Wednesday, May 10, 2017

America's new post-Comey reality

Mod: Not since the dark days of Richard Nixon, Watergate and the Saturday Night Massacre, has America seen an event quite like this one. Here is what CNN is reporting.

America's new post-Comey reality (CNN link): America woke to a new, and potentially traumatic, political reality Wednesday. President Donald Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey without warning on Tuesday afternoon has unleashed a political earthquake with few parallels across the span of American history and deeply uncertain consequences. It leaves the nation confronting complicated questions about the relationship between government and independent law enforcement, the nature of Trump's use of power and possibly even the integrity of the presidency itself.

Trump already had Washington on edge three months into his term. But his sudden strike against Comey was unconventional even by his own standards, and immediately and significantly exacerbated the discord that has raged since he took office. It may also have delivered another damaging blow to his own viability and the goodwill he needs to build a successful presidency.

As a shocked Washington digested the implications of Trump's political decapitation of Comey, accusations from Trump critics began to fly, and his defenders struggled to summon effective counterattacks.

But this was not just politics as usual. Something very significant had just occurred: The President fired an FBI chief overseeing a probe into claims his own campaign colluded with Russia to meddle in last year's election.

FBI directors always serve at the pleasure of the President. But it was those circumstances that left everyone breathless.

"I think it is profoundly troubling for our democracy," CNN's senior political analyst David Gergen said. "(Trump) may not mean to, but he is giving the impression that he thinks danger is getting too close."

Whatever that turns out to be true or not, Trump's move raised several possibilities, neither of which are likely to end well for him.

First, there is the question of whether Comey firing marks a deliberate attempt to disrupt the Russia investigation -- which would potentially amount to an abuse of power.

Alternatively, Comey's dismissal made quickly on Tuesday afternoon following a Justice Department recommendation, will appear to be an impulsive swipe made with little forethought and or insight into consequences that hint at gross political negligence.

Historical precedent?

News of Trump's breathtaking decision broke just before 6 p.m. ET after a comparatively normal Tuesday in Washington, which was digging in for the GOP's long campaign to navigate an Obamacare repeal bill through the Senate.

Everyone was left groping for a historical precedent and had the same thought at once: Watergate.

Trump's dismissal of Comey brought to mind President Richard Nixon's order for Attorney General Eliot Richardson to sack special prosecutor Archibald Cox in 1973 -- a move that unleashed political forces that would eventually bring him down in disgrace. (Richardson and a deputy refused and resigned instead.)

"The only historical parallel is the Saturday Night Massacre," CNN Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley said.

CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin accused Trump of a "grotesque abuse of power."

Most immediately, the firing of Comey spurs questions about the future course of the investigation into Russia election interference.

After all, the President will now have to nominate a new director changed with overseeing the investigation into his own associates -- raising immediate questions over the new FBI boss' independence.

Those who see a nefarious hand in the firing will note that every investigation into the Russia issue -- in the FBI in Congress, will now be overseen by a Trump appointee or a Republican. And any new FBI chief nominated by Trump is now guaranteed a rocky and acrimonious confirmation process.

The rationale for the firing of Comey is also set to come under intense security.

The rationale

Newly confirmed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein laid out a charge sheet related to Comey's handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation which many Democrats believe cost their candidate the presidency last year.

Yet Comey's actions -- including publicly upbraiding the former secretary of state for her stewardship of classified information even though she was not charged -- were raucously backed by Trump on the campaign trail.

And Trump's team has never shown anything but contempt for Clinton's complaints about the way the email saga derailed her campaign.

So the idea that the President was suddenly motivated by a desire to clean up that episode seems far fetched.

Even if he was, critics want to know why Comey was fired on Tuesday with new questions about Russia swirling around the White House and not as soon as Trump took office.

The fate of the FBI investigation itself must also now be in question.

Despite Democratic antipathy, Comey still boasted a reputation for integrity. Amid the congressional shenanigans over the Russia matter, Comey's was easily the most authoritative voice. When he announced during a Capitol Hill hearing two months ago that his agents were probing for any links between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence operatives, it put a much more serious cast on the entire episode.

Now that voice is silent.

Brookings Institution scholars Benjamin Wittes and Susan Hennessey, who is also a CNN analyst, said Tuesday's events raised profound legal and ethical issues.

"There's also no question that removing the FBI director in the midst of a high-stakes investigation of Russian influence in the inner circle of the President's campaign and White House is a horrifying breach of every expectation we have of the relationship between the White House and federal law enforcement," they wrote on the Lawfare blog.

Comey's dismissal and the administration's motivation will inject a new and time consuming new element into congressional probes into the Russia affair.

Investigations in the House and Senate, struggling with a mountain of evidence and political infighting had already looked to stretch on for months. Now they seem all but inevitable to stretch into next year least before they find answers.

Political implications

Then there are the political implications unleashed by Trump's move for the White House itself.

The Russia drama has hounded this administration even before its first days in office, over claims of Moscow's interference in the election, Trump's affinity for President Vladimir Putin and ties to Moscow of aides like sacked national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page.

Now it seems unlikely that the suspicions and accusation will ever go away and seem certain to inflict new damage on Trump's already compromised approval ratings.

At early on the White House seemed unprepared for the firestorm that quickly came its way on Tuesday evening.

Administration officials fanned out to talk to reporters outside the presidential mansion and headed to cameras to go on cable networks.

On CNN, Trump's counselor Kellyanne Conway told Anderson Cooper "this has nothing to do with Russia."

"Somebody must be getting $50 every time (Russia) is said on TV ... (This) has everything to do with whether the current FBI director has the President's confidence and can faithfully execute his duties," she said.

On Wednesday, deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will face a test of fire at the podium in the White House briefing room. One question she will face is whether the administration is seeking to close down the Russia probes.

After all, Comey is not the first to be shown the door for at least appearing to pose a threat to the White House.

On Monday, former acting Attorney General Sally Yates testified to senators about how she was fired days after warning that Flynn could be compromised by Russia. The administration insists she was dismissed for refusing to implement Trump's travel ban on residents of seven Muslim nations.

Preet Bharara, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who had jurisdiction over the area of Trump Tower, was also fired by the President.

The White House meanwhile appears at the very least to have sought to sow distraction in the House intelligence committee investigation into Russian election meddling -- which ended with the chairman of the panel, GOP Rep. Devin Nunes, having to step down with his independence besmirched.

Trump, meanwhile, has repeatedly spoken and tweeted in a manner that suggests he is trying to discredit the investigations.

"The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?" Trump tweeted the day before firing Comey.

While none of these examples proves clear wrongdoing by the White House, together they add up to a pattern that is fuels suspicion among Trump critics.

Major challenge

One major challenge for the White House now will be to solidify support among Republicans and head off Democratic claims that a special prosecutor or independent probe into the Russian evidence is now inevitable.

Some Republicans, like Sens. Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio, did initially take the administration's rationale for dismissing Comey at face value. But others are wavering.

Sen. Richard Burr, who chairs the Senate intelligence committee probe into alleged Russian election meddling, expressed extreme concern over Tuesday's events.

"I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey's termination. 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," the North Carolina Republican said in a statement.

Other Republicans struggled to make sense of the White House's behavior.

"Regardless of how you think Director Comey handled the unprecedented complexities of the 2016 election cycle, the timing of this firing is very troubling," said GOP Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska.

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake meanwhile tweeted: "I've spent the last several hours trying to find an acceptable rationale for the timing of Comey's firing. I just can't do it."


  1. "It is almost always the cover-up rather than the event that causes trouble." - Howard Baker

  2. You'd think Libs would be happy after Comey caused Hillary to lose-by her own words.

    1. Trump is using Clinton as his excuse to fire Comey, the guy who is investigating allegations that the President of the United States engaged in acts of treason.

    2. You don't even know what 'lib' means

    3. I told y'all in the primaries that trump had based his campaign and presidential ambitions on Nixon.

      So gross
      And fools still blindly support him

    4. It is has nothing to do with liberal vs. conservative. It has everything to do with individuals who conspired with an enemy nation to win an election. To say otherwise is to suggest that all conservatives are traitors, and all liberals patriots.

  3. Mr. Comey was a dedicated public servant, his persona came across as a "good guy".
    He just was not the right "guy", for the position of Director of the FBI.
    His firing was clumsy at best, in how it was handled, but he had to go.
    The FBI Director's position is to lead the department in "collection" of "material"; not to make or lead with assumptions on "materials" collected.
    The department cannot be run, as a Social Service. The division and separation of powers, must be maintained at the highest level.
    President Trump was advised, that Mr. Comey did not meet the standards of his appointed position.
    Rough beginning, but the swamp cleaning has begun. Washington D.C. had some reality awakening of just why Senators and Congressmen hold their positions. They are there to "serve" the people who elected them.

    1. My God you are the stupidest person I've ever come across.Are implying trump may fire Congress if they fail to serve him properly?

    2. The idea that firing Comey was Sessions' idea is an obvious charade. Designed to give the Orange Turncoat some political cover.

  4. Sen. Mark Warner, the senior Democrat on the committee, issued this statement: "The administration insists there's no 'there there,' yet President Trump has so far fired the acting Attorney General, nearly every U.S. attorney, and now the Director of the FBI. In addition, this President's choice for Attorney General has been forced to recuse himself, and the National Security Advisor has resigned, as a result of undisclosed contacts with Russian officials. Now more than ever, it is vital that our ongoing investigation is completed in a credible and bipartisan way. We also need to hear directly from former Director Comey about the FBI investigation and related events."

    1. Huh. So now Comey can testify before Congress and won't have to hold so much back? Nice!

  5. Donald Trump has surrounded himself with sycophants and amateurs who are either unwilling or unable to tell him no. He lacks a David-Gergen-like figure who is wise to the ways of Washington and has the stature to speak up when the president says he wants to fire an FBI director who is overseeing the counterintelligence investigation into whether his associates coordinated with Moscow. Without such a person, Trump just walked headlong into a political buzz saw.

  6. Maxine Waters openly admitted that there was no Trump-Russia collusion. It's Hegelian, you say their is collusion a zillion times and people believe it. Well, Maxine got it right, so why doesn't the Left print her words?....NO Collusion between Trump and Russia!

    1. Fox News disagrees with you, MiloMay 10, 2017 at 8:26 AM

      Maxine Waters to Trump: Do US a 'Favor' and 'Resign'
      "Waters, 78, has repeatedly accused Trump of working in collusion with the Russians and not being the legitimate president because Russian leader Vladimir Putin put his thumb on the electoral scales."

    2. Just make it up 8:04, just make it up.

    3. Ha, you make me chuckle. Just as I said the Left doesn't want to print her statement. You are reporting an article from May 1st of this year. Sweet Maxine made the no collusion statement in the past day or so. Just google it. As I said, many more months will the Left keep looking for what isn't there? Maxine can accuse all she wants, but accusations are NOT facts.

    4. Sorry. You lied and got called out.

  7. Let's hope so, 7:56. I'm still waiting for some Republicans to show that they have a spine, care about this country, and start impeachment proceedings.

  8. Trumpistan Turns on James Comey - Freedom and accountability are not priorities for this president. Power is his bottom line.

  9. I'm not a supporter of Hillary, but the bottom line that Trump supporters fail to understand is that Putin did everything he could to ensure that Hillary, who would have been a major thorn in Putin's side everywhere in the world he attempts have influence, was not elected.

    Putin installed with the help of tough talking, but gullible, whiney Americans the only major public figure that he could control economically. If Trump does not do Putin's bidding, bye bye bigs loans from Russian oligarchs and bye bye Trump's investments in Russia.

    Those who support thwarting the investigation into Russian influence over American elections and the Russian economic ties with and influence over the American president should cease calling themselves Americans.

  10. Any "Russian"investigation should have a special prosecutor inorder to get to the facts on record.
    Along those same lines, a special investigation should be opened to investigate the mishandling of confidential E-mails from Hillary Clinton and Huma Albedin.
    What is good for the goose, is good for the gander.

    1. One has absolutely nothing to do with the other. Clinton is not in office, Trump is and presents a massive security risk.

    2. Typical Fox News addled false equivalence.

    3. The rumor is Donald wants to hire Bill O'Reilly for his cabinet. Considering what Fox News fired him for, Bill would be an ideal fit.

  11. 9:26am. Today is not Sady Hawkins day!
    You have it backwards. Clinton did (no statute of limitations) pose a National Security risk with her careless mishandling of confidential E-mails.
    As for Trump, the only security risk is in "your" own mind, as you choose to live in the land of paranoia.

    1. Why is the FBI investigating Trump for treason?

    2. Trump troll so desperate Kellyanne style

    3. He really does stick to his daily talking points. It is like he is getting instructions. Wouldn't it be cool if he is a Russian troll?

    4. That's why I asked the mid a few times if he was still getting russian page view traffic.

    5. In the last week this blog has received 2,518 hits that Google identifies as having originated in Russia. Puts them in a distant second place behind the US. Third place is Germany with 183.

  12. Here's the facts, 2016 under the Obama administration comey failed to do his job and FBI employees lost faith in comeys actions and fbi employees leaked Hillary's wrong doings and further quit. Comey and Lynch failed to be a leader and further protected / and handed out get out of jail cards to Hillary - Billy - Chelsea - rice - obama.... Let's let the fbi agents gather evidence and let these idiots be heard and prosecuted under our laws

    1. This is irrelevant. None of the people you've mentioned here hold political or government offices. What is important is the Trump administration is under investigation for treason by the FBI and other agencies. Plus foreign intelligence services have tons of info on these losers. Deal with reality.

  13. Fine. Set up yet another separate investigation of Hillary about her private email account. Be sure to include in that investigation Republicans Condi Rice and Colin Powell who also reportedly used private email for confidential and secret Stae Department documents. Heck, throw in some additional investigations about Benghazi, Whitewater, Vince Foster. Who cares. None of them are in power and whether they're found guilty or not has no bearing on our national security.

    But don't think you can distract from fully investigating your comrade Vladimir Putin's influence on the elections that matter to true Americans. And don't think you can distract away from the trail that shows just how beholden Trump and his confederates are to Putin, information true Americans have right to know.

  14. There are hundreds of protesters outside the White House right now chanting "Lock him up!" and "Rule of Law!" I can't imagine the Orange Turncoat is digging on that.

  15. The Russians made us do vodka for all. Each American that didn't for for "that" woman, was secretly promised a case of Russian Caviar and booze.
    That's why President Trump received so many votes.

    1. Fish eggs and potato juice. You'd have to be pretty desperate.

    2. Trump didn't receive that many votes
      He lost the vote you goose stepping moron

    3. John Gotti had a better personality and wore nicer suits... Just sayin...

  16. Some folks think it is possible that some embarrassing stuff on the Orange Turncoat is going to be released soon, probably starting in Europe. Seems like it could happen if heads of other nations are tired of dumpster. Everything is speeding up now, it seems.

  17. Troll gets trumped again:

    Russian State Media Get Access To White House Meeting While U.S. Press Kept Out
    “It’s unprecedented,” says NBC’s Andrea Mitchell.

    Swamp thug