Hairs feel the swift whack of a sharp blade as Congressional minds split them. Rarely has testimony been parsed so cleanly except from the elevated perch of Senate and House hearings.
Today former FBI Director James Comey quoted the president as saying to him, of Comey’s investigation relating to General Mike Flynn, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” A Republican on the committee receiving his testimony pounced on the verb ‘hope’, demanding that Comey agree that ‘hope’ has gotten no one prosecuted.
Ah, but we know what Trump meant. He set the stage: “Alone at last, so I can say what I want and my underlings can’t shield you. Grab ’em by the . . .[paycheck]. You like your job, Jim? Hmmmm?”
Comey did not rise to the bait; and the gavel fell on his tenure which Trump had previously urged him to continue.
This cannot pass the smell test. It reeks of rank manipulation of superior bargaining position. Abuse of power. Well beyond mutual back-scratching, don’t you know. Trump is the president of the entire nation.
Consider this: “In the end, the constitutional separation of powers supports both sides of the argument over a President’s proper authority. It reinforces a President’s right or duty to issue a decree, order, or proclamation to carry out a particular power that truly is committed to his discretion by the Constitution or by a lawful statute passed by Congress. On the other hand, the constitutional separation of powers cuts the other way if the President attempts to issue an order regarding a matter that is expressly committed to another branch of government; it might even render the presidential action void. Finally, separation of powers principles may be unclear or ambiguous when the power is shared by two branches of government.”
The FBI investigates. That assignment of authority put the matter of what Flynn did or did not do and how to respond squarely in the province of Comey and his agency. Trump had no business hoping for a certain course of action. Even less should he have expressed that hope out loud to the person responsible for the investigation after sequestering him by ousting others from the room.
Listen: If I go out to my secretary Miranda’s desk, lean close so only she can hear, and whisper, “I hope you change the date on the Stamps.com print-out to make it looked like I timely mailed my tax return,” she knows what I mean. I want her to do exactly what I’ve said but I want to avoid directly asking for it. Plausible deniability. If she gives me what I hope to get from her, she becomes complicit in my attempt to skirt the law. Is she free to say no? I pay her. I control her employment. She knows that “hope” means “if you want to keep working here, make this happen”. (Not that I would; in the apt words of #44, this is an analogy.)
You can dance around the deal all day long, people. Comey knew what Trump meant. He meant, wink wink, nudge nudge, you want to keep your job, make this go away. Comey declined to comply and now he bears the title of Former FBI Director. Cause and effect. “You like your job? Gosh I hope this will happen.” It doesn’t happen; boom. End of job. Connect the dots.
I don’t fool myself into thinking that Trump will fall due to Comey’s testimony. Republicans have too much ego vested in appearing to be righteous. When Trump falls, he’ll trip over an accumulation of garbage strewn in his wake as he slaughters democracy with blow after blow.
Comey has added to that putrid pile. Whatever else he might be, he has shown himself to be honorable in this instance. He knew that if he did not respond with acquiescence, his job would be forfeit. He followed his ethics. He put this country before himself.
Thank you, sir. Well done.
As for Trump, I fear that we have much to endure before his ugliness topples him; and those standing next in line seem worse. Our country has a long dark night ahead of it. Build your fires high. We’ll need them. It’s always darkest before the dawn.