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Another New, and Bad, Equilibrium

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Eric Levitz has an amusing post that also has a serious conclusion:

Screen Shot 2017-02-16 at 2.02.45 PM

He continues:

This is a point that the president’s critics should take seriously. Even if one thinks that the FBI served the public interest by leaking in this specific case, the principle that our unelected law-enforcement agencies should not publicize the details of ongoing investigations is one worth protecting. For now, the FBI’s leaks are merely alerting the public to possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence agencies — and, thereby, making it more politically difficult for the president to quash existing inquiries into that matter.

But how else might the FBI use its power to selectively reveal investigatory information in the future? It is not impossible to imagine the agency actually swinging an election over baseless insinuations, by disclosing bits of information in a misleading way.

Even if it hadn’t swung the election, Comey’s grossly irresponsible and unethical actions served to demonstrate the substantive value of the rules and norms he violated. His selective interventions into the election undermined American democracy with horrible results. But obliterating the norms is also going to mean more actions by factions within the FBI to undermine elected officials. It would be much better if the old norms had held, even now that interventions are more likely to hurt Trump than help him. But expecting unilateral disarmament is unrealistic, so once the norms go it’s generally impossible to restore them. The damage Comey inflicted on American democracy will have repressions that extend well beyond the bad outcomes of the Trump administration.

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  • wengler

    It would also behoove Democratic Presidents to stop appointing Republicans to law enforcement and military posts.

    • DrDick

      Or to anything else.

      • CP

        I mean, it’d be one thing if this sort of shit were actually reciprocated and done in places where it makes sense. Like “yeah, the military and police communities tend to be more conservative overall simply by nature of the beast, so let’s leave some Republicans from previous admins there, and in exchange they’ll leave us some Democrats in place in the government departments whose personnel and missions fall more on the liberal side, like the EPA or HUD.”

        Except of course that last part never happens. Quite the opposite.

        • Connecticut Yankee

          Trump is the first President since whenever this dumb tradition started (FDR?) to not appoint an out-party official to some minor Cabinet post

          • LosGatosCA

            There’s two traditions:

            The Republican one

            that gives the DoT to a Democrat

            and the Democratic one

            that gives the Fed chair, the SoD, and at least one of the CIA, FBI, plus the DoT to a Republican

            It’s always been fair and balanced like that.

            From an idiot’s perspective.

  • There may also be a false parallel here. Comey injected the assertion that an investigation was reopened into the late stages of an election. There was no information there in which the public had any interest. (It was an investigation into nothing and he hadn’t actually seen any new evidence.)

    In the case of the Trump/Russia connection, the leak is of real information of possibly very great interest to the public, although we don’t exactly know the implications yet. The leakers probably feel, rightly, that their new leaders will not pursue an investigation or allow information of real importance to the public to become known, so they are trying to circumvent obstruction. Furthermore, there is no current election. We’ll get the answers — that there is or is not a treasonous conspiracy — in time for the next election only if they leak. And if there isn’t one, Donald T. Trump will be very happy for that to be known to one and all.

    So it’s really not the same thing at all.

    • McAllen

      This is true and all, but I don’t trust the heads of our intelligence services to make that distinction.

      • Well, it’s not the heads who are making it, most likely. And this is an unprecedented emergency. How do you feel about Daniel Ellsberg, by the way?

        • McAllen

          I agree that, in this situation, it’s good that intelligence agencies are leaking info. But in a healthy democracy intelligence agencies should not be targeting politicians they don’t like (which I think is different from individual leakers like Ellsberg, Manning, or Snowden).

          • Kalil

            If conditions are bad enough aboard a ship that I walk off when we reach port, that’s my inviolable right under Articles. But if conditions are so awful that I walk off with one of my shipmates… That’s legally a mutiny – ‘conspiracy to impede the functioning of the vessel’ – and I can be prosecuted. Two people arriving at the same conclusion is legally different from one person arriving at that conclusion. Does this make sense? Only in the loosest fashion.

            My point is that, when Trump declared war on the intelligence services, indicated that he felt their assets were worthless (see: probably outing of moles in the Russian government), and etc, he created a /lot/ of Ellsberg/Manning/Snowdens – enough that, functionally, entire departments are staffed with people who feel their duty is to counter him. Now we have a situation where we have rogue agencies rather than rogue individuals. Is this a meaningful difference? I think it probably is, but… Where exactly is that line, and why?

            • McAllen

              One other distinction I think is important is that Ellsberg, Manning, and Snowden were releasing information they thought was in the public interest, whereas Comey in October and intelligence services now are leaking to hurt a politician. (Though I recognize the distinction between those motivations can get blurry as well.)

              • We don’t really know what motivates the current leakers, but I think an argument can be made that they too are doing it in the public interest and the harm to the politician is a necessary side benefit.

                • McAllen

                  That’s fair. Like I said, the distinction can be blurry.

              • brewmn

                We have a dangerously unstable individual that is actively conspiring to overthrow a decades-long regional order in favor of a violent, authoritarian regime with which he likely has extensive business ties. There’s nothing blurry about it. You don’t have to love the CIA to agree that he needs to be stopped, even if an exception to some long-standing norms is made to do so.

                Frankly, I find the concern that this is establishing a precedent silly. This man is likely to create unprecedented global havoc if his incompetence and corruption are not disclosed. Plus, we don’t even know that the source of these leaks i the IC. It could be a political actor with high-level security clearance.

                • McAllen

                  Look, again, I completely agree that what the intelligence community is doing right now is a good thing. But we need to be thinking not only about fighting Trump, but about what comes after Trump. If intelligence services don’t see Trump as the exception that proves the rule, if they decide they can destroy any president that crosses them, that is absolutely a threat to democracy.

                • Breadbaker

                  if they decided they can destroy any president that crosses them, that iwas absolutely a threat to democracy

                  /fixed

          • Chetsky

            But in a healthy democracy

            AAAAAAAAahahahahahahahahahah! (spit-take)

            Sorry, I didn’t mean that as a dig at you, McAllen. Just …. y’know, gotta laugh, or you’ll cry.

            That said, I agree completely. And it wasn’t so long ago, many, many right-thinking people felt the intelligence agencies were not the friends of decency and justice. I’m quite, quite, quite sure, that we haven’t changed our minds. Turns out, decency and justice, are not the same thing as order, stability, responsible governance, and “no nuclear fallout”. But the latter, are necessary preconditions for the former to even be possible.

            ETA: thought I should add that I sure a lotta folks on the left recognize the dangerous precedent being set here. It sure feels (to me) like the Praetorian Guard is stepping in to depose this mad Emperor. And we all konw our Roman history enough to know what happened, once they got a taste of being able to do that. And yet ….he’s mad. He’s truly mad.

      • DrDick

        Right. While I am all for transparency in government, I am not at all comfortable with leaving that to the discretion of the FBI, DHS, and the intelligence agencies.

        • Rob in CT

          Not much to be comfortable about, these days.

    • TopsyJane

      The leakers probably feel, rightly, that their new leaders will not pursue an investigation or allow information of real importance to the public to become known, so they are trying to circumvent obstruction.

      This is important. I saw Rubio on the teevee complaining about the leaks. Someone needs to remind Little Marco that if congressional Republicans as a group had shown real concern instead of indicating that they were ready to close all troubling matters related to the Administration and sit on the lid, no one might have felt the need to leak. They have given no indication whatever that Congress is prepared to act on whatever information they may be given if action is called for.

      (You can argue that they should try Congress first anyway, a legitimate point, if what Rubio is saying is true and the information going public now hadn’t been communicated to Congress previously.)

      • Boots Day

        This is probably the key difference. The current leaks are most likely a result of people who were afraid there would be no investigation into something they think is of critical importance. Comey, on the other hand, leaked because he feared there wouldn’t otherwise be an investigation into something he knew was trivial.

        • nemdam

          Correct. I will also add that I bet this information has already been given to Congress and that they have sat on it. This probably explains why Dems are so freaked out. They keep saying there is more, they have the same information as Republicans, yet the Republicans are sitting on their hands. At this point, if you truly care about the public interest, you have no choice but to leak.

          There are legitimate avenues to disclose this information. But when they have all been shutoff, your only choice is to leak.

          • so-in-so

            Recall Harry Reid wrote a letter to the FBI calling on them to reveal certain facts, well before the election?

  • liberal

    Trump announced his new Labor pick.

    • El Guapo

      Was it the Hamburglar? Cuz I think I’d be OK with that.

      • ΧΤΠΔ

        Alex Acosta.

        Also, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Meth Popping Fuckshit actually predates the Texas Wild Child by at least 50 years and that what we’re seeing is a gradual relapse.

        • Rob in CT

          He seems… qualified and not entirely crazy. I mean, we’re not gonna LIKE him, but that’s a given.

          Seems much better than Pudzer.

          • ΧΤΠΔ

            Meth Popping Fuckshit was referring to Donald, just to be clear.

            • Rob in CT

              Oh, yeah, that was obvious.

              • Dilan Esper

                I’m waiting for the Paul Campos post about the law school that Acosta ran….

    • Joe_JP

      and then (to quote various people) had a “doozy” of a press conference

      [as to the pick, actually looks like a sane conservative sort of pick, fwiw, but let’s see how Loomis feels]

      • What’s a “sane conservative”?

        • JBC31187

          By any sane person’s definition, Clinton or Obama.

          I don’t mean that in any purity culture bullshit way, either. I mean that America is fucked up.

        • Joe_JP

          A conservative who is sane.

          If someone thinks every single “conservative” out there is insane, that’s fine, but I do think there are some (while having wrong-minded beliefs) who are rational sorts that aren’t totally despicable or something.

          Looking at this guy’s record, seems like one of them. If a run of the mill Republican president (toss in the election not being totally tainted etc.) nominated this guy, I wouldn’t be upset [I’m open to be told otherwise] if some Democrats voted for him.

          • efgoldman

            I do think there are some (while having wrong-minded beliefs) who are rational sorts that aren’t totally despicable or something.

            Name just one currently in a position of real influence in national politics.
            One.
            Just one.

      • leftwingfox

        Yeah, speaking of bombshells, how about that Nuclear digression?

        Yeesh.

        • liberal

          What was the nuclear digression?

          • liberal

            We had Hillary Clinton give Russia 20 percent of the uranium in our country. You know what uranium is, right? This thing called nuclear weapons like lots of things are done with uranium including some bad things.

            Etc…OK.

            • dogboy

              This isn’t real. You can’t fool me.

          • leftwingfox

            If Russia and the United States actually got together and got along — and don’t forget, we’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are they. There’s no up-side. We’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are they. I have been briefed. And I can tell you one thing about a briefing that we’re allowed to say because anybody that ever read the most basic book can say it, nuclear holocaust would be like no other.

            They’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are we. If we have a good relationship with Russia, believe me, that’s a good thing, not a bad thing.

            • leftwingfox

              I mean, it’s the fallacy of the excluded middle between “Let’s be Russia’s BFF, otherwise Nuclear War.” Surrounded by word salad by the guy in charge of the largest nuclear arsenal in the world.

              Aahahahaha. We’re all gonna die.

            • dogboy

              Seriously, this isn’t real. You can’t fool me.

            • efgoldman

              I have been briefed. And I can tell you one thing about a briefing that we’re allowed to say because anybody that ever read the most basic book can say it

              He might or might not have been briefed, but for shit sure he has no idea what he heard. And if he actually read a book, I’m Wilt Chamberlain.

  • JBC31187
    • muddy

      That’s not how I read it. He says they have interfered in the “elections of democracies” when he was speaking about NATO.

    • No Longer Middle Aged Man

      Amazing that someone with the nickname “Mad Dog” is apparently the sanest person in this administration. Seems pretty clear that Mattis can get away with saying just about anything at this point, Trump can’t afford to lose him or the ground will start to open up beneath him, though of course it’s not clear that Trump knows that.

      • ajay

        Amazing that someone with the nickname “Mad Dog” is apparently the sanest person in this administration.

        I seem to recall that the nickname was given him because of his careful, deliberate approach and love of reading, especially reading history. In other words, it’s like Robin Hood calling the huge guy Little John.
        Trump may not be aware of this.

  • Gone2Ground

    I know he’s Very Unpopular around here, but Glenn Greenwald made a similar point about this on Democracy Now! this morning – that all the Democrats running around today praising leaks into the WH/Russia connections/Flynn convos were calling for Manning and Snowden and others to be burned at the stake not too long ago. He did mention that the GOP has been consistent (Consistently horrible, I think is what he said), but essentially consistent in their calls for all leakers heads, all the time.

    Although, I did notice that Greenwald neglected to mention Comey at all during the interview – he claimed that the Deep State was in the bag for Hillary all along due to their desires for war in Syria, among other things, so they spent the campaign leaking information about Trump in damaging ways.

    I love Amy Goodman, but I thought she really fell down in the interview by not asking Greenwald about Comey, as I did yelling at the radio while driving.

    • FlipYrWhig

      Whoever taught Greenwald the phrase “deep state” has a lot to apologize for.

      Also, one of the other people who did a massive 180 on the proper relationship between spy agency workers and the elected government was one Glenn Greenwald.

    • Murc

      I know he’s Very Unpopular around here, but Glenn Greenwald made a similar point about this on Democracy Now! this morning – that all the Democrats running around today praising leaks into the WH/Russia connections/Flynn convos were calling for Manning and Snowden and others to be burned at the stake not too long ago.

      It’s especially galling to me because Manning and Snowden took their lumps; Manning was subjected to the prison-industrial torture complex and Snowden will be an exile for the rest of his life.

      The current crop of assholes are seeking to undermine Trump while still cashing his paychecks and enjoying their lovely government spying jobs. I mean, sure, they’re just emulating their new bosses behavior.

      Okay, invective aside? I’m legitimately torn on this. I loathe the intelligence community. I think it is a danger to our national security, a danger to our national character, and needs to be massively purged and then re-built from the top to the bottom. I dream of a President who calls in all the senior CIA career assholes in his first week in office, drops a copy of Legacy of Ashes on the desk in front of them with an ostentatious thud, and says “Tell me why I shouldn’t fucking fire you all right now.”

      So I don’t like the specter of them deciding “welp, we hate the President; time to go kneecap him to any journo who will listen.”

      On the other hand, Donald Trump is DONALD TRUMP. He’s an actual, real, present danger to the country right now.

      • JohnT

        plus more generally I presume that your preference order would be

        Intelligence agencies not ever screwing with elected officials > Intelligence agencies screwing over Republicans and Democrats > Intelligence agencies only screwing over Democrats

        • Murc

          Yes.

      • AdamPShort

        yes i have been chewing on this since the bullshit dossier came out. clearly someone is trying to bring Trump down, which, good! but it just may not in me to root for the spooks. i rooted for them against dubya and it didn’t feel good, and they sort of let us down there (though they did get a scalp.)

        i am hoping that once we get double D out of office we can take a step back and have a conversation about whether maybe the whole idea of nonmilitary clandestine intelligence is counter to the public interest/democracy. i’m not going to hold my breath, but in the meantime, two cheers for the cia.

        • efgoldman

          i rooted for them against dubya and it didn’t feel good, and they sort of let us down there

          Actually, they reported the truth, First they told him some kind of attack was coming, then they reported the truth about Saddam’s WMDs. In the first case, W told them to pound sand, in the second, Darth cooked the books with lies. They did their job.

      • L2P

        So I don’t like the specter of them deciding “welp, we hate the President; time to go kneecap him to any journo who will listen.”

        My understanding is that it’s not hatred of Trump per se, or even disagreements about policy; it’s that he isn’t even paying attention to the issues. He (speaking of “him” as his administration) is literally not doing his job, which is to review intelligence and make reasoned decisions, and the professionals in the intelligence community can’t let that stand.

        If that’s true, I’m not nearly as troubled. It’s one thing to leak damaging information because the President won’t bomb Iran; it’s something else to leak damaging information because the President isn’t paying attention to it.

        • AS we all seem to, I have mixed feelings about this. I think something similar is happening with the career employees in all US government agencies right now, but the stakes seem more immediate, visible, and tangible with intelligence agencies. I really have mixed feelings about this. We don’t want them to be “good Germans”, but I’m not sure the proper alternative is publicly undermining the President. It seems there’s probably a middle ground, but Im not really in a position to know what that is.

          • JustRuss

            If the president or those close to him are undermining our country in the service of a foreign power, and Congress is sticking it’s fingers in its ears going “lalalalala”, I’m sorry, you damn well go public.

      • Gone2Ground

        Agree. As much as I hate GG when he’s right, he’s right about this: genuine whistleblowers are genuine heroes who, as you noted, often pay very steep prices for their actions, and the Dems, if they want to have even a shred of integrity, need to pick a side, and I think we know which side they should pick. At the very least, they shouldn’t laud anonymous leakers who are helping their team while previously attacking un-anonymous whistleblowers as criminals. Greenwald made the assertion that what Manning revealed, for example, was WAY LESS damaging than the Flynn information, which basically also tips off the Russians with who knows how may other repercussions.

        And, as you noted, expecting our MIC IC to be filled with legions of honorable would-be whistleblowers is at best, naive. Their past history shouldn’t give anyone any good feelings about their motives or their actions.

        As I once heard someone say on Cryptome, “Don’t trust anyone with a security clearance.”

        • nemdam

          This all presupposes that Dems who think Snowden and Manning should be punished do so simply because they leak. The arguments I read state that outside some of the NSA stuff, the leaks harmed national security and in no way served the public.

          Glenn calling out Democrats for hypocrisy is typical Glenn interpreting an argument of his opponents in bad faith.

        • TopsyJane

          and the Dems, if they want to have even a shred of integrity, need to pick a side, and I think we know which side they should pick.

          We do?

    • SatanicPanic

      Hypocrisy is a dumb charge to throw at people about 90% of the time. Donald Trump and Barack Obama are different presidents, the reactions can and should be different.

    • Scott Lemieux

      The fact that Greenwald still thinks the American political elite uniformly favored Clinton is amazing.

  • catbirdman

    Unfortunately we all have to live in the world as degraded by Republicans, not the one we would ideally choose.

  • Murc

    But expecting unilateral disarmament is unrealistic, so once the norms go it’s generally impossible to restore them.

    Not impossible, but it would require real work.

    At minimum, we need a vast purge, followed by prosecutions. (Whether the prosecutions result in convictions is less important than them taking place and ruining some careers.) That would probably do it. But you’d need a Democratic President who wasn’t afraid to take the heat for it.

    • americanpride

      Prosecutions for what?

  • Uneekness

    This is a topsy turvy world indeed when I find myself needing to defend the honor and integrity of the FBI and assorted spooks against the a president…

    • Murc

      Here’s the thing: these guys aren’t acting out of a sense of honor and integrity. Trump’s priorities are different from theirs, and he’s demonstrated he doesn’t give a shit about them, their desires, their institutions, or their careerists.

      That’s it. They don’t care about the country, for a certain value of “care.” If Trump were a COMPETENT fascist, they’d be lining up to lick his boots and act as his gestapo. The only reason they’re turning against him is because he’s a threat.

      Patriotism has nothing to do with it.

      • JohnT

        Not entirely true, I would think. The Russian connection matters – most of the senior security guys will be 30+ yrs into their careers which means that their formative years were spent locked in spy-fu with the Soviet Union. I think the idea that the President is a genuine Russian plant would hit them on a fairly visceral level. It’s not true patriotism – you’re right that the fascism bothers them not at all (see Guatemala) – but Trump really does seem to be playing for the team that’s always their opposition.

      • Rob in CT

        We don’t actually know this, Murc.

        I understand suspecting it – it makes sense – but you really don’t know.

        • mds

          Yeah, exactly. Unless we’re prepared to declare every intelligence agency employee a fascist asshole, we’ve got to consider the possibility that some of these people are just trying to do their jobs, or even think that their jobs sometimes help their country.

          If we assume that such people could exist, consider the following: (1) President Donald Trump is a unusually grave threat to the United States; (2) leaking this stuff reduces the damage he can do; and (3) if the leaker goes public, they will be fired and prosecuted, the leaks will stop, Congress will continue doing fuck-all, and eventually memories will fade. So a leaker might will consider it important to remain on the inside in order to fight that threat.

          So my question is, how would that look any different than what we’ve already seen? The leak was of contact with a foreign government that members of the administration felt they had to lie about. It wasn’t salacious gossip or risotto recipes. The leaks didn’t occur until after the election, which could be a sign of payback for Trump’s post-election threats, or could be a sign of someone with more scruples than Comey about interfering in the election.

          So for now, I agree with Rob from CT that we might want to reserve our sweeping judgements as to motives.

      • AdamPShort

        these things aren’t that simple. for a non-loaded example, go back to Robert McFarlane resigning during Iran/Contra after Reagan wouldn’t listen to his advice not to do a bunch of blatantly illegal shit. McFarlane didn’t go to the press (that we know of). If on his way out the door Reagan had said “hey, McFarlane, fuck you and your little dog too” he probably would have gone to the press, I would think.

        now, would McFarlane have been acting out of patriotism or a personal vendetta? well, it would have been a little of both. since we live in a counter-counterfactual where McFarlane didn’t go to the press, we can say definitively that in that scenario he would have been motivated at least in part by revenge. but in the counterfactual we wouldn’t know how much part a desire for revenge played in McFarlane’s decision.

        circumstantially, i know DIA hates Flynn’s guts, so I’m guessing that’s behind the initial leak. but the war itself is complicated, and probably wouldn’t be happening if Trump wasn’t so obviously unfit for office. so, the picture to me is mixed.

      • L2P

        But what SORT of threat?

        If they’re leaking stuff because he threatens policies they favor, that’s one thing. But if they’re leaking stuff because his incompetence and carelessness endangers the country, regardless of his policies?

        That seems kind of patriotic.

        • But if they’re leaking stuff because his incompetence and carelessness endangers the country, regardless of his policies?

          That seems kind of patriotic.

          Until I see specific information to the contrary, I’m assuming this is their motivation.

      • Wapiti

        The oath of office for most Federals is something like this:

        “I, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

        I think most do take that oath – to the Constitution, and the Nation – seriously. The basic FBI/IC type is in a situation where he can’t go to his chain of command, because his CoC (example: Comey) has proven to be corrupted, getting involved in something that was just politics.

        • Murc

          I think most do take that oath – to the Constitution, and the Nation – seriously.

          I don’t agree with this as regards the intelligence community; I can’t conceive of how you can have a situation where most of them take their oath to the Constitution seriously and the things they’ve done, enthusiastically and en masse, over the years have managed to get done.

          And that’s even once you accept that for a non-trivial number of people, “supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” occurs in the context of “all liberals and non-whites are by definition enemies of the Constitution.”

          • Wapiti

            for a non-trivial number of people, “supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” occurs in the context of “all liberals and non-whites are by definition enemies of the Constitution.”

            Agreed. But not only in the the context of liberals and non-whites. There’s room in their worldview to accept that white males like Hanssen and Flynn are traitors to the US.

          • efgoldman

            I don’t agree with this as regards the intelligence community; I can’t conceive of how you can have a situation where most of them take their oath to the Constitution seriously

            You’d lie to live in some kind of Golden World, where we don’t need intelligence or military, and where by some kind of magic we can persuade the electorate and the theofascist party to behave properly bu sticking to the old norms.
            That world doesn’t exist. It never existed. We came fairly close, for a while, but the real world intervened.
            The Orange Fascist is a real threat to the country and the world. Norms mean nothing. Debate means almost nothing. We have to use the available resources (and his own stupidity and incompetence) against him. After the smoke clears we can deal with reforming the agencies.

          • americanpride

            You really have a poor understanding of the “intelligence community”. There are 17 agencies, including Coast Guard Intelligence. The vast majority of people in the IC are analysts of one kind or another writing reports. Another substantial portion are support folks, like logistics, administration, payroll, and so on. Your idea of the IC seems to come from watching too much Homeland and Quantico.

      • Gone2Ground

        “If Trump were a COMPETENT fascist, they’d be lining up to lick his boots and act as his gestapo. The only reason they’re turning against him is because he’s a threat.”

        Absolutely.

  • Yes. What Comey did was effectively weaponize the FBI.

    • DrDick

      Hoover reincarnated.

  • JustRuss

    The damage Comey inflicted on American democracy will have repressions that extend well beyond the bad outcomes of the Trump administration.

    Shouldn’t that be repercussions? Or maybe not….

  • americanpride

    Leaks are not new in Washington, including from the intelligence community. What is new the scale of the leaks. It is unprecedented to have nine separate sources verify the Flynn story. The dam has broken in this administration because (1) Trump and inner circle are incompetent, (2) Trump and inner circle don’t play nice with others, and (3) Trump inner circle is thoroughly penetrated by a foreign power.

    But there are two different issues here. Even if (1) and (2) above were not true, the IC would still be investigating (3). Just without the leaks to force the White House’s hand in the open. A competent administration would not have hired Flynn in the first place or allow Russian penetration of its inner circle. It’s not up to the IC to pick and choose which policy preferences to follow so if (3) wasn’t true, then complaints that the IC would take orders from a Trump administration is not legitimate criticism.

    • MDrew

      It’s not up to the IC to pick and choose which policy preferences to follow so if (3) wasn’t true, then complaints that the IC would take orders from a Trump administration is not legitimate criticism.

      And even with (3) true, strategic, sustained, and massive leaks carried out by the IC with the intent to materially undermine the president (yes, this president) and his political position – or that any American – need to remain completely off-the-board, in the category of existential threats to the republic.

      At the same time, leaks, just leaks simpliciter, under the right circumstances (that is to say, leaks as whistleblowing, which is not really that narrow a set of leaking but is one that nevertheless has some pretty decently-defined parameters under existing norms) need to remain to be seen as a presumptive public good, understanding that public officials face excruciating pressures inside the bureaucracy and are often stymied from carrying out their service in good faith to the public, and from offering the legitimate degree of transparency that we seek to impose on our government. (I know I don’t need to rehearse the argument for whistleblowing here.)

      This needs to remain a clear-as-day distinction in theory, even as, in practice, it will not always be that clear in each given instance or set of instances.

      That’s how things have been for decades or longer, and that’s how they need to stay now.

  • LosGatosCA

    This is how the political world works –

    Republicans come up with new, nastier, more ethically challenged, utterly unmoored from any prior sense of common good, decency, or norms –

    whether it’s exploding the deficit,
    selling arms to our enemies
    appealing to supporters of civil rights worker murderers
    establishing official propaganda institutions to misinform and mislead the weaj minded on a daily basis
    stealing a national elections
    starting wars without purpose
    creating their own realities
    crashing the world economy
    stealing the balance of the Supreme Court for a generation
    stealing another national election by official lying by a renegade Republican FBI director

    for which they have been punished by controlling every important aspect of of the national and state governments.

    And during which time the Democrats have aided and abetted them with appointments to the daddy jobs and trying to find the room to ‘compromise’ with these rabid pit bulls.

    It’s pretty amazing the Democrats still don’t get the game their in.

  • MDrew

    Wow, you’re really going to cry unilateral disarmament already.

    Was there some pre-Comey history of critical decay that I’m not aware of?

    We had a norm. You’re at pains to say it was really, really important. (It was.) Comey broke it. Now it’s out the window? Unsalvageable; there’s no looking back?

    Ridiculous. This norm can be saved, doctor. It’s not like the Senate. At least, there’s no good reason to think it can’t be saved – yet. But you have to want to. And you have to ague for it.

    But I suppose there’s always short-term (yes, reactive, retaliatory, but still) opportunism as well. Always an option. But spare me the piousness of the lecure about the value of the dear, departed norm.

    Norm!

  • Sebastian_h

    “But expecting unilateral disarmament is unrealistic, so once the norms go it’s generally impossible to restore them.”

    This is a fascinating problem. How did these norms get into place ever? Someone clearly pulled off the “overcome narrow self interest” problem between two set of parties who didn’t like each other to get the norms in the first place. Assuming we survive Trump we probably need to figure it out.

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