By Jim W. Dean
The jury is still out on how much damage the surprise firing of FBI Director Comey will have on the battered Trump administration. The last things we need are more major distractions and poor decisions from a White House in training. On May 10th, with Lavrov and the Russian US Ambassador coming to see him, followed by Henry Kissinger, we find the President spending his time tweeting away in the morning, defending his firing of FBI Director Comey, in what seemed like a sudden decision.
Trump’s staff was kept out of the loop, so they were caught flatfooted in how to respond to the press, and they ended up winging it, as they have in the past. The media storm was instant, followed by Democrats’ calls for an independent special prosecutor to protect against Trump trying to kill a feared investigation of his alleged Russian connections.
In whatever way this turns out, it will be another chapter in the legacy of the Trump gang that can’t shoot straight, but could still involve a scenario where Trump scrapes by as he has so many times before, after mistakes that have taken other politicians down.
The odds that this was done on the spur-of-the-moment are zero, as Trump brought his political appointees to the Justice Department in order to run interference for Comey’s firing. But their plan was not well thought out.
Attorney General Sessions had already recused himself on the Trump-Russia investigation; and then he reinserted himself by writing a recommendation that Comey be fired, as Comey was obviously deemed a threat to Trump on that case. Why else would Sessions gamble with his own recusal reversal by getting involved in taking Comey out of the picture 110 days into the Trump administration?
We also saw Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein support Comey’s removal, followed by the White House pushing to have Rosenstein take over the Russian investigation, a coup d’état on Session’s recusal. Using the FBI director’s handling of the Clinton email server case as the excuse for Comey’s dismissal went over like a lead balloon with the media.
A back story has surfaced that Comey had gone to the Justice Department to ask for more funding for the Russian investigation. It was assumed this money was for the FBI, but the Justice Department denied it. Later, a more finely tuned explanation emerged to the effect that Comey’s monetary request was not for the FBI, but for “prosecutors,” indicating that it was needed for preparing indictments. This may have been what spurred the White House’s quick plan to shoot Comey out of the saddle.
The White House exposed its true intentions even more by stating that it did not think a special prosecutor would be necessary anymore, as the investigation would be in the good hands of the Republican-controlled Congress and the Justice Department, with the understanding that the DoJ investigation would remain under control by a political appointee, Rosenstein.
“We encourage them to complete this investigation so we can put it behind us and we can continue to see exactly what we’ve been saying for nearly a year, there’s no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia,” Deputy Press Secretary Sanders stated on Wednesday.
Now all those who did want a special prosecutor will fight ten times harder to get one. The Congressional Democrats were quick to make a case for appointing one, but the Republicans less so, with the exception of John McCain, of all people. Since the Republicans have a majority in the Senate, the Democrats’ minority strategy is evolving toward wanting a special prosecutor appointed before they will participate in confirming a new FBI director.
The Republican majority could force the President’s choice through, but historically FBI directors have been confirmed with unanimous Senate approval or very close. If the Democrats voted against a Republican choice, then that director would have a huge shadow over him in the new job. He could not instill the bipartisan confidence that is needed to lead the FBI, and most people would not want the job under those circumstances.
But if the Democrats could pull three Republicans over to vote with them, they could block a Trump FBI nominee. If the Democrats don’t get a special prosecutor, they could flex their political muscle by putting the brakes on Republican legislation, some of which is already bogged down. One example would be an area like tax reform and other items like health care that need some bipartisan support to pass.
This would make Trump, the man who promised to quickly fix everything, look like a divisive leader who has taken the country down a dead-end road. It would also build the case for the Democrats that they have to win as many Congressional seats in the next election to have any chance for ending the roll-back of decades of progressive Democratic legislative accomplishments. Trump has the lowest voter approval rating in modern history, and this has to be bothering his ego, and he does not want to see the ratings dip lower.
There is another aspect to the Comey firing tied in with getting a special prosecutor in place. Not all the Republicans in Congress are Trump lovers, especially those he humiliated in the primaries. More than a few are considering that his self-destructive behavior could render him a one-term president, and even less time than that if he were impeached, and this is no joke.
Countless Legal Entanglements
I am talking about more than the alleged Russian ties with his campaign, where no proof has been put on the table after months of allegations. Lurking in Trump’s background are the hundreds of civil lawsuits working their way through to settlement or trial. The Trump University civil fraud case was settled for $25 million prior to Trump taking office.
What has gotten almost no coverage is that, in most all of these cases, there are criminal charges of mail and wire fraud, hundreds of them, and all federal cases that can be filed in any state in the country. As the public gets more and more angry at the authoritarian rule of the Trump regime, a lot of the plaintiffs in the pending cases might want to proceed with criminal charges, despite the threats they have heard about Trump intimidating plaintiffs in the past.
And if a special prosecutor were appointed to take over the Russian connections case, that would open up a Pandora’s box of new victims and plaintiffs coming forward with criminal fraud cases, any one of which could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
A case that we have not even heard of could emerge as the one removing Trump from office, and to the glee of a number of Republicans who would love to run for President in 2020. Vice President Pence would take over if Trump were impeached, but he is too weak a candidate to run and win on his own.
The down side to this would be that the Republican legislative agenda would be turned into a fiasco, with a lot of unhappy voters back home in the districts because of the political log jam in Washington. We must not forget that Congress polls consistently lower than even the worst president, below 20% normally. But that is never a problem if you are in a gerrymandered Republican district. The real political fights are in the districts that have not yet been rigged, with the next opportunity to do so after the next census in 2020.
There is a growing realization in the country, even if people will not admit it publicly, that the US is in uncharted waters with our unpredictable president. The word “dangerous” is used more frequently to describe him. And more than a few consider him literally a national security threat, due to his demonstrated incompetence and having a weak moral compass.
I hope I am wrong, as I do not want the country to have to suffer through what would be needed to fix the huge mess we are in. Americans have already taken a beating from the Bush-Cheney gangsters, and we have not recovered from that. But Trump could even be worse, as he is wired in with some of that same crowd. At this moment, I do not see a happy ending to all of this.