Category: Russia Links

James Comey’s Firing and the Obstruction of Justice

I think we can all agree that when your boss tells you he wants you to do [x], after which you don’t do [x], and then your boss fires you and says it was because you didn’t do [x], it’s pretty clear the boss felt he had ordered you to do [x]. We don’t have to imaginary time travel back to the initial conversation to parse words and wonder what they might have meant back then. We know! We know because we are in now time.

Also, if we have time machines I’d like to use them for something else. PM me if you’ve got one.


Would also accept a magic rainbow we could gallop a unicorn across while dropping colored stars off the side.


Matt says: I have several time machines—some even conveniently fit on my wrist—but they all appear to be stuck in “move forward as usual” mode, despite my best efforts at getting them to do something else. Also, they frequently lose power and have to be reminded when they are, but their failsafe mechanism seems to keep them safely where they were at when they lost power. (Granted, they are not space machines—not moving through the manifold on their own, but they enjoy it when I take them on trips with me)

Some are getting a little old and forget a few seconds every day, but they don’t seem to be any less happy than the others.

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go work for some other FBI

I’m not a big Comey fan, but the “why didn’t you resign when the President acted shady” questions are a ridiculous way to discredit him. It’s not like there’s some other massive domestic surveillance/intelligence network that isn’t part of the executive branch, and “oh, I’ll just hop over there.”

If there’s a private-sector FBI, I want to know about it.

Then I want to shut it down.

(It doesn’t exist.)

(For obvious reasons.)

It’s a bit like asking internal affairs investigators why they don’t quit the second they realize the police are doing something improper.

It

sounds

stupid.

Comey Testimony liveblogs

I’m simultaneously following the fivethirtyeight liveblog of Comey’s testimony (serious, astute) and the AV Club’s liveblog of Comey’s testimony (Simpsons references). From the incomparable Sean O’Neal at the AV Club:

Roy Blunt: “If the president hadn’t fired you, would you still have your job?”

Roy Blunt: “What is the difference between being in the room with him and being with him on the phone?”

This thing turned into an existentialist Samuel Beckett play so quickly.

Army Protection Racket” is one of my favorite Monty Python sketches, and is also my understanding of James Comey’s tenure during the Trump administration.

Reality Winner

The woman accused of leaking the NSA document is named Reality Winner. That’s her name. Her real, legal name. It’s not a handle. As far as I know, she was born with it. News organizations are trying to distract us by adding the middle name Leigh whenever they say it, but I’m going loud and proud: the woman who tipped off The Intercept about Russian vote tampering attempts is REALITY WINNER.


Sabitha says: I hope she’s okay but also I’m smiling every time I think about how Neal Stephenson must feel right now.

Deal With the Devil

If you make a deal with the Devil, you lose your soul, but also, you don’t get the thing you sold it for, because the Devil is the prince of lies.

In any case, while we’re trying to exorcise the old boy, I found a list of Satanic nicknames assembled by the Dictionary of American Regional English between 1965 and 1970, which you may enjoy deploying, such as Old Booger Man, Old Lutherfud, and Error.


Incidentally, Jimmy Squarefoot may stand out to you as it did to me: he’s an obscure mythological boar-headed biped from the Isle of Man, associated with the (also obscure) Manx Pig Legend. He’s not particularly a devil figure.


Jeff says: I wish this list included the locations for each name. Papa Legba, not mentioned, is a fascinating Vodou figure who isn’t a devil, but has often been mistaken for one. The Talking Heads and Pops Staples did a song about him, too.

Romie: Seconded on wishing there was a distribution map. I wonder whether they’d give you the expanded data if you e-mailed. Meanwhile, a copy of True Stories has been on my “want” list for a while; I’ve been holding out in hopes there’d eventually be a remastered version, but this is probably foolish.


Edward says: “Most Immediate Enemy” gets my vote for most apropos.


Angela says: Error is so perfect. BRB; writing sci-fi version of “Young Goodman Brown.”

Congressional Reaction to Comey Firing

I’ve always looked at the U.S. presidency the same way I look at Santa Claus, where President Santa makes us feel excited about being good or worried about being bad, but adults know the presents and food are actually coming from your mom (Congress). Look at the Republican healthcare bill; that was Paul Ryan. Obamacare? That was Nancy Pelosi.

So when I obsessively follow the Russia investigation, it’s because I care how Congress conducts investigations of the Trump administration.

It’s a test. Of Congress.

The Trump administration has presented us with a bunch of potential Constitutional crises: foreign espionage risks; financial conflicts of interest; authoritarian moves like firing anybody who disagrees with (or becomes more famous than) Trump, praising brutal dictators, criminally charging a woman who laughed at Jeff Sessions, and having a reporter arrested for asking Tom Price and Kellyanne Conway uncomfortable questions in a hallway.

These remain potential Constitutional crises because Congress can act to counter them. They’re the sorts of things that were always risks of a Presidential system (and are the reason so many Presidential systems turn into military dictatorships after 10-15 years). Presidents try to expand their imperial power because they can act quickly, have a lot of resources, and are fairly unconstrained. But Congress can rein it in. (You could think of the President as the horse pulling the American cart, and Congress as the person in the driver’s seat.)

Most routes to stopping Trumpian excess lead through Congress, and this matters not just for stopping Trump but for telling us that Congress works – which we need it to do for all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do with Trump. Like that healthcare thing I mentioned.

The Senate is particularly important, and Senate Republicans (the majority party, Trump’s party) most of all. In response to the Comey firing, they are the ones who could appoint a special prosecutor, form a select committee, or ramp up funding to Congressional investigations already in progress.

(Although I doubt our motivations are the same, I agree with Mitch McConnell that I’d rather this stay with Congress than go to a special prosecutor. My reasons are the opposite of tactical; they’re entwined with my philosophy of government. I don’t particularly trust a crusading outsider beholden to no one; I vastly prefer career bureaucrats accountable to a lot of people. See also: I voted for Hillary instead of Trump.)

I don’t see how we’re more likely to get a brilliant special prosecutor than a brilliant new FBI director – in both cases pretty unlikely. And select committees aren’t magical. They’re not able to do anything other committees don’t do. Past select committees which have been great have been great because of the hard work of the people on them, not the fact of their being called select committees.

In other words, what I’m watching is…people. Republican Senators. Are they going to take the reins and keep America on firm ground instead of wherever this mule is determined to take us?

The Hill has collected the statements of all Republican Senators who have publically reacted to the Comey firing. Nuance is important, so read the statements. The Hill categorizes them as:

13 GOP senators critical/concerned
23 supportive of Trump
11 Neither

FiveThirtyEight sorts the same statements as:

15 GOP senators critical/concerned
12 defend Comey firing
21 ambiguous

(4 GOP senators still haven’t commented.)


On the subject of select committees not being more magical than other committees: the Senate intelligence committee has issued subpoenas for Flynn’s information. “This is the first time the Intelligence Committee has used its subpoena power since the joint inquiry into the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and it’s the first time it has subpoenaed documents since the 1970s, a Senate historian told NBC News.” When Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) said Comey’s firing wasn’t going to impede his own investigation, he wasn’t kidding.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has also requested Trump team financial documents from the Treasury department – ones related to a money laundering investigation. Which is neat because it highlights that the Treasury department has its own crimefighting team, called FinCEN (financial crimes enforcement network) and, well, my Dad was an internal auditor until he retired, and one of my best friends is an internal auditor, and I love the kind of people who investigate financial crimes. Not just in the abstract. I love those people.