Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Tiny Hands, Big Cox

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari Goldstein)
"Just turn the lights off. Turn the lights off. We’ll take care of this… Can you just turn that light off?" -Sean Spicer, from the bushes of the White House
Today, I'm thinking of the late Archibald Cox. Many of us are, whether or not we appreciate or are conscious of the historical context. Cox became such an indelible part of American history when Nixon fired him. Of course, Nixon had to get through a few people at the DOJ to do that, including the Attorney General  When his Attorney General Elliot Richardson refused to fire the Watergate Special prosecutor (a nearly unprecedented non-move in itself), Richardson resigned. When the axe was placed in the hand of his deputy, William Ruckelshaus, he, too refused the order and also resigned. The Saturday Night Massacre, as it would be known, was completed when Nixon's Solicitor General, failed SCOTUS nominee Robert Bork, did the dirty deed with alacrity. In short, everyone who colluded with Nixon went down in flames either then or later. Some, like Chuck Colson, ended up in prison. Everyone who pursued Nixon and the lawful ends of justice were transformed into American heroes, including Cox.
     Late yesterday afternoon, "President" Donald Trump took the extraordinary step of firing FBI Director James Comey, a man heading up an FBI investigation into Russia's meddling with the 2016 election. What was even more extraordinary is that, to use Trump's more or less official narrative (on, of course, his Twitter account), Comey had told Trump on no less than three occasions he was not being investigated. So why would Trump wait for months before firing the guy who'd assured him he'd been exonerated for his collusion with the Russian government?
     And what was most extraordinary about the firing was that Trump and the White House thought firing Comey at the end of the news cycle would be a win/win situation because certain Democrats had been critical of Comey's handling (justifiably) of the Clinton email investigations that had yielded no charges, no grand juries, no nothing.
     Which was Trump's official reason for firing the FBI Director. It was all about the emails. Not about Comey asking for additional money for his Trump-Russia investigation in the days before he was fired.
     Predictably, Democrats and Republicans alike began screaming their heads off and, of course, Trump lost the message as he dropped a putter long enough to tweet that Democrats were being hypocritical in their condemnation of Trump firing the guy who was the head of an investigation into his dealings with Russia.
     The issue, of course, isn't whether or not Comey was effective in leading the bureau or how ultimately fruitless was his investigation into the Clinton emails but the fact that Trump fired the one guy who stood to do him the most harm. Trump must have known something about what was said between Comey and the Senate Intelligence subcommittee in that now-famous closed door session of March 15th. Dianne Feinstein recently reminded Chuck Grassley of the contents of Comey's testimony which she'd characterized as "thorough": and "comprehensive."
     In other words, Comey had a lot of dirt on Trump and, Trump being the simpleton that he is, thought that getting rid of Comey would also get rid of the investigation into Russia's role in the election. It will not. Comey was not the investigation but the head of it.
     Since then, things have been happening fast and furious, proving, once again, that things only move quickly in DC when someone powerful is in trouble and when the press smells blood in the water.

In the Weeds
     As usual, Sean Spicer and his people were on their heels by 5:30 last night. In fact, they were so literally taken aback they had to resort to hiding in the White House bushes in the dark to avoid the press and wouldn't come out again until they turned their cameras off. Then, typically, the impromptu briefing got increasingly adversarial as Spicer mumbled and bumbled his way though a bunch of stock answers. By early this afternoon, Spicer was so terrified of the press he threw Sara Huckabee Sanders (Mike Huckabee's daughter) to the suddenly befanged wolves of the DC Press Corps.
     In rapid succession, we heard the following:
     Comey would testify before the Senate on Thursday. Then it was possibly Wednesday (today). By this morning, we heard that Comey's place at the table would be filled by the Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe. He will also be flanked by Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo. In other words, Trump's Three Stooges.
     After claiming he had nothing to hide, Trump's now lawyering up, a sure sign that he has a lot to hide, especially after he heard about Lindsey Graham's threat to investigate him for his business dealings (Graham, don't forget, supported Comey's termination).
     Democrats seized upon Comey's abrupt termination and forcefully drove home the point that it proved more than ever the need for an independent investigation. Trump can legally fire the FBI Director or his Attorney General or thousands of other government employees. He can't fire elected officials.
     Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved just as swiftly-Today he'd essentially quashed any hopes of an independent investigation. Yes, the husband of Trump's Transportation  Secretary has eliminated any chance of an independent investigation into her boss. Nice how that just happened to work out, huh?
     So now, unless McConnell's got another nuke left in his dwindling arsenal, Senate Democrats are reduced to blocking Trump's FBI Director nominee until they get their special prosecutor to head up that independent investigation into Trump's dealings with Russia. And to prove Trump's innocence regarding his dealings with Putin's Russia, this is what he'd posted on his own Instagram account at the very same time Sally Yates and James Clapper were testifying before the Senate Intelligence subcommittee:

     To add insult to injury to our intellects, Trump had met today with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and their Ambassador spy to the US, Sergey Kislyak, the same Kislyak with whom many of Trump's top aides had met during and after the campaign then lied about to Congress.
     Trump couldn't make his complicity with the Russians more obvious or in-your-face audacious if he sucked Putin's cock during a State dinner before a dozen C-Span cameras.

Why Isn't Russiagate Part of the National Lexicon?
     It's a fair enough question. While over the last four and a half decades we've heard countless useless iterations involving the -gate suffix pertaining to minor political scandals, this is one that's earned its place because of the chillingly eerie way in which this recalls Watergate, still the granddaddy of all exposed political scandals. Pundits are absolutely correct in saying this pushes us closer to the Constitutional crisis toward which the Trump administration has been inexorably pushing us since January 20th.
     This is a looming Constitutional crisis involving measures that have fairly broad bipartisan support, starting with Lindsey Graham and John McCain, who's been unwavering in his condemnation of Trump since withdrawing his support for him just before Election Day. To put it mildly, Comey's firing betrays Trump's horrible timing and sense of optics.
     And anyone misinformed enough to support Comey's firing is missing the big picture- It's true that Director Comey bungled the Clinton email investigations. He extended immunity for virtually all the witnesses and extended that immunity even to materials seized, including laptops containing damning evidence. Comey was handed a political investigation in a highly polarized general election year and couldn't have fucked it up any more than he had.
     Yet despite what Donald Trump screams on his Twitter account and what he'd said in his letter to Comey (who didn't realize he'd been fired until he saw it on the news while speaking to FBI employees), this had nothing to do with the long-dead Clinton investigation. Why wait months before firing Comey and why wait until the former Director was heading up an investigation into Trump himself, the details of which he was sharing with US Senators in open and closed door hearings?
     And again, why fire the man who, by Trump's own account, had vindicated him from any wrongdoing and told him so on three different occasions? This is a so-called Chief Executive who'd hung on to the toxic Michael Flynn for an additional 18 days after firing the Acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, after she'd warned the administration about Flynn for the third time.
     It doesn't take a degree in political science or years of writing political journalism to know when an administration is running scared. The Press Secretary's literally hiding in the bushes, sending out flaks to take the heat, Trump's lawyering up and is so blind to bad optics he's entertaining Russian spies like Kislyak in the Oval Office just hours after firing an FBI Director who was leading an investigation into Trump's connection to the country that surely skewed the last election in his favor.
     The furor over Comey's firing stems not from any loyalty or faith in the man's abilities. It's not even about Comey's effectiveness in leading the FBI. In the final days of a term that was to last until 2023 (a ten year term limit for FBI Directors was installed, ironically, so the FBI wouldn't get embroiled in political matters), Comey perhaps felt that he'd owed it to the American public to get one investigation right and to bring down a criminal who was even worse than Hillary Clinton. It wasn't what Comey was that now brings us a couple of steps closer to this Constitutional crisis- It was what he represented-
     A rare chance for the bad guy to get a fat stake in his black heart. And the bad guy, as we'd just discovered last night, wouldn't have that.

1 Comments:

At May 10, 2017 at 5:54 PM, Blogger Stan B. said...

Excellent point, indeed!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_scandals_with_%22-gate%22_suffix

 

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