Trump sacked Comey on May 9, 110 days into his presidency, and one day after former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates testified to a Senate Judiciary subcommittee about the White House’s ongoing entanglement with Russian officials.
Yates on Jan. 26 had warned the White House counsel that Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, misled administration officials about his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Flynn was potentially vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians. Yates was fired on Jan. 30 for refusing to support Trump’s flawed travel ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US. Flynn kept his job as national security adviser until Feb. 13, when news reports finally surfaced that the White House had been warned about Flynn’s security problems.
White House officials first claimed Comey was fired because Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein recommended the termination. In his termination letter to Comey, Trump also wrote, “I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation.”
On May 10 Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak — whose presence at the meeting was unannounced — in the Oval Office. American media were not allowed a photo session, but the Russian news service TASS published pictures fom a Russian photographer of Trump laughing with Kislyak and Lavrov in the Oval Office. Trump later told reporters he fired Comey “because he was not doing a good job.”
On May 11 Trump admitted to NBC’s Lester Holt that he decided to fire Comey before he met with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Rosenstein. “Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story …”
Trump also said that on three different occasions — once in person and twice over the phone — he’d asked Comey if he was under investigation for alleged ties to Russia, and Comey told him he wasn’t.
That same day, the New York Times reported that, in a dinner with Comey on Jan. 27, Trump asked him for a personal loyalty pledge that Comey refused to provide. After that report, Trump tweeted, “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” It was later reported that Comey had written a memo immediately after the meeting and told other FBI officials about it — one of possibly many memos he had filed for his own protection.
On May 17, Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.
On May 18, the Times reported that Comey had been uncomfortable with Trump’s inquiries to him about the investigation. When Trump called him, weeks after he took office, and asked Comey when federal authorities were going to put out the word that he was not personally under investigation, Comey told the president that if he wanted to know details about the bureau’s investigations, he should not contact Comey directly but instead follow the proper procedures and have the White House counsel send any inquiries to the Justice Department, according to two people briefed on the call.
On May 19, the Times reported that not only did Trump disclose classified information to the Russians in the May 10 meeting in the Oval Office, but he told Lavrov and Kislyak: “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump said, according to the Times. That’s taken off,” Trump said. He added, “I’m not under investigation.”
If Trump isn’t under investigation, he might be the only one in his campaign who isn’t — and it wouldn’t speak well of the competence of the FBI agents conducting the investigation.
Comey’s activities as FBI director supervising the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails may have warranted his replacement, but that obviously was not the reason Trump fired Comey. Smart Democrats held back on calling for Comey’s ouster, not wanting to risk Trump and Sessions picking Comey’s replacement.
Trump’s attempts to interfere in the FBI investigation of his campaign warrant not only the appointment of Mueller as a special prosecutor; the House and Senate should name an independent commission to take over the investigation from the congressional committees whose partisan leadership has compromised faith in their abilities to get to the bottom of the scandal.
Impeachment is a strong possibility — and not just of Trump. Vice President Mike Pence also should answer for his role in the campaign and his questionable leadership of the transition team. If Republicans prove unwilling or unable to investigate their president and vice president to see how far the rot goes, voters will have a remedy in 2018: elect a Democratic Congress to do the job that the Grand Oligarch Party refuses to do.
Support Reform in Iran
As the scoops piled up in Washington, Trump fled the jurisdiction, embarking on his first foreign trip as president. In his first stop, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Trump was bowing and curtsying to Arab potentates and signaling that disregard for human rights would not disrupt relations with the Trump Administration. Meanwhile, across the Persian Gulf, Iran was celebrating the re-election of relatively moderate President Hassan Rouhani, who won with 57% of the nationwide vote over a hardline cleric, Ebrahim Raisi, who promised more confrontation with the the West.
Some US right wingers might hope a war with Iran will help Trump, as well as American oil producers by cutting Iranian oil supplies, but crowds of Iranians in Tehran were hopeful that Rouhani’s second term will bring better relations with the West and foreign investment to lift Iran’s ailing economy, as well as the release of Iranian political prisoners, more freedom of speech and fewer restrictions on daily life.
Rouhani’s signal accomplishment during his first term was the deal with the UN Security Council to abandon pursuit of a nuclear weapon. But Trump appeared to rule out any reconciliation with Iran. Instead, he sided with the rival Saudi monarchy, which has used its oil wealth to export a fundamentalist Wahabbi version of Sunni Islam.
In his speech to Muslim heads of state in Riyadh, Trump spoke of a stronger alliance with mostly Sunni Muslim nations to fight terrorism and extremist ideology and to push back against Shiite Iran. In fact, al Qaeda and the Islamic State are Sunni groups against which Iran-sponsored Shiite militias have battled in Iraq.
Iran also backed creation of Hezbollah, the Shiite militia and political party that has Lebanon’s strongest military force and fought to push the Israeli army out of occupied south Lebanon. Hezbollah is now fighting al Qaeda and the Islamic State in Syria, Juan Cole noted.
Cole added, “Iranian centrists nowadays have much more power, through the president and parliament, than do any Saudi centrists that might exist.” While the Saudi king has allowed municipal elections since 2005, the king still appoints one-third of city councillors as well as mayors, provincial governors and members of the national Consultative Council, so any groundswell for reform can be squashed by the king’s men. And there is no freedom of speech, or of the press, or of women.
We agree with Cole, who noted that with a population of 80 million, Iran is a substantial country and a huge market, with a GDP similar to Poland’s. “The US and Iran could do a lot of business with another,” he noted. And with the UN sanctions set aside, if we don’t do business with Iran, other economic rivals, including Russia and China, as well as Germany, France and other NATO allies, will be free to set up shop there. — JMC
From The Progressive Populist, June 15, 2017
About the Progressive Populist | How to Subscribe | How to Contact Us
Copyright © 2017 The Progressive PopulistPO Box 819, Manchaca TX 78652