June 9, 2017

...AND DARKER...:

For Trump, the 'Cloud' Just Grew That Much Darker (PETER BAKER, JUNE 8, 2017, NY Times)

While delivered in calm, deliberate and unemotional terms, Mr. Comey's testimony on Thursday was almost certainly the most damning j'accuse moment by a senior law enforcement official against a president in a generation. In a Capitol Hill hearing room, the astonishing tableau unfolded of a former F.B.I. director accusing the White House of "lies, plain and simple" and asserting that when the president suggested dropping an investigation into his former national security adviser, "I took it as a direction." [...]

"This was a devastating day for the Trump White House, and when the history of the Trump presidency is written, this will be seen as a key moment," said Peter H. Wehner, who was White House adviser to President George W. Bush. "My takeaway is James Comey laid out facts and was essentially encouraging Mueller to investigate Trump for obstruction. That's a huge deal." [...]

Washington has not seen a spectacle quite like this since the days of Watergate, Iran-contra or President Bill Clinton's impeachment. Whatever the controversies under Mr. Bush and President Barack Obama, neither was ever accused of personal misconduct by a current or former law enforcement official in such a public forum.

Indeed, Mr. Comey highlighted the difference by noting that he had never taken notes of his conversations with either of those presidents because he trusted their basic integrity, but he did write memos about each of his one-on-one encounters with Mr. Trump because "I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting."

In any other presidency, the events laid out by Mr. Comey -- Mr. Trump asking for "loyalty" from the F.B.I. director who was investigating the president's associates, then asking him to drop an investigation into a former aide and ultimately firing him when he did not -- might have spelled the end.

But Mr. Trump has tested the boundaries of normal politics and upended the usual rules. To his supporters, the inquiries are nothing more than the elite news media and political establishment attacking a change agent who threatens their interests.

"This is like an explosive presidency-ending moment," said John Q. Barrett, a law professor at St. John's University in New York and an associate independent counsel during the Iran-contra investigation in Ronald Reagan's presidency. "But we have a different context now."

The articles of impeachment drafted against President Richard M. Nixon and Mr. Clinton both alleged obstruction of justice, in effect making clear that such an action could qualify under the "high crimes and misdemeanors" clause of the Constitution. The "smoking gun" tape that doomed Mr. Nixon in 1974 recorded him ordering his chief of staff to have the C.I.A. block the F.B.I. from investigating the Watergate burglary. Critics said that Mr. Trump's comments to Mr. Comey effectively cut out the middle man.

The House impeached Mr. Clinton in 1998 for lying under oath and obstructing justice to cover up his affair with Monica Lewinsky, a former White House intern, during a sexual harassment lawsuit. The obstruction alleged in Mr. Clinton's case was persuading Ms. Lewinsky to give false testimony, advising her to hide gifts he had given her to avoid any subpoena and trying to find her a job to keep her happy. After a trial, the Senate acquitted him.

As a political matter, both Mr. Nixon and Mr. Clinton faced a House under control of the opposition party, while Mr. Trump has the benefit of a Republican House that would be far less eager to open an impeachment inquiry.  [...]

Tellingly, the Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee paid no heed to the talking points distributed in advance by the Republican National Committee at the behest of the White House. Instead of attacking Mr. Comey's credibility, as the R.N.C. and Donald Trump Jr. did, the Republican senators praised him as a patriot and dedicated public servant. They largely accepted his version of events, while trying to elicit testimony that would cast Mr. Trump's actions in the most innocent light possible.

Posted by at June 9, 2017 6:31 AM

  

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