Trump, Russia, Comey And Three Possible Explanations
[guest post by Dana]
I like this narrowing down of possible explanations for President Trump’s firing of James Comey :
A The stated rationale was the real one. Trump thought, for example, that Comey’s July press conference about the Clinton-email investigation was improper.
B Trump was angry that Comey had not shut down the FBI’s investigation of Russian interference in the election because he regards the investigation as part of a Democratic plot to raise baseless questions about his legitimacy as president.
C Trump thought that the FBI’s investigation posed an unacceptably high risk of turning up evidence of serious misconduct on his part.
(But if the president felt so strongly about Comey’s comments back in July, why wait until now to fire him?)
Ponnuru considers Explanation B to be the most reasonable one. It seems consistent with both the President’s public comments about the Democrats from Day One of his presidency, as well as Democrats reaction to his election win, Russia notwithstanding. And while Explanation B is more likely, it is not without complications. President Trump going public with Explanation B compels staffers to fall in line and “forcefully argue in public that there’s nothing to see with respect to Russia and the investigation is a charade put on by his enemies,” and that is problematic for several reasons:
The first is that we have seen enough evidence of Russian interference to warrant investigation. A lot of people who don’t want to condemn Trump as a Putin lackey, including a lot of Republican congressmen, have conceded that point. Taking the shut-it-down line will isolate the administration politically. It will make surrogates choose between saying things they’re not comfortable saying, abandoning ship, and laying low for a while.
The second is that it’s not a proper basis for Comey’s dismissal. The president is not supposed to dismiss a law-enforcement official because he thinks that a line of investigation is a waste of time or because it angers him. This should not need explaining and, obviously, it didn’t need explaining to some people around the president, which is why they originally went with explanation A, as risible and doomed as it was.
Ponnuru then suggest a third, and even more problematic possibility to consider:
The current strategy mimics exactly what an administration would do if explanation C were correct.