President Donald Trump created his own political and legal dilemma. The reports that former FBI Director James Comey wrote a memo about his February meeting with the president creates the real the possibility for obstruction of justice charges. Trump’s impulsive behavior, his lack of political managerial skills, and the demonstrable incompetence of the White House staff opens the door for an impeachment process. That being said, it is premature to be raising the issue of impeachment.
Trump cannot blame anyone but himself. He has created a toxic reactive political environment. His misjudgments about the nature of the political attacks in the media and political party system, including
Republicans who support the president,have had an negative accumulative effect. Republicans are having second thoughts about this president’s longer-term viability and the disenchantment among his popular base is becoming significant.
It was unprecedented for President Trump to have a dinner meeting with FBI Director Comey. Meeting alone with Comey right after the firing of former National Security Advisor General Mike Flynn was the first serious mistake. No one in the White House’s political team has the experience running a Presidential office.
Moreover, the president’s action seems to have not considered Comey’s independent character. In March 2004, President Bush’s warrantless domestic spying efforts were temporarily suspended after then-acting Attorney General James Comey refused to sign on to an extension of the program “amid concerns about its legality and oversight.” (For details, see this 2007 article:
When Attorney General John Ashcroft was hospitalized in 2004, Comey, a rigorous prosecuting attorney who then became acting Attorney General, took painstaking steps to override the Ashcroft’s previous ruling on domestic spying — irritating President Bush and his White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez. The Trump White House was clueless about Comey.
They should have realized that Comey would write detailed memos on his Trump meetings. Nobody on the political staff at the White House warned Trump about this history in the Bush Administration and they failed to prevent the president from conducting his own negotiations with the FBI Director. Political blunders continue to plague the president. No one — not
Bannon, Kushner, nor Priebus — is giving the president the bad news or warning him away from the kinds of impulsive actions that are politically self-destructive.
This political management problem will continue and the Administration will be caught up in a perpetual crisis-management mentality. If the management of the domestic political process can be brought under control, the problems posed by the Comey memo and related incidents — such as the Russia controversy — can be resolved. Then, and only then, will the prospects of impeachment be reduced to below 50 percent. This self-imposed dysfunction must be ended immediately. The president needs a professional political adviser, who is competent and honest, like his National Security Adviser.
The national security team, headed by Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, is professional, competent, and effective in the policymaking process. Simply stated, they are doing their jobs. But there have been significant problems. President Trump’s public criticisms of the FBI and the CIA have their consequences.
This problem was compounded when President Trump decided to go off-script and release certain classified intelligence to Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov during their Oval Office meeting. There was nothing illegal — nothing impeachable — in President Trump’s action. However, it has cast a cloud over his relationship with the U.S. Intelligence Community, which is responsible for preparing his Presidential Daily Briefings.
Do they begin to think they must withhold certain details about sources and methods, out of fear that the information will be released? This is obviously a perception among the rank-and-file. Or is there a more complex dynamic underway?