The GOP Response to Comey’s Firing Ignores the Context and Completely Misses the Point

It’s been two days since Donald Trump fired the man tasked with investigating him, James Comey. After struggling to find their footing for the initial 24 hours or so, the GOP response is starting to coalesce. Paul Ryan summed it up during his interview with Fox News last night.

“I think he had just basically lost the confidence of a lot of Republicans and a lot of Democrats based upon his conduct, his actions and some of the comments that he had made, and most importantly, he lost the confidence of the President. … I do think that Director Comey was compromised.

Or, putting it in terms of the fourth-grade reading level at which Donald Trump thinks and speaks, “He was not doing a good job.”

Let’s call this the “bad job” narrative. Comey was not good at his job; therefore he had lost confidence of the American people; therefore he should be fired.

Republicans love this narrative, because they can pepper it with all kinds of anti-Comey statements Democrats have made in the past. Check out Mitch McConnell’s smooth use of this tactic here:

Our Democratic colleagues are complaining about the removal of an FBI director whom they themselves repeatedly and sharply criticized.

Trump pulled from the same play book this morning when he tweeted this video of Democrats criticizing Comey for his handling of the e-mail scandal:

 

 

Democrats, for their part, have unfortunately bought into this narrative by pointing out Trump’s own inconsistencies on Comey’s job performance. Check out this mixtape of all the times Trump talked about how much he just loved James Comey in the latter days of the 2016 campaign:

 

 

This is how the “bad job” narrative plays out. Democrats ask why Comey was fired, Republicans respond that he sucked, Democrats respond “well you liked him last week,” and Republicans respond “well you hated him last week” and round and round we go.

Notice the big question that is missing from this discussion: why now? And in the context of the Russia investigation, that is the only question that matters.

Applying the “why now” narrative instead of the “bad job” narrative, we immediately begin to see just how suspicious this is.

Here’s what was happening in the days before Comey was fired:

  • Comey was ramping up the Russia investigation, requesting daily reports on its progress after he saw evidence suggesting collusion with the Trump campaign;
  • Comey asked Congress for more resources to pursue the investigation;
  • Trump had become increasingly enraged that the Russia story kept haranguing his Presidency and was screaming at the TV whenever it came up.
  • Trump asked Jeff Sessions and his Deputy AG to write a letter laying out the case against Comey. Sessions, of course, had recused himself from the Russia investigation after he lied about having met with the Russian ambassador during the 2016 campaign.

And yet we’re supposed to believe that the Russia investigation had absolutely nothing to do with this.

These are the issues that need to be examined, and all of them depend on looking not at Comey’s job performance, but the context of the decision to fire him. Pointing to things Democrats said in 2016, before anyone knew about the Russia scandal, completely misses this context.

It’s like if we allowed the New England Patriots to fire a referee during the last play of the Superbowl, just as he was reviewing a call against them. If the Patriots’ responded, “Well he’s always been a bad referee, hasn’t he?” Would we consider that anything other than self-serving bullshit?

Yet that’s exactly how Trump and his cronies want us to view this issue. Making this a referendum on Comey’s job performance is a dodge. The timing matters. It might be all that matters. Yet it is completely absent from the mainline Republican analysis of this issue.

Don’t let them get away with it. Context matters.

 

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