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Trump Attempts To Blackmail Comey. Really

Think about it: the President of the United States is threatening to blackmail the former chief of the nation’s top domestic law enforcement agency in an attempt to shut him up.

Maybe Trump is bluffing, which would be outrageous enough. But what if he’s telling the truth? We have no way of knowing. Now, every single man or woman who goes into the White House to converse with him now has to worry that the president is secretly recording their conversation, and has no scruples against using what is said to blackmail them. What say you, Sen. Mitch McConnell? What say you, CIA director Mike Pompeo?

This is banana republic stuff. This man is out of control. How can we have a functioning government if the President feels entitled to threaten blackmail, and every single official who meets with him in the White House has to worry that they’re being bugged, and that words they say in confidence could be used against them?

Note well that Trump manufactured this crisis out of his own ineptitude and corruption.

Congress is going to have to impeach him to protect the integrity of our Constitutional order. The House impeached Clinton for lying under oath (though the Senate did not convict). Now we have a sitting president threatening blackmail against the FBI director he fired. This, only four months into the president’s administration. Mind-boggling. But here we are. If this is not a bright red line, what is?

185 Comments (Open | Close)

185 Comments To "Trump Attempts To Blackmail Comey. Really"

#1 Comment By Robert M. Snyder On May 12, 2017 @ 9:01 pm

According to the JFK Presidential Library:

“John F. Kennedy was one of six presidents who secretly recorded in the White House. From the end of July 1962 through November 1963, JFK captured meetings, office conversations, telephone calls, and dictation in the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room.”

[2]

There are over 35,000 people working at the FBI. There must be thousands of investigations underway at any given time. The director’s job is not to conduct investigations, but to manage the organization. If a competent replacement for Comey is installed, and Trump lets that person do his or her job, then I see no reason why ongoing investigations should be affected any more than if Comey had suddenly died in a plane crash.

#2 Comment By Noah172 On May 12, 2017 @ 9:23 pm

Lllurker wrote:

We’ve all seen “favors” go from him to Putin and of course back the other way as well

Bombing Assad? Some favor…

How about:

Uranium One?

Privately promising Medvedev “more flexibility” after the election?

Saying “The 1980s called. They want their foreign policy back.” during a presidential debate?

Accepting Russia’s word on Assad having no chem weapons?

Oh, wait, those weren’t Trump. Who did those things, Lllurker?

The platform change favoring Putin that was made at the convention represented a red flag the size of Texas

Wrong. See here:

[3]

Then Manafort was abruptly canned

Because Trump wanted a new campaign manager; remember, Manafort himself was a replacement for Lewandowski. I won’t deny that Manafort’s business ties may (or may not) have factored in his dismissal, but it’s willful blindness not to notice that Trump changed out managers when he wanted to pivot his campaign. Manafort replaced Lewandowski because Trump needed an insider with convention wheeling-dealing experience (at the time, he wasn’t sure he’d have a delegate majority, and there was a threat of a delegate revolt; Manafort had experience with the 1976 convention struggle between Ford and Reagan). And then Trump brought in Bannon for populist strategy and Conway for her campaign experience and woman’s perspective.

Abrupt dismissals are something Trump does. He made a TV series around firing people.

Buuuut… if Trump was already considering dismissing Comey months ago, then it’s actually not abrupt.

#3 Comment By Erik Koso On May 12, 2017 @ 9:26 pm

Why on earth do polls show continuing support among Republicans for Trump in the 85% range?

I agree wholeheartedly with your analysis, but you are in a very small minority of conservatives, apparently. Until Trump’s poll numbers drop among Republican voters, President Trump will have carte blanche to continue to act in opposition to American values of decency and selfless patriotism.

#4 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On May 12, 2017 @ 9:45 pm

And if you think impeaching Trump will not in itself also hurt the Constitutional order…

Ummm, impeachment is a constitutionally prescribed process…

Just as a reminder, in 1998, the GOP had SEVEN different special prosecutors set up and running on Bill Clinton.

Well, yeah. But they had a majority, and the Dems at present do not. It makes a difference.

But I have to admit, even if it was from a military coup (cue the internal screaming!), a part of me would applaud the downfall of Trump…

Sure, like the hopeful young secular democrats of Egypt applauded the military taking out Mohammed Morsi…

Or as Fran Macadam wisely observes, “Whether or not you voted for Trump, Clinton or someone else, or no one, it is astounding to me that so many are now ready to overthrow democracy. That is the real threat to a constitutional Republic.”

#5 Comment By Anne On May 12, 2017 @ 10:09 pm

Rod’s absolutely right that what Trump did and said to Comey would be construed as obstruction of justice had any other President behaved similarly at any other time in our history. But then, so would firing the head of the FBI in the middle of the FBI’s investigation of him. As would asking the head of the House intel committee to pass off information your office handed him directly as classified intel he got from somewhere else corroborating that a former President had, in fact, committed the crime you once claimed he had committed, even though neither the information handed him nor any other actually did anything of the kind.

Trump has never in his life refrained from using whatever it takes to get people to do what he wants. Bullying has been his middle name since he was 5 — 3, really — according to his mother. Both his parents said they sent him to military school primarily to “tame” his bullying habit, although the headmaster reported it was still going strong when he finally graduated. Avoiding intimidation or even the appearance of intimidation are not concepts this man would even understand.

After Nixon fired the guy heading the Watergate investigation, Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, events moved relatively swiftly, although if I recall correctly, the Judiciary Committee split on party lines repeatedly on the question of impeachment. But eventually, Republicans redeemed themselves by raising some of the more eloquent voices against obstruction of justice during the famed Watergate hearings. What are the chances that will happen again? Not very good, I fear. Maybe about the same as the chances Trump will politely resign…or well, just resign. “Politely” is definitely asking too much.

#6 Comment By Friedrich MacFintstein On May 12, 2017 @ 10:23 pm

We only recently moved this website from secondary read status to primary read status. And now, its priority has been changed again. From primary, all the way to un-bookmarked and un-read. And it only took two articles to achieve this efficiency. Truly remarkable.

[NFR: I may never recover. Tant pis. — RD]

#7 Comment By Aaron Hinkley On May 12, 2017 @ 10:46 pm

According to a source close to Comey, “he hopes there are tapes; that would be perfect.”

#8 Comment By George Ertel On May 12, 2017 @ 11:30 pm

Rod, I love ya, man, but you’re being silly.

#9 Comment By Realist On May 13, 2017 @ 12:07 am

I quite agree with you, Rod, but if you think that impeachment is going to happen, think again. This country still had some moral character to it when Watergate happened back in the 1970s, but no longer. Cindy Sheehan said it best in her 2007 letter resigning from the anti-war movement. She said that America was no longer the country that she once loved, and that she had finally realized that she could not make it be that country. If Trump is eventually taken down, it will not be because of popular moral outrage over his transgression of democratic values, but because he goes too far in threatening the interests of the deep state elite.

#10 Comment By Charles E On May 13, 2017 @ 12:32 am

Rod is over-reacting. There is obviously a war going on with the IC and Trump and this threat is a response to the massive leaking that is going on and that he wants it to end, etc. It’s actually a little funny that Trump is creating doubt among IC people as to how “secret” their conversations are and that the POTUS migth be spying on *them*.

#11 Comment By Chris A. Harris On May 13, 2017 @ 7:04 am

Sorry Mr. Dreher, President Trump’s tweet doesn’t constitute bribery. Now if the POTUS ad demanded something in return from Comey to stay silent about something Comey may have said during his conversation with the POTUS, that would be bribery.

You see, conspiracy theories aren’t unique only to liberals.

#12 Comment By Keeponwalking On May 13, 2017 @ 8:00 am

I agree with Fran M.:

Whether or not you voted for Trump, Clinton or someone else, or no one, it is astounding to me that so many are now ready to overthrow democracy. That is the real threat to a constitutional Republic. It would conform that the republic is in a late stage transition to full imperialism, when democratic accountability is jettisoned.

Overturning the will of the voters might put the alt-right and the Law of Unintended Consequences in the same sentence.

Sean Spicer has one of the hardest jobs in the world. Trump should take a break and educate himself on the capabilities and potential of his communications staff.

#13 Comment By Melampus the Seer On May 13, 2017 @ 8:30 am

Rod, don’t be a principled loser. That’s why conservatives have lost for that sixty years. Politics is war by other means. It’s played hard and dirty. Get over it.

If you can’t get behind people willing to fight, at least moderate your criticism with some prudence. Otherwise, you’re just a crypto-leftist looking for the next traditional ideal to destroy. Don’t be that guy.

#14 Comment By Roger On May 13, 2017 @ 8:40 am

This isn’t the first time Trump has acted the part of a playground bully. I was always critical of Obama for demeaning the office of president, but Trump outdoes him.

#15 Comment By Skeptic On May 13, 2017 @ 9:15 am

First of all, what Fran Macadam said. She has summed it up best, imho, of all these many comments. TAC should consider hiring her.

Second. In the U.S., any celebrity, or even any person of real achievement in some specific field, is suddenly expected to be an expert in everything at all. The result of this is pundit culture, where men (usually it is men, usually with impressively deep voices and an air of certainty) make pronouncements on subjects they know little about.

It is extremely superficial, as one would expect of our culture. But it is flattering to the pundit to be supposed omniscient.

My point: TAC authors, however intelligent, also stand in need some intellectual modesty, some awareness that being very well informed in one field (culture, theology) doesn’t make you an expert in all. That doesn’t mean, Rod, that you should keep quiet about matters related to US domestic and international politics, the workings of that Mike Lofgren has called the deep state. But please do so with some greater recognition that your judgments here are inevitably tentative at best.

[NFR: What on earth makes you think that I regard my blog posts as magisterial documents? This is something in your head, not mine. — RD]

#16 Comment By Bugg On May 13, 2017 @ 9:53 am

Trump’s critics here fail to grasp the reality; Comey egregiously overstepped his bounds. The FBI is an investigative agency, not a prosecutorial one. The decision to prosecute anyone, be it Hillary Clinton or a drug lord or a bookmaker is up to the US attorney, not the FBI. The FBI gathers the evidence and brings it to the USA. The Justice Department then decides whether to present the evidence to a grand jury. Granted it was intolerable that in the case of Loretta Lynch it’s clear she was complicit and knowingly compromised. But that does not give Comey and right nor business making such pronouncements about who will or will not be subject to a grand jury. His only announcement should have been that his investigation was complete and the work presented to the DoJ. Further there are rumblings that many FBI agents working the Hillary case were not pleased about his announcement even though they know the tarmac-meeting Obama/Lynch DoJ was never going to take it to a grand jury. Far be it from me to take the side of Hillary Clinton ( a complete crook) but Comey had no business making his July nor October announcements. And he should have been fired on July 6th. In the sea of Trump hatred appears few have grasped Comey was out of bounds and out of line.

#17 Comment By Brian On May 13, 2017 @ 10:48 am

March 31, 2017 The Surveillance State Behind Russia-Gate

Although many details are still hazy because of secrecy – and further befogged by politics – it appears House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes was informed last week about invasive electronic surveillance of senior U.S. government officials and, in turn, passed that information onto President Trump.

[4]

#18 Comment By Lllurker On May 13, 2017 @ 11:33 am

“In the sea of Trump hatred appears few have grasped Comey was out of bounds and out of line.”

“Trump hatred” or “Trump love” are irrelevant. At some point there has to be a threshold where one rises above partisanship.

While the FBI was in the midst of investigating Trumps people, Trump fired the FBI Director.

The presidency has so few checks on its power that the few remaining ones are crucial. Presidents cannot be allowed to cut the legs out from under anyone who is investigating them. Nor intimidate people who are investigating or prosecuting them.

It’s something that only Nixon has done, which is why such an act is considered Nixonian. Which not by coincidence refers to the president who was forced to resign from the position in utter disgrace.

#19 Comment By Hound of Ulster On May 13, 2017 @ 11:58 am

Imagine, if you will, the reaction of conservatives to Trump’s actions/words if he were a Democrat/liberal…partisanship is some drug

#20 Comment By Anand On May 13, 2017 @ 12:59 pm

Partisans on both sides care more about results than process. Insiders (whether journalists, bureaucrats or Pharisees), can fall into the trap of thinking process is more important than results. Trump’s ultimate appeal here to his partisans is that he “disrupts” the idolization of process. The reaction from the so-called “deep state” isn’t necessarily a conspiracy, it’s human beings trying to tame a complex reality with imperfect rules.

The problem of course is that just because process isn’t a guarantee of good results, the opposite extreme can be even worse. Especially when the person at the top is an undisciplined narcissistic bully. The disciplines of journalism (citing sources who are willing to go on the record) science (peer review and evidence-based argument) and governmental ethics (disclosure of assets, conflicts, etc.) don’t guarantee that those who adhere to these practices will get the answers right. But they help to ensure that they don’t get things wrong for the wrong reasons- which is something.

#21 Comment By Lllurker On May 13, 2017 @ 2:19 pm

Brian: “The Surveillance State Behind Russia-Gate”

So Brian I took a look at that website and what I came across seemed to be mostly pro-Russian propaganda. Seemed to be quite a bit of deceptive crap there frankly. Is there a particular writer on that site that you have followed for awhile and vetted and found to be honest?

#22 Comment By Joel On May 13, 2017 @ 3:59 pm

From Barbara Tuchman’s “March of Folly”:

“To qualify as folly for this inquiry, the policy adopted must meet three criteria: it must have been perceived as counter-productive in its own time, not merely by hindsight. … Secondly a feasible alternative course of action must have been available. … third … the policy in question should be that of a group, not an individual leader.”

I leave it as an exercise for the reader to surmise which”group” is responsible for our current episode of national folly.

#23 Comment By Viceroy of TAC On May 13, 2017 @ 8:22 pm

I think people who believe in Trump’s paleocon/nationalistic platform have to begin thinking of a way to distance the ideas away from Trump so that we at least have a future.

#24 Comment By Jim Houghton On May 13, 2017 @ 11:15 pm

No one who is telling the truth has anything to fear from “tapes.”

#25 Comment By Judith Sylvester On May 14, 2017 @ 10:25 am

“Buuuut… if Trump was already considering dismissing Comey months ago, then it’s actually not abrupt.”

You do it better than KellyAnne, Noah.

#26 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On May 14, 2017 @ 8:37 pm

Imagine, if you will, the reaction of conservatives to Trump’s actions/words if he were a Democrat/liberal…partisanship is some drug

True enough… but we can also imagine the way Democratic hacks would rally around Hillary when she did something equally sordid, albeit she is more skilled at the initial spin.

#27 Comment By Fran Macadam On May 15, 2017 @ 2:11 am

“The presidency has so few checks on its power that the few remaining ones are crucial. Presidents cannot be allowed to cut the legs out from under anyone who is investigating them. Nor intimidate people who are investigating or prosecuting them.”

Yes, and the FBI is such an accountable organization, fully vetted in all its actions… by itself. A bureaucracy so stellar and pristine, selfless and untouched by politics, its goodness proven by the 48 year tenure of its first director, the nearest approximation of the eternal and untouchable in Washington, and by the handsomeness of Efram Zimbalist Jr.

#28 Comment By Karen On May 15, 2017 @ 1:09 pm

Spot on article. The only threat to democracy right now is Trump himself and his enablers who protect him. Watch the Dutch documentary by investigative journalists who have been working on the Trump Russian mafia connections; Trump partners who are known Russian criminals; the ties are deep and long, going back years to when U.S. Banks stopped lending to him. This is not a partisan issue, this is an international intelligence effort. He has, quite literally, sold out the country in pursuit of financial power, retaining his gilded lifestyle.

#29 Comment By John Mulligan On May 15, 2017 @ 2:12 pm

I agree with Rod. The banana has become the new symbol of our republic. Only Trump’s voluntary departure or judicial removal (impeachment) will allow the eagle to soar again. It can’t come too soon !!!

#30 Comment By Losingmy Republic On May 15, 2017 @ 3:11 pm

Somebody stated that they liked Trump because he is willing to get dirty and win. The constitution is about law, balance of power, and justice. Winning by breaking the law, tilting the balance of power and tossing justice in the trash bin, is losing our Republic. Laws matter. How things are done matters. The author is right. If Killary or Obummer did this ya’ll would be turning red with anger. Partisanship over principle is killing this country. I suppose that is why such and un-principled blowhard was elected.

#31 Comment By Ken T On May 15, 2017 @ 4:50 pm

A bureaucracy so stellar and pristine, selfless and untouched by politics, its goodness proven […]

But absolutely no one has made any such ridiculous claim. There is no such organization, never has been and never will be. And that’s the point. That’s why we depend instead on checks and balances. Certainly the FBI is far from “pure”. And Comey himself is a self-promoting idiot. But because his agenda is different from the WH’s agenda, he can act as a check against them. Which is why Trump demanding an oath of personal loyalty from Comey, and them firing him when he didn’t get it, is a problem.

#32 Comment By polistra On June 8, 2017 @ 12:17 pm

Blackmail? Nonsense. Trump made the problem, but none of what Dreher says is remotely valid.

Trump should have fired everyone he could legally fire on his first day in office, preferably as part of the oath of office.

“I swear bla bla bla to the best of my ability, and the 3000 officials in this list are hereby dismissed. You have already received your letters of dismissal, effective as of this second, so help me God.”

If he had REMOVED THE ENEMIES FIRST, none of this would have happened. But he didn’t. He left the enemies in power and then endlessly taunted them, constantly handing them ammunition to use against him.

#33 Comment By Daniel On June 8, 2017 @ 1:22 pm

Much more likely Trump will just not get reelected than that he will get impeached. No one but the Republican party is going down in flames here.

#34 Comment By Colonel Bogey On June 8, 2017 @ 3:41 pm

Trump will go, sooner or later in this term. I didn’t vote for him, because I was grossed out by the Billy Bush tape, and because I knew he’d win Missouri without my vote, but I was glad he won over the nasty woman. But he just doesn’t know how to save himself. The slavering jaws of the Left will not be satisfied when they eat him. So, President Pence has got to safeguard himself by appointing a vice-president to his right, whom the Left will hate worse than himself. (I don’t much like Pence either, because of his pro-Zionist hawkishness, but he’s couth enough to survive.) I suggest a V. P. who will actually be a real conservative, and tell the anti-Confederate fanatics where they can go.

#35 Comment By Clearview Alpha On June 10, 2017 @ 1:03 am

James Comey has been blackmailing political figures for career related favors since the Whitewater investigation. He made good on his blackmail threats with Hillary Clinton by announcing the reopening of the email investigation harming her in the election and he is trying to do the same with Trump.

The message is clear, Comey either gets to keep his jobs regardless of performance or he will sling mud on you and damage your reputation.

Even his position at HSBC was the result of Clinton Foundation favors which he received in lieu of outing their questionable fund raising practices(some called it Influence Peddling).

Anyone who can’t plainly see this is painfully obtuse or just hasn’t read up on the history of James Comey and his uncanny career leaps while holding powerful people by the testes.