Donald Trump spent much of his election campaign propagating conspiracy theories. Now he’s right in the middle of one. A big one.
Hot off the press, ink still wet, is a theory that Trump fired FBI director James Comey because Comey was on the verge of unveiling a deep well of secrets about how America’s 45th president came to power.
Since the firing only happened on May 9th — literally days ago — new information is materialising every hour. Meanwhile the outlook’s growing bleaker and bleaker for Trump, whose first few months in office have already been saddled with controversies and court battles.
The theory goes like this. Russia illegally interfered with the 2016 election to secure Trump’s win, and Comey was fired because he was stepping up the FBI’s investigation into said interference. The Trump administration was afraid of what Comey might find, and took swift and decisive action to stop him.
To be fair, the part about Russia interfering with the election is a matter of fact, not theory. What remains a theory is the true extent of it, and how far the Trump administration was involved. What the US intelligence agencies have concluded so far is that the Russian government used disinformation, leaks and data thefts to advantage Trump over Hillary Clinton in the election. They’ve also concluded that it was part of a campaign personally ordered by Vladimir Putin. (Russia, of course, has denied everything.)
What’s also known is that British intelligence found evidence of suspicious “interactions” between Russian agents and Trump’s inner circle in late 2015, with more evidence of Trump-Russia links discovered by other European agencies in 2016. This led the FBI to launch an investigation.
Trump fired Comey on May 9th. He stated in the dismissal letter that his decision was based on the recommendations of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
But a couple of days later, Trump contradicted himself. He said in an interview that he’d intended all along to fire Comey, regardless of recommendations, and that it was because Comey was focussing too heavily on the “made-up story” of Trump-Russian collusion. The White House even confirmed this. They said that they believed firing Comey was a step towards letting the Russian probe “come to its conclusion with integrity” (after initially stating that Comey’s firing was nothing to do with Russia).
The White House statement is also interesting since the new acting FBI director, Andrew McCabe, called the Russian probe a “highly significant investigation” that will be pursued “vigorously and completely” in spite of Comey’s dismissal. It would seem that it’s far from the conclusion the White House was hoping for.
And it’s now come to light that the Department of Justice was told by Trump to come up with reasons for firing Comey. This led Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to suggest Comey’s role in the investigation of the Hillary Clinton email scandal as a possible justification for removing him.
The fact that Trump changed his story about why he fired Comey is suspicious, but the fact that he told the Department of Justice to build a case against him is disturbing. It suggests that Trump was desperate to get rid of him by any means necessary.
Comey was in the process of expanding the Russian probe
Shortly before his firing, Comey intensified his involvement with the investigation into Trump and Russia, receiving daily rather than weekly briefings on its progress, and requesting money and resources to expand it. Multiple FBI insiders have said they believe this to be the real reason Trump fired him. Many people are now accusing the president of obstruction of justice and are delving deeper into the reasons why Trump wanted the investigation curtailed.
Senator Mark Warner said:
“The timing of director Comey’s dismissal to me and many committee members on both sides of the aisle is especially troubling. For many people, including myself, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the president’s decision to remove director Comey was related to this investigation. And that is unacceptable.”
The question is — what was Trump so afraid of coming out?
The Comey memos and Michael Flynn
Comey recorded his interactions with the president in multiple memos. In one of those memos, Trump attempted to persuade Comey to put an end to the investigation into Michael Flynn, who’d resigned as national security adviser the previous day. According to the memo, Trump stated:
“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.”
Why is Michael Flynn being investigated? Improper financial ties with foreign governments, including — you guessed it — Russia. The reason he resigned was because he misled the Vice President and others about the nature and content of his phone calls with… the Russian Ambassador. And, if all that wasn’t enough, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned the Trump administration in late January that Flynn had lied about his contacts with Russia. She also said he was vulnerable to being blackmailed by Russian intelligence.
This man’s links with Russia are pretty clear, and the fact that Trump wanted Comey to stop investigating him is extremely damning for the president.
Another very enlightening fact that is that Michael Flynn offered to testify before the Senate about Trump and Russia, and asked for immunity from criminal prosecution in exchange. The Senate denied his request.
That means two things. Flynn is probably guilty of some very dirty dealings with Russia, and, most importantly, has some scandalous stories to tell about Russia, Trump and the election.
What could they be?
It’s looking ever more likely that Trump and Putin really are in cahoots, and that Russia fixed the election to manoeuvre Trump into the White House, with a lot of dodgy money exchanging hands along the way.
The idea that Russia could tamper with American democracy in this way, and that the so-called leader of the free world could be complicit, is a concern for all of us. But to be honest, so is the idea that millions of Americans could be so stupid as to elect a racist, sexist cartoon character as their president. I’m not sure which truth I’d prefer.
Next week: Elizabeth I and the secret snake