This Is a Constitutional Crisis

Late yesterday, Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. What quickly became clear is that Trump wanted to fire Comey, because the FBI investigation into the administration's ties to Russia was closing in, so he asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to find him a reason to justify the firing.

Sessions had to recuse himself from Russia investigations, after he failed to disclose, and lied under oath about, having met multiple times with Russian Envoy Sergey Kislyak, but nonetheless weighed in on whether the FBI Director, currently investigating possible collusion with Russia, should be fired in the middle of that investigation.

His deputy AG, Rod Rosenstein—who, because of Sessions' recusal, is the only person empowered to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Russia—also weighed in, providing the rationale for firing Comey (though he did not explicitly recommend firing him). The justification is obvious nonsense: Rosenstein cited Comey's handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails—which, had it legitimately been of grave concern to Trump, would have warranted Comey's firing on Day One of Trump's presidency, not Day 110.

Naturally, there was [video may autoplay at link] immediate reporting confirming that the rationale was invented: Trump's decision to fire Comey had "been in the works since at least last week... Senior officials at the White House and Justice Department were working on building a case against Comey since that time," and "Sessions was asked to come with reasons to oust him."

It was absurd from the get-go that anyone indulged for one moment the transparent pretense that Trump fired Comey for any reason other than self-protection. As Jeffrey Toobin pointed out on CNN, there wasn't a single damn Republican who called for Comey's firing before yesterday. No Republicans were mad at Comey for being unfair to Hillary Clinton.

Indeed, the reason for the timing [video may autoplay at link] is pretty clear to anyone without an agenda: "Federal prosecutors have issued grand jury subpoenas to associates of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn seeking business records, as part of the ongoing probe of Russian meddling in last year's election, according to people familiar with the matter. CNN learned of the subpoenas hours before [Donald] Trump fired FBI director James Comey. The subpoenas represent the first sign of a significant escalation of activity in the FBI's broader investigation begun last July into possible ties between Trump campaign associates and Russia."

Comey's firing is part of an alarming pattern.

In January, Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she ordered the Justice Department not to defend his Muslim ban. At the time, Yates was also involved in investigating Michael Flynn's ties to Russia.

In March, Trump fired U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, whose purview included Trump Tower and who was investigating HHS Secretary Tom Price as well as Fox News.

Earlier this week, when Yates testified in front of a Senate committee investigation Russian interference in the election, Trump engaged in a gross (and possibly illegal) abuse of power by tweeting about Yates in a way that, especially given his unique platform, seemingly constitutes witness intimidation.

Until last night, Senate and House Republicans stood by Trump unyieldingly. Some continued to defend him, even after Comey's firing. A few issued milquetoast statements of hesitating discomfort. But still nothing meaningful from the majority party in both houses of Congress, who are tasked with checking and balancing the executive branch.

Which is why we are facing a constitutional crisis. The president, in firing Comey, has made a brazen power grab. This attempt to consolidate power, to assert that he is above the law, puts the nation on a perilous precipice.

He is now in the position to hire a loyalist who will quash the investigations into his possible collusion with a foreign state, in addition to any investigations into his myriad other unethical and/or illegal activities.

And the very fact that Trump is making this outrageous move is compelling evidence that there is indeed something that needs to be investigated. As Josh Marshall noted: "Sometimes you have to step back from your assumptions and simply look at what the available evidence is telling you. It's speaking clearly: The only reasonable explanation is that the President has something immense to hide and needs someone in charge of the FBI who he believes is loyal. Like Jeff Sessions. Like Rod Rosenstein. This is a very dark and perilous moment."

Yes, yes it is.

To be blunt: It is a moment in which an authoritarian president's party decides to continue to be fucking cowards and abet a coup by prioritizing party over country, or in which patriots in every part of the federal government step up and do what's necessary to protect the nation and its democratic systems and principles.

If no patriots in the Republican Party emerge, we are in real trouble—because, although this ruthless power grab by a president may be unprecedented here, it is not unprecedented full-stop. This is a textbook authoritarian takeover, and we resist seeing the grim scope of what it happening before our eyes only because of a naive belief in American exceptionalism.

Today, call your Senators and representative and tell them that you want and expect them to call for an independent special prosecutor to investigate Russia. (Script, if needed.)

This is a Constitutional crisis. We must take it seriously, we must take action, and we must resist with everything we've got.

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