Trump’s firing of Comey, as well as his abrupt dumping of Yates ought to give every American who both understands and appreciates the institutions of our democratic republic great pause. The man currently sitting in the oval office is arguably the greatest internal threat to our democracy and its institutions of the modern era.
The article by Brian Beutler below states the concern and dangers quite well we think.
Before Tuesday, one of the most remarkable things about Donald Trump’s presidency was how sturdy it had shown competitor institutions, and the larger system of checks and balances, to be. Courts have beat back his power grabs; media, for all its flaws, has been more skeptical of the claims and actions of the Trump administration than of any administration in recent history. Civil society organizations have flourished, and a vital protest movement has both slowed the GOP legislative agenda, and forced some Republicans in Congress to expect a measure of accountability from the White House.
For those who were relieved by this, Comey’s firing should be a frightful awakening from complacency.
The immediate threat of the Trump presidency wasn’t that he would sap the public of its civic-mindedness, or intimidate judges and reporters into submission with his tweets. It was to the institutions under his control—the ones within the executive branch—and particularly those with meaningful independence from political actors in the White House. Because the path to neutralizing or coopting external institutions runs through corrupting internal ones.
In his first weeks as president, Trump appeared to lack both the aptitude and the dedication required to do this. Yes, he corrupted the government, but it was through laziness and greed, so the effect was limited. Trump was satisfied with a bargain whereby Republicans in Congress set most policy, and in return they turned a blind eye to his self-enrichment.
Firing Comey changes the terms of the bargain, but in a perverse way it also makes the bargain harder for Republicans in Congress to abrogate.
The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel wrote a practically minute-by-minute account of how the Fox News reaction to the firing progressed from confusion to elation within 12 hours. House Speaker Paul Ryan went 24 hours without saying a word about Comey’s firing, before telling Fox News that “it is entirely within the president’s role and authority to relieve him and that’s what he did.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose bad faith glows in the dark, celebrated the news and chalked the Democratic clamor for answers and accountability up to partisanship. (The fact that Democrats have been forced to resort to obstructive maneuvers suggests that McConnell isn’t budging, even in private.)
It is true that people of integrity would want to get to the bottom of this, whereas Ryan and McConnell see it as a useful smokescreen for dismantling the safety net. But this has become about more than a tax cut and a rollback of the Affordable Care Act. It is about whether Republicans in Congress want to be on the fun end of entrenched power, or on the receiving end of its blunt force.
If Trump gets away with firing Comey—if Republicans let him nominate any director he wants; if they resist the pressure to insist on appointing a special prosecutor, or to convene an investigative body; if they squash inquiries into the firing itself—he will read it as permission to run amok. As The Atlantic’s Ron Brownstein wrote, Trump’s “appetite for shattering democratic constraints is only likely to grow.”
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