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Trump’s Leaky Ship Sails On

Read this piece in Politico [1] about the firing of FBI Director James Comey:

President Donald Trump weighed firing his FBI director for more than a week. When he finally pulled the trigger Tuesday afternoon, he didn’t call James Comey. He sent his longtime private security guard to deliver the termination letter in a manila folder to FBI headquarters.

He had grown enraged by the Russia investigation, two advisers said, frustrated by his inability to control the mushrooming narrative around Russia. He repeatedly asked aides why the Russia investigation wouldn’t disappear and demanded they speak out for him. He would sometimes scream at television clips about the probe, one adviser said.

Trump’s firing of the high-profile FBI director on the 110th day since taking office marked another sudden turn for an administration that has fired its acting attorney general, national security adviser and now its FBI director, who Trump had praised until recent weeks and even blew a kiss to during a January appearance.

The news stunned Comey, who saw his dismissal on TV while speaking inside the FBI office in Los Angeles. It startled all but the uppermost ring of White House advisers, who said grumbling about Comey hadn’t dominated their own morning senior staff meetings. Other top officials learned just before it happened and were unaware he was considering firing Comey. “Nobody really knew,” one senior White House official said. “Our phones all buzzed and people said, What?”

It sounds very much like Politico got people in the White House to say, flat out, that the firing was about quashing the Russia investigation. The most parsimonious assumption is that, in fact, the President fired his FBI director in an attempt to quash that investigation, and disloyal aides are trying to (a) protect themselves in the event of a Congressional investigation by preemptively saying that they had no idea this was coming, and (b) put Congress on the spot by making it abundantly clear that such an investigation is warranted. Is Congress really not going to do anything in response?

I suppose they might not. The Republican strategy so far seems to be to count on their voters either never believing their lying eyes, or on complete epistemic closure [2] to prevent their voters from ever learning unpleasant news, or on being so convinced of the absolute evil of Team Blue that there is literally nothing that would make them change their mind about the lesser evil.

But consider the implications of the alternative assumption: that these anonymous aides and officials are exaggerating, confabulating or carefully communicating partial truths in order to maximally damage their boss. How on earth can a White House function in such an environment? When your staff is sufficiently disloyal that they are telling reporters that you are engaged in what amounts to obstruction of justice, how can you make policy of any kind?

I personally incline toward the parsimonious explanation. But for those who still want to give Trump the benefit of the doubt, I’m genuinely curious: even assuming you’re right, how much better is that really?

17 Comments (Open | Close)

17 Comments To "Trump’s Leaky Ship Sails On"

#1 Comment By Robert Levine On May 10, 2017 @ 9:29 am

Very astute analysis. The level of incompetence in this administration is beyond breathtaking.

#2 Comment By Joe the Plutocrat On May 10, 2017 @ 9:49 am

As I have suggested in other posts, perhaps the true ‘deep state’ is in the West Wing of the White House (or Moscow by proxy)? IF Moscow did in fact attempt to destabilize the US government by interfering with the 2016 election, it would appear those responsible for the operation are due for a promotion. I have always felt the “collusion” charge was itself a very important part of the plan. That is to say, collusion or not, the objective was to simply introduce the possibility, which could lead the 45th POTUS to respond under the assumption there was collusion (whether or not he was aware). This is why the relationships and conversations of Flynn, Page, Kushner, et al matter. Even if the ongoing investigation fails to produce evidence of collusion, the actual “mission” of operations was “accomplished”. This would make the question of collusion the most ironic alternative fact in history. At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter if the current administration is hiding/covering up malfeasance, or simply once again demonstrating a profound lack of understanding in terms of the unique skills and experience (temperament, gravitas, nuance, discipline, etc.) necessary to ‘faithfully execute the Office’ of POTUS, and as such being unwittingly manipulated and directed by others.

#3 Comment By Ken T On May 10, 2017 @ 10:59 am

So either it’s a case of subordinates trying to protect themselves from the fallout of their boss being taken down, or it’s a case of subordinates conspiring to take their boss down. You say tomayto, I say tomahto. Either way, it comes back to the age old saying – “There is no honor among thieves.”

#4 Comment By collin On May 10, 2017 @ 11:02 am

I am on the opposite end here that most of the stuff right now is not hurting him that much. His ~40% approvals are showing his voters are mostly holding and he got to month 18 approval ratings early. (This does limit what he can accomplish which is fine by me.)

1) We still have not seen Trump act in a time of need at this point.
2) If you thought HRC gave the Republicans lots of material, Trump administration is giving a lot of potential material.

#5 Comment By tzx4 On May 10, 2017 @ 11:22 am

Having witnessed Mr Nixon’s Waterloo, this is giving me some serious deja vu.
Mr. Trump’s behavior and course of action are, to my mind proof that he is concealing something very consequential.
If this Russia connection issue was one big fiction and Mr Trump most certainly is in a position to know, an innocent man would welcome investigations that would prove that innocence,and in Mr. Trump’s case, a good cudgel to extract some sense of revenge on his enemies in his mind.

#6 Comment By Uncle Billy On May 10, 2017 @ 11:58 am

The question is, how long will the Republicans in Congress, such as Mitch McConnell, John McCain, Paul Ryan, etc. continue to support him? Sooner or later, they may be faced with a “Watergate scenario” where they have to make a decision.

It is possible that we may be looking at President Mike Pence at some point in he near future.

#7 Comment By Mark Thomason On May 10, 2017 @ 12:18 pm

The White House players are targeting each other, not Trump. Those leaking seek to displace those who counseled in favor of this, or at least did not stop it.

#8 Comment By the tatler On May 10, 2017 @ 1:10 pm

I don’t give Trump the benefit of any doubt. I think he’s betraying his voters (I was one) left and right. I intend to vote for whatever anti-Trump conservatives I can find in 2018, and will support any decent primary opponent who runs against him. He’s a treacherous bastard, already nearly completely in bed with the establishment we hired him to dismantle – the wars are escalating again, the deficit’s climbing again, immigration continues, the illegals are still here, the wall is unbuilt, the “work visa” programs continue, Wall Streeters and Silicon Valleyites are getting everything they want.

In brief, I held my nose and voted for him last November and I’ll never do it again.

All that said, while I don’t think Trump needed to fire Comey, I’m not too worked up about it. Comey was becoming too much of a political player, an unhealthy attribute in an FBI Director. Firing him is neither unconstitutional nor unprecedented; Hillary’s husband fired William Sessions, likely with Hillary’s enthusiastic approval, a few months after taking office back in ’93.

So. Small potatoes in the great scheme of things, a mere DC brouhaha. The important factors undermining the Trump presidency are the failures to deliver and outright betrayals of his voters. Firing Comey isn’t one of them.

#9 Comment By Johann On May 10, 2017 @ 2:50 pm

Mr. Millman, you need to get out more.

I voted for Trump. There are lots of things I don’t like about Trump, but to me, and probably most Trump voters, his election has already been worth it. Just his rhetoric has reduced 3rd world immigration into this country, Gorsuch was appointed to the supreme court, economy killing regulations have been revoked, oil pipelines have been approved, and unfair trade is being challenged. But I have always been leery of his foreign policy.

I say there are lots of things I don’t like about Trump, but firing Comey is not one of them. Comey is unfit to lead the FBI. It won’t inhibit the Russian investigation at all, and in fact the action will likely intensify the investigation. And in the end, the investigation will come to nothing. If there were any meat to it, that meat would have been in the NYT or WaPo by now.

#10 Comment By David Naas On May 10, 2017 @ 8:44 pm

Fir the True Believers, no explanation is necessary; for the agnostics and atheists, no explanation will suffice.

#11 Comment By jz On May 10, 2017 @ 9:29 pm

Obvious either or fallacy mixed in with a conspiracy theory backed up by more of those oh so reliable anonymous sources. Overall A+ analysis there Noah.

Please understand that there are people out there who don’t like Trump but have the ability to see through media narrative.

Here’s the gaping hole in this analysis. Getting rid of Comey will do very little to squash the investigation if there’s anything there. The actual investigators are still very much employed. It’s only the political head that’s been removed. Remember that our government leaks like a sieve these days. How plausible is it that the FBI is hot on the trail of anything meaningful, and this action will stop them without it hitting the press?

Then consider that the FBI, NSA, and other intelligence agencies have been looking into this for 9 months at least. All the anonymous leaks have been a whole lot of nothing. Even the very political Sally Yates said she warned Trump about Flynn because his lying to Pence left him vulnerable to blackmail, not because he had done anything illegal.

Is it possible Trump or someone around him did something illegal? Ya of course it is. But an honest person has to admit that the longer the investigation goes on without finding anything significant, the LESS likely it is they’ll ever find anything.

#12 Comment By William Dalton On May 11, 2017 @ 1:23 am

If Trump did fire Comey over his handling of the Clinton affair that is the worst reason of all. Comey did nothing but serve the American people – not any political interest.

#13 Comment By Hexexis On May 11, 2017 @ 7:13 am

The all-too-careful analysis of Pres. Trump’s antics conceal this admin.’s complete lack of governing. There remains a fed. gov. apparatus, but there’s no longer any government. The McCains & McConnells know this but are just desperate to retain the party facade of unity. The Demos. can call for special prosecutors ’til the cows come home, but they’re only fooling themselves & the public.

The media, of course, continue to fiddle while the nation burns.

#14 Comment By Dan Phillips On May 11, 2017 @ 11:51 am

If the situation was reversed, and Hillary had won and Republicans and Trump supporters were claiming that Russia stole the election for Hillary, their claims would not be taken seriously and they would be derided and mocked as sore loser conspiracy theorists, AND EVERYBODY KNOWS IT. Fox News would not even cover the story. Coverage would be relegated to places like WND and InfoWars. Hillary engaged in open and obvious pay for play through the Clinton Foundation, yet I’m supposed to believe that all these people crying about the Russians really care about foreign interference in our politics? Give me a break. This whole Russian/Trump thing is a transparently conjured up tale to delegitimize the Trump Administration. We have the Deep State engaged in an open soft coup, and but I’m supposed to believe that Russian meddling is the real threat to American democracy. Puleeze spare me.

#15 Comment By Ken T On May 11, 2017 @ 6:54 pm

Dan Phillips: I don’t know what fantasy world you live in, but here on planet Earth if the situation were reversed and the Republicans were claiming that Russia stole the election for Hillary, it would be the only story on Fox 24/7, Trey Gowdy would have demanded and received about $10 billion to fund his “investigation”, and the bill of impeachment would already have passed the House.

#16 Comment By Dan Phillips On May 12, 2017 @ 12:25 pm

Here is a full article based on my comment above.

[3]

Ken T, based on how Fox News typically covers things considered fringe conspiracy theories, they would not.

#17 Comment By Kelly On May 12, 2017 @ 6:51 pm

An interesting point is raised in that if there was any meat to the Russia investigation, that it would have been reported already. That is a very compelling argument.

It does make me wonder though, after reading the article concerning the embarrassing the government article on this site, what if the truth is bad. Really bad. (And that is a possibility given the lack of transparency caused by no tax returns combined with how well the Russians launder money.) Would it have leaked just yet?

Interesting times.