Echoes of Nixon in Comey firing
Richard Nixon is back in Washington, at least in spirit.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump fired FBI chief James Comey, who had been directing a probe of the Trump campaign’s links to Russia and of Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election. Why? According to the White House, Comey was axed because the administration was unhappy with his handling of the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State.
No rational, sentient person can believe that Comey was given the boot for any reason other than his probe of the Trump campaign’s links to Russia, and Russian efforts to tilt last year’s presidential election toward the former reality TV star.
Upon moving into the White House, Trump had a portrait of Andrew Jackson, our nation’s seventh chief executive, displayed prominently in the Oval Office. Because he believed, it was clear, that he’d be as transformative a figure as was the man called Old Hickory.
He reached too far, not only back in time, but also in character. Rather than resembling Jackson, Trump, with his sacking of Comey, was acting just like former President Richard Nixon – the most paranoid, most vindictive of modern chief executives, a frequently unstable man whose tyrannical leanings are legion.
Next time you see a photograph of Trump sitting before that painting of Jackson, imagine instead it’s the spirit of Nixon looking over the new president’s shoulder, offering, ah, moral guidance.
Questions about Russia’s interference in last year’s election and the Trump campaign’s connections with Russian operatives cannot be waved away with a magic wand. This is the real world, not some episode of “The Apprentice” where a raging Trump gets to shout: “You’re fired!”
The Russian investigation is now going to be left to Congress. Members of both parties must rise above the partisanship that has riven the land, and our federal city, to see that the probe is not swept away with Comey’s firing.
Anyone can see clearly that the next FBI director will be some Trump lackey. (You could do worse than to choose New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani in the office pool.)
What Trump did on Tuesday when he fired Comey was indefensible. It’s the kind of thing one expects to see happen in some far-flung land ruled by a despot, not in the world’s oldest continuous democracy.
The White House’s excuse for why it gave Comey the old heave-ho was laughable. Because of his handling of Clinton’s emails? No one over the age of about 6 should be expected to swallow that one.
There’s every reason to believe the evening of May 9 will be seen as a turning point in the young administration of the first president elected without having had either prior political or military experience. It’s entirely possible that it will mark the day when even many of Trump’s supporters, the folks who had continued to back their man no matter what, finally began to find his behavior beyond defending.
Why did Trump fire Comey? Because of Russia. The answer is as plain and simple and as clear as can be. It’s as clear as Nixon’s firing of special prosecutor Archibald Cox in October 1973, at the height of the Watergate investigation.
That move would lead ultimately to Nixon’s resignation. Though we’re nowhere near that territory now, the gravity of the two firings is comparable. Comey, of course, was FBI director, not a special prosecutor. But their ousters are eerily similar.
This is a watershed moment for the Trump administration.
We, the people of the United States, represented by our elected officials, are supposed to be running the show.
When a U.S. president, often referred to as the leader of the free world, begins instead to resemble a tinhorn dictator, no one should turn a blind eye to what’s going on inside the White House.