Saturday, May 13, 2017

Will He Or Won't He?

On Saturday morning, David Frum issued a series of clever tweets, each beginning with "this isn't remotely like Watergate."

One follows with "during Watergate, Congress cared whether laws had been broken;" another, "along with his flaws and demons, Nixon has many fine qualities of instinct and character." Still another reads "Watergate arose from domestic espionage."

Less controversial but arguably more intriguing, Frum tweets "This isn't remotely like Watergate. During Watergate, honorable people in government resigned rather than be associated with improper acts."

Cyrus Vance (sadly) is dead. People will not resign rather than be associated with improper acts.   The most obvious candidate was Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who wrote to Jeff Sessions a memorandum in which he argued that FBI Director James Comey had supplanted the authority of the Attorney General's office by himself determining whether to prosecute Hillary Clinton.

After President Trump fired Comey and attributed the decision to Reosenstein's letter, the Deputy Attorney General was miffed. Consequently, the President then conceded he had decided to dismiss the FBI director well before he received the recommendation.

Rosenstein reportedly was displeased he had been used by the President, as if Donald Trump hadn't spent a lifetime using people. But the guy offended at being blindsided had concluded his memo

Although the President has the power to remove an FBI director, the decision should not be taken lightly. I agree with the nearly unanimous opinions of former Department officials. The way the Director handled the conclusion of the email investigation was wrong. As a result, the FBI is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a Director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them. Having refused to admit his errors, the Director cannot be expected to implement the necessary corrective actions.

You  don't need an IQ in the triple digits to recognize that as a recommendation to sack someone who "cannot be expected to  implement the necessary corrective actions."

Rosenstein still could resign, but the betting is he won't.  Appearing Saturday morning with Michael Smerconish, Wall Street Journal investigative reporter Del Quentin Wilber stated that- notwithstanding some speculation- he believes Rosenstein won't resign because he likes his job.

Though unlikely Rosenstein will quit, there still is a chance for James Comey. Not to resign, of course, because he already has been removed- but to come clean.

Donald Trump says "I believe" Comey requested to dine with the President, precipitating the dinner of January 27; former DNI director Clapper says the request came from the President.

President Trump maintains that on three occasions, including once at the White House dinner, he asked Comey whether he was under investigation and each time was told that he was not.  Comey's camp is saying the then-FBI director never would have answered such a question.

Comey's associates say their guy was asked by Trump at the meal to pledge his loyalty to the President. Comey, they maintain, "declined, instead offering to be 'honest.' When Trump then pressed for 'honest loyalty,' Comey told him, 'You will have that.'" Assistant Presidential Press Secretary Sanders denies that occurred.  (She also charged Comey "lost the confidence" of "rank-and-file" FBI employees.)

Trump has accused James Comey of asking for the dinner and assuring him he is not under investigation, and denies he requested a pledge of loyalty from the FBI director. And he has fired him, calling Comey a "showboat" and "grandstander," then tweeted he "better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!"

Whether that's a threat, a warning, or Trump just impulsively acting out his anger, he has thrown down the gauntlet.  But Comey has declined a request to testify next Tuesday before a closed session of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The litmus test is whether the former director ends up testifying in open session, as is speculated he'd rather do. Assuming what the Comey camp says is accurate (given that Trump is claiming the reverse, it very likely is), Comey would demonstrate an utter lack of self-respect if he simply walks away keeping everything to himself.

Fortunately, he'll probably step up, as he must.  The jury is still out on James Comey, a subject of controversy in the Trump/Russia/election scandal since its inception. Not everyone gets a second chance, but he now has an opportunity to show the pride and self-respect evidently lacking in Rod Rosenstein.

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