Even though CNN has been displaying a countdown clock to James Comey's testimony, I'm not expecting any bombshells. Advance word has it
that Comey will not accuse Trump of trying to obstruct justice.
I may be the only person still worried about Dorito Mussolini's strange tweeted threat -- the one that cryptically referred to a taped conversation between Comey and Trump. The tweet implied that this "tape" would make Comey look bad. Trump has a history of secretly recording conversations, and a photo exists of an old-school digital voice recorder on the Presidential desk. Thus, I'm quite willing to stipulate that some
sort of recording exists, though of course we are probably talking about an audio file, not a "tape."
Trump is not bright enough to play any games of 11-dimensional chess. He's a thug. I don't think that he would have issued a threatening tweet unless Comey really did
tell him something in private that could be considered embarrassing or incriminating. Was that conversation recorded? I don't know. Nevertheless, I am sure (well, kind
of sure) that a conversation took place. Dim as he is, Trump must understand by now that he cannot confirm the existence of any secret recordings without landing himself in Nixon country.
That said: If Comey is
compromised, as I think he is, then he is likely to pull his punches when he testifies. That's why I don't expect any game-changing revelations. In fact, I expect the right-wing media to publish stories claiming that Comey "exonerated" Trump.
Let's hope I'm wrong.
We learned yesterday that Comey told Jeff Sessions that he (Comey) did not want to be alone with Trump again
. Clearly, the FBI Director feared that Trump would make an unequivocal demand to drop the Russia investigation. (Or perhaps the usurper in the Oval Office has taken to treating everyone
the way he treats beauty contest participants.)
I probably will not watch Comey's much-ballyhooed testimony live, for the same reason I could not watch last year's debates live. I'm a man with a weak heart, and these spectacles can be rather nerve-wracking. I find it easier to take in the after-the-fact summaries before dealing with the Thing-In-Itself. When Comey sits in the hot seat, I'll probably pass the time watching old westerns.
If you want live, on-the-fly reactions to Comey's testimony, check out the twitter feed of one Donald J. Trump
, a noted bon vivant
who will be offering witticisms and droll observations. That twitter feed is where the real
bombshells are likely to explode. Trump may even blurt out the Big Damn Secret that he supposedly has on tape. Donald Trump is a world-class blurter. He is the God of Blurting. If he were an actor, he'd be Blurt Lancaster.
Washington Post reporter Robert Costa told MSNBC on Tuesday that the president would directly respond to Comey on Twitter as the testimony is underway.
“I was just talking to some White House officials this morning and their view is that the president himself wants to be the messenger, his own warrior, his own lawyer, his own spokesman,” Costa explained. “Some outside people, some surrogates will be available.”
“But the president is expected to be tweeting on Thursday in response to Comey, not to stay quiet during the testimony,” he added. “Because he himself wants to be the one driving the process.”
should be good. In fact, this should be superb
Most of you know that four major law firms (including Sullivan & Cromwell) refused to represent Trump because he seems likely to stiff his lawyers and to ignore their advice. Mr. Trump should represent himself. That, too, would be superb.
The real fun may come later today,
when NSA Director Mike Rogers drops the promised "bomb" on Trump. We also have reports that Trump may have asked DNI Dan Coates and CIA Director Mike Pompeo to tell Comey not to investigate Flynn and Russia
Younger people may not realize that a remarkably similar attempt to obstruct justice was captured for posterity on the infamous "smoking gun" tape that ended Nixon's presidency. Even though he knew that the mics were hot, Nixon discussed plans to have CIA Director Richard Helms interfere with the FBI's investigation of the burglary. To be specific: Nixon wanted Helms to tell the Bureau that the break-in was a CIA operation.
(It wasn't. It was committed by Nixon's men, most of whom were "former" Agency guys. So why, you may be asking, did Nixon want Helms to say something that wasn't true? Because in those days, the FBI usually backed off from anything having to do with the Agency. That's probably still
It's important to note that Helms did not actually do as Nixon requested. In other words, the "smoking gun" tape revealed an unsuccessful
plot to obstruct justice. For impeachment purposes, that was enough.
It may also be enough in the case of Donald Trump.
The concept of "pressure" enters into the controversy. Coates, through a spokesperson, has said that he did not feel pressured
to interfere with the FBI's investigation.
Nixon, by contrast, did
place pressure on Helms -- and a very strange form of pressure it was: Nixon had an aide tell Helms that an investigation of Watergate might uncover the "Bay of Pigs thing." This reference sent Helms into something between a rage and a panic. Most open-minded people who have studied the matter agree with Haldeman's view that "the Bay of Pigs thing" was actually a coded reference to the JFK assassination.
If Rogers, Coates or Pompeo offer testimony indicating that Trump attempted to obstruct justice, the Trump scandal will recapitulate the Watergate scandal, at least in formal terms. However, I also agree with James Clapper's observation
that the current crisis is far worse
The 50-year veteran of the military and the intelligence community painted a picture of disconcerting dysfunction in Washington with "assaults on American institutions coming from both external and internal sources" and most strikingly said the Trump-Russia links were much worse than the notorious scandal that toppled former US president Richard Nixon in the 1970s.
"I lived through Watergate. I was on active duty then in the Air Force as a young officer," Mr Clapper said following a speech to the National Press Club in Canberra. "It was a scary time . . . I have to say, though, that I think you compare the two that Watergate pales really in my view compared to what we're confronting now."
Mr Clapper, who is a visiting professor at the Australian National University, also said he hoped US allies and partners would not withhold intelligence from Washington but said he would understand if they did.
There is a theory of Watergate that a far-right faction within the intelligence community deliberately deep-sixed Nixon because Nixon pursued detente with the USSR. In other words, Nixon's scandal, like the current one, was all about Russia.
Here's the difference: In 1972, the far right was horrified
by the prospect of better relations between the United States and the Soviet Union. Today, the Alt-Rightists seem to have fallen in love with post-communist Russia, while the left views Putin as a modern fascist.
Finally: Articles of impeachment.
Congressman Al Green has already called for Trump's impeachment, as has Maxine Waters. So far, these calls have been mere words. The process of impeachment cannot start until a congressperson proposes a resolution
, which will then get sent to the Judiciary committee.
Of course, there's no guarantee that the committee will allow the impeachment to proceed -- in fact, it's very likely that the committee will take no action whatsoever. Nevertheless, articles of impeachment are a necessary first step. We need a congressperson brave enough to start the process.
And that's just what Al Green
is doing right now. Bravo!