The Comey fallout continues

First published in the Lake Champlain Weekly
Written by Quentin Langley

Could the firing of James Comey be the end of Donald Trump? Sure. It is certainly possible. The result is that Trump has a new enemy who is politically motivated and heavily connected in law enforcement. If his objective was to get the investigation into his campaign’s dealings with Russia to go away, then it hasn’t worked. In fact the FBI now has a very dedicated police officer, who is respected across the political spectrum, leading the investigation. A condemnation of Trump by Comey could have been fought politically. After all, Democrats have been critical of Comey in the past. Special Prosecutor (and former FBI Director) Robert Mueller will be harder to shrug off.

Comey has now gone public with the allegation that Trump sought to influence his investigation into former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn. If that’s true, Comey should probably have reported the matter to Justice Department, or even resigned and gone public with the allegation, when it happened in February. But just because Comey is flawed, it doesn’t mean he is wrong or that he is lying.

Trump has dismissed claims that he in any way interfered. He has dismissed them clearly and brusquely: “No. No. Next question.” That’s just not compatible with Comey’s account of their meeting. According to Comey, Trump specifically asked if Comey could find a way to end the investigation. When it comes from your boss, a question like that is not just a question. It is, at the very least, a strong hint that this is what he wants. If Trump is lying and Comey is telling the truth, it is not necessarily obstruction of justice, but it comes very, very, close.

Trump has lied before – and consistently – even on things which he knew could be proven to be lies. He claims he saw on TV New Jersey residents celebrating the 9/11 attacks. He claims he opposed the Iraq War from the start when there is tape of him supporting it in a radio interview. It just isn’t hard to believe Trump would lie about this too.

Trump even tweeted a hint that there might be tapes of his meeting with Comey. He said that Comey had “better hope” there are not tapes. But if there are tapes, then Trump, or his office, made them, and should hand them over to Congress. If there are no tapes then Trump knows that and his tweet is more than usually deranged.

Trump apparently fired Comey because he is a “showboat”: This presumably means that Comey was an unusually political Director of the FBI, willing actively to interfere in political debates. There’s a case to be made for that. Director of the FBI is a policing job, not a political job. But now the president is floating the name of former Senator Joe Lieberman, a politician with no federal law enforcement experience, for the job. How will that help?

So the president is planning to have a politician run the FBI but has a dedicated policeman investigating his links with Russia. This could get very interesting.

Quentin Langley lives in New York and London and teaches at the University of Bedfordshire Business School. He is the author of Brandjack: How your reputation is at risk from brand pirates and what to do about it

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