The fantasy of Trump's impeachment

ATLANTA • After United States President Donald Trump fired Mr James Comey, the Federal Bureau of Investigation director, the media and political left ignited with talk of impeachment.

This is a fantasy.

Don't get me wrong. I have long had concerns about Mr Trump. He can contradict himself within separate clauses of a single sentence, then lie about the contradiction.

He lacks the depth of knowledge a president should have and seems far more concerned with what people on TV say about him than what is happening around him.

Even if there is no evidence that the FBI is investigating the President himself, it is reportedly looking at ties between advisers to his campaign and Russia.

But let's be realistic. Though the firing looks bad, it was also reasonable.

The firing of FBI director James Comey looks bad, but it was reasonable. Also, there are good reasons to think that the FBI's probe into Russian campaign meddling won't be affected.
The firing of FBI director James Comey looks bad, but it was reasonable. Also, there are good reasons to think that the FBI's probe into Russian campaign meddling won't be affected. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Consider the case made by Mr Rod Rosenstein, the highly respected Deputy Attorney-General who was recently confirmed by more than 90 members of the Senate.

In a memo to the President, Mr Rosenstein said Mr Comey had usurped the Attorney-General's authority last July by announcing his conclusion that the FBI's investigation into Mrs Hillary Clinton's e-mails should be closed without prosecution.

"It is not the function of the director to make such an announcement," Mr Rosenstein wrote. "Compounding the error, the director ignored another longstanding principle: We do not hold press conferences to release derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal investigation."

Mr Rosenstein likewise documented concerns from attorneys-general from both parties. "The way the director handled the conclusion of the e-mail investigation was wrong," he concluded. "As a result, the FBI is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them."

Mr Comey only made things worse for himself by giving wrong information to Congress about e-mails belonging to Ms Huma Abedin, Mrs Clinton's aide. Mr Comey's testimony was under oath, and the FBI had to retract its own director's testimony. No one can deny this was a bad thing.

Though they are criticising his firing now, Democrats were calling for Mr Comey's head after he reopened the Clinton e-mail investigation late in the campaign last year. If he was so bad then, is he really so good now?

Also, it is telling that two of Mr Trump's most vocal critics within the Republican Party, Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, both embraced Mr Comey's termination.

Underlying liberals' calls for impeachment is the belief that Mr Comey's firing will squelch the FBI's investigation into Russian campaign meddling. But there are good reasons to think that the inquiry won't be affected. The FBI's interim leader, Mr Andrew McCabe, vowed last Thursday that the investigation would continue apace.

Likewise, the Senate will have to confirm Mr Trump's nominee to replace Mr Comey, and Republicans seem determined to keep the bureau independent. More than half the Senate Republicans have already raised concerns about how Mr Comey was fired. Many of them are privately worried that Mr Trump could lead them to electoral disaster. They are not going to serve as yes men for a yes man at the FBI.

Lastly, along with the FBI's counterintelligence investigation into Russian meddling, there is a Senate investigation. The chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Senator Richard Burr, Republican of North Carolina, and its ranking member, Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, have criticised Mr Trump's handling of the Comey termination and are committed to the investigation.

Instead of engaging in conspiracy theories about Mr Trump's Russian connections, liberals would be better served demanding that Congress exercise its powers of the purse and investigation to ensure honesty and integrity in the confirmation of a new FBI director and in the operation of the agency.

Frankly, by firing Mr Comey, Mr Trump did what former president Barack Obama should have done. Most Americans recognise the cynical and hypocritical reactions now being deployed over this. I suspect most Americans do not even care. Mrs Clinton's supporters have long wanted Mr Comey out, and Mr Trump's supporters will stand by their man.

In continuing to misread the political situation and reality itself, the left is setting itself up for failure and disappointment. The odds are that the President will come out of the Russian probe unscathed.

Even if Democrats take back Congress next year, they would probably fall short of the two-thirds vote in the Senate needed to convict him of impeachable offences.

Impeachment is not on the horizon, and this is not the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency. It is just one day closer to the next presidential election.

And until then, and maybe longer, I'm betting Mr Trump will remain our president.

NYTIMES

• The writer is the editor of the conservative website The Resurgent and a talk-show host on radio station WSB.

 

Related Stories: 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 15, 2017, with the headline 'The fantasy of Trump's impeachment'. Print Edition | Subscribe