Opinion: The questions that will determine President Trump’s fate

Al Drago / The New York Times

The protective layers around President Trump are wearing thin. The New York Times cites two unnamed sources who claim James Comey wrote a memo describing Trump’s request to drop an investigation into Michael Flynn, the retired general and one-time national security adviser. In light of Trump’s firing of Comey as FBI director last week, and other reports that Trump had demanded “loyalty” from Comey earlier in his presidency, it is getting easier to see how the dots might be connected to show Trump inappropriately tried to quash a criminal probe into one of his associates.

Combined with another recent report by the Washington Post — alleging Trump may have endangered our intelligence arrangements with another country by sharing information that country had gathered with Russian officials during their Oval Office visit last week (the Times has since reported that country was Israel) — Republicans in Congress appear increasingly leery of defending the president and his actions. What’s more, they also seem to concede these revelations have done severe damage to Trump’s, and hence their, ability to pursue a legislative agenda, from health care to taxes. Altogether the past 10 days may have altered the Trump presidency irreparably.

With news coming at such a fast clip, it’s hardly worth speculating one way or the other as to how this may unfold. Instead, here are some key questions that need to be answered:

  1. What exactly does the Comey memo say? The Times’ story acknowledges the newspaper “has not viewed a copy of the memo, which is unclassified, but one of Mr. Comey’s associates read parts of it to a Times reporter.” I can imagine a couple of my journalism professors recoiling at a news outlet publishing such a consequential story without having seen the actual document in question, but this is where we are. That means it is vitally important that the entire document be made public as soon as possible.The Times reports that Comey recorded Trump’s comments as “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” The context of these remarks is crucial. Did Trump say this simply to express his opinion? Did Comey take it as a threat? An order? As a condition of anything else happening? Did Trump link it in any way to himself? Was this also one of the three occasions Trump claims Comey said he was not under investigation? Was this one of the times, also according to unnamed associates of Comey, that Trump asked for his loyalty?

    Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chair of the House oversight committee, has asked the FBI for all “memoranda, notes, summaries and recordings referring or relating to any communications between Comey and the President.” He set the deadline as May 24. But I’m not sure Americans can wait another week for this particular memo.

  2. Will Comey testify before Congress? House Republicans, including Georgia’s Barry Loudermilk, are calling on him to do so. Comey has so far declined such invitations, and instead appears content to let his allies push his story anonymously through the media, but he is rapidly losing that luxury. He is at the center of the most significant executive-branch crisis in decades.He needs to come before Congress and explain himself on the record, sparing no detail.
  3. Is there any way to substantiate what Comey wrote or might say in testimony? The poisonous nature and tribalism of our politics means a substantial number of Americans will side with “their guy,” Trump, no matter what Comey might say. That may or may not affect how Congress decides to proceed, but it will certainly shape the public reaction — and whether Congress’ actions are deemed legitimate. That may not matter to those who view Trump with utter contempt … until a crisis of confidence in the president mutates into a crisis of confidence in our constitutional system itself.Trump has mused on Twitter about the possibility there are recordings of his conversations with Comey. If there are, those need to come out as well. (And there better not be any gaps.) According to the Times, no one else was present during the meeting in question.
  4. Will Trump administration officials continue to defend the president? Flynn’s replacement, H.R. McMaster, gave a clear if nuanced defense of Trump’s handling of classified information in his meeting with the Russians. He said the “premise” of the Post’s story — which he did not specify, but presumably he meant the notion that Trump’s disclosure of that information could damage our relationship with a crucial ally in the Middle East — was false. Many observers (at least in my Twitter feed at the time) thought McMaster’s parsing was just a roundabout way of confirming the story’s details. But the premise matters: We do not get such detailed reports of every meeting between a president and representatives of a foreign government, but it’s extremely unlikely this was the first time a president shared any kind of classified information in such a meeting. The premise of the story is that this particular sharing was inappropriate because the foreign government in question was Russia’s (with the attendant concerns both of Russia not really being our ally, and the existing controversy over Trump’s ties to Moscow); because the information in question was of a very high classification level; but most of all, because it could compromise our future ability to obtain important intelligence from our allies. If McMaster is right that the last part is incorrect, that’s an important distinction. (Though it must be said that other reporting suggests that Israel is not happy about Trump’s disclosure, which contradicts McMaster.)The question going forward is whether McMaster or other key administration figures will continue to offer such defenses. If the people in the room for these conversations and decisions view them as starkly different from what news outlets are reporting, particularly based on anonymous sources, voicing their views may reshape the narrative about the president. But if they cannot in good conscience counter reports Trump is behaving inappropriately, or even if they simply give up hope their defenses will make a difference, that will undermine the administration greatly.

There are others, but these are plenty for now. As I wrote the other day, any given story line during the Trump era is subject to substantial change within 24 hours. If these questions are answered in Trump’s favor, he just might weather this storm. If not, well …

Reader Comments 0

320 comments
TanyaJCooper
TanyaJCooper



my Aunty Audrey recently got an almost new yellow BMW 5 Series Hybrid by working part-time online... visit............. www.smart-job5.com

PDPDP8
PDPDP8

Kyles article is a fair opinion with the exception that one never knows but based on Tweets and interviews from Trump, he is almost always lying.

Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

It appears that many posters here believe that the point of the Watergate investigation was (should have been) to discover who Deep Throat was!

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

We do know that Trump, will either be found guilty of something or he'll be exonerated. What we don't know is when. We also know that the Democrats and the media will do everything possible to prolong this as long as they can. JReb is right the Obama appointees must go because if allowed to remain they'll aid and abet prolonging this issue by finding more issues regardless of validity to feed the media. Mueller, is a good man and needs to stay strong and focused on the job that needs to get done. This has to be done soon, so the government can hopefully, get back to the peoples business.

Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

@SGTGrit 

"...Obama appointees must go because if allowed to remain they'll aid and abet prolonging this issue by finding more issues regardless of validity to feed the media." 

Sounds more like hate than logic.  Just sayin'.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

I didn't vote for Pence. I didn't vote for mccain. Note for "republicans," better think long and hard before you deny me and a majority of Americans our vote and our choice of leaders.


Just sayin....

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

You can read it in posts here and at Bookman's.

Dems are carrying a tremendous amount of animosity toward Trump that goes back to the birther issue.

Throw in illegal immigration, social issues, mix with social media and Trump is facing unprecedented opposition that did not diminish with the election but instead grew.

Repubs/Cons need to wake up and realize we are still in the fight for our political lives.

Get tough, demand your Representatives and Senators get tough, and take the steps to secure the November victory.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

No one knows where the investigations will end, but for sure there is one lesson already learned.

Get them out, get them out now!

Them being all Obama appointees.

Trump had the right idea - drain the swamp.

But he should have started at the agencies where he has control.

Fire them.

If they are civil servants, reassign them.

Get them out.

Operate short handed if need be.

If Congressional approval is needed for the new guy, put someone in temporarily until approval is gained.

Show no mercy. 

PDPDP8
PDPDP8

"Operate short handed".....Rubio already confirmed that.

Realistically Trump can do nothing since he is the reason for the criminal investigation....

C_Casselberry
C_Casselberry

@JohnnyReb Trump the PUNK will need mercy. He's screwed the pooch enough that nothing will save him.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

It's so nice to wake up and remember that Hillary is nowhere near Our White House.

Resist Trump
Resist Trump

Ain't it? I mean, Don has kept all his promises, is a model of honesty, integrity and competence, is doing a bang up job, is widely beloved and respected, and isn't a traitor. I gotta say, Lil Bar, if you're a conservative, the future's so bright, ya gotta wear shades. Amirite?

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

Taxes aren't being raised, the First Amendment isn't being rewritten, the Second Amendment isn't being trashed, net neutrality is being undone, and Neil Gorsuch is on SCOTUS.

It could be so much worse.

C_Casselberry
C_Casselberry

@Lil_Barry_Bailout Trump the PUNK is trying to rewrite the 1st amendment. And eliminating Obamacare IS a tax cut for the wealthy. But you did successfully prostitute the values of the USA for a SCOTUS seat. Aren't you proud? What a great accomplishment eh comrade?

MabelW.Cobbs
MabelW.Cobbs


my friend's sister makes $87 hourly on the computer . She has been out of a job for 8 months but last month her payment was $14893 just working on the computer for a few hours. see here.............  www.smart-job5.com

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, former FBI Director, earned his law degree from the University of Virginia which was founded by the author of the American Declaration of Independence from Great Britain, Thomas Jefferson, the founder of the Democratic-Republican Party which later became the Democratic Party. Robert Mueller may well save our precious democratic republic from itself.

lultulem
lultulem

my neighbor's sister makes 64 an hour on the internet, she has been out of work for eleven months and last month her check was 18733 only working from home four hours per day... check out this link

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breckenridge
breckenridge

More breaking news late this evening: Michael Flynn told the Trump transition team he was  under FBI investigation several weeks before Trump took office.  Yet he was still given the job as national security adviser.


We almost made it through another day without a Trump bombshell.  But not quite.

stogiefogey
stogiefogey

"Is there any way to substantiate what Comey wrote or might say in testimony?"

He's already shown himself to be a partisan political operative by his handling of the HRC email affair, so any accusations he might make against the President (who is also the person who fired him) should be taken with a glacier-size grain of salt.

The media of course will treat every word he utters as gospel. 

Finn-McCool
Finn-McCool

Cons been going after Clinton for 25 years now and Obama for 8 years and what do they have to show for it? Nada, zilch. Big nothing burger.

Trump's 120 days (if that much) in and we about to light the fuse on this rocket.

Mwuahahahahaha

Cons gettin' schooled once again....

breckenridge
breckenridge

Trump's legislative agenda is the immediate casualty of the special counsel being appointed to check out the Russia thing.  Congressional republicans aren't going to go to bat for him.  Nor should they.

Finn-McCool
Finn-McCool

Got the senate, got the house, got the presidency. They can't get a damn thing accomplished.

The standard republican strategy: blame democrats

Hehehehehe

breckenridge
breckenridge

Dems get the special prosecutor they wanted. Here's to a lot of regret later for them.

But Congressional republicans are breathing a sigh of relief.  They no longer have to try and provide cover for Trump.

TinaBSantiago
TinaBSantiago

 ust as Lori implied I'm in shock that a stay at home mom can earn $8303 in one month on the 

internet . check this link right here now

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Starik
Starik

I don't give a damn about Hillary. She's old news. I worry about Trump.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

@Starik hillary is the only one of the two that has any evidence of wrongdoing against them, so it's good you are over her and won't mind her being behind iron bars.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

What no posts from our libprogs friends on the far-left. I guess they're scrambling to read how they should respond from all their favorite hard-left internet sites like media matters. Free thinkers, not.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

These far-left  raised little kids are really a hoot. News blast you're gone like bird doo doo on the drive way.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

Yes indeed this investigation may get into the Clinton/Obama knickers. LibProgs, you may rue what you wanted to happen.

breckenridge
breckenridge

@SGTGrit 

Once again, your post is off topic.  Please try and stick with the subject at hand - the disaster that has been the Trump presidency thus far.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

The National Republican Congressional Committee raised more than $10 million in April, marking the fourth month in a row that the group raised that much money — its longest streak in history. 


Welcome back to reality, lol.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

Probably, a good development. Mueller, is a no nonsense law enforcement officer, former Marine Corps officer. The pick is good and more importantly lets get this done one way or the other regardless of where the chips fall and get it done soon. The left wants to drag this out for political purpose but Mueller, hopefully, will understand it must get done quickly for the good of the country. We shall see.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

I hinted at it below, but let it be made clear.

A special prosecutor who looks into Russian influence of the election opens up again Hillary Clinton's email problems.

Comey and congress gave her a huge get out of jail free card, not so with a special prosecutor.

There remains no evidence against Trump, but loads of it against Hillary.

She is more likely to be prosecuted than Trump is impeached. 


AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

Trump will have a Senate majority in 2018 and will be re elected in 2020. The only date I'm not 100% sure of at this point is when will the last monkey liberals head explode off of their shoulders?


I guess we will just have to wait on that one.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

Dems get the special prosecutor they wanted.

Here's to a lot of regret later for them.

They think it will take down Trump.

Instead they should be more worried about their own dirty laundry. 

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

 “April 10, 2016 — President Obama said Sunday that Hillary Clinton showed ‘carelessness’ by using a private email server, but he also strongly defended his former secretary of state, saying she did not endanger national security…”


hmmmmmm, interfering in an active investigation, but it was met with chirp, chirp, chirp from the establishment monkeys. 

gemmy19
gemmy19

Nothing you say will save the orange orangutan....nothing. Put him in jail!

breckenridge
breckenridge

@AndyManUSA#45 

Andy has 2 strategies he uses to try and brush away negative Trump news:

1. Blame Clinton

2. Blame Obama

He selected option #1 this time around.