Day: May 9, 2017

Beginning of the end

President Trump’s firing of FBI Director Comey is confirmation of what I said yesterday: Flynn was not the only one compromised. It is really hard to imagine after yesterday’s testimony by former Deputy Attorney General Yates that this hasty move isn’t aimed to block a serious investigation of criminal activity in the White House. Trump simply cannot afford an FBI that acts independently, as it is supposed to do in pursuing criminal activity.

The obvious precedent is the Saturday Night Massacre, when in 1973 President Nixon fired a special prosecutor and both the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General quit in response. Of course there is no possibility Jeff Sessions or his Deputy Attorney General, both cited as recommending the firing, will quit. They are reliable Trump loyalists. The analogy lies in the president’s attempt to stymie an investigation bound to produce results. After Saturday Night, Nixon was compelled to appoint a new special prosecutor and was gone within a year, once impeachment became a certainty.

The Deputy Attorney General is asserting that the firing is due to Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation last summer, which heavily favored Trump’s election campaign. That is bozotic. Comey bent over backwards to help Trump by hiding the fact that the FBI was also investigating his campaign. Trump last summer praised Comey to the skies for his handling of the Clinton emails. No one he appoints as  director after this firing could be relied on to conduct a serious investigation.

The Democrats are calling for an independent special prosecutor.* But it won’t happen until the Republicans realize that this president is going down and will take them with him unless they cut him loose. There is no predicting when they will reach that conclusion, but for the country’s sake I hope it is a matter of weeks or months rather than years. The sooner Mike Pence becomes president the better prepared for the 2018 election the Republicans will be. This should be the beginning of the end for a president clearly determined to prevent anyone from finding out the truth about his and his campaign’s relations with Moscow.

*PS: It turns out this is not possible, as the enabling legislation has been allowed to expire. The correct term of art these days is apparently “special counsel.” Apologies.

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Former Deputy Attorney General Yates testified yesterday that former National Security Advisor Flynn was “compromised” by the Russians. They knew he was lying when he claimed his conversations with the Russian Ambassador did not discuss relief from sanctions and could have used that knowledge to blackmail him. They also knew he had accepted payments uncleared and unreported to the Defense Department, as required for former military flag officers.

Yates told the White House General Counsel, but President Trump waited 18 days before firing Flynn until reports of his lies became public. He fired Yates far more quickly: the day after she refused to defend his travel ban in court, which several courts have now ruled unconstitutional. Yates yesterday called it “unlawful,” which was presumably intended to convey that she was not obligated to defend it.

This tale may sound boring in the heartland, but in DC it rarely gets juicier. Flynn, a three-star Army intelligence officer who climbed on the Trump bandwagon early, would have been a fabulous asset for Moscow as national security advisor, though we don’t know that he was ever fully “turned.” We do know that he took payments from Russia Today, Moscow’s virulent propaganda arm, and also from Turkey. And that he cared enough about his rapport with Russia to lie not only to the public but also to the Vice President.

Even better: President Obama warned Trump not to hire Flynn. Trump not only hired him but appears not to have properly vetted him and then tried to protect him. That might have been just the defensive crouch of a new Administration anxious not to suffer any early losses. Or, the President himself may also have been compromised in one way or another, making him reluctant to buck President Putin by firing Flynn. There is really no way to tell with the information at our disposal.

More isn’t likely to become available. No one with a job in the White House is going to help clarify the President’s motives for hesitating to fire Flynn. Only someone now outside, but early in the Administration inside the tight circle surrounding Trump, will know. Nor is the Congress likely to get to the bottom of the matter: at yesterday’s hearing, the Republicans–who control the investigations in both houses–appeared reluctant to ask about anything but why Yates refused to defend the President’s travel ban in court and how Flynn’s lies became public.

So what have we here? A president who tried to protect someone the Russians had compromised fingered by a former official whom he did quickly fire once he knew she would not do his bidding. Call me old fashioned, but this is a scandal of major proportions, with likely far-reaching ramifications. Flynn isn’t the only one compromised.


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