Richard Nixon could’ve saved America a lot of time and trouble if he had gone on live TV in ’73 and told us that he fired the Watergate special prosecutor simply because he thought the scandal was BS. But Nixon would never have done that, because he was way too smart to say something so stupid.
By contrast, the current guy is too stupid to understand the import of his own words. Because what Donald Trump basically did last night, in his NBC News interview, was confess to a potential article of impeachment.
After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I rolled back the DVR and listened again. Yup, I’d heard it correctly:
“In fact, when I decided to just do it [fire FBI chief James Comey], I said to myself, I said, you know, ‘This Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story’ …”
For starters, this authoritarian dolt doesn’t have the right to simply talk to himself, and decide for himself, that “this Russia thing” — the target of an FBI probe that Comey’s temporary replacement calls “highly significant”; the target of Senate and House probes — is merely “a made-up story.” People are trying to take this foreign espionage case seriously, even Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee indicated yesterday that the case is serious, yet Trump still thinks he can deem it otherwise.
Far worse, however, was that Trump inadvertently uttered a confession. He basically stated that he fired Comey in order to damage an FBI investigation that he didn’t like, an investigation of a scandal he prefers to deny. He himself made the causal link. Rest assured, he had no idea that he was copping to obstruction of justice.
It’s safe to say that the law is not Trump’s area of expertise. He’s not familiar with the 18 U.S. Code Section 1505, which deals with “Obstruction of proceeding before departments, agencies, and committees,” because (a) only people who are actually qualified to be president would likely know about it, and (b) it has lots of words in it:
“Whoever corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter of communication, influences, obstructs, impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law under which any pending proceeding is being had before any department or agency of the United States” is guilty of obstructing justice.
The FBI is an “agency of the United States.” Its Trump-Russia investigation is a “pending proceeding.” Firing the FBI chief is an attempt to “influence, obstruct, or impede.” And in 1996, Congress sharpened the definition of “corruptly.” According to Congress, “the term ‘corruptly’ means acting with an improper purpose.” Bingo. When Trump told NBC News that he fired Comey because he thinks the Trump-Russia scandal is fake, that meets the definition of “improper purpose.”
And the impeachment clause in the U.S. Constitution doesn’t even require that the president violated criminal laws; as legal experts have long pointed out, the clause refers to serious presidential misconduct. “High crimes and misdemeanors,” a phrase that the Founders plucked from British law, was never intended as a synonym for felonies. It references the abuse of governmental power.
Naturally, of course, the Republicans who currently run Congress will likely ignore Trump’s NBC News confession and twiddle their thumbs until the ’18 midterms — which is just what we would expect from people who’ve had their souls sucked out.
Lest we forget, the Republicans who ran Congress back in 1998 believed that Bill Clinton’s misbehavior was sufficient to support an obstruction-of-justice article of impeachment — which should prompt us to wonder: Is lying about sex truly worse than firing the lead player in a foreign espionage investigation?
Some of the current Republicans, in private moments, must surely realize that they’ve tethered themselves to someone whose anger and indiscipline continues to imperil the party, debase the presidency, and humiliate this country. And Richard Nixon, six feet down, is wondering how America wound up with such a clown.
Speaking of clowns, let’s end the week with a dose of humor.
You’re all familiar with Trump’s obsession with Rosie O’Donnell. Well, she tweeted something critical about James Comey last December — and at 4:55 p.m. yesterday, Trump retweeted her tweet and thumbed, “We finally agreed on something Rosie.”
All of which prompts me to ask: What kind of president interrupts a presumably busy workday to scroll through old tweets by Rosie O’Donnell?
Wait, we know the answer: That is his workday.