The Smell of Treason is in the Air
These are the words of Doug Brinkley, political historian:
“On the 60th day of his presidency came the hardest truth for Donald Trump.”
“He was wrong.”
“James B. Comey — the FBI director whom Trump celebrated on the campaign trail as a gutsy and honorable “Crooked Hillary” truth-teller — testified under oath Monday what many Americans had already assumed: Trump had falsely accused his predecessor of wiretapping his headquarters during last year’s campaign.”
“Trump did not merely allege that former president Barack Obama ordered surveillance on Trump Tower, of course. He asserted it as fact, and then reasserted it, and then insisted that forthcoming evidence would prove him right.”
“But in Monday’s remarkable, marathon hearing of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Comey said there was no such evidence. Trump’s claim, first made in a series of tweets on March 4 at a moment when associates said he was feeling under siege and stewing over the struggles of his young presidency, remains unfounded.”
There’s been an awful lot of focus on this part of what Comey said yesterday, but it strikes me as burying the lead. Even MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell seemed to think this is the big story-that it’s been confirmed Trump lied in that tweet about Obama’s wiretapping him. But did anyone ever doubt that?
“The real news is Comey confirmed that so-called President is under investigation for possibly colluding with a hostile foreign power to win the election.”
“Comey did not stop there. He confirmed publicly that the FBI was investigating possible collusion between Trump campaign officials and associates with Russia, part of an extraordinary effort by an adversary to influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. election in Trump’s favor.”
“Questions about Russia have hung over Trump for months, but the president always has dismissed them as “fake news.” That became much harder Monday after the FBI director proclaimed the Russia probe to be anything but fake.”
“There’s a smell of treason in the air,” presidential historian Douglas Brinkley said. “Imagine if J. Edgar Hoover or any other FBI director would have testified against a sitting president? It would have been a mind- boggling event.”
It sure is. There’s nothing quite like it in history though it’s closet to Watergate. This is Watergate 2.0 with the difference that there was no hostile, foreign power in the first one.
And being investigated is seriously going to cramp Trump’s style.
“How the FBI tailing Trump could dog his presidency.”
“The FBI’s investigation into possible collusion between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia in last year’s election could hamper his political agenda for months, if not years, to come.”
“Comey’s admission of an ongoing counterintelligence investigation, with no endpoint in sight, is a big deal,” said historian Timothy Naftali, who was the first director of the federally-run Nixon presidential library. “This is not going away.”
“Moreover, given Trump’s demonstrated willingness to attack any adversary – hours before Comey’s testimony, he tweeted that the suggestion of collaboration between his campaign and Russia was “fake news” – official acknowledgment of the investigation not only raises sharp new questions about the president’s own credibility, but about his willingness to continue undermining public trust and confidence in the government institutions he leads.”
“Typically, there mere existence of such an investigation would make any White House hypersensitive about the appearance of attempting to interfere with the FBI or the Justice Department. Bill Clinton’s loathing for his FBI director, Louis Freeh, was an open secret in the 1990s (and the feeling was mutual), but it couldn’t stop the bureau from doggedly pursuing investigations of Whitewater or the Monica Lewinsky affair. If anything, the reverse was true.”
“Will the Trump White House, which is installing loyalty monitors in every Cabinet department, feel similarly hamstrung about publicly attacking Comey, whom the president famously hugged at a Blue Room reception shortly after his inauguration, or trying to quash the inquiry? At a minimum, Trump and his aides would do well to recall the most celebrated instance of a president’s attempt to block an FBI investigation.”
“The obvious example that comes to mind is Watergate, when Richard Nixon famously turned to the CIA to block the FBI’s investigation,” said the historian Julian Zelizer, a professor at Princeton. That attempt failed spectacularly, of course, but Zelizer added, “This is the kind of investigation that is never good news for an administration,” and noted that the current probe has already “consumed much of the president’s time and the doors keep opening to bigger potential problems.”
How can Trump fire the man for whom he owes his Presidency? If not for Comey’s indefensible October 28 letter, Trump is not President at all.
Bill Clinton was dogged by the Whitewater investigation-honestly what absurd small beer; a land deal back 16 years before he was President. At least Bill was popular. His numbers never flagged. Yet even he was hamstrung to a large extent on any positive agenda.
But Trump is starting from a much lower baseline of popularity; his numbers have been tanking, a big reason seemingly his very unpopular healthcare bill.
But the idea that ‘Treason is in the air’ that there is now a decent possibility-as ranking Democrat Adam Schiff puts it-‘Maybe more than possible’ really calls into question Trump’s very legitimacy. We already know that a hostile foreign power helped him become President. That in itself-added to the Comey letter-puts his legitimacy into sharp question.
But the fact that whether he colluded is a serous question the FBI is investigating is not just absolutely scandalous but means he has a crisis of legitimacy. We can’t even say with confidence that he didn’t collude with a hostile foreign power in securing the office.
So in this way the comparison with Bill Clinton totally breaks down. Nope-Nixon’s the One as Tricky Dick’s campaign slogan said in 1968.
While this is Watergate 2.0, and strictly speaking there was no hostile, foreign power in the first Watergate, Nixon did have help from a foreign power in 1968-South Vietnam.
“Yes, Nixon Scuttled the Vietnam Peace Talks.”
See this is why when Glenn Greenwald and Tucker Carlson snigger that ‘There’s on evidence’ that misses the point that in major criminal enterprises you want to cover your tracks and you don’t want there to be any credible evidence.
Thankfully, the treachery in 2016 won’t take almost 50 years to confirm.
P.S. As we saw in my poll out last week, the long awaited poll results are in, and right now I’m just 11 points down vs. Peter King (GOP-NY-District 2). And the voters don’t even know who I am yet.
There is nothing more important in getting answers to Trump-Russia collusion than a Democratic House in 2019. Please donate to help me in my part of the effort to fight for a Dem House.
Thank you. We must have a Dem House. And so, we will.