By Harish Venugopalan*
Last week, the ex-FBI Director James Comey was fired by Donald Trump. Unanimously, Trump has been criticized for this action. Trump gave the reason as James Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton emails episode. Critics have questioned the reasons and the timing of the decision.
There are a few aspects to the Comey firing. One is that clearly the reasons that Trump gave – saying that it is Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email episode which is the reason behind the firing are laughable. It is obvious that the real reason is Comey’s request for the investigation into Russian ties with the Trump campaign to be expanded. Did Trump go about the entire process in a proper manner? Absolutely not !!!
In fact, James Comey did not have a single clue about what was going to happen to him. He was speaking to FBI employees on May 9 when the announcement was done on Television. Initially he commented saying that it was a fairly funny prank. Only later did he get to realize the truth. That is not the way in which any person, leave alone a Director of the FBI, ought to lose his job. As American comedian and political commentator Bill Maher noted, all that Trump needed to do was to pick up the phone and speak to James Comey and inform him about what was being done. How difficult was that?
Now to the question was his firing right? The answer is that James Comey set himself up for the firing to be done. This was done by his highly unnecessary request of asking for an expansion of resources for the Russian investigation into Trump campaign ties. Already the mainstream media and the Democratic Party are going haywire with allegations of Russia’s links to Trump. What was the need for asking for extra resources when the present ‘2 cents worth’ investigation, by itself, could not find anything credible? Comparisions are being made of the Comey affair with the Watergate scandal. The Comey episode is no Watergate Scandal and will not lead to a Trump impeachment – the one that many people so desperately want !!!
Let’s move over to the Watergate scandal briefly. On June 17, 1972, several burglars were arrested inside the office of the DNC in Washington DC. The burglars were connected to Richard Nixon’s reelection campaign. The prowlers had been caught while attempting to wiretap phones and steal secret documents. In August of that year, Nixon gave a speech where he swore that his White House staff was not involved in the break-in. Nixon was reelected in a landslide victory in the November elections. It later came to light that a few days after the break-in, he arranged to provide huge cash as “hush money” to the burglars. Then he and his aides hatched a plan to instruct the Central Intelligence Agency to impede the FBI’s investigation of the crime.
Nixon also secretly taped every conversation that took place in the Oval office. When Archibald Cox, who was the independent special prosecutor, kept demanding the tapes, Nixon fired him. These events took place on October 20 1973 and were known as the Saturday Night Massacre. Comparisions are made of Nixon’s firing of Archibald Cox and Trump’s firing of James Comey with the James Comey firing being called the Tuesday Night Massacre.
Neither is the James Comey firing comparable to the Archibald Cox firing nor is the Watergate Scandal comparable with the ‘so-called’ scandal that is happening here. In the Watergate scandal, following the June 17 episode, a lot of facts were unearthed. On August 1, a US $ 25,000 cheque was wound up in the bank account of a Watergate burglar. On January 30 1973, two former Nixon aides were convicted of burglary, conspiracy and wiretapping. On April 30, Nixon’s top White House staffers resigned over the scandal.
Nothing of that sort has happened or is likely to happen here. Even the former NSA Mike Flynn had to resign not because he had any involvement in the hacking of the DNC. If he had just simply told Mike Pence that he did discuss the issue of sanctions on Russia with the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, he would have stayed. In any case, there are a substantial number of people, even in the West, who feel that the sanctions on Russia over Ukraine/Crimea should be removed without any delay.
When Russia hacked into the DNC, there was already a cloud hanging over the Democratic Party due to the Hillary Clinton email episode. Against this background, Trump also called upon Russia publicly to hack into Clinton’s emails. Even though this issue of allegations of Russian hacking had been going on throughout the election campaign process, Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party referred to the issue only when they were posed uncomfortable questions. One example is the question about Clinton’s open borders comment. She used the Russian interference to pivot from the question.
Also it should be noted that the Russians were clever enough to ensure they brought into light only the internal manipulations that took place in the closed doors of the Democratic Party. They did not misuse the information that they had access to. That is one important reason why the investigation into Russian ties with the Trump campaign will not be a cracker but only a flower-pot !!!
Finally, Trump has distanced himself from Steve Bannon, his Chief Strategist. While it is true that Steve Bannon needs to moderate himself, chucking a person like Bannon away totally would not be doing Trump any good. For example there are reports which say that Steve Bannon was opposed to the recent airstrike on Syria but was overruled by Jarod Kushner. It at all he has any dreams of a second term Presidency, Donald Trump would do well to remember that Jarod Kushner and Ivanka Trump are not going to win him the votes. Rather it would be people like Steve Bannon who will do so!! In fact, Steve Bannon could well play the same role for Trump that Amit Shah manages to do so effectively for Narendra Modi.
Of course there is one difference. Narendra Modi is single while Donald Trump is not. It is an esoteric fact that a single person can think more clearly than a married one. If only more people had realized that yesterday, mother earth would be better off today…
Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article are those of the author
About the author:
*Harish Venugopalan is a Research Assistant with the Observer Research Foundation. He has done his Masters in International Relations from the Dublin City University (DCU) in 2011-2012. His current research interest is ‘Conflict Management in Africa’.
This article was published by Modern Diplomacy.