Friday, September 1, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He once again tried to suggest that James Comey was in league with Hillary Clinton during the FBI's investigation of her e-mail servers.

Given Trump's ongoing vendetta against Comey (who refused his demand of a personal loyalty pledge) and Clinton (who has sent him into tantrums by doing everything from using the restroom to winning the popular vote), a tweet mentioning both of them is not that far out of the ordinary. But the context is telling here. Ostensibly, Trump was referring to a claim by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) that Comey had begun drafting a memo exonerating Clinton before the completion of the investigation. (Regardless of the timing, the FBI investigation, in which Comey did not take an active role, did in fact exonerate her.)

But the real target of the tweet seems to have been neither Clinton nor Comey, but rather special prosecutor Robert Mueller, whose investigation has acquired the original draft of Trump's letter firing Comey. Although Trump himself almost immediately told a national TV audience his real reason for firing Comey--his unwillingness to drop his investigation into whether Trump or his campaign conspired with the Russian attack on the 2016 election--his first public explanation was that Comey had mistreated Clinton

Given that Trump has done almost everything he can to incriminate himself for a potential obstruction of justice charge in the Comey firing, his lawyers--who have been lobbying Mueller directly on the subject--will need to create at least the appearance that there was a legitimate reason to fire Comey that supersedes Trump's actual reason. This morning's tweet appears to be Trump's latest effort to unsay what he's said in the past.

Why is this a problem?

  • Nobody believes that Donald Trump fired James Comey because he was mean to Hillary Clinton.
  • Nobody believes that Donald Trump fired James Comey because he was in league with Hillary Clinton.
  • Obstruction of justice is a serious crime and, for presidents, an impeachable offense.
  • It is bad to interfere in an investigation into an attack on American democracy.