Thursday, May 11, 2017

Acting On Impulse

The Washington Post has an in-depth look into the background of the Comey firing.

Every time FBI Director James B. Comey appeared in public, an ever-watchful President Trump grew increasingly agitated that the topic was the one that he was most desperate to avoid: Russia.

Trump had long questioned Comey’s loyalty and judgment, and was infuriated by what he viewed as the director’s lack of action in recent weeks on leaks from within the federal government. By last weekend, he had made up his mind: Comey had to go.

At his golf course in Bedminster, N.J., Trump groused over Comey’s latest congressional testimony, which he thought was “strange,” and grew impatient with what he viewed as his sanctimony, according to White House officials. Comey, Trump figured, was using the Russia probe to become a martyr.

Back at work Monday morning in Washington, Trump told Vice President Pence and several senior aides — Reince Priebus, Stephen K. Bannon and Donald McGahn, among others — that he was ready to move on Comey. First, though, he wanted to talk with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, his trusted confidant, and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, to whom Comey reported directly. Trump summoned the two of them to the White House for a meeting, according to a person close to the White House.

The president already had decided to fire Comey, according to this person. But in the meeting, several White House officials said Trump gave Sessions and Rosenstein a directive: to explain in writing the case against Comey.

The pair quickly fulfilled the boss’s orders, and the next day Trump fired Comey — a breathtaking move that thrust a White House already accustomed to chaos into a new level of tumult, one that has legal as well as political consequences.

Rosenstein threatened to resign after the narrative emerging from the White House on Tuesday evening cast him as a prime mover of the decision to fire Comey and that the president acted only on his recommendation, said the person close to the White House, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Justice Department officials declined to comment.

When asked during a photo op why he fired Comey, Trump said he wasn’t “doing a good job.”  That means — to Trump — Comey wasn’t toeing the White House line that President Obama had secretly wiretapped Trump Tower, he wasn’t investigating the leaks from the White House and, worst of all, he was hogging too much screen time on TV talking about Russia.

The president can fire anyone in the executive branch; they all serve, as the saying goes, at the pleasure of the president.  But there has to be some sort of impulse control; everyone loses their temper over something with someone, but that doesn’t mean you act out on it with deep political and even legal consequences.

It’s no great revelation to find out that Trump is not someone who thinks things through; he was genuinely surprised at the shitstorm that fell on him Tuesday night and all day yesterday.  He thought the Democrats would be happy he did what some of them clamored for last fall and for the reason they wanted: he screwed up the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation.  He didn’t see the glaring truth that nobody would buy that from him now, and then when he goes and gratuitously throws in “you’re not investigating me,” he sounds like a kid who says “Don’t look in my room, Mom!”

He also had no clue — or if he did, he didn’t care — that this move will make it basically impossible to get anything through Congress without a Sisyphean struggle.  The Democrats, well-taught by the Republicans during the Obama administration, will use every lever and device they can to throw sand in the gears of confirmation hearings and legislation until they get answers.

If Trump is counting on loyalists in the party to hold up his story, he’s either forgetting — or doesn’t care — that Congress is up for re-election in less than two years and the longer the Republicans are tied to this juggernaut of a clusterfuck, they’re going to be the ones who get the blowback from the voters.  Yes, November 2018 is an eternity in politics, but Google lasts forever and you can be sure that there are plenty of political ads already being crafted with vulnerable GOP representatives with bulls-eyes painted on their backs.  When it comes down to standing with Trump or saving their own skin, it’s not hard to guess which choice they’ll make.

None of this is going to force Trump out of office ahead of schedule.  Talk of impeachment or resignation is just so much delusional click-bait.  But if he keeps acting on impulse like this — and dog forbid he should lash out at a foreign power or adversary in this manner — the more he will lose credibility and leverage with anyone other than his rabid base and basically become an attention-seeking noisemaker with access to the nuclear codes.

One bark on “Acting On Impulse

  1. He is even worse than I could have imagined. He is also very transparent. He doesn’t want the Russia thing to be investigated. He is mad and he will do anything he can think of to make it go away. He will not succeed. He is not a king. We have two other co-equal branches of government. I would urge him to read the Constitution probably for the first time.

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