Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Of Smoking Guns

James Comey’s seven-page written statement, released by the Senate Intelligence Committee this afternoon in connection with Comey’s impending testimony tomorrow . . . is the most shocking single document compiled about the official conduct of the public duties of any President since the release of the Watergate tapes. -- Benjamin Wittes
The smoking gun in the Watergate scandal was a taped conversation President Nixon had with his chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, six days after the break-in at the DNC's headquarters at the Watergate.  The tape revealed Nixon and Haldeman discussing how to get the CIA to stop the FBI's investigation -- to, as Haldeman put it, “stay the hell out of this . . . business here we don’t want you to go any further on it.”

Nixon was compelled to release the tape on August 5, 1974, following a unanimous ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that rejected his claim of executive privilege.  Nixon announced his resignation three days later when it became clear that even the staunch Republicans who until then had supported him would vote in favor of impeachment -- including an article of impeachment which charged Nixon with “interfering or endeavoring to interfere with the conduct of investigations by the Department of Justice of the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the office of Watergate Special Prosecution Force, and Congressional Committees,” in part by “endeavouring to misuse the Central Intelligence Agency.”

Ahead of former FBI Director James Comey's testimony tomorrow, the Senate Intelligence Committee released Comey's prepared statement which, in addition to revealing that Trump called him up to deny that he had any involvement with Russia and hookers, confirms that Trump asked him, a day after Michael Flynn resigned as National Security Advisor, to "see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.  He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”  In addition, Trump, doing his best Don Corleone impression, told Comey (in the context of Comey's continued employment as FBI Director): "I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.” 

According to the Washington Post, director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats reportedly was also asked by Trump "if he could intervene with then-FBI Director James B. Comey to get the bureau to back off its focus on former national security adviser Michael Flynn in its Russia probe."  Coats refused to answer questions regarding his conversations with Trump in his appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee.  Similarly, Admiral Michael S. Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, also refused to answer questions in response to reports that Trump had asked him to deny that there was any evidence of collusion between Trump’s associates and Russia.

If what Trump allegedly said to Comey, Coats and Rogers is true, then, at minimum, the president -- as Nixon did before him -- attempted to quash an FBI investigation.  That, my friends, qualifies as a high crime and misdemeanor.

It is hard not to become so inured to Trump's daily outrages that we fail to see this conduct -- demanding personal loyalty from high government officials and attempting to influence government investigations -- for what it is: a shocking abuse of power and utter disrespect for the rule of law.  Indeed, Benjamin Wittes at the invaluable Lawfare, does not overstate when he describes Comey's anticipated testimony tomorrow as being about "the abuse of the core functions of the presidency; about the fundamental question of whether we can trust the president "to supervise the law enforcement apparatus of the United States in fashion consistent with his oath of office."  I think we all know the answer to that one.  Now, about those hookers.


Post a Comment