Nov. 8, 2016, was despair day, tears and groaning day, disbelief day. Donald Trump had been elected president although everyone knew that could never occur. So now, in the minds of some, it was time to undo what happened, no conscience needed. The old norms? The rule of law? Sorry, but that would just slow them down, and here came the anti-Trump crusaders more threatening than Trump.
There’s no question about the overreaching. Incriminating, perhaps felonious leaks from intelligence agencies poured forth in unprecedented numbers. Courts intervened to stop legal Trump actions. Some news outlets became blues outlets. Free speech, already struggling, disappeared at some universities. Some psychologists in need of examination said Mr. Trump was loony. A comedian aimed for giggles by pretending to be holding up his severed head.
As it turned out, however, it was “impeachment” instead of “decapitation” that became the word of the moment, and then there was this conspiracy theory about collusion with the Russians. Some questions had been asked before the election, but the speculation now reached a boiling point. Soon enough we had a special counsel investigation.
And now we have a stranger-than-fiction development.
It seems that an actual Russian collusion with the Hillary Clinton campaign produced mostly discredited dirt on Mr. Trump that the FBI then used to help enable its spying on a private citizen suspected of aiding the imagined Trump collusion. The FBI did not want to talk to a congressional oversight committee about it because, after all, why should it be answerable to anyone?
Finally, the agency had to and then there was this Republican memo summing up some of the testimony and classified documents, telling us how a dossier of the Clinton campaign dirt was used as evidence to persuade a Foreign Surveillance Court to give the go-ahead to do the spying.
The FBI screeched that none of the memo should be released because it would endanger security, which it didn’t. Then we had a war of interpretations as Democrats said the GOP misrepresented the truth and Republicans talked about liberal politics superseding fundamental demands of ethics and law. Former FBI director James Comey jumped in.
“That’s it?” he asked in a tweet about the GOP memo. “Dishonest and misleading memo wrecked the House intel committee, destroyed trust with Intelligence Community, damaged relationship with FISA court, and inexcusably exposed classified investigation of an American citizen. For what? DOJ & FBI must keep doing their jobs.”
Well, that’s bosh, but they should keep doing their jobs despite what Comey has done to them. He broke every protocol there was when, as FBI director, he gave a press conference essentially telling us that Clinton as secretary of state violated security laws by using her personal email server for classified materials.
He then said no prosecution would work because of an inability to prove criminal intent. It turned out he had not tried to prove much because, in an FBI interview with Clinton, she was not required to take an oath and nothing was recorded. Later, when Comey decided to publicly reopen the Clinton case pretty much on the basis of nothing, he just may have cost her the election. After Mr. Trump fired him, Comey arranged for his own memo on a talk they had to get in the hands of the press, a matter of legal dubiety, and he is now serving as a top witness for his friend Robert Mueller, which is highly questionable. Mueller, the special counsel, may not have much of a collusion case against the president and may instead be focusing on obstruction of justice. He wants an interview. If Mr. Trump agrees, this man with a roulette wheel for a mouth could end up facing charges on just about anything.
Meanwhile, everyone is focused on the November midterm elections, saying the Democrats may retake the House and, if they do, impeachment is certain. We may at least be spared a guillotine.
Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service.