Firing James Comey Was All About Trump's Greatest Fear

The urgency of the firing combined with the bizarre language of Trump's letter betrays his deep fear of being revealed.
05/10/2017 10:48 am ET Updated May 10, 2017
Alexander Shcherbak via Getty Images

Sometimes it’s necessary to state the obvious. The firing of FBI Director James Comey is not about his job performance and especially his handling of Hillary Clinton’s emails. It’s all about Donald J. Trump.

Consider Trump’s terse letter of termination to Comey.  Here’s the key passage:

While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.

The bolded phrase is remarkable.  Trump is at pains to suggest that Comey is not investigating him, yet the FBI is indeed looking into Russian influence in the 2016 election, including ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

Whether you believe the whole Russian influence dispute is a made-up scandal, or perhaps a red herring, so to speak, the fact is that Trump sees it as a major threat to his prerogatives and power. That’s why he’s at pains to state bluntly that Comey is not investigating him. Comey, Trump says, told him three times ― three times! ― he’s not under investigation.

The president doth protest too much.  If you think Comey is unable to lead effectively, fire him for that reason. You don’t need to include a self-aggrandizing statement of how blameless or innocent you are in the ongoing Russian investigation.

Trump’s firing of Comey, moreover, displays his petulance, his impetuousness, and indeed his nervousness about the trajectory of his presidency.

As the CEO of a family business, Trump is used to firing people who don’t kowtow to him. Running a nation, however, is not like running a family business. Right?

Will Trump prevail?  Time will tell.  One thing is certain: American democracy ― what’s left of it ― suffered another body blow yesterday.

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