a line item list of goals including, but not limited to: the repeal and replace Obamacare, passing reasonable tax reform measures, drafting immigration reform (including funding for a border wall), etc. I don’t believe Republicans will impeach Trump any time soon even though their choices look like shooting themselves in the head now (by impeaching Trump) or poisoning themselves later (by sticking with the President for now).
We will have to wait and see what this next week holds. Candidate Trump ran on a mercantilist, isolationist, nativist platform. He plans to visit the Vatican, Israel and Middle East. Will this refocus to international issues divert attention from his administration’s dismal handling of national issues?
Maybe. What I know for a certainty is it will give me more reason to stay in on Saturday Night and watch SNL!