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Bill Straub: Trump’s handling of Comey, Russian investigation no joke — it’s a developing tragedy

WASHINGTON – Rep. James Comer, quickly earning his lackey credentials as he soars toward the top of the Republican’s party-before-country charts, has a rather provocative theory about President Trump asking now former FBI Director James Comey to lay off the Russia investigation – The Donald was displaying his inner Henny Youngman.

It’s possible, according to the Tompkinsville Republican, that Trump was simply joshing when he asked the nation’s top law enforcement official to sweep the federal probe enveloping his already troubled administration under the rug.

“I’ve spent time with the president and he jokes around a lot,” Comer told ABC News. “This is a guy that doesn’t measure everything that he says like most politicians. This is the kind of leader Americans voted for.”

Oh, yeah, he’s a laugh riot, that president of ours, although probably not in the way Comer suggests. But when you think about it, there’s been any number of presidents over the years riffing hilarious stuff about the FBI scrutinizing their White House, like the time that wild and crazy guy Dick Nixon told his aides to “stonewall it, let them plead the Fifth Amendment’’ during the Watergate investigation.

Comedy gold, I tells ya. Comedy gold.

It should be noted that there exists a rather curious assortment of ties, both direct and indirect, between the Trump campaign/White House and the Kremlin. For one thing, U.S. intelligence has determined, Moscow rather brazenly injected itself into the 2016 presidential election, favoring Trump over his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Subsequently, Trump decided to appoint Michael Flynn as his national security advisor. It’s fair to say that Flynn’s relationship with the Kremlin was viewed by the Justice Department of Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, as a little too close for comfort. Trump was warned – Acting Attorney General Sally Yates met with White House Counsel Don McGahn on two occasions to tell him Flynn was “compromised” and possibly open to blackmail by the Kremlin.

But the appointment was made and Flynn eventually was ousted – 18 days after the White House was told he was a hot potato – and only, ostensibly, because he lied to Vice President Mike Pence about a pre-inauguration communication with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak.

The day after Flynn resigned, Comey met with Trump, Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the White House. At one juncture, Trump asked Pence and Session to vacate. It was then, according to notes written by Comey directly after the confab, where the president of the United States pressured the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to go easy on Flynn and the campaign’s relationship with Russia.

According to those notes, Trump told Comey, “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.”

Regardless, the probe proceeded and last week Trump fired Comey, citing the Russian investigation as the reason.

And leave us not forget that Trump met with Kislyak – there’s that man again — and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the Oval Office on May 10, at which time the president revealed highly classified information that had been provided to the White House by the Israeli Massad, creating a hubbub of epic proportions until details about the Trump-Comey tet-a-tet were unleashed.

So, as can be easily discerned, there’s a veritable mother lode of side-splitting material to be mined by the president from the Moscow contretemps. If the title hadn’t already been taken you could call it “To Russia With Love.’’

But there’s a bothersome detail – if President Trump was poised to unleash his gut-busting stand-up routine as fantasized by Comer, why did he ask Pence and Trump to leave the premises? Was he afraid they wouldn’t get the joke? Or did he figure the fewer officials witnessing an effort to obstruct justice the better?

This ain’t funny anymore. As has often been said, enough is too much. Back in the days it was almost amusing to watch President Trump rail against those who said attendance at his inauguration was down, spit out senseless tweets about Arnold Schwarzenegger and about what a great job he was doing as president even though it was obvious he was like a babe lost in the woods.

So, sadly, Comer’s sycophancy, which should carry him far in Washington regardless, doesn’t hold up even after the most casual of glances. But give him some credit for ingenuity. Let’s face it, it usually takes Kentucky lawmakers a while to humiliate themselves in the public eye. Comer managed the fete after a mere four months in office.

Of course he’s learning under the hand of one of the great frauds in political history – Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, of Louisville – who is doing his usual bob-and-weave while the nation collapses in a Trump-inspired sinkhole.

Trump, who has consistently opposed the appointment of a special prosecutor to look into the Trump-Russia affair and will not create a special legislative panel ala the old Watergate Committee that uncovered administration-killing about Nixon, was asked by Newsweek if he had concerns about Trump’s ability to handle confidential material given his loose lips with the Russians.

McConnell “chuckled briefly before replying, ‘No,’’’ according to Newsweek.

Asked then if he is beginning to lose confidence in the president, McConnell again offered the same one word answer – no.

Well, perhaps he just hasn’t had the time to understand that the president is leading the United States of America down the garden path. Actually, the lede should have been that McConnell chuckled. It probably hurt.

McConnell eventually came around and told the Wall Street Journal that it might be a good idea for Comey to testify about the Russian controversy before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

You think?

In his introductory remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday, McConnell discussed a justice department nominee and the need for tax reform. The latest about the president he is yoked up with like a team of oxen went unmentioned.

Comer is wrong on a number of fronts. This ain’t funny anymore. As has often been said, enough is too much. Back in the days it was almost amusing to watch President Trump rail against those who said attendance at his inauguration was down, spit out senseless tweets about Arnold Schwarzenegger and about what a great job he was doing as president even though it was obvious he was like a babe lost in the woods.

Now we’re into the nitty-gritty, double-crossing Massad when the nation needs the sort of information it can provide, firing the director of the FBI because he was looking into the Russia situation, looking for ways to jail reporters who write stories he doesn’t like, continuing to enrich himself through various business ventures during his presidency in direct violation of the emoluments clause, an issue that has attracted only a blind eye from the GOP controlled Congress.

His trashing of the Oval Office isn’t funny. It’s a developing tragedy. And congressional Republicans are abetting the enterprise every bit as much as if they were driving the getaway car.

“This is the kind of leader Americans voted for,’’ Comer said.

What a schmuck this guy is.


Washington correspondent Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com.

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