This Isn’t Smoke. It’s Fire.

President Donald Trump meets Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Oval Office of the White House, Tuesday, May 16, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Evan Vucci/AP
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With the latest revelation – that President Trump straight up asked James Comey to end the Flynn investigation – this is starting to feel like a prize fight where one boxer just took three straight punches to the head. It’s hard to know how much longer this can go on. But I suspect the answer is this: a lot longer.

We talk a lot about smoke and fire. But this isn’t smoke. This is the fire. It’s not clear to me what more we need to know. The only question is whether we decide to put it out or just let it keep burning. As I said above, I bet we’re going to let it burn for quite a while longer.

President Trump fired the FBI Director – by his own account because he was upset about the investigation into his and his associates ties to Russia. We now learn he straight out asked the FBI Director to end the investigation into Michael Flynn three months ago. Last week he decided in the spur of the moment to share highly classified information with the Russian Foreign Minister.

Each of these revelations are startling, shocking, albeit at this point simply not that surprising. There are all sorts of safeguards and norms we have created to prevent or limit a President’s ability to transform the law into an instrument of his or her own personal prerogative, his or her own weapon. It is actually better to say that we have set up all sorts of metaphoric fences around such an act or transformation to prevent someone in authority from even getting close to doing something like this – there are policies, taboos, norms, all there to keep a President or other executives from getting close.

Firing an FBI Director while such an investigation like this is afoot is something like that, breaking a fence. In theory, the President has every right to fire an FBI Director. But doing so while such an investigation is underway has the look of trying to end the investigation. But in this case, asking Comey to end the probe itself doesn’t break one of the fences. It’s the thing itself. There’s no question of intent or misunderstandings. It’s the hand in the register. There’s just nothing more to know. It’s the thing itself.

The President isn’t just astonishingly crooked. He’s amazingly stupid. Unsurprisingly Comey kept a record. All by the book. All recorded. If you didn’t see it yesterday, take a look at my post on how to understand who James Comey is.

How much longer? I’m pretty sure a lot longer.

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Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.
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