GELFAND’S WORLD-Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday. There was an attempt to blame the timing on a newly installed Assistant Attorney General. That story broke down. There was an attempt to explain the reasoning for the firing on the way the Hillary Clinton email investigation was covered. People laughed.
How to start?
George Smiley relit his pipe and ruminated . . . How had his arch-nemesis Karla gotten his hooks into the American president, and how much critical information would be passed to the descendents of his old enemies in the KGB?
Maybe not. Still, it's almost believable.
Jack Ryan lifted a vodka and nodded at Marko Ramius. Ramius broke the silence -- "I've something to tell you that had to wait until now, when we both are safe on American soil. Before I took my sub on her last voyage, I heard rumors of a breach in your security that goes all the way to the top."
If only we had the facts in book form.
But when you apply logic to the situation, the most obvious conclusion is that this president has something big to hide. And going down that path, the most reasonable conclusion is that Donald Trump had a long-time, ongoing relationship with the Russians that either resulted in a secret deal or in blackmail.
By Wednesday, numerous commentators, pundits, and the Late Show's Steven Colbert had carefully nailed the firing and the president himself to the scandal over Russian election influence. Heather Digby Parsons (now writing for Salon.com among others, but famous as a blogger early on as "Digby") summarized. "It's a frantic effort to sidetrack us -- and it won't work."
The Republicans, who are so dedicated to electoral purity that they question the legality of hundreds of thousands of voters who are a little too old and a little too poor to have a drivers license -- well, they are now so very OK with Russian interference in a presidential election that they are willing to join the coverup. They are willing to excuse the president's firing of the man who was overseeing the investigation. Not all, but quite a lot right now.
Without stealing from John Le Carre or The Manchurian Candidate, let's consider as a working hypothesis that the treason is at the top, and has been there for at least the better part of a year: The best explanation for the known data is that Trump was compromised by the Russians, perhaps years ago, and cut a secret deal with them sometime between the day he announced his presidential run and the convention. Considering Trump's personality quirks, we should assume that Trump's secret is financial.
The evidence, if not overwhelming as of now, is at least getting stronger:
1) The appointment of people to the Trump campaign who were close to the Russian war machine and Putin (Manafort for example).
2) Trump's questioning of Nato's existence. Remember that this is the same guy who spoke from the fantail of the battleship Iowa, pledging a defense that is so great that nobody would dare challenge us.
3) Trump's manipulation of the Republican Platform at the convention.
4) The series of secret communications between Trump operatives and representatives of the Russian government in the period before the inauguration.
5) Trump acts out the tough guy image except when it comes to Putin, where Trump reverses a century of American policy. He blusters about North Korea and the Chinese, while mewing that it would be nice to have a friendly relationship with Russia.
6) The timing of the firing of James Comey: This is the man who handed the presidency to Trump through his Hillary Clinton letter. But Comey asked the Department of Justice for additional funding to continue the investigation of the Russian connection a few days ago, and within a few dozen hours he is gone.
7) Donald Trump's mention in the firing letter that he (Trump) is not under investigation. It seems like a strange topic to include in a notice of termination, but Trump tends to project his actual motives. The investigation into his Russian ties was driving him crazy, so he had to try to undercut it. He would have been better served separating the lies about Russian influence from the termination notice, but that is not how Trump's mind works.
Admittedly, this is a working hypothesis, but it arises out of multiple independent lines of evidence. There is the family history of financial ties to the Russian oligarchy, the odd events at the Republican National Convention, the staff interactions with a Russian intelligence operative, and the sudden firing of the one man most likely to put a lance into the pustulent boil of Russian interference in western elections.
Television news anchors have been attaching the word Watergate to Comey's firing due to its eerie similarity to the firing of special prosecutor Archibald Cox by president Richard Nixon. It's been amusing in a depressing kind of way to watch White House spokesmen try to deal with the stress. Sean Spicer agreed to speak to the press as long as they turned the cameras off. Kelly Anne Conway pretended that there was nothing particularly interesting about the firing.
There is one group that is having a hard time these past few hours -- Republicans in congress coming up for reelection. They already were forced to deal with angry constituents who want to keep their Medicaid and their coverage for preexisting conditions. Now, all of a sudden, congressmen have to deal with a situation that begins to look more and more like that T word, treason.
Perhaps the most amusing gaffe was committed by a congressman who pointed out that things aren't as bad as they were in Germany in the 1930s. Now that's grasping at straws.
(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)