The firing of FBI James Comey feels like the beginning of the end of the Trump Administration to me.
The abrupt firing — Comey discovered he had been fired when the news flashed across television screens while he was talking with FBI employees in Los Angeles — came just one day after former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified before Congress that there is an active investigation into President Trump’s business entanglements in Russia.
It came after Comey’s recent testimony that there is an active investigation into whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia’s interference in the November election, and after he said there was no evidence to support Trump’s specious claim that Obama had wiretapped him in Trump Tower.
After the firing, it was reported that Comey had just asked for additional manpower and resources for the Russia investigation.
The White House rationale for the firing is ludicrous and unbelievable. Comey was fired, Trump said, on the recommendation of deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who cited Comey’s handling of the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.
Deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders went so far as to say Comey had committed “atrocities” against Clinton, including his inexplicable and unsupportable decision to send a letter to Congress less than a week before the election saying he was reopening the investigation into Clinton because of emails found on former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner’s laptop during the course of an investigation into his sexting scandals.
Never mind that, at the time, Trump celebrated that decision and continued to praise Comey for it well after his inauguration.
To claim that now, five months into his administration, that Trump just now got around to deciding that Comey’s actions last year were unacceptable is an insult to the intelligence of all Americans.
And the story soon fell apart. Politico had an excellent piece the morning after the firing quoting two unnamed senior advisors to the president that painted a far more likely scenario for the firing. For weeks, they said, Trump has grown increasingly furious that the Russia scandal wouldn’t go away. He sometimes screamed at his television when stories about the investigation into his campaign aired.
He was incensed when Comey admitted to that investigation in a congressional hearing. He was angered further when Comey refused to support Trump’s wiretapping claims. Trump was looking for a reason to fire Comey, and, according to Politico’s sources, the letters from Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions were written to justify that firing.
Trump thought the firing would be noncontroversial since Comey has been the subject of bipartisan criticism for months. The White House was caught entirely flat-footed by the criticism that came from both Democrats and Republicans, along with rising bipartisan calls for an independent investigation into the Russia allegations.
Rather than helping tamp down the Russia story as Trump foolishly hoped, firing Comey seems to have emboldened Congress. The Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenaed documents from former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. A federal grand jury has also reportedly issued subpoenas to Flynn. The investigation will undoubtedly continue on multiple fronts.
This is Trump’s Watergate moment. This is when it should become obvious to everyone that Trump is not acting like an innocent man. He is acting like an incredibly guilty person.
Guilty of what? Who knows? Maybe his campaign did collude with the Russians to affect the outcome of the election. There is certainly a mountain of circumstantial evidence to support that. Maybe he knew about it.
Maybe it’s his lengthy and ongoing involvement with corrupt Russian oligarchs and shady real estate deals.
Maybe it’s his ties and business dealings with the Mafia.
Trump is clearly covering up something — perhaps many things.
That’s why he continuously tries to distort what anyone says about the Russian collusion and hacking story — and why he resists any effort to shed light on the story.
Since his improbable election, I’ve thought the most likely conclusion to a Trump presidency would be impeachment or a resignation in disgrace. That seems all the more likely now.
Radmacher is former editorial page editor of The Charleston Gazette and The Roanoke Times. This Land is a weekly column produced by Appalachian Mountain Advocates.