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Trump Obstructs Justice

In a Hole and Still Digging: Trump Fires Comey

O! Let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven; keep me in temper; I would not be mad! ― William Shakespeare, King Lear

Lawrence Tribe, a distinguished legal scholar, has published an essay in The Washington Post calling for impeachment of President Trump on grounds of obstruction of justice for his dismissal of FBI Director James Comey. It’s a strong case, and likely to get stronger as Trump continues to dig the hole deeper with each ill-considered tweet and talking point that undermines previous stories.

First the White House said that it was all about Comey’s mishandling of the Clinton email investigation, and that the President simply acted on the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. It had, they said, nothing, repeat, nothing to do with the investigation of Russian interference in the election, and possible Trump campaign collusion with the Russians.

This president relishes causing crises. He seems not to understand the peril he is in, the depth of the hole he is digging.

Then the story was that, no, it had nothing to do with the Clinton investigation and the President in fact had intended to fire Comey all along. And he casually remarked in an interview with NBC that it was, after all, about the Russia investigation. Then, in a tweet, he threatened Comey with “tapes” if the former Director spoke out.

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So we have an FBI investigation of the Russian intervention and possible Trump campaign collusion, and the President fires the head of the FBI while actually admitting that he was concerned about the investigation. Seems like a prima facie case for obstruction of justice. And if he really does have tapes, as Nixon learned, they can be subpoenaed.

He can’t help himself: he seems compelled to draw attention to himself and his insecurities, even if it means stepping on the planned talking points that would have directed attention away from him, even if it means exposing his Vice President, White House staff and Republicans in Congress to humiliation. It’s all about Donald!

Add to this affair the continuing controversies over conflicts of interest and the use by the President and members of his family of their official connections to gain private profit on a grand scale, while he continues to refuse to release his tax returns that could give some sense of what his private interests really are. This in itself, as Tribe points out, ought to be grounds for impeachment: this administration appears to be the embodiment of kleptocracy.

It is up to the Republicans in Congress to decide whether to proceed with impeachment. That seems unlikely now, but the fuses are burning on the investigations. More will come out: there will surely be leaks as well as public testimony by Comey and others. Trump may well have to give up his tax returns if he wants to move the major tax reforms and tax cuts that are the next major item on his agenda. His verbal indiscipline and impulsiveness will continue to make trouble for him and put strain on his allies and subordinates. There is blood in the water and the sharks know it.

This president relishes causing crises. He seems not to understand the peril he is in, the depth of the hole he is digging. His administration is corrupt, incompetent, and singularly opaque. He who was once compared to Hitler, then to Mussolini, may better be seen as King Lear. But the drama has yet awhile to unroll.

john peeler

John Peeler