Sunday, May 14, 2017


By Dominique Paul Noth

All eyes are now on deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, pressured
both ways on a special prosecutor.
Parsing the views of legal experts and media insiders has uncovered reasons on both sides for Trump’s decision to fire FBI director James Comey. Strangely, not a single one has anything to do with Clinton emails.

Here are the top choices:

1. He knows he's innocent and is sick of the investigation.

2. He believes he's innocent (in terms of staff involvement) and is sick of the investigation.

3. He knows he's guilty and is getting sick of worrying.

4. He believes he’s guilty (in terms of staff involvement) and is sick of worrying. 

5. He hasn't a clue but fears the answers – including his tax returns – may taint his election.

None of those reasons, you’ll note, justify firing Comey. So initially he tried horsing around the barn with Clinton’s emails. If the Democrats were still angry about that, wouldn’t they forget everything else? Not so much.

All the reasons listed above discount the frequent speculation about the mental state of the president. Frankly, that way lies madness. 

Was Trump unhinged? Or shrewd? Flailing? Or deliberate? Whichever way you think, he did it -- and insists Russia was on his mind when he did it in the Lester Holt TV interview. The only firm conclusion left is that he didn’t mind making his staff and the Department of Justice look like dupes, which may also be a prelude to what the Russian investigation will do to the rest of us.

Some pretty formidable names are arguing Trump should be impeached before he destroys the democracy, but they may be getting ahead of the game in our partisan gridlock. Nixon? He’s not up to that level yet. Clinton? Trump has so openly messed with women that even that can’t be used against him.

No, he is the misleading shiny object, claiming Obama wiretapped him (massively disproven except to him) or threatening Comey had better hope a tape of their dinner doesn’t exist (while Comey clearly hopes one does).  He’s gambling that tweets are not facts to hang him in court. 

As  Obama’s White House counsel Bob Bauer noted in a Lawfare column,  “As scandals-in-the-making go, this one may become famous for featuring the President as the principal witness against himself: he seems committed to uncovering any cover-up.” 

He figures some will always believe him – that’s his view of America. He can rely – for a little while -- on leaders in his party to back him up, such as Sen. Mitch McConnell (the “over my dead body” defense against a special prosecutor) and his SNL boy slave, Paul Ryan. They shrug off his behavior in ways they would never allow for a Democrat.  Their profiles in cowardice are easy to understand – their party has the White House and this may not happen again for ages.  The deciding line may be whether Trump will cost them any possibility of getting it back.

I’ve been struck by how Trump’s gamble that he’ll escape echoes Gov. Scott Walker’s behavior in the John Doe case, where big money and subservient high court came to his rescue.  What worked in Wisconsin may work in the US by pulling executive strings.

Sen. Whitehouse one of the few Democrats who think
twice about a special prosecutor.
Not all Democrats are on board with the idea of a special prosecutor, who legally would have to be appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. 

Respected Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse fears it would further delay an investigation whose length in any case will be frustratingly long to the American public.  But with the potential of criminal prosecutions in his toolkit, a special prosecutor has strengthened powers of subpoenas and witness compulsion, which may actually speed the process.   

The Republicans argue that criminality is not yet clear so that a special prosecutor is premature. Rosenstein, on the other hand, needs to redeem his reputation in the face of how blatantly the White House mischaracterized his role in the Comey case and apparently tried to pin the blame on him. So several kinds of pressures are underway.

Historically, Trump likes turmoil – the lack of a clear path is where he thrives, contradicting his own statements to demonstrate he is just as confused and unpredictable as his rally shriekers.  The last thing he needs is for his supporters to think hard about those five reasons and which ones make the most sense.  Rational citizens have already chosen.

About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as one of the editors for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He became the newspaper’s senior feature editor, then was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs and consumer news. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as at his culture and politics outlets known as Dom's Domain.  He also reviews theater for  

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