A sloppy firing, but a conspiracy?
Nearly a century and a quarter ago, several dozen Yiddish-speaking socialists published in New York City on April 22, 1897 the first issue of Forverts, the name inspired by Vorwarts, the house organ of the German socialist party. Over the decades Forverts became The Forward, a metropolitan daily in Yiddish with a nationwide circulation of more than a quarter of a million. It remained a synthesis of socialist claptrap, depicted preposterously as something having to do with Judaism.
Today The Forward is in English, but it continues to rejoice in, well, now it’s “progressivism.” Its circulation is only 30,000, “a small publication with an outside influence” according to an appraisal last week by the sympathetic and generally liberal NPR. What we can say is that, in the era of new and influential politically conservative Jewish websites, The Forward remains a relic of left-wing Judaism. You would find more support for Israel in many Christian churches than among the newspaper’s editors who, not incidentally, also remain in that perennial socialist time-warp, as if Marx had never been discredited, and as if Bernie Sanders had studied economics and that he is coherent.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s decision on March 2 “to recuse himself from dealing with investigations relating to Russia’s involvement in the elections,” observed Nathan Guttman in The Forward the next day, “make [Deputy Attorney General Rod] Rosenstein, once he wins Senate confirmation, the government official who would lead the probe into Trump’s Russian connections…”
Consider, two points.
- Rod J. Rosenstein has integrity. Even this leftist publication The Forward described the 52-year-old Rosenstein as “the least partisan figure” Trump has appointed. Noting that Harvard Law School graduate Rosenstein was the longest-serving U.S attorney, the article reported that he had worked in the Bill Clinton Justice Department before serving as the U.S. attorney for Maryland under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Hardly a cheerleader for President Donald Trump, the newspaper quoted law professor Carl Tobias praising Rosenstein’s “independence” and “professionalism.” All this was written before the Senate’s recent overwhelming confirmation of Rosenstein to be deputy attorney general under the contentious and barely-confirmed Attorney General Jeff Sessions. President Trump in January had picked Rosenstein as acting attorney general after Trump had sacked acting AG (and Obama holdover) Sally Yates January 30 for insubordination. Yates a few days ago testified disingenuously. All this brings us to:
2. Democrats supported Rod J. Rosenstein to be deputy attorney general. On April 3 the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 19-to-1 (this is not a typo) to report the Rosenstein nomination to the full Senate. Only Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal voted no, because Rosenstein said he would appoint a special counsel (for the Russia investigation) “whenever I determine it’s appropriate based on the polices and procedures of the Department of Justice”; that wasn’t good enough for Blumenthal who wanted Rosenstein’s absolute commitment to appoint a special prosecutor. Rosenstein, Blumenthal conceded, is “what we value in the Department of Justice: someone committed to the rule of law.” But Blumenthal was the lone committee vote against Rosenstein because “I have been surprised and disappointed that he has failed to heed my request.” Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who is no shrinking violet, praised Rosenstein’s “reputation of integrity that’s unusual for this administration’s nominees.” And two weeks ago the U.S. Senate confirmed Rosenstein’s nomination by the razor-thin margin of 94-to-6. At that time, the right-wing extremist, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer noted that Rosenstein “had developed a reputation for integrity.”
That was then, this is now. Remember it was just a few months ago that assorted prominent Democrats wanted Comey’s scalp. And even this week Comey again made a fool of himself with his “mildly nauseous” conditional mea culpa, explaining that if he had to do it all over again, he would still exercise bad judgment and demonstrate incompetence. Now, they are aghast that Trump fired Comey abruptly, when presumably he should have done so earlier. Hence, there must be a sinister motive. When Democrats were on the networks last night charging a cover-up, they were asked for proof and offered none.
CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin, who alternates at the network between political kibitzer and legal analyst, said the firing of FBI Director James Comey is an “extraordinary abuse of power” and a “dark day” for America. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews is famous mainly for saying on his network that covering Barack Obama gave him a “thrill up his leg,” a phrase open to new interpretation, given the newly-published critically acclaimed biography of Obama that implies that as a young man Obama was sexually ecumenical. Matthews finds the Comey firing to be “a little whiff of fascism.” Toobin has termed yesterday the “Tuesday night massacre” that will “disgrace” Donald Trump. For balance on CNN even Richard Nixon’s lawyer John Dean, who threw his client under the bus, said comparisons to Nixon’s firing of Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox as part of the “Saturday night massacre” were overdrawn. And we’re not just talking day of the week.
In contrast, Alan Dershowitz last night on CNN said that Jim Comey lacked the credibility to be the FBI Director and should have resigned because neither Democrats nor Republicans have confidence in him. Dershowitz, himself a liberal Democrat, said that Trump had previously and appropriately replaced Acting AG Sally Yates; Dershowitz saw no connection between the two firings (Yates and Comey). Indeed, Dershowitz suggested his fellow liberals take a deep breadth and monitor who Trump names as Comey’s successor. What a concept — see if Trump appoints a political hack as FBI Director; or perhaps he will appoint someone greatly respected for probity in the mold of, well… Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein? As a talking-head expert, Dershowitz is proving to be, for CNN, volatile and unpredictable, even nuanced in his view of Trump and the administration.
(Note to Toobin, Matthews, and the mainstream media: Firing the FBI Director does not end the bureau’s ongoing investigation. It continues.)
If you believe Toobin and Matthews and the pervasive hysteria among the liberal media (a redundancy), then you have to assume that Rod Rosenstein, quite implausibly, is part of the conspiracy to obstruct justice, that is, to scuttle the current Department of Justice investigation into the Trump-Russia allegations and to cover-up the cover-up. That is like knowing when to sell your stocks before the crash, and also when to get back in the market precisely before it recovers.
After all, Jeff Sessions recused himself, so Rosenstein is the point man in a sensitive, potentially explosive investigation involving the president of the United States and those around him, so are we to assume that Rosenstein is not the honest man and consummate professional, so acknowledged repetitively and contemporaneously by even Democrat partisans? Of course, Rosenstein is irrelevant, I suppose, if Trump appoints a crook to head the FBI. But won’t that be obvious?
What’s more, President Trump — in his letter to Comey firing him, cited not only AG Sessions but Deputy AG Rosenstein. Indeed, it is Rosenstein’s two-page memorandum to Sessions that makes the masterfully succinct case against Comey. Titled “Restoring Public Confidence in the FBI,” the memorandum is worth reading.
To summarize, Rosenstein notes that FBI Director Comey on July 5, 2016, usurped the Attorney General’s authority when he (Comey) concluded the case against Hillary Clinton should be closed without prosecution. Quite simply, this was not his decision to make. We all recall the bumbling charade, where Comey explained all the reasons why Hillary should be indicted and prosecuted, and we waited for the punch line. But it seems that Comey had unilaterally concluded and now said she should not be prosecuted — thus also taking off the hook then Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who had recused herself, after her awkward meeting with Bill Clinton, the possible criminal defendant’s spouse, on the airport tarmac. Absent Comey’s mind boggling acrobatics, the DOJ would have had to make the call on Hillary.
In the Rosenstein memorandum, which is receiving insufficient attention, Rosenstein noted that Comey’s news conference with its “derogatory information” about Hillary was “a textbook example of what federal prosecutors and agents are taught not to do.” There is much more — quite simply, the memorandum will be memorialized in history as the definitive judgment on why Comey should have been replaced by President Trump at the outset.
But he wasn’t. And the timing of his firing seems curious. What we do know is that the matter is sloppy. Clearly this has been in the works for a while — days, a week, two weeks? The Rosenstein memorandum was perhaps proofread and finalized on May 9, but surely the AG knew it was in the works. No leaks, here!
By all account, Trump, Sessions, Rosenstein, et. al. were playing such inside baseball they did not even know Comey was in Los Angeles. When you’re going to fire someone high profile, part of the plan is how to do it. It is unclear at this writing how the (now former) FBI director found out.
The Trump stalwarts often say the press is out to get Trump. That may be true, but the administration provides its adversaries in the media with plenty of inspirational material. The administration has presented an image that is less than open and transparent. It has given the impression of something to hide. And the White House counsel has not acted forcefully to prevent even the appearance of conflict of interest and self-dealing.
In short, the firing of Jim Comey is not in a void, but seen in an unflattering context. When the press is routinely attacked every day, the base may love it. But the attacks lose credibility and potency. Americans don’t like whiners. All this is why, even with the administration confronting Vladimir Putin and Russia, the suspicion remains that there is unsavory business.
We’re talking about the FBI and the Department of Justice. If you want to fire the FBI Director, then replace him with a solid, impeccable choice. And as for the DOJ, let’s return to the libertarian impulse for criminal justice reform, and stop this nonsense of renewing a discredited and failed War on Drugs. In short, let’s not be reactionary. The hardcore will never cut Trump slack; but perhaps people in the middle will not see, for example, the Comey firing as part of the conspiracy to obstruct justice.
It’s time, then, for President Donald Trump and his administration to bring closure to the Russian stuff by letting a credible investigation run its course, rather quickly. Avoid even the appearance of conflict of interest between any potential Trump extended family ventures and the U.S. government. And stop the daily slow water torture of tweets and circuses, and get back to policy.
That way, when you fire someone who should have been fired in January the spin will not be the search for an ulterior, ominous motive.