President Donald Trump fired James Comey, the FBI director who has become both hero and villain for people of all political persuasions, on Tuesday night.
The Trump administration gave the laughably absurd rationale that Comey mishandled the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server last summer. While that statement is not erroneous, its invocation by the administration makes me, in the words of Comey from just last week, “mildly nauseous.”
Trump has excoriated Comey for not prosecuting Clinton. Then he praised Comey as recently as January for the definitive actions taken against Clinton in last year’s presidential election, namely a letter sent to Congress at the end of October purporting that the Bureau had reopened its investigation into Clinton. The supposed update was a big pile of nothing, and Trump almost certainly won the election because of the letter.
If the rationale for the termination was not the official, ludicrous explanation, the alternatives are increasingly ominous.
Comey’s bureau is currently investigating members of Trump’s campaign and inner circle on allegations of collusion with Russia throughout the presidential election. It is unclear whether or not Trump himself is included in these investigations.
Just yesterday, Trump briefly superimposed a quote from former National Intelligence Director James Clapper on his Twitter account photo, purporting to absolve Trump of complicity in the investigation. The quote was taken out of context. Investigators have neither confirmed nor denied Trump’s status in the ongoing investigations.
Comey’s ignominious termination suggests there is something more sinister transpiring.
As a series of pundits have already pointed out, the similarities are numerous between tonight and the Saturday Night Massacre, wherein Richard Nixon fired Archibald Cox (the special prosecutor then investigating the Watergate scandal) and in doing so compelled the resignation of Attorney General Elliot L. Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William D. Ruckelshaus.
If Comey was in fact investigating Trump, then the analogy would be perfect.
Perhaps most distressing about the Tuesday Night Massacre is the silence from Republican elected officials. A lone few have quibbled and snipped, just as they did countless times throughout the presidential campaign. But just as they did back then, none will dare gather enough temerity to fight for what is right and truly stand up to Trump. They are pathetic, feckless cowards, each and every one of them.
When Nixon fired Cox, even those in his own party stood up to him. Sadly, I see no such desire or willingness among congressional Republicans— the development may just blow over.
Buckle up. It’s only going to get worse.
Horwitz is a first-year law student from Houston. He is a senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @NmHorwitz.