Colson: Comey firing another sign of Trump’s unfitness
Hit & Run
After being out of touch for several days while on a river trip last week, I returned to the stunning news about the dismissal of former FBI Director James Comey, to whom President Donald Trump applied the infamous tagline from his old reality TV show, “The Apprentice” — “You’re fired!” — or something like it.
Comey, you may recall, is the same guy who is credited by many with helping Trump beat Hillary Clinton in last year’s election, simply by keeping alive the drumbeat of doubt and anti-women fear-mongering that Republicans have heaped upon her over the course of her three decades or so of public service.
But he also is the same guy who, when charged with finding out whether Trump’s campaign team colluded with Russian computer hackers and spymasters in a different effort to destabilize Clinton, apparently has been actually trying to do that job thoroughly and competently.
Comey’s efforts have been so effective, it seems, that they have thrown Trump into a frenzy of paranoia, during which he fired Comey, perhaps as the best way of derailing the investigation.
And Trump is so mentally shaky these days that he even admitted that the probe into Russia’s hacking into the Democratic party’s computer network was at least part of the reason he Trumped — er, I mean dumped — Comey.
After returning from my days in the wilds of eastern Utah, I took some time to read up on this whole mess, and as the Trumpster himself might have said in some other context, “Believe me, it is a mess!”
First off, Trump has been exhibiting signs of advancing paranoia about the probe into the Trump-Russia collusion question to the point where he reportedly spends a lot of time each day reviewing congressional hearings and other information related to the probe, and on issuing a rapid-fire series of unhinged Tweets about how it’s all a trumped-up pack of lies (pun intended.)
In his own words, Trump has veered from claiming he was relying on a memo from Deputy Attorney General Rob Rosenstein, who criticized Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email-server investigation, as the basis for firing Comey.
Subsequently, Trump changed tracks and said he was going to fire Comey even before he got the Rosenstein memo, and that it was partly due to Comey’s determination to pursue the investigation into links between the Trump campaign/administration and Russian officials.
Reports also emerged that Rump — er, I mean Trump — went ballistic over Congressional testimony from former acting Attorney General Sally Yates (another troublesome employee fired after she pissed off the president), who among other things reported that she had advised the White House in January that disgraced National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had been having inappropriate contacts with Russian officials. Flynn ultimately lost his job over those contacts, but it took the Trump machine 18 days to make that call and for Flynn to be dismissed.
Questions have been arising about that delay (which has been symbolically compared to the 18-minute gap on President Richard Nixon’s White House tapes that led to Nixon’s resignation just before he was to be impeached back in the 1970s), and now Flynn’s lawyer reportedly is seeking immunity so he can openly testify before Congress. Presumably, Flynn knows something that Trump would rather be kept quiet.
Trump has so diligently tried to distract attention from the whole “Russia thing,” as he once characterized the investigation, he is suspected of having launched a missile attack on Syria to draw the public’s gaze away from the Russia probe.
Trump also has essentially threatened Comey with some sort of vague reprisals after Comey was fired, in a Twitter rant wherein Trump mentioned the possibility that there might be “tapes” of some sort of the conversations between the two leading up to the firing. Though he hedged on the point, suggesting Comey should be worried if such tapes existed, Trump appeared to be trying to intimidate Comey into keeping his mouth shut about whatever it is that Comey knows that might prove problematic for Trump.
Is this the way we want our president to behave?
The comparisons and parallels with the explosive demise of the Nixon presidency are too numerous to ignore, starting with the “Saturday Night Massacre” of October 1973, when Nixon forced the firing of special Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox after Cox insisted that Nixon turn over the tapes for review by the prosecutor’s office, causing the top two officials at the Justice Department to resign rather than comply with the president’s order. The act of firing Cox fell to Robert Bork, then third in line at the Justice Department, whose 1987 nomination to the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan was rejected by the U.S. Senate.
Of course, former Nixon White House counsel John Dean said a couple of days ago that he didn’t think the Comey firing quite measured up as a similar “massacre,” but the comparison continues to be made. And more and more observers are wondering whether Trump’s actions constitute the kind of mental instability that would require his removal from office, the same kinds of questions that circulated about Nixon in the waning days of his presidency, and the kind of questions that are not likely to go away any time soon.
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“If I was moving through the herd, the others would begin walking away, some of them at a jog, taking their calves with them, but the big brown ungulate would face me sideways, reluctant to move, not wanting to give any ground,” writes Tony Vagneur.