Wednesday, June 07, 2017


I'm not going to try to provide a thorough analysis of James Comey's prepared testimony, which was released today in advance of his appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee. I just want to point out one aspect of President Trump's behavior as described by Comey. Here's Comey describing a March phone call with the president:
On the morning of March 30, the President called me at the FBI. He described the Russia investigation as "a cloud" that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country.... He asked what we could do to "lift the cloud." I responded that we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could, and that there would be great benefit, if we didn't find anything, to our having done the work well. He agreed, but then re-emphasized the problems this was causing him.
And here's a description of a phone call that took place the following month:
On the morning of April 11, the President called me and asked what I had done about his request that I "get out" that he is not personally under investigation. I replied that I had passed his request to the Acting Deputy Attorney General, but I had not heard back. He replied that "the cloud" was getting in the way of his ability to do his job.
The March 30 conversation took place less than a week after the House leadership pulled the Trumpcare bill because of a lack of support; by April 11, perceptions of administration incompetence were so widespread that The New York Times was questioning whether the Trump team could pull off an Easter egg roll. So you can't blame the president for being a tad defensive about his administration.

But it's up to a president to carry on in the face of suspicion and scandal -- Bill Clinton did it even through an impeachment. Trump in these conversations just flat-out declares that, sure, he's ineffective, but it's all Comey's fault -- if only he'd publicly declare Trump innocent, the presidency would instantly be great. "The cloud" is "impairing [Trump's] ability to act on behalf of the country"; it's "getting in the way of his ability to do his job." Otherwise, he'd be the best president ever!

You can't blame Trump's utter failure to learn the intricacies of foreign policy or health care. You can't blame his ignorance of the legislative process. You can't blame his failure to staff his administration fully or his reliance on people who lack relevant experience. It's all the fault of the investigation, because nothing is ever Trump's fault.

No comments: