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The Comey Firing is a Crossroads in American History

Republican Senators, it’s time to lead on the Russia investigation

It’s so novel for a president to fire an FBI director, deploy White House staff to lie about why, and then offhandedly confess on national television the real reason was interfering in an investigation, that it’s tempting to underplay the moment.

But this is a historical crossroads. It’s not the End of the Republic, or some other hyperbole. It is, however, a moment of decision that will shape the future.

Either Congress will let this go, allowing it to be the new baseline for acceptable assertions of executive power. Or Congress will act, reasserting itself as a coequal branch of government.

Maybe firing Comey was legal. Some lawyers say the president can remove the FBI Director at will. Others argue these circumstances constitute obstruction of justice.

Obstruction was part of the cases against Clinton and Nixon. But even if there’s a legal case for impeaching Trump on obstruction charges — I honestly don’t know — there’s no way the House will do it. Not over this.

Regardless, the whole firing → lying → confession sequence was, at best, shady and stupid. And Trump’s demand for personal loyalty, rather than loyalty to the Constitution, makes it even worse.

If he’s allowed to get away with it — if Congress allows him to get away with it — then it’s a stepping stone. A new normal, inevitably leading to another, even more ridiculous episode.

In response, the Senate must devote itself to a fair and complete investigation of Russian involvement in the 2016 election. Put it above other priorities. Devote the necessary resources. Do it, and do it right.

It doesn’t matter if this implicates or clears Trump or any of his associates. Go where the facts take you.

Besides, no matter the outcome, millions of people will be disappointed.

America needs this. Getting it done — in an honest, transparent manner — is the only way to move forward.

The vote should be 100–0. Or at least a bipartisan, veto-proof, supermajority.

This is a time for statesmen. Republican Senators, start leading the effort for a rapid, thorough investigation. Get out in front of the issue. Make sure it’s done right. Provide political cover for other Republicans to follow.

And get honored by history.

Alternatively, if the Senate lets this go, it will:

  1. Leave open the question of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, instead of clearing the air and deciding what to do next on the basis of facts. (I don’t know what those facts will be. But I know we need to know).
  2. Shrug off a brazen assertion of executive power. The only previous time a president fired the director of the FBI was Bill Clinton-William Sessions in 1993. The difference: a months-long investigation produced a detailed report of Sessions’ misappropriations of funds.
  3. Accept all this as okay.

It is not okay. You know it’s not.

Republicans, if you all stand up, you can make this about the country and the truth. If it makes things any easier, highlight how the investigation could prove, once and for all, that Democrats are on a witch hunt. Just be prepared to accept the results, no matter what.

Democrats, drop calls for impeachment and support a bipartisan investigation. If the evidence merits drastic measures, act then. If not, accept that your conspiracy theories were unwarranted.

The country needs an answer to the Russia question. That was true months ago, and it’s even more urgent in light of reports Trump (accidentally?) shared classified intelligence with the Russian foreign minister.

Trump doesn’t want us to answer it. Maybe he has something to hide. If so, maybe it’s serious, or maybe it’s ego deflating but trivial. Or maybe he believes the investigation is driven by politics and doesn’t like how it undermines his preferred narrative. But whether the president’s reasoning was innocent or not, his actions crossed a line.

Together, Senators of both parties can uphold separation of powers while helping the country move on from 2016.

It’s time to stand together. Hold the line.




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Nicholas Grossman

Nicholas Grossman

Senior Editor at Arc Digital. Poli Sci prof (IR) at U. Illinois. Author of “Drones and Terrorism.” Politics, national security, and occasional nerdery.

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