In an apparent attempt to quiet the latest firestorm engulfing the Trump administration, two surrogates were deployed to television last night to defend President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. There were two outstanding questions about the Trump firing: first, why would Trump fire Comey at all, given that Comey’s main misconduct, according to members of Trump’s administration who wrote letters supporting the firing, took place last year? Second, why would Trump fire Comey now, as opposed to months ago, when he was entering office?
Unfortunately, the Trump administration’s surrogates decided to kiss up to the boss rather than doing him a favor by offering plausible explanations.
First, there was Sarah Huckabee Sanders. She explained to Fox News’ Tucker Carlson that Comey’s firing wouldn’t affect the Trump-Russia investigation “in any capacity whatsoever, you’ve still got the same people that would be carrying out that, whether it’s through the Department of Justice, that process continues both — I believe — in the House and Senate committees. I don’t see any change or disruption there. I think the bigger point on that is, ‘My gosh, Tucker, when are they gonna let that go?’ It’s been going on for nearly a year. Frankly, it’s kind of getting absurd. There’s nothing there… it’s time to move on.”
The night you fire the FBI director overseeing the Trump-Russia investigation is not the time to say that the investigation ought to die — especially not when half the population thinks you fired the FBI director in order to kill that investigation. So much for a plausible explanation on why Comey was fired.
Then missing-in-action surrogate Kellyanne Conway made her grand reappearance to answer questions on Trump’s timing. Appearing on CNN, Conway explained, “You want to question the timing of when he hires, when he fires. It’s inappropriate. He’ll do it when he wants to.”
This is asinine.
Of course it’s appropriate to question the timing of hirings and firings. Did Richard Nixon fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox rightly or wrongly? The question hinges on timing. How about President Obama’s conduct surrounding Benghazi? The entire question hinges on timing. How can a surrogate claim that timing is beyond question when it comes to presidential action?
None of this does Trump any favors.
But kissing up to the boss in Trumpland means brazening it out: speaking aggressively about Trump’s power and will, blaming the media for even asking questions. Trump likes that sort of thing, which is why Sarah Huckabee Sanders will be taking over for Sean Spicer at the podium of the White House press room for the next couple of days.
Here’s the bottom line: the White House has handled this entire episode with incredible levels of incompetence. Either they’re so incompetent that they’re playing an innocent firing as though there’s a cover-up in progress, or they’re so incompetent that they’re playing a cover-up as though there’s a cover-up in process.