//  5/9/17  //  Quick Reactions

The President has fired FBI director James Comey.  The White House has released the letter that memorializes the action.  In the letter, the President says that he "concur[s] with the judgment of the Department of Justice" that Comey be terminated.  The White House attached a letter from Attorney General Sessions stating the recommendation that Comey be fired; this letter did not get into specifics. 

The White House also attached a three-page memo from Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein detailing the grounds for the recommendation: the mishandling of the Hillary Clinton investigation. 

The focus of Rosenstein's criticism is on the decision last October, in the midst of the presidential election campaign, to announce that the FBI was re-opening its investigation of Secretary Clinton.  (The letter also makes passing reference to Comey's announcement that no prosecution would be warranted -- a decision that is normally left to prosecutors not the FBI -- and to Comey's subsequent news conference in which he negatively characterized Secretary Clinton's handling of her emails.)  Rosenstein notes that this interference in the election is outside the best traditions of the Department and that this is the judgment made on the record by numerous past Attorneys general and Deputies Attorney General from Administrations of both political parties.

All of this is true enough.  I am sure Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein believes every word he wrote.  I do not believe for one minute, however, that this is the actual reason that Donald Trump is firing James Comey.  After all, the President refuses to accept the bi-partisan consensus that Russia attempted to intervene in the Presidential election and continues to assert that he only lost the popular vote because of illegal voting, despite the utter absence of any evidence.  Why, then, would anyone believe he was motivated to fire Comey out of concern that Comey had harmed Hillary Clinton's electoral prospects?

I confess that I do not know the real reason.  I do enjoy the odd hand of poker, and I can recognize a tell.  In this case, President Trump's letter may contain one.  Before stating his concurrence with the Department of Justice's judgment, President Trump notes that he "greatly appreciate[s] you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation ...."  Why note this if it isn't relevant?

As long as the Deputy Attorney General is writing memos making recommendations, it is time to make a recommendation for the appointment of a special counsel.


Versus Trump: An Impeachment Primer...

10/3/19  //  In-Depth Analysis

Gotcha! No impeachment dessert until you eat your immigration broccoli. On this week’s Versus Trump, Easha (back from parental leave!) and Charlie (just starting parental leave) discuss two immigration losses for the Trump administration. The first concerns Trump’s attempts to roll back court-ordered protections for migrant children; the second, Trump’s attempt to subject more immigrants to expedited removal. Listen now!

Easha Anand

San Francisco

Charlie Gerstein

Civil Rights Corps

Whistleblower Scandal Contains Reminder of Last Scandal: Time for a New One?

9/27/19  //  Commentary

Although Trump isn't deliberately using each new scandal to distract from the last one, the phenomenon is nonetheless maddening. It's like a game of Bizarro World Whack-a-mole in which each time you whack a mole another hammer emerges that somehow enables the same mole to escape.

Michael C. Dorf

Cornell Law School

Versus Trump: Can You Hear The Whistle Blowing?

9/25/19  //  In-Depth Analysis

On this week's episode of Versus Trump, Charlie and Jason discuss the legal stakes of the fight over what Trump said to the President of Ukraine and the related whistleblower complaint. A lot happened between when they recorded the episode and when it's being posted, but we still think it's a useful primer on the legal questions in this dispute. Listen now!

Charlie Gerstein

Civil Rights Corps