Trump, Mueller, Comey, Cohen: Everything is connected

Former FBI Director James Comey smiles during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Thursday, June 8, 2017, in Washington.

Former FBI Director James Comey smiles during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Thursday, June 8, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Trump said this morning that James Comey is “a weak and untruthful slime ball.” What a way to start the day.

Seriously, that’s what Trump said. (It’s amazing how often he ascribes his own traits to others.) He also said, in the same tweetstorm, that “virtually everyone in Washington thought Comey should be fired” (untruthful), and that “it was my great honor to fire James Comey!” (His “great honor” may have been an obstruction of justice.)

Weak slimeballs (the latter is one word, not two) tend to lash out when seriously threatened, and the early leaked passages from Comey’s tell-all book have clearly pierced Trump’s notoriously thin skin. Apparently he is not pleased that the ex-FBI director has compared him to a Mob boss, likened his regime to a “forest fire,” and accurately called him a congenital liar who lacks “the ability to distinguish between what’s true and what’s not.” I almost feel sorry for the congressional Republican incumbents who, on the cusp of their re-election campaigns, will be forced to weigh their loyalty to the Mob boss against their loyalty to federal law enforcement.

And that’s just the lead story today — assuming that my judgment is correct, because, gosh, there is such a smorgasbord of sleaze to sample.

Besides the Comey book, we have the Trump “love child” rumor, which was potent enough to prompt Trump’s pals at The National Enquirer to pay off a rumor-mongering doorman with $30,000 (which, in turns, fits a larger pattern of payoffs).

We got the news that Trump and his overmatched lawyers have broken off negotiations with Robert Mueller for the so-called president’s sworn testimony (makes sense, since the guy would be a perjury machine).

We’ve learned that Trump fixer Michael Cohen had a “proclivity” for recording his conversations, and that Trump’s allies are terrified that recordings are now in the possession of the feds.

We’ve heard that Trump is poised to pardon ex-Bush national security aide Scooter Libby (a message to Mueller’s witnesses: lie for Trump, and you’ll get rewarded), even though Libby leaked the identity of a covert CIA employee and was later convicted of lying about it to the FBI (wait, isn’t Trump tweeting that Comey is a “LEAKER & LIAR”?).

We got word that Robert Khuzami, the deputy U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and a key player in approving the FBI raid on Cohen, is not only Republican, he also spoke on stage at the ’04 Republican National Convention. (The latest factual refutation of Trump’s fake claim that his law enforcement pursuers are Democrats).

Phew! So much head-spinning stuff on so many fronts. But, as TV fans of “The Wire” like to say, everything is connected.

I suppose some of it has entertainment value. It’s grist for the late-night comics that, on four separate occasions, Trump asked Comey to disprove the peeing-prostitutes rumor. Trump reportedly boasted to Comey that he’s not a guy who needs to pay hookers — but what connects everything is the danger factor. An embattled president who makes Nixon look saintly, a deeply corrupt character who’s terrified of being held accountable for the very first time, someone who’s simultaneously juggling and potentially botching multiple international crises, is a dangerous man indeed.

Comey has much to say about that — and he appears well poised to win a credibility contest with Trump. The latest national poll says that he is deemed more believable than Trump by a margin of 16 percentage points. And according to his book (based on his contemporaneous notes), Trump signaled how dangerous he was weeks before Inauguration Day.

Comey attended a meeting where Trump was briefed on the intelligence community’s consensus conclusion that Russia had waged information warfare on the ’16 election, for the purpose of making Trump president. As Comey recalled, Trump voiced no outrage that a hostile power had invaded our democracy and voiced no interest in taking steps, via legislation or executive action, to thwart future cyber-invasions. Instead, Trump asked just one question: “You found there was no impact on the result, right?”

Translation, according to Comey:  The incoming president didn’t care about the national interest; he cared only about how the intelligence news would affect him.

In Comey’s words, Trump and his people were solely focused on “how they could spin what we’d just told them.” And even though the intelligence officials explicitly told Trump that they had not analyzed whether the Russian info war had impacted the election results, Trump subsequently tweeted this blatant lie: “Intelligence stated very strongly there was absolutely no evidence that hacking affected the election results.” And everyone in Trump’s circle was fine with that. As Comey writes, “Perks and access are given to those willing to lie and tolerate lies. This creates a culture, which becomes an entire way of life.”

How much damage to democracy are we (and especially the congressional Republicans) prepared to tolerate? Can all these connections end well for us? Or is this truly to be our way of life?

OK, here’s one totally entertaining item from the gang that can’t govern.

Mike Pence has announced that he’s winging his way to South America to attend, among other events, “a banquet hosted by President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski of Peru.”

Scandal-ridden Kuczynski quit the presidency three weeks ago.

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