After being unceremoniously relieved of his duties last week, embattled former FBI Director James Comey fired a parting shot from beyond the proverbial grave on Tuesday evening that was heard around the world. According to an explosive report in the New York Times, that parting shot is a memorandum drafted by Mr. Comey in February that details a private meeting held between himself and the president in the Oval Office.
According to the memo, which would be permissible in a court of law pursuant to the Federal Rules of Evidence, Trump allegedly asked Mr. Comey to shut down the federal investigation into his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who resigned in February amidst revelations that he had engaged in pre-inauguration talks with Russian officials about possibly lifting Obama-era sanctions. The memo has already been asked for in a discovery request made by Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-Ut.), Chairman of the House Oversight Committee.
The memorandum is essentially the most damning evidence to date that Trump has attempted to influence the ongoing investigation into his ties with Russia. Paired with explosive reports from only a day earlier that Trump revealed highly classified intelligence information to Russian officials, and Comey’s memo very well could signal the beginning of the end. Trump legitimacy has been questioned but more or less gone unchallenged in the six months since November’s presidential election.
Congress is the only governing body that can initiate impeachment proceedings against a sitting American president, and despite numerous grounds for impeachment arising even before Trump assumed office, the GOP-controlled body has projected little to no interest in participating in a bipartisan impeachment effort.
Whether the memo will be enough for Republicans to back impeachment is not likely, but there is growing unease within the party as to the political costs of continuing to support the president and failing to introduce Articles of Impeachment.
As for Comey, the disgraced Obama-era appointee has been thrust into the spotlight in recent weeks and months, and testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month that he felt “mildly nauseous” at the prospect of having cost Hillary Clinton the White House in the 2016 presidential election. Indeed, there’s no love lost between Comey and supporters of the former Democratic nominee for president, who has echoed sentiments made by Nate Silver and other analysts that Comey contributed to interventionist forces that cost her the election.
“If the election had been held on October 27, I would be your president,” Clinton told journalist Christiane Amanpour at a Women for Women International event, referring to Comey’s now-infamous letter to Congress on October 28 in which he violated Department of Justice protocol to publicly suggest that Clinton was under a renewed investigation for criminal wrongdoing related to her emails.
She was cleared days later, of course, but the damage had been done. “Comey had a large, measurable impact on the race,” said Nate Silver, Editor-in-Chief of FiveThirtyEight. “Late-deciding voters broke strongly against Clinton in swing states, enough to cost her Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.”
Of course, while Clinton won the national popular vote by nearly 3 million, she lost the electoral college by a razor-thin 79,000 votes in three states: Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.
In his testimony before Congress last week, Comey explained his reasoning for violating protocol and speaking publicly about an investigation so close to an election. “Concealment would have been devastating,” Comey said, prompting many to wonder why the same rationale did not apply when Comey had information in October regarding Trump team members reportedly having contact with Russia, which he did not disclose prior to the election.
Indeed, in March, Comey revealed that the FBI began its investigation into Trump’s relationship with Russia as early as July 2016, around the same time that Trump broadcast his hopes during a live press conference that Russia find HIllary Clinton’s ‘30,000 missing emails. Comey did not disclose any of this information to the American public.
For now though, it seems that Comey has been promoted from tertiary character to a starring role in this ongoing saga. Many believe that the former FBI Director losing his job is not payment enough for Comey, and that losing Hillary Clinton the election and handing the nuclear codes to Trump are deserving of more severe punishment. But if losing his job and his credibility constitute his comeuppance, then there exists no greater mea culpa than putting into motion the take-down of an American president.