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The unanimous very smart person take on Trump’s firing of James Comey is that it’s a political disaster which will lead to total ruin and possibly his impeachment.
The key factor that will determine how this ultimately turns out hinges largely on whether or not there was actual coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government to sway the election through hacking or other nefarious means. Personally, I don’t think there was, which is why I don’t expect Donald Trump to be removed from office. The consensus view right now is that Trump’s firing of Comey offers further circumstantial evidence that he’s trying to cover up coordination with Russia in order to end the ongoing investigation. This is certainly a possibility to consider, but it’s definitely not the only possibility, nor is it the most likely explanation.
First, the optics. The timing of this move looks unquestionably bad, particularly if a story published in today’s New York Times is correct. It reports:
WASHINGTON — Days before he was fired, James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, asked the Justice Department for a significant increase in money and personnel for the bureau’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the presidential election, according to three congressional officials who were briefed on his request.
Mr. Comey asked for the resources last week from Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who wrote the Justice Department’s memo that was used to justify the firing of Mr. Comey this week, the officials said.
Mr. Comey then briefed members of Congress on the meeting in recent days, telling them about his meeting with Mr. Rosenstein, who is the most senior law enforcement official supervising the Russia investigation. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from that inquiry because of his close ties to the Trump campaign and his undisclosed meetings with the Russian ambassador.
The timing of Mr. Comey’s request is not clear-cut evidence that his firing was related to the Russia investigation. But it is certain to fuel bipartisan criticism that President Trump appeared to be meddling in an investigation that had the potential to damage his presidency.
If this is accurate, I think it’d be impossible for any honest person to determine that the above played no role in Trump’s firing of Comey. The next conclusion is that this means Trump is afraid of the ongoing Russia investigation — where there’s smoke there’s fire, right?
While that could be the case, there are other explanations. First, Trump simply may have been sick and tired of Comey, just as most Americans, including myself, are sick and tired of him. Comey isn’t the most popular guy out there. Indeed, high profile Democrats have been incessantly complaining about him, with Hillary Clinton once again publicly blaming him for her election loss as recently as last week. Trump may genuinely think Comey is incompetent (after all he didn’t even look at the hacked DNC servers but let discredited private company CrowdStrike do the work), and Comey’s recent request to expand the Russia investigation may have further called his judgment into question in the eyes of Trump.
This doesn’t mean Trump is guilty of coordination with Russia. For example, let’s assume for a moment that there was no coordination with Russia to sway the election. If that’s right, Trump and his team could quite legitimately view Comey’s insistence on more funding for the investigation look like incompetence or a personal vendetta. This would frustrate anyone, and it would especially irritate a person accustomed to firing whoever he wants, whenever he wants (after all, he had a show where he became famous for saying “You’re Fired”). As such, the overwhelming impulse for a guy like Trump is to fire Comey irrespective of whether or not there was any Russia conspiracy. This doesn’t make it the right thing to do, but it also doesn’t mean he’s in cahoots with Russia. It could simply be that an impulsive guy who’s accustomed to firing people at will decided to fire a guy who was increasingly getting on his nerves.
Given what we know about Trump’s personality, I think his choice to fire Comey is consistent with both the scenario where he is guilty of Russia coordination, and one where he isn’t. The consensus narrative which claims Trump firing Comey is proof of his guilt and merely an attempt to cover up a Russia conspiracy, is an emotionally driven and hastily determined conclusion.
To summarize, Trump’s dismissal of Comey looks bad, but it doesn’t mean he’s hiding anything. To me, it looks like a typical Trumpian move whether or not there’s any shadiness with Russia going on. Let’s now move on the the next part of the post: How does this play out politically in the near-term, and how will it affect his chances for reelection in 2020?
While Trump often doesn’t seem to understand this, his true power comes from his base. By base, I don’t mean the tens of millions of people who voted for him, rather, I’m referring his hardcore fans who voted for him largely to disrupt the status quo. I’m referring to the dedicated MAGA people who had never really participated in politics before, but became energized by Trump. These people are the key to winning reelection in 2020.
Despite all the noise made by D.C. “Never Trump” think tankers and pundits, they proved themselves to be irrelevant in 2016, as Trump won despite their vitriol. Trump’s base got him elected and Trump’s base will determine his prospects in 2020. Your average Republican doesn’t really matter. The average GOP voter would vote for a fire hydrant before Hillary Clinton, and these people aren’t going to vote Democratic or stay home in 2020 because Trump fired James Comey. In contrast, if Trump sufficiently pisses off the base, he’s finished.
Trump’s base is absolutely giddy about the firing of James Comey, and that’s a win for Trump in my opinion. Trump’s base accurately sees the entire Department of Justice (which includes the FBI) as a total joke. An institution that primarily exists to protect elitist criminals. Considering the inability of the DOJ/FBI to jail a single bank executive for the financial crimes committed last decade, this view is entirely appropriate.
James Comey has been a big part of this racket, so there’s no love lost for him. Comey’s termination is being cheered by Trump’s base, unlike his very unpopulist and oligarch-coddling moves up until this point, such as surrounding himself with Goldman Sachs bankers. If anything, this energizes a base that had become increasingly concerned about the neocon war mongers and financial crooks running rampant throughout his administration. This move plays perfectly into Trump’s base and will be seen as Trump taking it to the deep state.
Unfortunately, Trump’s not really taking on any deep state, as was fully demonstrated earlier today when he was seen in the Oval Office with one of the deep state’s most notorious war criminals.
Pool brought into the Oval. It's Trump and … Kissinger. pic.twitter.com/1F1CPO4kQw
— Jennifer Epstein (@jeneps) May 10, 2017
While I find the above far more offensive than the dismissal of James Comey, the hyperventilation emanating from the corporate media, Democrats and Never Trumpers actually gives Trump more cover to be an even more egregious pawn of the deep state and Wall Street. That’s because the firing of Comey gives him unwarranted street cred amongst the base, and the more the corporate media parrots squawk, the more the base will love it.
Which brings me to the final and most important part of this piece. The entire Comey firing saga could go in several directions, but an increasingly likely outcome is the one I don’t see being discussed anywhere. First we need to ask ourselves, what’s likely to happen next? Calls for a special prosecutor and independent investigation into Trump-Russia collusion are likely to get louder and louder. Given the timing of the firing, I support this and I think there’s a good chance it’ll happen. I hope it does happen, as we really do need to put an end to all the speculation and hysteria one way or the other, once and for all. But here’s where it gets really interesting…
If Trump really did coordinate with the Russian government to affect the U.S. election and indisputable evidence emerges, it will be an enormous scandal and he will likely be removed from office. Personally, I don’t think such evidence exists because I don’t think such collusion happened, but I support an independent investigation. On the other hand, what might happen if Trump didn’t collude with Russia?
Here’s where Trump legitimately has a chance to destroy the Democratic Party once and for all. The Democrats have already been putting all their eggs in the Russia conspiracy theory basket, and this focus on Russia as opposed to jobs, healthcare, student loans, debt slavery etc., has made the American public think the Democratic Party is more out of touch than both Trump and the GOP. Given that’s where things stand today, imagine what’ll happen to the party and its leaders if they start spending 100% of their time pursuing this lead and then nothing comes up? What then?
I’ll tell you what happens. The Democratic Party, as useless as it is today, will completely evaporate as a serious political opposition force in America. This is because it appears all of its handful of 2020 hopefuls seem to be completely hyperventilating and losing their minds about Comey’s dismissal and asserting that it represents proof Trump colluded with Russia.
Imagine if Trump is cleared by an independent investigation? These Dems will look like complete imbeciles with horrible judgement who wasted the nation’s time while tens of millions of Americans struggled to make ends meet. This will destroy the party and lead to an easy Trump win in 2020. This is a potentially lethal trap for Democrats and they seem to be falling for it in unison.
And give me a break on all of this sudden placing of the FBI up on a pedestal. As I remarked to Eric Holder last night on Twitter:
To conclude, I think the “expert” pundit take on the Comey affair is completely wrong and missing the bigger picture. Most commentators are merely following their own biases and coming to conclusions based largely on emotions. I’m no fan of Trump and I think he’ll merely prove to be a useful tool of the deep state and Wall Street dressed in populist language. I don’t come to the conclusion in today’s post based on my desire for it to happen. In fact, what I’d really like to see is real and thoughtful opposition to his authoritarian nature and Wall Street ass-kissing, but we know we won’t be getting that from the Dems. Indeed, it’s becoming increasingly likely the entire party may end up falling on the sword that is the Russia conspiracy theory.
As always, time will tell.