Even before Trump was inaugurated, some have been floating around the idea of impeaching him, mostly on the basis of his conflicts of interest. Of course, impeaching Trump would be a difficult task. It’s not an easy thing to impeach any president, and maybe near impossible with a Republican majority in both the House and the Senate. But when Trump complains about attacks against his administration he has only himself to blame. He keeps handing out ammunition for those attacks. The firing of then FBI Director James Comey on May 9 might mark the beginning of the end for Trump. At the very least, I don’t see how Trump can gracefully recover from this event and fulfill the rest of his term with any sort of credibility.
James Comey has of late become a controversial figure, due to his involvement in the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email usage during the 2016 election year. Earlier in the year he got in a fight with Apple over unlocking an encrypted iPhone used in the San Bernardino shootings. But I’m not sure anything he’s done was worthy of an early termination of a ten-year term as Director of the FBI.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, speaking for the White House, has tried to make the case that Comey had lost confidence among the rank-and-file in the FBI, but this was contradicted by Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who said, “Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day,” during testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. He added that serving alongside Comey was the “greatest privilege of his career,” and that the “the vast majority of employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection to director Comey” and that it would be “not accurate” to say otherwise. I think that McCabe, being in the FBI, would know the climate of the FBI better than Huckabee Sanders.
Trump said Comey was “not doing a good job,” and called him a “showboat” and a “grandstander,” labels that Comey’s supporters say are not accurate characterizations of him. Trump initially said he based the firing on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s recommendation, but later claimed that he planned to fire him from the beginning.
The timing of Comey’s termination, I don’t have to tell anyone, is suspect. If Trump wants to get past the investigation of his ties to Russia, it’s not a good idea to publicly fire the person in charge of that investigation. In fact, it is reported that Comey requested additional resources for the investigation shortly before his termination. More recent stories indicate that Trump’s motivation to fire may have been due to a question of loyalty. That is, Trump wanted personal loyalty from Comey, as any tyrant would, and Comey, the quintessential G-Man, replied that Trump would have his “honesty,” the last thing that Trump wants.
Whatever Trump’s actual motivation was for firing Comey, doing so has incurred backlash and suspicion from both sides of the political aisle. Even though the president has the authority to fire a Director of the FBI for any or no reason, this was probably the worst possible time for Trump to do so (but no one ever accused Trump of being sensible). Firing Comey at the time he did, and in the manner in which he did, casts a suspicion over his administration from which I don’t see a probable recovery. Sure, maybe Trump was just being a dick and wanted Comey out…but it sure looks more likely that he was trying to intervene in the investigation of his ties to Russia.
Jimmy Gurulé at CNN raises an interesting question: could Trump have obstructed justice? Gurulé explains:
Most obstruction of justice charges are filed under the omnibus clauses of 18 U.S.C. § 1503 and § 1505, where the government must prove that: (1) the defendant acted with “corrupt” intent (in this case, intent to interfere with or thwart the investigation); (2) the defendant endeavored to interfere with a pending judicial proceeding; (3) there was a sufficient “nexus” between the defendant’s actions and the pending proceeding (the actions were likely to affect the judicial proceedings); and (4) the defendant acted with knowledge that the judicial proceedings were pending. Further, and most critically in this case, the defendant need not actually obstruct the pending judicial proceeding, but only “endeavor” to do so.
…If you read the law and compare it to the events unfolding, it seems the actions of Donald Trump and his administration meet some of the required criteria.
But Trump’s intent with firing Comey would need to be proven. While it’s too early in this chapter for me to form a well-rounded opinion on the feasibility of this, it seems easier to work with than baroque regulations regarding conflicts of interest. This is a matter that will be pursued by people much smarter than I, but I can’t imagine how the Trump administration is going to get around this. If Trump wants to cast off this pall of suspicion he’s going to have to do something fucking miraculous, like cure cancer or something.
As it is, the Trump administration is looking like a sinking ship and it’s because both captain and crew are idiots. While I don’t think that Comey deserved to be fired, there are some good things that can come of this. One, there is another angle now from which to argue for impeachment. Two, Comey’s firing will probably place enormous scrutiny on the investigation into ties with Russsia and whomever is picked to be the next FBI Director. And three, maybe now those in congress who have gamely gone along with Trump will finally wake up and see that Trump is this sinking ship’s Commander Queeg.