Last week, President Trump abruptly fired F.B.I. Director James Comey. Since that time, he has given conflicting accounts of the reasoning behind his decision.
The recommendations of Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, and Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, were cited by the administration as contributing factors. Last Thursday, however, Trump stated that he already knew he was going to fire Comey, independently of advice from the Justice Department.
He said in an NBC interview, “It was set up a while ago […] And frankly, I could have waited, but what difference does it make?” The officially cited reason for Comey’s firing was his handling of the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails.
The F.B.I. is currently conducting multiple investigations. Among them is a review of communications between former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, and the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.
Flynn allegedly engaged in inappropriate discussions with the Russian ambassador over the possible elimination of sanctions. He then was untruthful in subsequent communications with Vice President, Mike Pence. Flynn was terminated on February 13 as a result of these revelations.
The alleged conversation occurred the next day, on February 14, after a meeting at the White House. The president asked Comey to stay behind in the Oval office, and then engaged him on the issue of Michael Flynn.
President Trump reportedly asked Comey to stop the investigation into Flynn. He also reportedly expressed his desire for reporters who publish leaked classified information to be prosecuted.
Comey wrote the memo immediately following his exchange with the president. He then shared it with other relevant bureau officials who decided to keep the information secret so that it could not impede other active federal investigations.
Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Jason Chaffetz, has set a deadline of May 24 for the delivery of all relevant documents. He wrote in the letter to acting FBI Director, Andrew G. McCabe, that, “According to the report, ‘Mr. Comey created similar memos-including some that are classified-about every phone call and meeting he had with the president.’ If true, these memoranda raise questions as to whether the President attempted to influence or impede the FBI’s investigation as it relates to Lt. Gen. Flynn.”
On Friday morning, President Trump tweeted threateningly about Comey, saying in one post that, “James Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, was later quick to assert that the tweet was not a threat at all, but simply a statement of fact. Spicer’s mobster-like clarification has evidently done little to stem the flood of backlash.
It is still unclear whether there are actually any tapes at all. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi has asked Donald McGahn, White House Council, to provide any and all recordings of the President’s conversations with Comey.
Additionally, Elijah Cummings, ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, and John Conyers, ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, have separately asked for those same recordings. Their letter reads, in part:
“Under Section 1512 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code, it is a crime to intimidate or threaten any potential witness with the intent to influence, delay, or prevent their official testimony. The President’s actions this morning-as well as his admission yesterday that he fired Director Comey because he was investigating Trump campaign officials and their connection to the Russian government-raise the specter of possible intimidation and obstruction of justice.”
Calls for impeachment have been consistent since the election concluded, most often from political opponents of the administration. Various arguments have been made, including the existence of legal issues surrounding Trump University.
The House of Representatives holds the power to impeach, and it would have to vote to that effect in order for the process to occur. For the vote to pass it would have to obtain a simple majority there. This means that all House Democrats would need to vote “yes” along with more than a handful of House Republicans.
It would also have to be thoroughly demonstrated that the President committed a crime significant enough to qualify him for impeachment. Obstruction of justice would likely qualify under the stipulated category of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Impeachment advocates also don’t have U.S. history on their side. Only two U.S. presidents, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, ever experienced an impeachment. Neither of those two was ever convicted. Other presidents have come close. The most notable of these was Richard Nixon, who resigned before an impeachment could occur.
Comparisons are already being drawn between the current tumult and that which erupted during Watergate. Nancy Pelosi, who has been consistently critical of the new administration said, “If these reports are true […] it is an assault on the rule of law that is fundamental to our democracy. At best, President Trump has committed a grave abuse of executive power. At worst, he has obstructed justice [….]”
Chuck Schumer also spoke before the Senate, saying, “I was shaken by the report in the New York Times that alleged that the president tried to shut down an active FBI investigation into a close political associate, and we are only one day removed from stunning allegations that the president may have divulged classified information to a known adversary. Concerns about our national security, our rule of law, the independence of our nation’s highest law enforcement agencies are mounting. Our country is being tested in unprecedented ways. I say to all of my colleagues in the Senate: ‘history is watching.'”
Comey’s memo will need to become public before anything else of substance can be determined. If what the memo contains is actually as substantial and damning as some of the administration’s critics say it is, then Donald Trump may, indeed, be headed for a scandal of epic proportions.
Far more important is the way that Donald Trump has chosen to approach governance. He appears far more concerned with hissing and moaning on social media than with efficient or effective decision making. Furthermore, it is evident that the aforementioned hissing and moaning has done him significant damage.
Trump is well on his way to becoming the least mature, least organized, and least competent president in U.S. history. Some will inevitably say that this claim is indefensible and others will inevitably agree wholeheartedly.
Regardless, President Trump is an embarrassment. What is more, his administration has embarrassed itself by making some of the most foolish mistakes that an administration can. The air is thick with the heavy stench of ineptitude, and we can do nothing but breathe it in. Welcome to Trump’s America.