I have read the initial comments on the original post-–which I interrupted my viewing of a Red Sox game to write, just so you know how dedicated I am—had some additional thoughts and processed some new data. Here are some more observations:
1. The New York Times biased reporting is even worse than I thought. Today’s print edition has a “Saturday Night Massacre” size headline screaming:
TRUMP FIRES COMEY AMID RUSSIA INQUIRY
This is deceit, and, as I noted before, yellow journalism. It is technically accurate, but misleading and false anyway. Trump also fired Comey in May, “amid” the North Korea crisis, and while the Orioles were playing the Nationals. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Comey’s firing had anything to do with the Russia investigation except this: Comey thoroughly botched the last major investigation the FBI was engaged in.
The Times goes further, adding another above the fold story headlined, “The President Lands a Punch, and Many Hear Echoes of Watergate.” Ah, the old “many say/many hear/many think” ploy—an unethical journalism classic. Let’s seed the unfair suspicion without taking responsibility for it! Hey, we didn’t say we thought that, just that others do!
2. Many have noted that President Hillary would have fired Comey within seconds of taking office, or as close to that as possible. This is doubtlessly true. It is also true that Republicans would probably be attacking her with as much fury and blatant hypocrisy as Democrats are attacking the firing now.
But doing something unethical in an alternate universe is still not as damning is doing it in this one.
3. I have been working on a “100 Days” overview of the ethics score since President Trump took office. In general, it is both remarkable and disturbing how closely the President’s actual performance tracks with my expectations, as explained over the last two years. One aspect of this mostly negative assessment that is undeniably positive, however is that President Trump, unlike his predecessor, does not fear making decisions, and makes them despite the amount of criticism he knows will be coming, especially from the news media. (The previous President knew that he had nothing to fear from the news media, since it was invested in making him seem successful and wise even when he wasn’t.)
The firing of Comey is a perfect example, as was the decision to enforce, belatedly, Obama’s “red line” in Syria.
4. Nowhere near enough focus has landed on Rod Rosenstein (left) , the deputy attorney general who was only confirmed a couple of weeks ago ( April 25, 2017). Rosenstein is an impressive lawyer with a long, distinguished record in both Democratic and Republican administrations, and authored the “Memorandum to the Attorney General” on the subject of “Restoring Public Confidence in the FBI.” This articulates the best reasons for firing Comey, and any critic who argues that it made sense to keep him on is tasked with rebutting Rosenstein’s brief. Good luck with that.
5. Rosenstein’s memo is remarkable in that it examines Comey from a decidedly non-partisan viewpoint, criticizing, for example, his public statement regarding the decision not to charge Hillary Clinton, a statement that Democrats hated and the the GOP mostly loved, even though it did not love the decision itself. Rosenstein wrote,
The Director was wrong to usurp the Attorney General’s authority on July 5, 2016 and announce his conclusion that the [Clinton email] case should be closed without prosecution. It is not the function of the Director to make such an announcement. At most, the Director should have said the FBI had completed its investigation and presented its findings to federal prosecutors. The Director now defends his decision by asserting he believed Attorney General Loretta Lynch had a conflict. But the FBI Director is never empowered to supplant federal prosecutors and assume command of the Justice Department. There is a well-established process for other officials to step in when a conflict requires the recusal of the Attorney General. On July 5, however, the Director announced his views on the nation’s most sensitive criminal investigation without the authorization of duly appointed Justice Department leaders.
5. There is speculation that the next FBI director will be tasked with re-opening an investigation of Hillary. That would be terrible. Yes, I know the arguments: if laws are to apply equally to all, then Clintons should not constantly escape accountability. This consideration is far, far outbalanced by the importance of avoiding an endless cycle of political trials of vengeance aimed at slaking the blood-lust of either party’s most radical base. Once we start that process, it never ends, except perhaps with the Guillotine and a reign of terror.
6. Now Democrats are in a hard-fought contest to see who can go the farthest in hysterical fear-mongering and dishonesty. Some of the early favorites were noted in the last post, but I don’t know how anyone will beat Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Ha), who tweeted,
Lots of justified confusion and outrage. We need to be prepared to come back together, regardless of party, and take our democracy back…We are in a full-fledged constitutional crisis.
What an irresponsible fool. He’s an idiot if he believes this, and cynically encouraging civil unrest if he doesn’t.
7. Well this was inconvenient:
Federal prosecutors have issued grand jury subpoenas to associates of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn seeking business records, as part of the ongoing probe of Russian meddling in last year’s election, according to people familiar with the matter. CNN learned of the subpoenas hours before President Donald Trump fired FBI director James Comey. The subpoenas represent the first sign of a significant escalation of activity in the FBI’s broader investigation begun last July into possible ties between Trump campaign associates and Russia.
Boy, if firing Comey was supposed to kill the investigation, it sure didn’t work.
This illustrates the contrived nature of the news media’s Watergate narrative. Nixon fired the special prosecutor, Archie Cox, whose integrity and competence were beyond reproach. It took about ten days to appoint a new one, buying Nixon time: teh Watergate hearings were going on, and John Dean had alreday testified. There was substantive evidence of a scandal. Firing Comey, in contrast, has no practical effect on the investigation at all (which is about Russia, not Trump, as much as the anti-Trump media pretends otherwise) except that Comey’s exit increases the (slight) likelihood that the findings won’t be attacked as partisan once the investigation is concluded.
8. Finally, here’s the almost always sensible Ann Althouse’s critique (in part) of the 538 essay, by Perry Bacon Jr, which asks, “Did the president dump Comey for mishandling the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email, as Trump and his team have said?…Or was Comey’s handling of the investigation simply a pretense to fire an independent-minded director who was investigating ties between Trump’s campaign and the Russians?”
…Perry Bacon Jr…. sees plenty of evidence that Comey indeed mishandled the Clinton email investigation. But if that were the real reason, why didn’t the firing occur months ago? Trump had the basis for firing Comey, but he didn’t pull the trigger. He just kept it in reserve, so doesn’t that mean that he knew he could justify firing Comey and he waited until something else, something about him, not Clinton, made him want to be rid of the man?
The best answer to that is: Comey made a big mistake last week testifying before Congress (when he said that Huma Abedin forwarded 1,000s of Hillary emails to Anthony Weiner). Bacon’s response to that is hard to find. He switches to talking about how Democrats are criticizing Trump for firing Comey. But, of course, Democrats reflexively criticize Trump. They’re calling him “Nixonian.” A Republican Senator said he was “troubled” and another said there were “questions.”
Bacon speculates that “the American people” might not believe Trump, but that’s why I’m reading this article, Mr. Bacon. I thought you were going to answer the question why Trump did what he did, but now it seems you’re only talking about whether people will believe Trump’s assertion.
Ann is right: the blogosphere and news media are bending over backwards to avoid admitting that the President had plenty of good reasons to fire Comey, and while working hard to keep suspicions flaming that the real reason was a sinister one.
9. Comey was apparently ambushed by the news he had been fired, which appeared on a screen behind him while he was addressing FBI employees. He has been a loyal public servant, and did not deserve to be embarrassed like that.
You would think Donald Trump, of all people, would know the right way to fire someone.