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The unstitching of the President

The empty spaces in James Comey’s testimony form the outline of the most damning picture of Trump yet


 
 (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

(Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Day by day, the Presidency of Donald Trump is coming undone. Some days he adds his own tear, by insulting an ally, by contradicting a cabinet official or by ranting on Twitter. On other days it’s the staff around him, pulling it apart at the seams as they fight among themselves or leak embarrassing details to the press.

After only a few months, Trump’s administration is already looking tattered and threadbare. His approval ratings are hitting record lows. America’s allies are openly breaking from him and in some cases even mocking the President. The Republican legislative agenda, even though the party controls both houses, is almost at a standstill. And the vast majority of the senior positions in his government remain empty, without even a nominee in the pipeline.

Today it was the turn of James Comey, the former Director of the FBI, to carefully pick apart the stitches. In one of the most anticipated moments in recent American politics, Comey testified before a Senate panel about his firing and the growing investigation into allegations of collusion between Trump’s campaign staff and Russia. Every news channel covered it live. People began to line up at 4:15 this morning, hoping for a seat. Across DC, bars opened early so patrons could watch the testimony on televisions usually reserved for football.

WATCH: The full video of James Comey’s testimony to Congress

The show they got was worth the wait. Comey came with a grudge—a buttoned-down, evenly tempered, softly spoken G-man grudge, but a grudge nonetheless. He told the gathered Senators that the President had defamed him and the FBI, that he was a liar, that he believed Trump was under investigation for obstruction of justice, and that the Attorney General was compromised too.

Considered in isolation, that is an explosive list of charges. But, in fact, most of this was already known or presumed. The attacks on Comey and the FBI are on the President’s twitter feed for all to see. There are hundreds of examples, over dozens of years, of Trump lying. After the appointment of Special Counsel Mueller, and revelations by the President himself that Russia was the reason he fired Comey, I think everyone assumed an obstruction of justice investigation was inevitable. And, the Attorney General Jeff Sessions has already been caught lying under oath about his interactions with Russia, so no surprises there either.

No, the real revelations today were paradoxically the things Comey didn’t say. At various times he responded to questions by saying he could not discuss it in an open setting—in other words, his answer would be classified or would impact the ongoing investigations. These empty spaces in the testimony form the outline of the most damning picture of Trump yet. Comey would not say if he believed Trump colluded with Russia. He would not explain if there were attempts by the Trump campaign to encrypt or hide their communications with the Kremlin. Comey demurred when asked if there had been more meetings with the Russians that were not disclosed. Likewise, when asked if material existed that could be used to blackmail the President he explained he could only respond in a closed session.

None of those questions could be answered with a simple “no.” The implications of this are significant, and support the growing consensus that America is grappling with the biggest political scandal in its history.

The weight of today’s testimony will put considerably more strain on the Trump Presidency, which is unraveling a little more each day. And there are still so many more threads to be pulled. It is now almost impossible to imagine how Trump or his team, could ever knit it all back together again.

 


 

The unstitching of the President

  1. Sadly, Comey is himself compromised by his performance in the Hillary Clinton investigation. He still refuses to admit that he put his hand on the scale of justice and damned her. He is now trying to do the same to Trump, though certainly Trump is helping. Somewhere in all of this mess the old adage about mud wrestling with a pig comes to mind. “everyone gets dirty but the pig likes it”.

    • Thank you for the chuckle. I really needed that. Love the moniker.

    • The world according to anyone not wearing blinders.

  2. “It is now almost impossible to imagine how Trump or his team, could ever knit it all back together again.” No it isn’t, after all they voted him in as President. The sad thing is that it’s so entertaining I’ll miss it when it’s over.

  3. More fake news!!! At no time did Comey say that Trump “was under investigation for obstruction of justice”. Quite the contrary, Comey admitted that he had told Trump he was not under investigation three times. Any decision as to whether Trump obstructed justice or not will be made by special prosecutor Mueller. It will be hard to prove since Trump had the authority to tell Comey to end the investigation into Flynn – he didn’t even do that. Comey on the other hand violated the law when he took government documents home with him when he left the FBI and he may have violated the law when he leaked the documents to his friend at Columbia University for distribution to the NY Times. That will be determined later.
    At no time did Comey say that Sessions WAS under investigation, he said he MAY be under investigation but he (Comey) doesn’t know because he doesn’t work at the FBI any more.
    If anyone is in immediate legal jeopardy, it is former AG Loretta Lynch who ordered Comey to use the word “matter” to describe the investigation of Hilary Clinton. (Comey’s colleagues at the FBI joked that they were now the Federal Bureau of Matters.) That action by Lynch directly interfered with the election and is a felony.
    Trump was right to fire Comey for being too political but wrong to fire him in a vindictive and humiliating way. Comey had a double standard. No prosecution for Hilary Clinton after admitting she committed multiple felonies and yet he wanted a special prosecutor to investigate Trump when there is absolutely no evidence that he colluded with or even personally contacted the Russians.
    The choice for President in the last election was bad or badder. Trump was the lesser of two evils. Hilary Clinton had a history of shady dealing going back to Whitewater in Arkansas and continuing through her lying about Benghazi, Bowie Bergdahl, a private server in her basement closet containing secret documents and play to pay deals while she was Secretary of State at the same time she was the wife of the head of the Clinton Foundation.
    Trump on the other hand is his own worse enemy and unless he adapts and learns to get along with the Washington establishment we are in for four years of uncertainty. Thank God the US military is “on guard for thee”.

    • Comey is exceptionally slippery. Why, if what he alleges is true, didn’t this giant of a man tell Trump the discussion was inappropriate?
      Feeling maligned by Trump, why didn’t he release his meeting documentation directly to the media rather than use a law professor as his mule? It makes one believe that Comey may have been behind all of the leaks to the media for political reasons.
      What he’s doing now certainly makes him beloved by the Democrats for another job under the next Democratic president. The saving grace is that that won’t be Hillary and hopefully is at least 8 years away.

  4. Terrific spin Maclean’s!

  5. Here is a letter to the Editor that I submitted last Nov; it was NOT published: As a Canadian expatriate living in the USA, I’ve had a subscription to MacLean’s for many years. This not only affords me an easy way to keep up with what is happening “back home”, but also for the excellent international coverage. The latter is lacking in many USA media outlets. However, I take exception to the extensive coverage of American politics in recent months, particularly the highly negative coverage of Donald Trump, who has now won the presidential election. That politicizes MacLean’s in an excessive way that resembles some of the politically biased USA media from which I try to escape. I emphasize that I have no political party allegiance here. Please maintain your national identity, and offer balanced political thoughts for all countries, rather than fixating on the USA. Paraphrasing Pierre Elliot Trudeau (1969), the mouse should maintain its identity in the presence of grunts and twitches of the elephant. Now that Trump and many Reublicans were elected, I can only hope that MacLean’s will not be preoccupied with every grunt and twitch.

    • Totally agree. I don’t read MacLeans to read about US politics, I want to read whats new in Canada with a touch of world news as seen in a Canadian light but not wall to wall US news, I get plenty of that here.

      • We’re as ‘whacked’ on US politics as they seem to be. Macleans has no particular ‘corner’ or ‘insight’ on the ‘stupid aspects of the ‘infotainment’ market either.

  6. Thew ’empty spaces’ of Sessions testimony – ire the answers he did not give form the same sort of ‘picture’ as the images perceived in a Rohrshach blot. They permit the projection of biases to help complete a mental or philosophical image. They are as ‘valuable’ as the unadorned response to some of the questions enshrouded by statements of ‘national dogma’ posed by ‘true believers’ in one or another perspectives on US political life or how the US foreign relations should be done. It is hard to expect that asking a loaded question should engender a straight answer. Which probaby is what leads Mcleans to conclude that the ground rule for such ‘investigations’ isn’t necessarily the ‘truth’, but a case of ‘don’t listen to what I say, listen to what I mean’.

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