by Bill Moyers & Michael Winship
This post first appeared at BillMoyers.com
So Donald Trump fired James Comey because the FBI director mistreated Hillary Clinton last summer over her use of private emails.
Trump takes us for chumps. The Republic is nothing to him but a crap game. And he loads the dice.
In this case, he signs the letter dismissing Comey and hands it to his personal bodyguard to take over to the FBI office. But Comey isn’t there. He’s in Los Angeles, where he will hear on television that he has been dumped — and at first think it’s a practical joke. We are not making this up.
Hardly 24 hours had passed since Sally Q. Yates, the former acting attorney general who in late January also was fired by Trump, testified before a Senate hearing that she had informed the White House that Trump’s duplicitous national security adviser, retired Gen. Michael Flynn, had lied about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the United States and was vulnerable to Russian blackmail. But it took Trump another 18 days to fire him and then only after The Washington Post leaked what Yates had uncovered.
In her testimony Monday, Yates was such a straight arrow, the iconic public servant, and so devastatingly credible that the White House had to figure out how to blunt her testimony.
How to change the story? How to send the bloodhounds of the press howling down another trail?
Fire Comey, and say you don’t like the way he handled the Hillary Clinton email affair, although last year — gasp! — you lavished praise on him for doing exactly what you now say he screwed up.
“It took a lot of guts,” Trump said when Comey reopened his investigation of Clinton. But that was then and this is now. The irony of the man who screamed “Lock her up!” throughout his presidential campaign now trying to shed crocodile tears for “Crooked Hillary,” as Trump called his Democratic rival, would be hilarious if it wasn’t so very obviously cynical and contrived.
But clearly, something else is going on here. Could it be that Comey’s investigation of Russia’s interference with our election was getting closer and closer to Trump? Is that why the Trump gang pushed him out the nearest window?
And what about this statement in Trump’s brief letter officially dismissing Comey: “While I greatly appreciate you informing me on three separate occasions that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless, concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau.” WHAT three occasions, and what did Comey say, when did he say it, and why? Or is Trump lying about that, too?
Bottom line: Is the White House simply trying to cover up the truth? That question answers itself.
And oh, let’s not forget Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, the attorney general of the United States, who had to recuse himself from the investigation of Russia because he, too, had been dishonest about contacts with the Russian ambassador. Recused or not, he was directly involved in sacking Comey. Does anyone around Trump keep his word?
Trump’s dismissal of Comey smacks of what the autocrats in Turkey, Egypt, and the Philippines would do – each of them praised recently by Trump, who clearly sees them as role models. It is also more than a little reminiscent of Richard Nixon’s 1973 Saturday Night Massacre. Nixon wanted to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox but his attorney general and deputy attorney general refused to do his dirty work. They were fired, too. In Sessions, Trump has a more compliant stooge.
The constant drip of evidence continues. There are reports that a federal grand jury has issued subpoenas to associates of Michael Flynn. James Hohmann at The Washington Postnoted that at Monday’s Senate hearing, former director of national intelligence James Clapper “was asked about a news report that Britain’s intelligence service first became aware in late 2015 of suspicious interactions between Trump advisers and Russian intelligence agents. The same story also said multiple European allies passed along information in the spring of 2016. Asked if that is accurate, [Clapper] replied: ‘Yes, it is and it’s also quite sensitive… The specifics are quite sensitive.’”
How does Trump react? He fires off more of his querulous, defensive tweets, claiming the whole Russia story is “fake news.” That’s his response to just about everything. What was it Joseph Addison, playwright beloved by the Founders, said? Oh, yes: “Husband a lie, and trump it up in some extraordinary emergency.” No pun intended.
Trump is hiding something. Something extraordinary. To keep it hidden there is no end to the chaos he will stir at the highest level of government. Every day he lies lustily, as reflexively as the rest of us breathe, knowing some filth will stick. With each day he edges us closer to autocracy.
With the news of Comey’s sacking, the need is clear and more absolute than ever: We must have a special prosecutor to turn the stones over — or an independent and bipartisan commission with subpoena power and public hearings, like the 9/11 commission. Or both.
Trump’s presidency is deeply corrupted, our democracy is compromised, and the system of checks and balances is failing us.
He’s attempting a coup. No joke. We need the truth. Now.