Editorial: Time for clarity on Russia

York Dispatch
  • In the latest of a string of puzzling moves, the president has fired FBI chief James Comey.
  • Democrats and Republicans question the motive and timing of the move.
  • Trump says it was Comey's handling of Hillary Clinton's emails; most believe it's about Russia.

Is there truly no one around President Donald Trump who can tell him no?

In this Wednesday, May 3, 2017, photo, then-FBI Director James Comey testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. President Donald Trump abruptly fired Comey on May 9, ousting the nation's top law enforcement official in the midst of an investigation into whether Trump's campaign had ties to Russia's election meddling.(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The latest impulsive presidential act on Tuesday — firing FBI Director James Comey — will spur more than the usual media brouhaha Trump loves so much; it will reverberate politically, potentially causing the president to suffer the consequences of his actions.

And he doesn’t appear to care if he takes the country with him.

Comey learned he was fired while addressing FBI employees in Los Angeles. When news reports flashed in the room, Comey first laughed, assuming it was a prank.

But, alas, no prank, just the president. Comey wasn't Punk'd, he was Trump'd.

The White House cited Comey’s handling of last year’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email practices as the cause for the firing, an explanation that is thin at best.

“It’s Nixonian,” Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., who is calling for a special counsel to investigate the ouster, told The Associated Press. He was referring to the only historical precedent remotely close to Trump's move: The October 1973 firing of Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox by President Richard Nixon during the height of the Watergate investigation. (None other than the managers of the official Nixon Library felt compelled to tweet yesterday that even Nixon had never fired an FBI director.)

In a response to Democrats who — along with some Republicans — question the timing and reasoning for the Comey ouster, the president wrote in a tweet:

“The Democrats have said some of the worst things about James Comey, including the fact that he should be fired, but now they play so sad!”

Beside the point. Democrats had a legitimate beef about the way Comey handled the Clinton email investigation — and the way he broadcast that handling, particularly in the weeks before the election. That does not prevent Dems from pointing out that his unprecedented dismissal, coming amid an ongoing investigation of the Trump campaign's possible coordination with Russian players to affect the 2016 presidential election, is both suspicious and potentially justice-obstructing.

Republicans are similarly concerned. Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., told interviewers Wednesday morning he is hopeful the firing didn’t have anything to do with the Russia investigation.

AP Analysis: Trump thrusts US presidency into perilous area

Speaking of that investigation, Trump's letter firing Comey — contrary to his tough guy "Apprentice" persona, he declined to say "You're fired" to Comey face to face — sloughed off the decision as simply "accept(ing) the recommendation" of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy. Sessions, recall, recused himself from involvement in the Russian investigation — supposedly — after conversations he denied having with a Russian diplomat last year came to light.

The real reason Comey was dismissed, many suspect, is that he was getting too close to uncovering damaging information that could implicate the president and his inner circle in having ties to Russia during the election.

At the very least, the Russian investigation is now shrouded in doubt. All the more reason for Congress insist — demand — that the probe be carried out, as Casey recommends, by an independent prosecutor. And to Republicans in Congress, that means putting country above party for a change. The stakes are too high.

Trump ax falls on FBI's Comey in midst of Russia probe

Remember when, during a campaign rally, the then-GOP candidate told Russia if it was “listening,” it should hack former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails? Clinton suffered a stunning defeat, and many speculate that Russia’s interference in the election is in some way tied to the outcome. It's not whether Russian meddling altered the election's outcome that is the salient point, it is whether there was meddling at all.

It’s time for Congress to join forces across the aisle to swiftly ascertain the extent of this country’s vulnerability to Russian influence.

This guy who billed himself as the straight-talking, take-charge, get-things-done champion, in whom many Americans — including tens of thousands in York County — placed their hope and trust, turns out to be not only filling the swamp with his cronies, dismantling legislation that will leave millions of Americans vulnerable and sullying the reputation of the United States as a democratic and moral leader, but he and his band of Keystone Cops have run amok in Washington, and the damage might soon, if not already, be irreversible.