May 19, 2017

JOHN STEELE GORDON: A Slow-Motion Coup d’état?

Let me see if I have this straight.

After a conversation in the Oval office with President Trump, James Comey, then the Director of the FBI, remembered a memo to himself in which he recorded Trump saying regarding the investigation of his former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, “I hope you can let this go.” Or at least, as someone who supposedly had read the memo and then supposedly read an accurate quote from it over the phone to a reporter at the New York Times.

First, of course, Trump should have—as usual—shut up. I’d recommend that he move the White House portrait of Calvin Coolidge to the Oval Office and study it daily. (President Reagan hung it in the Cabinet Room not because he needed advice on not talking—Reagan rarely made a verbal slip—but because he admired Coolidge’s exercise of the office). Trump has much to learn from Silent Cal that would benefit himself and his presidency, not to mention the Republic.

But assuming that that’s what Trump actually said, and that that’s what Comey wrote in his memo to himself, and that that’s what was read over the phone to the Times reporter (unlikely since this is third-hand hearsay, inadmissible in any court, analogous to the child’s game of telephone) is
that so bad? Does it really differ substantially from “I hope the weather will be nice tomorrow”? To be sure, it would have been better had he said “I hope you find you’re able to let this go,” or “I hope it turns out that Flynn did nothing wrong.” But no one has ever accused President Trump of excess verbal precision.

The facts don’t really matter anyway, since it’s all about the narrative.

But look what the headlines were the next day.