Trump’s interview with Lester Holt leaves no doubt that the Trump Administration, its surrogates, and GOP officials spent two days misleading the American people. The rationale crafted by Rosenstein was obviously pretextual, but as long as the administration stayed on message, they provided their allies with plausible deniability. Moreover, it is difficult to interpret Trump’s comments, and those of his Huckabee Sanders, as anything other than this: Trump fired Comey, at least in part, to influence the conduct of the Russia probe. The fact that this may fail is immaterial.
“We want this to come to its conclusion, we want it to come to its conclusion with integrity,” she said, referring to the FBI’s probe into Moscow’s interference in last year’s election. “And we think that we’ve actually, by removing Director Comey, taken steps to make that happen.”
DONALD TRUMP: [OVER TALK] Well, all I can tell you is, well I know what, I know that I’m not under investigation. Me. Personally. I’m not talking about campaigns. I’m not talking about anything else. I’m not under investigation.
LESTER HOLT: Did you ask him to drop the investigation?
DONALD TRUMP: No. Never.
LESTER HOLT: Did anyone from the White House?
DONALD TRUMP: No, in fact I want the investigation speeded up.
LESTER HOLT: Did anyone from the White House ask him to, to end the
DONALD TRUMP: [OVER TALK] No. No. Why would we do that? [OVER TALK]
LESTER HOLT: [OVER TALK] Any surrogates on behalf of the White House
DONALD TRUMP: Not that I know of. Look I want to find out if there was a problem with an election having to do with Russia. Or by the way, anyb- any anybody else. Any other country. And I want that to be so strong and so good. And I want it to happen. I also want to have a really competent, capable director. He’s not. He’s a showboat. He’s not my man or not my man. I didn’t appoint him. He was appointed long before me. But I want somebody who’s going to do a great job. And I will tell you we’re looking at candidates right now who could be spectacular. And that’s what I want for the FBI.
This may look innocuous, but it isn’t. Trump ties the removal of Comey to concerns about his ability to investigate the Trump campaign.
And now, today, the President of the United States falls back into a pattern that sounds an awful lot like intimidation of potential witnesses.
James Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
Max Boot—yes, Max Boot—sums up the situation:
Democrats already hold 48 seats in the Senate. It would not take many Republican defectors to join with the Democratic majority to paralyze the upper house — to refuse to act on any of Trump’s legislative priorities, from health care reform to tax cuts — until the Justice Department agrees to appoint a special counsel or until Congress agrees to authorize, and Trump to sign, legislation creating an independent commission. Republican Sens. Jeff Flake, Ben Sasse, Richard Burr, and John McCain have already indicated they are troubled by the manner of Comey’s dismissal. Will they now reveal themselves to be men of honor and courage who are willing to stand up for the republic rather than the Republican Party? On that question hinges the future of the rule of law in America
Update: here’s the start of my “Tweet storm” (ugh) for why I’m completely freaked out right now.
1. This is a thing that I wrote in November 2016 about the precariousness our system of government. https://t.co/Q0Kk99HADd
— Daniel Nexon (@dhnexon) May 12, 2017