That's a backfire we are hearing

Print Article

Clumsy dismissal of Comey, followed by threat, should add fuel to investigation.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP may or may not technically have obstructed justice by firing former FBI Director James Comey in the midst of a serious investigation of potential Trump campaign ties to Russian hackers - and then threatening Comey in a tweet against speaking out about the matter - but he certainly skated right up to the edge.

The old adage seems to apply - if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck.

Neither is the administration's standard line defensible, like the one delivered Sunday by United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley: "The president is the CEO of the country. He can hire and fire whoever he wants."

AGAIN, TECHNICALLY and mostly true, although a president can't hire some people - Haley, to fill her job, for example - without the consent of the Senate. Presidents do have the authority to fire lots of people, including the director of the FBI or the acting attorney general or a U.S. attorney responsible for investigating Trump's dealings in New York City.

But having the authority doesn't mean the motive is irrelevant.

Trump himself - on at least two occasions as the Comey firestorm built - clearly stated the Russia investigation was on his mind in canning the guy in charge of the investigators.

The methodology of the firing also suggests intent to deliver a disrespectful blow. Comey was not terminated in person, as would be customary, or even notified before the dismissal was made public. Rather, a letter was delivered to the FBI in Washington while Comey was in Los Angeles speaking to a gathering of agents. He learned he'd been fired when attendees at the event saw it on TV.

Likewise, there was no mistaking Trump's hostile meaning in a subsequent tweet: "James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press."

FIRST OF ALL, that puts the question front and center whether recordings of conversations exist. If so, the country should hear them. Comey says he hopes there are tapes and they become public. Comey also offers to testify in public.

Congress should hand the White House a subpoena for any recordings.

Comey is no sainted martyr, by the way. While he has a long and distinguished career in government, his performance under pressure during the 2016 election last year leaves a lot of room for criticism. His departure will not be a national tragedy.

But that's not the issue at hand. This is about timing and motive. At the very least this raises serious suspicions and exudes a distinctly foul odor. The timid souls in Congress - the co-equal branch the Founders counted on to check executive overreach - must rise to the occasion, if any members are still capable, to find all the facts and uphold American values. They could start by taking Comey up on his offer to testify in public. They could move on to a truly independent, nonpartisan investigation.

IS THIS, AS some have suggested, a reprise of the Watergate scandal?

The answer to that question will not come quickly.

It is worth remembering, though, the bumbling Watergate burglars did not bring down President Nixon. He did that himself by reacting with cover-up, vengeance, lies and executive abuse.

Print Article

Read More Editorials

Has Trump found a way to win?

September 18, 2017 at 4:00 pm | Get things done that are popular across party lines and watch the polls rise. THE REPUBLICAN PARTY - that is, the traditional Republican Party - never has been a willing bride for Donald Trump and...

Comments

Read More

Respect, courtesy are non-negotiable

September 15, 2017 at 4:00 pm | No need for expensive investigations, but lessons are there to be learned. THE BELOIT SCHOOL DISTRICT did the right thing earlier this week in dismissing without further investigation a complaint ...

Comments

Read More

Give governors power, and the accountability

September 15, 2017 at 4:00 pm | Voters expect governors to be in charge, and that's how it ought to work. DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE FOR governor Tony Evers probably will get some mileage out of his proposal to take away a governor's ...

Comments

Read More

Out of bounds at golf course

September 13, 2017 at 4:00 pm | It's time for Beloit to seek professional management. IN RECENT YEARS there have been tense budget discussions in which it appeared the venerable Krueger-Haskell municipal golf course was on the b...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(608) 365-8811
149 State Street
Beloit, WI 53511

©2017 Beloit Daily News Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X