Monday, May 15, 2017

OPINION - Shields and Ponnuru 5/12/2017

"Shields and Ponnuru on James Comey firing fallout" PBS NewsHour 5/12/2017


SUMMARY:  Syndicated Columnist Mark Shields and the National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week's news, including the stunning firing of FBI Director James Comey and what that means for the stability of the Trump administration and the independence of the Russia investigations, plus the political risks facing Republicans.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  And now back to the dominant story of the week, the FBI director's firing and the fallout from it, with the analysis of Shields and Ramesh Ponnuru.  That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and National Review senior editor Ramesh Ponnuru.  David Brooks is away.

And welcome, gentlemen.  Welcome to both of you.

So, Mark, any question that the president was within his authority to fire James Comey?

MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:  No.  It was within his authority, Judy.

But this wasn't amateur hour.  This was an incomprehensibly incompetent, inept amateur week, beginning and ending with the President.  Other people came out with eggs of all sorts on their faces.  Everybody associated with them is diminished, sullied, stained in some way.

But this was Donald Trump's total miscalculation.  The man who made a national reputation by saying “You're fired” didn't have the decency to call the FBI director in person, and publicly humiliated him and embarrassed him by severing him, announcing it on cable television as he was speaking to FBI colleagues in Los Angeles.

And he has thus insured that this will be, with this Russian investigation, is now a permanent part of our political landscape.  It will affect and influence and be an outline of the 2018 election, and perhaps even beyond.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Total miscalculation, Ramesh?

RAMESH PONNURU, National Review:  The administration combined two of its hallmarks, reacting to these events with disorganized dishonesty.

They began by saying that the firing was a response to the FBI director's handling of the Clinton e-mail story and the analysis of that handling by the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein.  But, by the end of the week, President Trump himself was saying it really wasn't about those things.  He had made his decision before the memo, and the decision was really motivated by the fact that Comey wasn't shutting down the Russia investigation, the investigation into the administration and the campaign's ties to Russia, and thus exploded everything that people had been saying in the administration's defense earlier in the week.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  And so, Mark, they have given several different explanations over the course of a few days.  What do you believe was behind this?

MARK SHIELDS:  Donald Trump.

Judy, think about this.  Robert Mueller was the predecessor at the FBI before James Comey.  He was there from 2001 to 2013 under President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama.  I don't know how often they had dinner or how often they met privately.

But can you imagine Robert Mueller being asked by George W. Bush or Barack Obama, not once, not twice, but three times, am I the subject of a criminal investigation by your department, by your agency?  It's unthinkable.

And this is — obviously, he wants this to go away.  He, the President, wants this whole investigation to go away.  And he has guaranteed — he has guaranteed the following.  James Comey was enormously popular among the FBI workers.  He was somebody who was thoughtful and supportive of his employees and colleagues.

And they liked him.  And he was would take one for a team.  He was willing to take criticism for the FBI, and in spite of the decision he made on Hillary Clinton and the handling of that, which a lot of people disagreed it.

He's guaranteed, Donald Trump has, that everybody associated with the FBI is going to make one more call, follow up on one more lead, and work one hour harder every day on the pursuit of this case.  It's not going to go away.  He has guaranteed that it's going to be more pursued even more arduously, intently, passionately, and professionally by the bureau.

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