Later On

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Andrew Coyne: Assuming a plan behind Comey firing would be giving Trump too much credit

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Andrew Coyne writes in the National Post:

Among the many challenges Donald Trump presents is simple comprehension. His unfitness for office is so complete, his failings as a man so profound, it is difficult to take it all in. The mind resists: the constant temptation is to think he can’t be as bad as all that, or to seek refuge in some imagined precedent. We have known, after all, presidents who were liars, or corrupt, or incompetent, or erratic. But we have never seen a president like this, who combines all of these qualities — in spades — and more: among them bottomless ignorance, childlike impetuousness, and a raging, non-stop, all-consuming narcissism.

Above all, we have never seen anyone rise to such high office so unbound by any of the usual norms of behaviour, personal, political or presidential, of which the past three months-plus have been a daily tutorial. The firing of James Comey, the FBI director, is of a piece with this. For a president, several of whose associates are under criminal investigation, to fire the person at the head of that investigation is, of course, outside every norm of constitutional government and defies every understanding of the rule of law.

And yet the temptation, even now, is to rationalize: to assume, at the very least, there must be some method in his madness. There is no evidence of this. The official explanation for the firing — that the president had suddenly become displeased with Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails he had earlier publicly praised — is transparently, clownishly false. There has been ample reporting from inside the White House that the decision to fire Comey had been in the works for days, if not weeks; that it was motivated by the president’s irritation at the FBI’s continuing investigation into various Trump associates’ alleged collusion with the Russian government to throw the presidential election to Trump.

But even without the torrent of leaks from within, Trump’s motives would be comically obvious: witness that bizarre aside, in his letter to Comey, to the effect that Comey had “on three separate occasions” informed him that he was not personally under investigation. To pretend the decision was based on the advice of Jeff Sessions, his attorney general, notwithstanding the latter’s earlier recusal from any involvement in the investigation after he was found to have lied about his own dealings with the Russians; to have all this break hours before he was to meet with the Russian foreign minister; to compound the Nixon-era associations with a photo op with Henry Kissinger — these are not the actions of a strategic genius.

But if Trump’s every move suggests he has something to hide, that does not mean firing Comey will have no impact on the investigation. Trump need not install a more compliant director to further slow its progress. He can, as David Frum has suggested, simply leave the office vacant for months on end, as he has hundreds of others. Neither should Comey’s firing be seen in isolation: this is the third senior legal officer Trump has dismissed, after acting attorney general Sally Yates and New York federal prosecutor Preet Bharara. All three were responsible for various aspects of the Trump-Russia investigation.

As crude and obvious as Trump’s obstruction of justice may appear, in other words, that does not make it any less obstructive, or less defiant of a foundational principle of any law-based state: that no one, no matter how powerful, is above the law. Those fine minds who think the really essential point to make at this moment is . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

11 May 2017 at 12:48 pm

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