By Charles M. Blow – The New York Times.
I feel as if we are being conditioned to chaos by a “president” who abhors the stillness of stability. Every day we awake to a new outrage. We now exist in a rolling trauma — exhausting and unrelenting.
Yet even in that context, some things spike higher than others. Donald Trump’s firing of the F.B.I. director, James Comey, is one of those things. This should shock the whole of America out of its numbness.
This is outrageous and without precedent, unless of course we count (as many have) the 1973 Saturday Night Massacre in which “President Richard M. Nixon ordered the firing of Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor looking into the so-called third-rate burglary that would eventually bring Nixon down,” as The New York Times put it.
But Cox was just a special prosecutor; Comey was head of the F.B.I.
If you have been even mildly conscious over the past 36 hours, there is little new that I can tell you about this case, but here is the wrap-up:
In his termination letter to Comey, dated May 9, Trump writes that he concurs with “the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”
That judgment came in two letters, one from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and another from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, both dated May 9, the same day as the termination letter.
(Take a minute here to recall that it took Trump 18 days to fire the national security adviser Michael Flynn, after he was warned by then-Acting Attorney General Sally Yates that he could be compromised by the Russians and susceptible to blackmail. Interesting, isn’t it?)
First of all, what on earth was Sessions doing sending a letter in the first place? He said in early March, “I have recused myself in the matters that deal with the Trump campaign,” after he himself was found to have lied about meeting with the Russian ambassador.
How exactly does a person who is a proven liar about his own dealings with the Russians — and who has recused himself from matters dealing with the Trump campaign — make a recommendation to a president whose associates are being investigated for their ties to Russia? And the recommendation is to fire the man leading those investigations?
The sheer brazenness of it all is stunning.
It is in Rosenstein’s letter where things cross over from the outrageous to the absurd. Rosenstein writes: “As you and I have discussed, however, I cannot defend the Director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken.”
I actually agree with this, but here’s the problem: The president’s own public comments contradict this statement. During the campaign, Trump effusively praisedComey’s outrageous handling of the Clinton email nonissue. Indeed, Comey’s botching of that investigation may well be one of the reasons Trump stumbled into the White House.
So to pretend now that Trump is outraged by Comey’s mistreatment of Clinton simply boggles the mind. It is not to be believed.
Truth be told, the incessant lying by this president and the elaborate apparatus he has built in the White House to bend reality to meet those lies means that nothing they say is to be believed anyway, but this is of a different nature. This says to America: I’m going to tell you a lie that is so outrageous that you will want to believe that some part of it is true, to preserve your faith in truth, democracy and mankind.
They are using our own human nature against us. We want to believe that people’s natural default is toward truth and good, because the alternative is untenable: Moral anarchy? Well, the alternative is upon us.
Indeed, a White House spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday that Trump had considered firing Comey since January.
Then there is this little nugget from The New York Times:
“Days before he was fired, James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, asked the Justice Department for a significant increase in resources for the bureau’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the presidential election, according to four congressional officials, including Senator Richard J. Durbin.”
That appeal was made to Rosenstein.
And then the day after Comey was fired, Trump met at the White House with the Russian foreign minister and the Russian ambassador, the same ambassador whom Sessions had lied about meeting and who apparently met with other people associated with the Trump campaign. Trump also met Wednesday with Henry Kissinger, who served as Nixon’s secretary of state.
It’s all just too much. We need an independent investigator. I don’t trust anything — anything! — coming out of this White House, and I don’t trust this feckless Congress to constrain Trump.
This is not about partisanship, but patriotism. We must protect this country from moral corrosion, at best, and actual destruction, at worst.
If this doesn’t stink to you, your nose is broken.