Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A Question Of Timing

It is uncertain as to why Donald J. Trump fired James Comey and/or chose to do so Tuesday. Michelle Goldberg believes it may be because, as CNN finds, federal prosecutors only recently have begun issuing grand jury subpoenas to associates of Michael Flynn, and that these "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."

Matt Yglesias, noting that Trump has consorted with La Cosa Nostra, been involved with money laundering at his casinos, unethically avoided sales taxes with an "empty box" tax evasion scheme, and played fast and loose with the Trump Foundation, argues

An FBI inquiry that started with a hard look at Trump associates’ possible ties to the Russian government could easily have turned up some totally unrelated criminal misconduct. By the same token, it’s entirely possible that whatever it is Trump might be covering up by refusing to release his tax returns has nothing to do with Russian bribes or blackmail.

But what we know from the tax return saga is that Trump appears to be covering something up.

Additionally, the previous day's testimony by Sally Yates, which emphasized that White House counsel was aware that Flynn could be easily blackmailed by the Kremlin, was widely praised.

But we do know at least one thing for certain: the GOP line implying that Democrats are hypocrites for now decrying the dismissal of the FBI director is grossly exaggerated.

President Trump on Tuesday night tweeted "Cryin' Chuck Schumer stated recently 'I don't have confidence in him (James Comey) any longer.' Then acts so indignant." Displaying impressive independence of thought, Texas Senator John Cornyn chimed in with "Ds wee against Comey before they were for him."

Senator Cornyn failed to specify any Democrats who advocated that James Comey be fired. (But then, if Republicans lived in the world of facts, they would be, well, Democrats.)  Trump at least criticized a particular Democrat, though it turned out even Minority Leader Schumer did not recommend the Director be sacked. Bloomberg reported

“I do not have confidence in him any longer,” said the New York Democrat, who has criticized as “appalling” Comey’s decision to send a letter to lawmakers 11 days before the election disclosing the bureau’s new review of e-mails potentially pertinent to the investigation of Clinton’s private server.

“To restore my faith, I am going to have to sit down and talk to him and get an explanation for why he did this,” Schumer said in an interview.

Schumer noted that he had previously lauded Comey for disputing contentions by then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales that the 2006 firings of U.S. attorneys were performance-related. Comey, who had previously served as deputy attorney general during George W. Bush’s administration, praised the prosecutors’ performance before a congressional panel.

“He had huge courage,” said Schumer, who also recalled rallying his Senate colleagues to support Comey’s confirmation as FBI director.

Schumer lauded Comey for his "courage" and stated that he could not regain confidence in him until and unless he talked to the FBI director. He did not urge that the President of the United States get rid of him.

And more  relevantly: the Bloomberg piece was dated November 2, 2016, more than six months ago- or as Donald Trump puts it, "recently." A lot has transpired since then, including Comey's March testimony confirming an investigation by the FBI into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

And yet, television's talking heads (see Brokaw, Tom) have been talking up the disingenuous, GOP-driven line that Democrats have been consistently criticizing Comey and need to be more circumspect and moderate.

Similarly, it's unhelpful to label Donald Trump as a hypocrite.  He is the ultimae Teflon Man and to demean Donald Trump as a hypocrite is about as important as charging Bashir Assad with watching too much television or drinking too much tea. It doesn't quite get at the essence of the man or his (lack of) leadership.

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