By Brian Beutler
Looking backwards after more than a month, the firing of James Comey has blended into the larger pattern of scandal engulfing Donald Trump’s presidency. This may have been inevitable; in a sense, Trump’s decision to fire the FBI director was a single plot point in an unfolding saga. But the effect has been to obscure in our memories just how shocking that development was when it happened. Politics is full of surprises, but the Comey firing was truly astonishing.
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It was also, politically speaking, a tactical mistake. Firing Comey precipitated the appointment of Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and thrust the White House into crisis.
But the unexpectedness of it may have had the mitigating effect of forcing members of Congress into partisan corners. Democrats, of course, were appalled by Trump’s decision, and used it to renew their calls for the appointment of a special counsel. Republicans, forced unexpectedly to choose between standing with the president and condemning him for a decision they had no say in, overwhelmingly toed the line that Trump had every right to fire the FBI director.
Against that backdrop, it is unnerving to see Trump loyalists not simply question Mueller’s independence for partisan purposes, but lay the groundwork for Trump to engineer his firing as well.