The Comey Post

Plenty of good stuff to say.  A non-random sampling heavy on Vox and NYT.

1) I think the most on-point take is Yglesias:

This is part of an ongoing process of Republicans lowering the bar for Trump’s statements and conduct in a way that is both nonsensical and dangerous. The president of the United States is not supposed to interfere in criminal investigations. There’s no “he only did it with a light touch” or “it was to help out a buddy, not himself personally” exemption to that rule. And “he’s too ignorant to know that was the rule” is an absurd excuse to make for a septuagenarian who also happens to be president of the United States.

Either he has the character, intellect, temperament, and disposition to do the job properly or he doesn’t…

Instead, congressional Republicans have chosen to stand on the ground that it’s okay to order an investigation quashed as long as you do it with a wink-wink and a nudge-nudge — even if you follow up by firing the guy you winked at. And they’re standing on the ground that it’s okay to quash an investigation as long as the investigation you quashed targeted a friend and close political associate, rather than the president himself.

That’s a standard of conduct that sets the United States up for massive and catastrophic erosion of the rule of law, not only, or even especially, because the president is behaving corruptly, but because Republican Party members of Congress have chosen to allow it…

The question before Congress is whether or not it’s appropriate for a president to fire law enforcement officials in order to protect his friends and associates from legal scrutiny. And the answer congressional Republicans have given is that it’s fine.

The question before the public is now whether or not they will face political consequences for having reached that conclusion.

Yep.  We are in a political crisis and it needs a political solution.  Right now the only solution will happen if A) The Democrats win the House in 2018; or B) Republicans somehow decide that going after Trump will help them preserve the House.

It’s not going to be C)

2) Elizabeth Goiten in a nice NYT conversation with Emily Bazelon:

But let’s take a real step back to the very beginning: Last summer and fall, a hostile foreign power used hackers to try to get a candidate, Donald Trump, elected. The F.B.I. determined there was sufficient evidence that Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia in this effort to open an investigation, which continues to this day. The president asked Comey, then the F.B.I. director, to pledge his loyalty and to shut down one part of the investigation. When the director didn’t comply, he was fired. And the intelligence committee hearing on all of this proceeded like it was just another partisan fight about tax cuts. The word “surreal” comes to mind.

3) Of course there’s compelling evidence that Trump is guilty of obstruction of justice.  He’s pretty much admitted as much.  NYT:

The crime of obstruction requires an attempt to block an investigation with corrupt intent. Mr. Comey has now given us direct witness testimony of obstruction by the president in the form of the already famous statement “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” Mr. Comey repeatedly added in today’s questioning that “I took it as a direction” that “this is what he wants me to do.” In a system governed by the rule of law, shutting down an investigation to benefit a friend — or perhaps, to keep damaging information that friend may know from emerging — is corrupt.

Importantly, Mr. Comey also confirmed the existence of an open investigation at the time of Mr. Trump’s statement — a legal predicate for an obstruction offense. And he added detail to the obstruction pattern that began with President Trump’s demand for “loyalty” and culminated in Mr. Comey’s firing and events immediately thereafter. After the past 24 hours, there can no longer be any doubt that President Trump should be investigated for obstruction. Indeed, Mr. Comey suggested that such an investigation may already have begun: “That’s a conclusion I’m sure the special counsel will work toward, to try and understand what the intention was there and whether that’s an offense.”

Pretty much any other person in America would be undergoing a criminal prosecution now.  But, since this is the president, it’s a political matter.  Also, Vox sums up the legal case from a variety of experts.

4) Guilty of obstruction or not, nice tweetstorm from Matt Glassman explaining why it is entirely unrealistic to actually expect Republicans to impeach him:

That said, just because they won’t be impeaching, doesn’t mean they have to lower the bar on presidential conduct to absurd depths, as they have.

5) Also, like Dara Lind’s take on The Republican Party as one of the losers from Comey’s testimony:

Loser: the Republican Party

“It doesn’t look like anything to me” is the GOP’s pre-programmed response to any new sign of wrongdoing by President Trump or his administration. And some of them have been using it so readily for so long that it seems they’ve lost any ability to actually see the information amassed in front of them — much less to draw a line at which, should Trump cross it, they’d be forced to stand up to him.

This is forcing them into uncomfortable positions — Speaker of the House Paul Ryan found himself excusing the president as “new to this” as a way of saying he hadn’t knowingly screwed up, which is just not something you want to say about your commander-in-chief. But it also means that they have blinded themselves with loyalty to a man who isn’t loyal to them. [emphasis mine]

Donald Trump puts himself before his party. He puts himself before his own administration — he was willing to see “satellites” brought up on charges in the Russia investigation as long as he was publicly known not to have been within its scope. If there is a way that Trump can get out of this by undermining Republicans, he will do it. But now, while they are the ones with the power to undermine him, they won’t.

6) And Ezra:

In the American system, the presidency is an office bounded by constitutional limits and competing institutions, but it is just as importantly bounded by the morality and personal rectitude of whomever occupies it. The power to use the executive branch to intimidate and to extract vengeance, alongside the power to pardon, means a president of poor moral character could do enormous harm. There was little doubt, before Comey’s presentation, that Trump was of poor moral character, but there is no doubt after it.

Trump’s advocates have retreated to lines of defense that, in normal times, would be considered damning condemnations. Trump, they say, was too naive to know the impropriety of what he was asking, and his presidency must be policed by staffers willing to regularly confront him over his unethical demands — even if that means they lose their jobs and anger a leader who values loyalty above all…

This is day 139 of Donald Trump’s administration, and it is clear that he is dangerously unfit for the role. The question is whether Republicans will admit it to themselves, and if so, what they will do about it. I would ask Republicans reading this piece to imagine the word “Trump” replaced with “Clinton” or “Obama.” How would they feel? How afraid would they be? That is how they should feel now. The country needs more from them right now than excuses for behavior that they know is wrong.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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