National Commentary

Comey Still Key to The Russia Probe

nfbenton-mugU.S. Senator Mark Warner of Virginia joined others on the Senate Intelligence Committee Wednesday suggesting that the committee might be interested in hiring James Comey, fired as head of the FBI by Trump Tuesday night and now as such a private citizen without a job.

The most plausible explanation for the firing of Comey is that it stemmed from a paranoid hissy fit by the president, lashing out impotently like a cornered rat as a relentless progression of damning evidence mounts that will eventually land him behind bars. His decision was not rational and his explanation, assigned to his pathetic surrogates to deliver and defend, not plausible.

Although the media has been doing its job pointing out the discrepancies in the president’s latest actions, it spent far too much time focused on judging the veracity of his patently bogus explanation. On television yesterday, only commentators like the great Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame and legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin demonstrated sufficient umbrage at the ludicrous “cover story” for justifying the firing.

The patently lying explanation should be compared with (likely to be dumped) Trump press secretary Sean Spicer’s performance in his very first day in office, when he was under strict orders to defy all the photographic and eyewitness evidence about the size of the crowds at the Inaugural.

But now it is not just an arm-twisted new hire that “drank the Kool-Aid” and gone to the wall for Trump’s ridiculous lies, it is most of the Republicans in Congress, including those moral midgets who passed legislation to strip health insurance from 24 million Americans only last week.

Still, it is Trump sycophant Kellyanne Conway who took the prize for the most repulsive defense of the indefensible. Tuesday night she said to CNN’s Anderson Cooper that critics bringing up the subject of Russia in the context of the Comey firing reminded her of gamers who win $50 for every time they mention Russia.

Not linked to the investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. election, and Trump’s collusion with it? Comey is canned just after asking the Justice Department for more money for his Russia investigation, as the New York Times revealed.

Thanks solely to a Washington Post expose, Trump’s appointee Michael Flynn was fired from the highly-sensitive role as National Security Adviser, as former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, fired earlier by Trump, was finally able to confirm in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.

Yates testified that she’d briefed Trump officials repeatedly about Flynn’s vulnerability to Russian blackmail, something that they ignored until the Post article appeared. Now, prosecutors have issued grand jury subpoenas to Flynn and associates seeking business records, constituting the first major escalation of the FBI’s Russia-Trump investigation in almost a year.

Undoubtedly, it was this Yates testimony, and the subpoenas, that set Trump off into a paranoid rage that led to Comey’s firing in a futile attempt to insulate himself from more damning evidence that is sure to come.

To be sure, this matter represents a far greater danger to the U.S. than the Watergate affair. Watergate was about a second rate break-in and theft. This time, it is about the intervention of a hostile foreign power into the inner corridors of power of the U.S. government.

For this reason, for Republicans to defend Trump’s brazen and hopeless effort to cover up this Russian intrusion, and his own treasonous collaboration with it, is far, far beyond the pale.

There were Republicans during Watergate like Sen. Howard Baker “who put country ahead of party,” as Bernstein put it. But now, he said shaking his head, “there is no GOP interest in obtaining the best obtainable version of the truth.”

Republicans now are so cowed by their partisan attachments that they are heading for a special place in American history, one reserved for a handful of figures like Benedict Arnold or Aaron Burr, but now requiring a major expansion to accommodate a whole generation of treasonous Russian agents.
This is the biggest challenge to American democracy since the Civil War, since the War of 1812, since the American revolution. Republicans today are flatly on the wrong side of history.


Nicholas Benton may be emailed at