Donald Trump’s Only ‘Crime’ Is Defending Himself

Donald Trump’s Only ‘Crime’ Is Defending Himself

Daniel McCarthy

Politics, Americas

With Trump, there is no crime, but his defiant acts of self-defense are enough to convict him—or so the Democrats and their allies hope.

Impeachment is a game that Democrats are playing with Donald Trump, and the game’s only rule is “heads I win, tails you lose.” The president is familiar with these rules by now, as they’re the same ones that governed the investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. FBI Director James Comey told Trump at the outset that he was not a target of the investigation. Yet anonymous quotes and other questionably sourced reports continued to appear in the press claiming that Trump was a Russian asset—as Hillary Clinton might bluntly put it—and so the president asked Comey to say in public what he had told him in private. Comey refused, and Trump soon fired him.

This act of self-defense, or pique, depending on your point of view, triggered calls for the appointment of a special counsel to take over the investigation—which ballooned from an investigation that didn’t center around Trump into one in which Trump’s behavior toward Comey was grounds for investigating the president. Comey had made a power play: by telling the president that he was not a subject of the probe and then refusing to issue a statement to that effect, Comey was making the point: Trump might be the country’s elected executive, but men like Comey were the government. Officials could leak, they could issue anonymous quotes prejudicial to the president, and all Trump could do was wait until Comey decided to clear his name.

Other politicians might play by those rules out the desire for self-preservation. Trump chose not to. And so, an ex-FBI director, who may have had hopes of becoming director once again, took over the investigation. Comey would not go unavenged. Mueller ultimately found nothing criminal or meriting a recommendation of impeachment in Trump’s behavior. But by the time he issued his report, the protracted investigation, and all the hype about Trump and Russia that it sustained, had done its political damage and hammered the lesson home. Republicans suffered a bloodbath in the 2018 midterms, and the next president would think twice—and then twice again—about treating an FBI director as his underling.

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