Ron Radosh

Time for Conservatives and Republicans to Stand Up to Trump

President Donald Trump leaves the East Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, May 12, 2017, after speaking to military mothers during a Mother's Day celebration. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

It must be more than difficult to work in the Trump White House. For two days, the president’s spokespeople — including Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Sean Spicer, and even Vice President Mike Pence — have told the media that Donald Trump fired James Comey after reading the letter penned by Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who had only been in office for two weeks.

Rosenstein himself, as the Wall Street Journal reported, then went to White House counsel Don McGahn to ask for a correction to what he thought was “an inaccurate White House depiction of the events surrounding FBI Director James Comey’s firing.” Intimating that he might possibly resign his office, Rosenstein explained that he could not work in an environment where facts were not accurately reported.

We know that Rosenstein wrote the memo after being asked to do so by the president; Trump subsequently used the memo to justify his decision to fire Comey. Rosenstein’s letter is a carefully constructed and convincing accounting of Comey’s many errors of judgment that violated longstanding rules about what the FBI could say about ongoing investigations. But Rosenstein did not recommend that Comey be fired, noting that although Trump had the power to do so, “the decision should not be taken lightly.”

Finally, in his interview on NBC News with anchor Lester Holt, Trump contradicted his entire team’s talking points of the previous two days, and told Holt that Comey was a “showboat” and a “grandstander,” that he “was going to fire him” anyway, and that he had made his decision before reading the Rosenstein letter.

Next, Trump said that “this thing with Russia is a made-up story,” almost an explicit admission that Comey was fired because Trump wanted an end to the FBI’s investigation of Russia’s interference in the U. S. election, as well as any possible ties between members of Trump’s campaign team and Russia. He added that “it should have been over with a long time ago.” Finally, Trump reiterated:

Regardless of the recommendation, I was going to fire Comey. … When I decided to do it, this Russia thing, with Trump and Russia is an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election they should have won.

We all remember Trump saying, during the campaign, that he “loves WikiLeaks” and asking the Russians to release all Hillary’s emails, if they in fact had them. Moreover, this past January, Trump asked Comey to stay on as FBI director, and publicly praised him on multiple occasions. Indeed, during the campaign, Trump praised Comey for his announcement about Hillary’s emails that darkened her chances for winning the election, and Trump said that Comey “showed guts” for having made his statement. Now, one of the reasons put forth as to why Comey should have been fired is his handling of the issues surrounding Hillary’s emails.

All one has to do is put two and two together. Trump fired Comey right after it became known that Comey asked Justice for an increase in money and personnel for the FBI investigation into Russia’s interference with the election. It was widely reported how furious and enraged Trump was that he could not control the narrative emerging about Russia. With Comey gone, many observers feel that new appointees to the FBI and Justice might work to nip the investigation in the bud, and essentially put an end to it.

Fortunately, some Republicans have put country ahead of party and stood up to Trump. As Margaret Carlson writes in The Daily Beast, Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, a major supporter of Trump during the campaign, said he was “troubled by the timing and reasoning of Comey’s termination.” He lamented the “loss” of a “public servant of the highest order” and “considered Comey one of the most “ethical, upright, straightforward individuals I’ve had the opportunity to work with.”

Joining Burr in breaking ranks with McConnell are Sen. John McCain, who said he was “disappointed” at Comey’s firing, Sen. Ben Sasse, who noted that he found the timing of the firing “very troubling,” and Sen. Jeff Flake, who said “I’ve spent the last several hours trying to find an acceptable rationale for the timing of Comey’s firing. I just can’t do it.” The question is how many other Republicans in the House and Senate will be brave enough to join them, break with the administration, and openly criticize Comey’s firing.

As many have observed, Trump continues to be his own worst enemy. To rectify the situation and move on to the rest of his agenda, he will have to appoint someone beyond reproach to fill the FBI director’s position. Two Republican conservative Senators, Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, have come up with a candidate: Merrick Garland. Such a step would give Democrats and Republicans confidence that someone truly independent is being appointed, and not someone who will kowtow to Trump’s bidding.

As for those who are furious when conservatives think for themselves, one should read David French in National Review:

[T]his is vitally important — the evidence is accumulating that Trump fired James Comey in the middle of an accelerating investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and then lied to the American people about the reason. No amount of Democratic hysteria can make that right. There is no amount of leftist hypocrisy that makes that acceptable.

French ends with this admonition:

It’s time to stop enabling Trump and start seeking the truth — even if the truth hurts.

I share this sentiment, and hope that many other conservatives will join me and do what’s right and necessary.