Welp, I’m back on the blog. I know. I was tired. But this is important.
I fully believe that the sudden firing of FBI Director (and human giant) James Comey can be a first domino about to tip toward impeachment, if we play our cards right. Yes, that’s right. With THIS Congress.
Resisting Trump and his Republican allies at every juncture is important; but it’s a band-aid. The reality of it is that he is compromised. Our country is compromised. While President Pence will be no picnic (and the succession after him is no better), Trump is fully attempting to dismantle the structure of our government, enrich his family’s personal assets, and use the office of the Presidency for his own personal gain. Pence or no, Trump must be gone.
I live under a rock. What happened?
Comey, in the middle of investigating Russian interference with our election (and possible ties to the Trump campaign), was suddenly fired with a bizarre letter on Tuesday. The reasoning: that he mishandled information last summer regarding Hillary Clinton’s emails. Inexplicably, one paragraph of that letter said this:
While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.
Everything feels like a fever dream.
You’ll remember Comey as the person who perhaps was the nail in the coffin of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. In the past days, it turns out there was some mishandling of that (gee, you think?). Trump seems to think we’ll buy the excuse that he is punishing Comey for being too aggressive with Hillary Clinton about her emails.
Yeah. I know. In reality, it came forth that he and the justice department have been scrambling to find a valid reason to fire Comey, and certainly not because of his crimes against Hillary Clinton (psst, it’s about Russia and the fact that Comey wasn’t Trump’s personal lapdog).
Why is everyone losing their shit?
Because Trump gets to appoint the next FBI Director (with Senate approval). Also significant: Comey is the third person Trump has fired who was investigating the possible Russia scandals (after acting Attorney General Sally Yates, fired for refusing to enforce the first Muslim ban, who testified Monday regarding Michael Flynn, and Preet Bharara, a US Attorney in New York who had been investigating the Trump campaign’s Russia ties since last year). Also, FBI Directors have long terms (10 years) specifically to insulate them from partisan nonsense. By firing Comey, Trump has removed that insulation from the position.
Not that James Comey is representative of some sort of unbiased, super-competent justice hero, but let’s just see what he and the FBI have been up to lately:
- Comey asked for more resources for the Russia probe
- Grand jury subpoenas have been issued in relation to the investigation of Michael Flynn
- Comey was set to testify Thursday in front of Congress – on general national security issues (not necessarily Russia) (Comey is now going to appear in a closed hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee next week)
- Sally Yates, on Monday, testified that Trump kept Michael Flynn on staff for 18 days after she alerted the administration he was compromised.
What does it all mean?
We don’t know. However, if you give Trump the benefit of the doubt and assume innocence on his and his loyalists’ part with regard to Russian collusion, his actions are still suspicious and according to some, perhaps grounds for impeachment. In fact, Nixon did something similar in the Saturday Night Massacre and it was one of the articles of his impeachment. It’s possible that only some stooges in the campaign will ever be proven to have connections to Russia, and that Trump can play dumb. But innocent people don’t act like this.
By sheer coincidence (maybe), Trump met with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov in the White House today. The reason I call this “fuckery” is that that Lavrov joked about Comey’s firing, and US press was not allowed to attend but Russian press was. WTF? Whatever that means, it’s fucked up.
What happens next?
What we do know, is that Trump will be appointing the next FBI director. In the interim, the new acting director is Andrew McCabe, previously the deputy director. It seems he is well-respected in the bureau. McCabe was also the one to bring us this information: That the Trump administration was trying to get the FBI to push back against stories in the news about Russian election meddling late last year (towards the end of the election and after).
Most likely, the FBI’s Russia investigation will be “on hold” until a new director is confirmed by the Senate (this would require 50 votes, which means to prevent it, all Democrats vote along party lines, Independents vote that way, and 3 Republicans defect from their party). But if the first director isn’t confirmed, the investigation will still be on hold, which doesn’t help us.
WTF? So what about Russia now?!
We are hearing a lot of (mostly Democratic) members of Congress call for “independent investigations” and “special prosecutors.” This is not going to be easy. The Washington Post has a good explainer on all the ways an “independent investigation” can happen. Summarized:
- Special Counsel (or Special Prosecutor): Must be appointed by the DOJ (so the Attorney General). Jeff Sessions has recused himself from all Russia-related matters due to having LIED UNDER OATH about his own Russia connections, so this would rely upon Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, who is likely NOT going to be an ally here.
- Independent Counsel: This was possible to be appointed by Congress until 1999, when a post-Watergate law about it expired. Now it’s back in the hands of the DOJ. Theoretically, Congress could pass a law re-establishing this process, but it would either need a veto-proof majority (2/3rds of both chambers) or President Trump to sign it himself. So, also unlikely.
- “Special” or “Select” Congressional Committee: Congress can make committees on this until the cows come home. They can subpoena documents, interrogate people, etc. They cannot, however, file criminal charges.
- Special Commission: This is when Congress appoints a not-Congressional commission to investigate, and they can create all of the rules and parameters. However, this would require a law (signed by Trump) to be passed.
Now that I’ve learned all this, it seems like a huge bummer that the President is in pretty much in control of whether he gets investigated. However, here are some possible bright spots:
- If a Trump loyalist is appointed as director and tries to thwart the investigations, it’s likely there will be a lot of information leaked out by the FBI’s employees.
- Because Comey is fired, doesn’t mean he and his knowledge are gone. Independent investigations could require him to talk. The investigation is currently still happening.
- This is suspicious and Republicans are in an ever-increasing uncomfortable position: defending the indefensible.
With regard to Russia investigations, by my observation, our only ways forward are:
- Convincing a veto-proof majority of Congress to pursue the independent counsel or special commission.
- Put pressure on Congress to establish/maintain Congressional committees do a thorough and unbiased investigation.
- Put pressure on Congress to reject any controversial picks for FBI director. This could delay the formal parts of the investigation, but the employees can keep going with it. Plus, maybe he’ll only be able to get someone with integrity through…nah, let’s not count on that.
- Just trying to get this asshole impeached. We need a simple majority in the House to impeach (Democrats to vote along party lines and 24 Republican defectors) and a 2/3rds majority in the Senate to convict and remove him from office (Democrats along party lines, and 19 others – within that, 2 independents who usually vote with Democrats).
Not great options.
How is Impeachment Feasible?
In my opinion, a few reasons, centered around the idea that we are approaching the tipping point noted at the end of this New Yorker article:
Richard Nixon only resigned because his popularity had dropped so far that congressional Republicans abandoned him. Trump begins at a lower base because he has a lower approval rating than any newly elected President in the history of polling.
We don’t need a GOTCHA moment. We don’t need a full CSI-grade crime scene. He has already committed crimes. He is already impeachable. All we need are Republicans to start believing that they are ruining their careers when they stand by Trump. There aren’t enough there yet, but it’s starting:
- Senate investigators have asked for Trump’s financial information, and there is reason to believe many Republicans will withhold confirming an FBI director without the Treasury Department’s cooperation.
- Evan McMullin, a conservative (former CIA) who ran for President against Trump as an independent has long had Trump on his shitlist for all the reasons you’d want a conservative to (lying, hypocrisy, amorality, etc). He and his organization are launching a full-blown campaign to convince Republicans to support independent investigations into Russia. I don’t want the guy to be president or really in charge of anything, but I can get behind him taking down Trump.
- A handful of Republicans are concerned and annoyed about the firing, and calling for an independent investigation.
I fully believe that now is the time to try to convince the Republicans Trump will ruin their careers, and encourage them to start the process of impeachment. I assure you they are feeling the heat.
- Support Evan McMullin’s organization, Stand Up Republic.
- Call your reps – of either party – to express your fears about Trump and thank them for resisting him (if applicable).
- Look into the upcoming House special elections and donate or volunteer, to get us a few more votes:
- Have you been inactive and stressed out? Read this to feel some hope again.