The ABC interview of James Comey Sunday night had some juicy quotables. The interview precedes the release of his book, A Higher Loyalty, which is currently number one on Amazon. Comey’s opinion that Donald Trump is “morally unfit to be president” seems to be getting the most play in the morning-after media. But Comey also introduced several “possibilities” that are hard to ignore. He said that it’s possible that Trump is “compromised by the Russians.” He said that there is possible evidence of Trump obstructing justice. And he said that it is possible that Trump “was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow.”
All of those are harrowing thoughts when applied to the President of the United States. And particularly so when they come from one of the highest law enforcement officials in the American federal government. The harmful prospects implied by those remarks cannot be overstated. And they will surely play a part in the unfolding investigation being conducted by special prosecutor Robert Mueller.
In addition, there was a surprising allusion to Trump’s favorite cable news network, Fox News. It reveals the extent to which he is preoccupied with everything he sees and hears from his shadow policy advisors on the network, who too often become his actual White House advisors. The exchange occurred when George Stephanopoulos asked Trump about his relationship with Vladimir Putin, a unambiguously brutal dictator who Trump has never been able to say a single bad word about. This is what ensued (transcript here, video below):
“The Super Bowl pre-game show where– and I hadn’t asked any questions about this, but the president was just talking about it, he had given an answer to Bill O’Reilly that had been much criticized across the political spectrum when he had said, in response to a question, that he respected Vladimir Putin and said, ‘That doesn’t mean I’m going to get along with him.’
“And then O’Reilly responded, ‘But he’s a killer.” And the president responded, in substance, “But we’re killers, too. You think our country’s so innocent.’ I forget the exact words, but that’s the gist of it. And that moral equivalence, between the people of our government and Putin’s thugs, had generated a lot of controversy. […]
“He was telling me it was a good answer and then said – gave me an opening by saying, ‘You think it was a great answer. You think it was a good answer.’ And then he was starting to move on. And I jumped in and I said, ‘Mr. President, the first part of the answer was fine, not the second part. We’re not the kind of killers that Putin is.’
And when I said that, the weather changed in the room. And like a shadow crossed his face and his eyes got this strange, kinda hard look. And I thought in that moment, ‘I’ve just done something unusual maybe.’ And then (SNAP) it passed and the meeting was over. And, ‘Thanks for coming in,’ and – and Priebus walked me out.”
Comey regarded that exchange as having an unintended positive result. He said that “by interrupting him and also criticizing him to his face,” it ended any personal relationship between him and Trump. It allowed him to “keep a distance that we need to keep from him.” But it also showed that Trump has an unhealthy obsession with whatever he says on Fox News being validated by everyone with whom he comes into contact. Trump desperately wanted Comey to agree that what he told O’Reilly was brilliant.
Of course, what he told O’Reilly was an insult to America and blatantly unpatriotic. Even O’Reilly thought so. Putin is guilty of murdering his political opponents and critical journalists. He is a cold-blooded tyrant who thirsts for world domination. Whatever flaws the U.S. has, they are not on that level of evil. But Comey’s refusal to suck up to Trump caused the President to freeze up. And it may have been at that moment that he decided that Comey had to go.
The cumulative effect of the Russia investigation and Comey’s lack of adoring fealty to Trump sealed his fate. So ironically, Fox News, the PR division of the Trump White House, may have inadvertently played a role in proving that Trump obstructed justice. Who’da thunk it?
How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.