When Donald Trump went off on his Twitter tirade yesterday morning, accusing (with absolutely no evidence) President Obama of illegally wiretapping him, Trump was pointing a finger at someone else as well: FBI Director James Comey.
After all, who do you think would be doing the illegal wiretapping anyway? The FBI.
This means that Trump has doubled down on his federal agency enemy’s list. Trump previously accused the CIA twice of being like the Nazis, and also accused the NSA and the FBI of being un-American. So now the FBI also engages in illegal espionage.
This also means that Trump has put the FBI, and its director James Comey, in a tough spot. If Comey doesn’t speak out and correct the record, he is letting Trump call him and his agents criminals. But if Comey does speak out, he’s calling Trump, his boss, a liar.
And in fact, the NYT is reporting that just this dynamic is now taking place. Comey reportedly has asked the Department of Justice, the FBI’s parent agency, to issue a statement correcting Trump’s erroneous claims about Obama having him bugged. DOJ has not responded to Comey’s request.
The NYT puts all of this in context:
A statement by the Justice Department or Mr. Comey refuting Mr. Trump’s allegations would be a remarkable rebuke of a sitting president, putting the nation’s top law enforcement officials in the position of questioning the truthfulness of the government’s top leader. The situation underscores the high stakes of what the president and his aides have set out by accusing the former president of a conspiracy to undermine Mr. Trump’s young administration.
And in fact, the rebuke has already been made, via Comey’s request, and that request having leaked publicly. We now know that the head of the FBI has called Trump a liar. That’s already a big deal, whether or not DOJ finally admits it publicly.
And you’d better bet that Trump is adamantly opposed to the DOJ saying any such thing. Trump was reportedly livid that Jeff Sessions recused himself from any investigations involving Russia and the campaign. Trump wanted Sessions to fight. So it’s doubtful Trump would be willing to have the head of his FBI publicly call him a liar.
But if DOJ and/or Comey don’t go public, then Comey is letting Trump brand Comey and his agents criminals. Is Comey really willing to let that stand? Are his agents?
This is already turning out to be an interesting week. And it’s only Sunday.
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