Comey, Intel, Impeach?

I want to be very clear from the beginning:  I dislike Donald J. Trump.  I find him odious and I believe him to be unprincipled and dangerously impulsive.

And I don’t think he’s done anything terribly illegal during his time in office.  If it’s found that he has, it’ll be a surprise to me, and I’ve been watching about as closely as an outsider can. 

People judge a new presidency by what happens in the first hundred days.  Well, it’s been about that long, and what we’ve had so far in the Trump presidency has been a new scandal every Monday and Friday, almost like clockwork.  Which is somewhat refreshing; past presidencies have been forced to stick with the same scandal for months, but just now we have variety.

For its part, the news media is only too delighted to report on each questionable or unfortunate event in detail as it occurs, devoting live airtime to replaying each and every gaffe.  Experts, commentators, and pundits are brought in to opine on the president’s — or his staff’s — most recent breach of manners, good taste, and ethics rules.  As a result, the public is inundated with a non-stop deluge of anti-Trump rhetoric, 24/7/365.

Which in essence means we’ll be inured to it by the time anything of substance occurs.

The most recent stories are the same ones as always:  Russia, Comey, and impropriety.  Bear in mind that we’re not talking about any illegality at all; we’re discussing impropriety.  President Trump may, as has been widely reported, have violated a confidentiality agreement with a foreign nation by openly discussing sensitive information (apparently this sensitive information which I published six weeks ago) with Russian officials in the Oval Office, but the President (unlike every other American) almost always has the right to ignore official secrecy designations.  Likewise, the President has the legal right to fire almost any senior administration official at any time; they all serve at the pleasure of the President.  Those aren’t just words.

In short, the firing of James Comey was flubbed badly — but it was legal.  Did the President fire him after Comey refused to back down on the Flynn investigation?  As I recall, that request (if indeed it happened) was made weeks before the firing —  a firing which took place a few hours after Comey publicly admitted he’d erred in some of his more damning statements about Huma Abedin during the election.  (Talk about a massive flub in spin control!  “He was fired for wrongfully accusing Huma Abedin.  Period.  End of story.”  Which it would have been.)

I’d like to touch briefly on the propriety of Trump attempting to personally influence an ongoing FBI investigation into Mike Flynn.  The nature of his interaction with FBI officials at that time can come into question, and unlike most of the things Trump has done, it’s potentially actionable.  Others have gone into great detail so I don’t have to; basically, the question comes down to this:  “Does the pattern of conduct that is emerging, in the view of a majority of the House of Representatives and a two-thirds majority of the Senate, constitute an obstruction of justice of a type that is grounds for impeachment and removal?”  (Murillo et al, Lawfare)

At present, I’d have to say the answer is a resounding No.

Impeachment requires the majority of the House and two thirds of the Senate to vote in favor.  Given that, at present, the House is able to move a great deal of legislation through, it’s certainly inexpedient for them to want to spend their time instead on time-consuming hearings and an impeachment process.  The Senate, which would need to be overwhelmingly in favor of impeachment, is even less likely to attempt it.  There would need to be overwhelming evidence against Mr. Trump, and it would need to be so egregious a fault that the entire nation would demand his ouster.

Trump’s problem, however, is that the hostile press is going to continually run anti-Trump stories until his name becomes indelibly associated with wrongdoing.  As long as people keep watching CNN and reading the Post and the Times, that their top editors are personally committed to removing Donald Trump from office will continue to influence the feelings of the electorate.  Over time, this will almost inevitably create a climate of such mistrust that impeachment or resignation will be unavoidable.  The alternative, that the public will come to believe that major press organizations are merely propaganda arms of the Democratic Party, is not as unlikely as it seems; in some ways (though hardly all or even most) it’s no more than the simple truth.

But that’s not why they’re doing it.  Instead, this is all about winning the midterm elections, changing the balance of the House and, potentially, the Senate as well.  The former is by far the easier task; in 2018, the Senate Democrats have, by my count, twenty-three seats to hold — many in red states — while the Republicans are defending only eight.  It’s actually tougher even than this, as there are two independents who presently caucus with Democrats that are up for re-election as well.

But, as the public perception of the Republican Party will be inextricably linked to the perception of President Trump, these gains and more seem ever more likely as time passes and negative press about the present administration accrues.  The Republican members at least of the House will eventually be forced either to take action or to rally behind the President as a figurehead — a prospect that should appear by that time to any experienced political operator as tantamount to political suicide.

Incidentally:  While the nation concentrates on scandal, the water in Flint, Michigan remains undrinkable.  There is no Federal budget; there hasn’t been a new one in a decade and more.  Only eight of our ten carrier air wings are combat-capable due to equipment problems, which would be serious if we had more than six of our eleven fleet carrier groups at sea — which, due to funding problems, we don’t.  We’ve got nowhere near enough resources dedicated to achieving a manned mission to Mars.  There’s an estimated $700 billion dollar trade deficit coming this year — a slight improvement over last year’s under Obama, which is not good news.  Puerto Rico recently filed for bankru– …I mean… ‘Financial Reorganization’.  Oh, and private insurers seem to be fleeing the A.C.A. exchanges like the rats they are.

It’s time to stop the infighting already, folks.  Let’s run the damn country.

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