By Baynard Woods
Back in March when then-FBI Director James Comey testified before the House Select Intelligence Committee—chaired by Devin Nunes, who had yet to jump out of an Uber in the middle of the night for a shady White House meeting—he began the substance of his remarks by saying, “I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”
The statement felt both obvious and shocking. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the head of the DOJ, was one of the Trump campaign officials who had met with Russian officials and lied to congress about it. He recused himself from any matters dealing with the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. But lingering questions about whether an FBI investigation of Trump would be independent made Comey’s testimony feel weird.
It feels way fucking weirder now that the Trump regime fired Comey Tuesday, shortly after he misstated the actions of Hillary Clinton advisor Huma Abedin and the nature of emails she sent to her dick-pic-snapping husband Anthony Weiner. The regime cites Comey’s public statements about the Clinton email investigation in July and its surrogates claim, insanely, that they were concerned over his treatment of Clinton more generally and, once again, everything is turned upside down. Roger Stone, long-time Trump advisor who told Democracy in Crisis that he believed he was under investigation by the FBI, told the Daily Caller “What Comey did to Hillary was disgraceful. I’m glad Trump fired him over it.”
Back in October, Sessions also thought Comey should be fired for his handling of the Clinton investigation—essentially for not locking her up.
Clinton and her supporters indeed blame Comey for throwing the election to Trump with his statement that the FBI had reopened its investigation into Clinton’s email in light of the messages from her it found on Weiner’s laptop only 11 days before the election. Whether or not that letter ended up changing the course of the election—a possibility that, Comey said made him “slightly nauseous”—it certainly played a role, especially when it came out that he had not yet announced that the Trump campaign was also under investigation.
This is our bizarro world: Clintonites are mourning Comey as hardcore Trumpists trumpet his ouster as a blow against the Deep State and Trump himself brands it as “draining the swamp.”
But it is not about Comey at all. What is important is that Trump fired the person investigating his campaign’s connections to Russia—with the “clear recommendation” of Jeff Sessions, who could possibly be subject of investigation and had recused himself from dealing with anything involving the Russian investigation.
This came the day after former acting Attorney General Sally Yates testified in front of the Senate that she had warned the Trump administration that former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn had been compromised and could be blackmailed by the Russians—18 days before he was finally gone. During that time, he sat in on a call between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
But then, to make it even crazier, after Comey got canned, CNN reported that they had discovered that federal prosecutors had recently issued subpoenas to associates of Flynn as they sought business records in the Russia probe.
Even Jeff Flake, the Senator from Arizona who generally deflected for Trump during the Senate Intelligence Committee’s hearing on Russia, tweeted: “I’ve spent the last several hours trying to find an acceptable rationale for the timing of Comey’s firing. I just can’t do it.”
Others, including John McCain, Arizona’s other Senator and sometime Trump foe, are amplifying their calls for an independent special prosecutor.
Meanwhile, an activist named Desiree Fairooz is facing a year in jail for laughing during the same conformation in which Sessions lied about his contact with Russian agents.
This is democracy in crisis.