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American Politics and Constitutionalism Are Surely More Healthy Than Ever



If it’s possible to be astounding without being surprising, this describes WaPo’s deep dive into the Comey firing:

Trump was angry that Comey would not support his baseless claim that President Barack Obama had his campaign offices wiretapped. Trump was frustrated when Comey revealed in Senate testimony the breadth of the counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s effort to sway the 2016 U.S. presidential election. And he fumed that Comey was giving too much attention to the Russia probe and not enough to investigating leaks to journalists.

The known actions that led to Comey’s dismissal raise as many questions as answers. Why was Sessions involved in discussions about the fate of the man leading the FBI’s Russia investigation, after having recused himself from the probe because he had falsely denied under oath his own past communications with the Russian ambassador?

Why had Trump discussed the Russia probe with the FBI director three times, as he claimed in his letter dismissing Comey, which could have been a violation of Justice Department policies that ongoing investigations generally are not to be discussed with White House officials?

And how much was the timing of Trump’s decision shaped by events spiraling out of his control — such as Monday’s testimony about Russian interference by former acting attorney general Sally Yates, or the fact that Comey last week requested more resources from the Justice Department to expand the FBI’s Russia probe?

If there’s any reason for optimism within the story, it’s this:

Within the Justice Department and the FBI, the firing of Comey has left raw anger, and some fear, according to multiple officials. Thomas O’Connor, the president of the FBI Agents Association, called Comey’s firing “a gut punch. We didn’t see it coming, and we don’t think Director Comey did anything that would lead to this.’’

Many employees said they were furious about the firing, saying the circumstances of his dismissal did more damage to the FBI’s independence than anything Comey did in his three-plus years in the job.

One intelligence official who works on Russian espionage matters said they were more determined than ever to pursue such cases. Another said Comey’s firing and the subsequent comments from the White House are attacks that won’t soon be forgotten. Trump had “essentially declared war on a lot of people at the FBI,” one official said. “I think there will be a concerted effort to respond over time in kind.”

Comey, as we know, had a lot of trouble managing agents who went rogue, and he was generally liked and respected. I suspect this is going to cause Trump some problems, although presumably shutting down the Russia investigations is worth it for him even so.

As for what Comey himself will do, I’m 100% with Adam:

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  • science_goy

    Remember how during the election, there were occasional stories about the FBI rank-and-file being overwhelmingly, rabidly anti-Clinton and taking any opportunity they could to damage her candidacy?

    I’ll admit a little twinge of schadenfreude at their present-day fear and confusion.

    • sigaba

      Misogyny is a hell of a etc.

      • LosGatosCA

        When mixed with tribalism and a completely out of line sense of entitlement it becomes a toxic cocktail. Kool aid mixed with the bad acid.

    • Warren Terra

      there were stories of a cabal in the New York office along those lines, in collusion with (candidate for FBI director) Rudy Giuliani. I don’t know how widespread the phenomenon was supposed to be.

      • rea

        I’ve never understood why Rudy has a relationship with the current personnel of the NY FBI office. He was USA for SDNY back in the 80’s–he moved on from that position 28 years ago. Doesn’t anyone in the FBI get promoted, or transferred or retired?

        • CP

          I assume he made sure the old-timers introduced him to the newbies and so on in order to maintain the relationship.

        • Domino

          Other question (since I can’t be bothered to look it up) what has Rudy done for the past 8 years? Getting paid by Fox to come on once a week to bash Democrats?

          • twbb

            He’s also been at the unbelievably skeezy lobbying firm and litigation firm, Bracewell & Giuliani.

        • Justin Runia

          Giuliani operated a FBI slush fund, one of many LEO/military operations that keeps old operators active.


    • twbb

      I will enjoy the schadenfreude but hope it does turn them rabidly anti-Trump.

      Also, as long as we’re asking for ponies, I wouldn’t mind the FBI agents who leaked stuff to the Republicans being rooted out and having their careers destroyed. E.g., Rey Tariche.

  • Dammit, I wanted less Matthew Broderick!

    • LosGatosCA

      And more Reese Witherspoon – of the Legally Blonde vintage of course.

    • benjoya

      that’s a great frame, though.

    • Pat

      I think I missed why Broderick is the image of choice for these threads.

      • CP

        A reference to the movie “Election” in which Broderick’s character intentionally futzes with a class election result in order to stomp on a female student that he finds annoying and unlikable and evil.

        • LeeEsq

          Reese Witherspoon’s character was actually annoying and unlikable though. Broderick’s character did something unethical but he wasn’t exactly wrong in his analysis of Reese Witherspoon’s character. Consider one of the end scenes, where she berates her college classmates for hanging around in the dorm halls rather than being serious young people seeking political internships.

          • CP


            I find the interpretations of that movie interesting, in that various people have completely different takes on it – who the real villain is, who they’re supposed to represent, etc.

          • TroubleMaker13

            Wow, that’s your takeaway? Granted it’s been years since I saw that movie, but I remember a scene where he’s fantasizing about under-age Tracy Flick while having sex with his wife, and then coming on to the pregnant wife of his best friend, after said friend skipped out on her (hence the black eye in the still above).

            I mean, the Flick character may have been a bit stodgy and unlikeable but Broderick’s character was a horrible creep.

            • Origami Isopod

              Well, you know, it’s worse for women to be unlikeable than it is for men to be blatantly creepy and unethical.

              • Brien Jackson

                I thought the point of the movie version, at least, were that all of the characters were really shitty people in their own ways and degrees.

                • Origami Isopod

                  They were, but it’s interesting how Broderick’s character is so often perceived as better than Witherspoon’s.

                • Brien Jackson

                  Hard for me to say. I was a teenager when it came out, and the characters were pretty damn recognizable. Broderick was the overbearing, full of himself, petty tyrant teacher that everyone despised, while Flick was the brown-nosing overachiever constantly getting praise from adults who all of her peers knew had another side, so to speak. From my vantage point at the time the “good guy” in the story was Paul, and the character narrative there was that it was better to be well meaning and nice than to be a results driven over-achiever.

                  Watching it again post-election, everyone just comes off as incredibly fucked up, except for Paul and Tammy for various reasons.

              • Pseudonym

                As we’ve discovered in a certain recent election…

  • sigaba

    Best part of that article:

    Rosenstein threatened to resign after the narrative emerging from the White House on Tuesday evening cast him as a prime mover of the decision to fire Comey and that the president acted only on his recommendation, said the person close to the White House, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

    Thus the complete 180 on the tick tock overnight.

    • LosGatosCA

      Personally, I think the ‘threatened’ part is a nice touch.

      ETA – like the way Richardson/Ruckleshaus ‘threatened’

      • sigaba

        I kinda had this image in my head of Rosenstein strolling into the oval office and measuring the drapes while dully intoning,

        If you wanna keep this office, you’re gonna make this my office. You don’t like it you can fire me. Come on, fire me, I dare you. You supposedly love firing people. Just fire me, like all those people on the teevee.

        On the other hand, if Comey is any example, career federal prosecutors seem to be carefully chosen for their inability to understand who’s in charge and who’s tail is wagging who’s dog.

        • LosGatosCA

          I don’t think he threatened shit.

          That’s the lie you tell to your friends after the bully took your lunch money without even having to ask for it.

          • benjoya

            if not, why did the WH walk it back?

            • Kerans

              To give him cover, as a suppossedly non-partisan, independent, competent figure. Who is not appointing a special prosecutor. I have no idea if it is true, but this would seem to be a reasonable play.

              • jamesepowell

                Exactly. And I expect the Beltway Courtiers will mention “he threatened to resign, you know” every time they praise Rosenstein for his independence and integrity.

                He is an at-will employee of Trump. He is on the team. That’s all we need to know.

    • Warren Terra

      That was always utterly ludicrous. Does anyone believe that a Deputy Attorney General would, spontaneously, write a letter saying the head of the FBI was an utter disgrace? And they’d write that letter even though they didn’t feel strongly enough about the subject actually to recommend said head’s dismissal? And it would be dated the day the dismissal actually happened (or was it the day before)? Completely ridiculous notion.

      • The three letters are dated the same day. These people would have been dead by the end of their first day at the court of the Borgias.

  • LosGatosCA

    The nostalgia for Comey at the FBI will be greater for the way he was dispatched. I’m sure Comey was not as respected for his inability to manage the bureau as he was for his political affiliation. If he was widely respected, he wouldn’t have had trouble controlling his probably-not-as-rogue-as-you-think agents.

    As for Trump, presidents that have moved against the intelligence community have not fared well. Even Cheney/Bush would have seen both of their senior advisers in jail but for the moron reporter who tipped off Rove’s attorney that he better change his testimony or he was going down.

    • The nostalgia for Comey at the FBI will be greater for the way he was dispatched.

      I’m sure it will be even greater when Director Giuliani takes over.

  • Nick056

    Listening to the Lawfare folks talk Comey. They have astounding faith in Comey and expect him to be more frank with Congress than previously. Wittes compared him to Sally Yates in that he’ll be more direct now that he’s been dismissed. Sally Yates acts with absolute integrity and gets compared to Comey, inveterate loser and creep who committed history’s greatest own goal.

    And of course, writing the above paragraph means I can’t object to Trump firing Comey under false pretenses for REASONS.

    • LosGatosCA

      He was appointed by Obama he must have been pure of heart at all times.

      Excuse me as I throw up in my mouth.

    • Scott Lemieux

      How many “if you’re catching flak from both sides you must be over the target” paeans to Comey has Wittes written now — 300?

    • Warren Terra

      Comey might be forthcoming in future, but so far he’s released a public statement that might have been dictated by whatever member of Trump’s staff is actually literate.

      • aab84

        Yeah, but the New York Times has sources saying Comey thought Trump was “crazy,” along with like 8 other stories that also purport to share Comey’s thinking and intentions. While I think the most likely course is him playing the good soldier, it’s entirely possible the plan is to act magnanimous in public while having his allies leak the shit out of everything behind the scenes.

        • enlightenedbum

          Since he’s a political operative and backbiting weasel, yeah this will be the route he takes.

        • While I think the most likely course is him playing the good soldier, it’s entirely possible the plan is to act magnanimous in public while having his allies leak the shit out of everything behind the scenes.

          And why wouldn’t he? He gets to come across as being gracious, while needling Trump behind the scenes for having to first find out he was fired on TV.

          • efgoldman

            He gets to come across as being gracious, while needling Trump behind the scenes

            His testimony next week is behind closed doors, right? Or is it just McCabe this week?
            Either way, the metaphorical holes in the hearing room walls are already being drilled for the leaks.

  • AMK

    Trump spent the first few days of his tenure trying to knuckle the CIA, which promptly released the Flynn-Russia dirt that is still snowballing–but it seems like there’s been no big news coming from the CIA since. I wonder, is it because most of them can live with Pompeo/McMaster, or because Pompeo has cowed them?

    • LosGatosCA

      We’ll find out as the investigations progress. They could feeding all kinds of stuff to Warner that led to his request for subpoenas for financial records. The CIA is pretty skilled at working the bureaucracy most of the time. And like the Mafia they don’t really like the spotlight, or leaving their fingerprints. They don’t generally work like Ken Starr.

      • efgoldman

        They could feeding all kinds of stuff to Warner that led to his request for subpoenas for financial records.

        Pretty much all the info directly pertaining to Russian interference, that the CIA has, is also in the hands of the five major intelligence services of our allies. Some of the early leaks came from them, not the CIA. Apparently they are ready to dump a lot of it if need be; their governments don’t like dealing with a narcissistic four year old any more than we do.

      • Woodrowfan

        Bingo. And they don’t like Russian agents. And allowing the Russians to bring cameras and other devices into the Oval Office this week must have been like nails on a blackboard to them….

        • Dennis Orphen

          The Russians are moving their embassy to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

  • aab84

    There have been literally like a dozen major, front-page banner headline-worthy leaks today alone, most of which are obviously coming from the FBI (Comey wanted resources, investigation expanding to campaign staff, Comey thought Trump was “crazy,” Comey thought there was evidence of collusion, Rosenstein threatening to resign, Trump firing Comey to stop the Russia investigation).

    I don’t know what the White House expected when they embarrassed the head of the FBI, but it’s hilarious that it apparently wasn’t this. Is there literally no one in the White House who knows who Mark Felt was and what motivated him to leak? (Answer: probably not)

    • I think my favourite detail about this entire story so far has been the Nixon Library clowning Manchurian Mussolini by pointing out that Nixon never fired the FBI director.

      But yes, I highly doubt that anyone in the administration has the first clue who Felt was, much less why he leaked anything.

      • Matt McIrvin

        Yeah, though to make that point you have to be really specific about what Nixon never did. Hoover died, Nixon’s first acting FBI director resigned under a Watergate cloud, and his second acting director quit rather than participate in firing Archibald Cox. Then his appointee permanent director wasn’t in long before Nixon was out.

        • Hogan

          FBI director wasn’t the job Ruckelshaus quit, though. He was Deputy AG by then.

    • rea

      As obsessed as rightwingnut Republicans are with Bill Ayers, you’d think they’d know who Mark Felt was.

  • Monty

    OT: metaphor

    I heart zombie movies; Romero’s 1968, 1979, etc… because slow zombies seem more horrible to me than the sprinting version, which I consider merely terrifying.

  • D. C. Sessions

    One intelligence official who works on Russian espionage matters said they were more determined than ever to pursue such cases. Another said Comey’s firing and the subsequent comments from the White House are attacks that won’t soon be forgotten.

    Promising news if true. Maybe the evidence will survive the coming purge.

  • My evens have just left the building. I can’t with them.That’s where I am. I am just overwhelmed and having flashbacks to my childhood, planted in front of our tiny tv watching Watergate unfold.

    • rea

      WE were promised that the second time would be farce. It’s not fair.

  • Azza

    If Vladimir Putin wanted to let the inhabitants of, say, a pipeline republic in Central Asia know that he had finally suborned their government, the most likely steps would include:

    1. having the president dismiss a prominent official inimical to Putin’s interests, such as, say, the head of the national police;

    2. having the president receive Putin’s envoys with special marks of favour within 24 hours;

    3. having the president receive a very pro-Russian former foreign minister within 24 hours;

    4. having a reporter ask Putin about the dismissal within 24 hours.

    Whatever Putin has on Trump must be fairly remarkable.

    • sibusisodan

      I’m not sure what’s worse: the idea that Trump is doing this because he has no choice, or the idea that Trump is doing all of those things because they make him feel good in the moment.

      • CP

        I’ve said from the start that the scariest possibility in all this isn’t that the Russians have compromised the GOP. It’s that they never needed to.

    • Brien Jackson

      In this context, I’d say this is what Putin would do if he wanted to give the impression to the Russian people that he had suborned the American government. It’s really a pretty shitty tactic if he’s actually trying to help Trump consolidate power.

      • Azza

        Why would Putin have any interest in consolidating Trump’s power? Putin cares about Putin, not Trump. Trump may think he has a deal, but Putin knows he’s compromised another mark.

    • Dennis Orphen

      Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable much you don’t want to even talk about it, or believe it, must be the truth.

  • jpgray

    My hope is that this was a clumsy, desperate coverup attempt and all about a frenzied effort to forestall the uncovering of deadly facts that mean certain Trump collapse.

    My fear is that it’s only kill Russia investigation in small part, but in larger part just pettiness over some stupid shit like Comey failing loyalty tests around Obama “tapp” claims and/or other bonkers nonsense. That would be perfectly in character.

    The hope/fear cycle is brutal with this presidency. We should all become Spinozists?

    • so-in-so

      This is Trump, so “both” is highly possible. Pettiness forces a really stupid, clumsy attempt to cover up the really key facts that will surface…

  • thispaceforsale

    We aren’t even at peak dumpster fire yet

  • nemdam

    I’m not sure why you are so certain that Comey won’t go public or do what’s right based on the assumption that he always caves to GOP complaints. The reason he was fired was because he wouldn’t be Trump’s lickspittle so there’s already evidence of him not caving to the GOP. I’m not ruling out the serious probability of him not going public, but given that his highest calling in life appears to be convincing himself he is a straight shooter, speaking in public would be consistent with that goal.

    • jamesepowell

      Comey serves the Republicans, not Trump. More specifically, Comey is a creature of the Washington DC Republicans. He’s not going to do anything to interfere with McConnell & Ryan and their efforts to remake the federal judiciary and roll back the 20th century.

      • nemdam

        Then why hasn’t he stopped the Russia investigation? If he does whatever Republicans want, why did Trump fire him? Comey disgraced both himself and the FBI with the way he was “extremely careless” with EMAILS! I am no fan of his and that was a fireable offense. He still might be bungling the investigation, but if he was a strict partisan hack, Trump would have no reason to fire him.

      • rachelmap

        Comey serves the Republicans, not Trump.

        I think you have that wrong. I think Comey serves Comey, not the Republicans or Trump. I think Comey thought that his ‘brave’ tattling about her emails would consolidate his position as a power in Washington after she was elected by undermining her and preventing pro-GOP underlings from undermining him. He knew she was smart enough to understand that punishing his misconduct would cause her no end of grief. President Clinton would never have been able to lift a finger against him.

        Well, congratulations, Jim! You helped elect a double-crossing rageaholic who was too cretinous to have known how foolish firing you was. Sucks to be you, I guess.

    • Just_Dropping_By

      It’s LGMtown, nemdam — all Republican political figures act in complete and utter service of whatever a Republican administration demands of them 100% of the time, even when there is objective evidence that a given Republican political figure has not, in fact, done so 100% of the time.

  • ice9

    Where is Mark Felt when he is needed.


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