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.
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.