Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Firing of James Comey - Echoes of Watergate

In the last post I referenced Watergate and Nixon's cover up attempts.  Back in that era, Republicans put country first and party second.  Sadly, I suspect that we are about to find out that those priorities are now reversed and that our democracy is in a death spiral aided and abetted by Congressional Republicans.  I hope I am wrong, but I will not be holding my breath waiting for the appointment of a special prosecutor who will not be doing Trump's bidding to bury the Russiagate investigation.  A piece in the New York Times looks at the very disturbing parallels between Watergate and Russiagate and the efforts by the White House to obstruct justice and bury the truth.  Here are excerpts:
In dramatically casting aside James B. Comey, President Trump fired the man who may have helped make him president — and the man who potentially most threatened the future of his presidency.
Not since Watergate has a president dismissed the person leading an investigation bearing on him, and Mr. Trump’s decision late Tuesday afternoon drew instant comparisons to the “Saturday Night Massacre” in October 1973, when President Richard M. Nixon ordered the firing of Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor looking into the so-called third-rate burglary that would eventually bring Nixon down.
In his letter firing Mr. Comey, the F.B.I. director, Mr. Trump made a point of noting that Mr. Comey had three times told the president that he was not under investigation, Mr. Trump’s way of pre-emptively denying that his action was self-interested. But in fact, he had plenty at stake, given that Mr. Comey had said publicly that the bureau was investigating Russia’s meddling in last year’s presidential election and whether any associates of Mr. Trump’s campaign were coordinating with Moscow.
The decision stunned members of both parties, who saw it as a brazen act sure to inflame an already politically explosive investigation. For all his unconventional actions in his nearly four months as president, Mr. Trump still has the capacity to shock, and the notion of firing an F.B.I. director in the middle of such an investigation crossed all the normal lines.
Mr. Trump may have assumed that Democrats so loathed Mr. Comey because of his actions last year in the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server that they would support or at least acquiesce to the dismissal. But if so, he miscalculated, as Democrats rushed to condemn the move and demand that a special counsel be appointed to ensure that the Russia investigation be independent of the president.
The move exposed Mr. Trump to the suspicion that he has something to hide and could strain his relations with fellow Republicans who may be wary of defending him when they do not have all the facts. Many Republicans issued cautious statements on Tuesday, but a few expressed misgivings about Mr. Comey’s dismissal and called for a special congressional investigation or independent commission to take over from the House and Senate Intelligence Committees now looking into the Russia episode.
The appointment of a successor to Mr. Comey could touch off a furious fight since anyone Mr. Trump would choose would automatically come under suspicion.
Mr. Trump did little to help his case by arguing that he was dismissing Mr. Comey over his handling of the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s email, given that he vowed as a candidate to throw her in prison if he won. Few found it plausible that the president was truly bothered by Mr. Comey’s decision to publicly announce days before the election that he was reopening the case, a move Mrs. Clinton and other Democrats have said tilted the election toward Mr. Trump.
Mr. Podesta noted that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had recommended the dismissal. “The attorney general who said he recused himself on all the Russia matters recommended the firing of the F.B.I. director in charge of investigating the Russia matters,” he said.
While Mr. Trump said he acted at the urging of Mr. Sessions, he had left little doubt about his personal feelings toward Mr. Comey or the Russia investigation in recent days. “The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?” he wrote on Twitter on Monday.
The Watergate comparison was unavoidable. When Mr. Cox, the special prosecutor, subpoenaed Nixon for copies of White House tapes, the president ordered that he be fired.
Not since Watergate have our legal systems been so threatened and our faith in the independence and integrity of those systems so shaken,” added Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut.
Unless Attorney General Sessions can prove malfeasance or gross negligence by Comey, the timing of this action further deepens suspicions that President Trump is covering up something.”

Vladimir Putin must be smiling at the moment.  Trump's move is exactly the type of move Putin would make - and Trump's excuse is just as implausible.  A independent special prosecutor must be appointed.  Anything less will mean that a cover up will be allowed to occur.  

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