• Why did Russia, an instinctively hostile power, undertake to sabotage our election?
• Why doesn’t the president of the United States seem to care? Why does he call it “fake news?”
Comey said he doesn’t remember Trump asking him about it, even once.
Assume for argument’s sake only that no one in Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia. Assume also that the president meant nothing more than to help a friend when he leaned on Comey to drop the Michael Flynn investigation and when he fired Comey for ignoring the transparently veiled command.
Even then, it might still be obstruction of justice, although that’s for Robert Mueller, the special counsel, to find out. However, the suppositions most favorable to Trump fail to excuse his gross acceptance of what Russia was and apparently still is doing. Remember, he even called on the Russians, on national television, to leak Hillary Clinton’s e-mails.
The issue is not whether the Russians contributed significantly to electing him. It is simply that they tried.
Comey’s only show of emotion, during nearly three hours of testimony, was in that context. His passionate words are worth quoting, and reading, at length:
“The reason this is such a big deal ... We have this big messy wonderful country, where we fight with each other all the time. But nobody tells us what to think, what to fight about, what to vote for except other Americans. And that’s wonderful and often painful.
“But we’re talking about a foreign government that was using technical intrusion, lots of other methods, tried to shape the way we think, we vote, we act. That is a big deal. And people need to recognize it. It’s not about Republicans or Democrats. They’re coming after America, which I hope we all love equally.
“They want to undermine our credibility in the face of the world. They think that this great experiment of ours is a threat to them. So they’re going to try to run it down and dirty it up as much as possible. That’s what this is about and they will be back. Because we remain — as difficult as we can be with each other — we remain that shining city on the hill. And they don’t like it.”
They’re coming after America ... and they will be back.
That came toward the end of his colloquy with Sen. Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat. No other state gave Trump as large a share of its votes. No other state could be as disappointed, or hurt as badly, by the inevitable failure of Trump’s promise to make coal king again or by his already shattered promise to protect Medicaid and Social Security.
But you’re not likely to find people anywhere who are more patriotic than the citizens of West Virginia — the state that was created out of loyalty to our Union during the Civil War — and what Comey replied to their senator should go straight to the heart of their patriotism. As to everyone’s.
Each president takes an oath that he will “to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” which obliges him, among other things “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”
Vladimir Putin’s hackers committed multiple offenses against our laws. So did any U.S. citizen who may have colluded with them. All 17 intelligence agencies agree that the Russian attacks occurred. The president’s dismissal of that remarkable consensus “as fake news” is a betrayal of his oath and an insult to their patriotism. So was the sacking of the FBI director who was faithful to his own oath.
Whatever Trump feared that Americans would find out, it is what he has already done — or not done — that tells his voters how greatly their faith was misplaced, how unworthy he is of it, and why we dare not trust him to protect our country from its enemies.