When Does the Campaign End and When Does Governing Begin?

Obviously the human tendency would be for those with an agenda would be a never ending campaign.  It’s also a human tendency to believe the worst in your political opponents.  That’s why from the talkers on the right you’ll hear complaints about an IRS biased against conservative non-profits or that Democratic immigration policy is really motivated by building Democratic voter roles.

And I’m about to return the favor, but I don’t think a fair observer of U.S. politics could disagree.

We know that a significant percentage of the U.S. population believes that Hillary Clinton belongs in prison.  A larger population, which would include all or most of those who sold that story, understands that the Benghazi hearings, the FBI investigations into a private e-mail server that conveniently ended the weekend before the election.

Wish to increase your blood pressure a bit?  It was the DAY BEFORE THE ELECTION that the NYT was finally able to print this headline.

NYT Comey

And now, President Donald Trump, who I would argue was elected by James Comey fires FBI director James Comey under the pretense that he is acting based on a memo of recommendation by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein sent with a cover letter by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Here is a summary by David Lind of Vox.

Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department are helping Trump lie

“On May 9, after two weeks on the job, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote a memo to Attorney General Jeff Sessions about how James Comey had undermined the public’s trust in the FBI by mishandling the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server in 2016. Sessions immediately sent the memo to Trump with a cover letter recommending Comey be fired; Trump fired Comey the same day, with his own letter, and notified him only after the fact — Comey learned of the firing himself only after seeing the news on a television screen.”

This all gets a little confusing.  So before we go further, it helps to review the organizational flow chart of the Department of Justice.

US_Department_of_Justice_Organizational_Chart

There you can see that Jeff Sessions, as the U.S. Attorney General is the head of the Justice Department, Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General is directly below him and below both of them is James Comey’s position as the head of the FBI.

Now, if one side of a clamp on Candidate Clinton’s electoral viability was a politically driven FBI investigation into her emails, the other was a daily drip of information with backing with Russian interests.  The Trump campaign had some members with incredibly close ties with frightening Russian-backed puppets (Paul Manafort comes to mind).  Jeff Sessions himself was a lonely early supporter of candidate Trump and recently, and rightly, recused himself from his Department’s investigations into the campaign’s connections to Russian influence.

It is particularly grating then to realize that this letter that lead to the  termination of the FBI director came with a cover letter and recommendation from the Attorney General himself.

Given all this, outside of the obvious obstruction of justice concerns that Washington will be focused on in the days, weeks and months ahead,  we should also be asking ourselves and our representatives when do campaigns end and governing begins, and what steps do we then take to make sure their focus is governing.

Amy Davidson in the New Yorker yesterday recounts Jeff Session’s answer to Utah Senator Mike Lee who asked then Senator Sessions what guidelines he would follow in appointing a special prosecutor given his recent background in the Senate.

Jeff Sessions’s Role in James Comey’s Firing

“It is a matter that has created controversy over the years,” Sessions told Lee. “I don’t think it’s appropriate for the Attorney General just to willy-nilly create special prosecutors. History has not shown that has always been a smart thing to do.” But there were times, Sessions conceded, when a matter arose requiring objectivity, or at least “the absolute appearance of objectivity,” to an extent that made a special prosecutor appropriate. He had one particular time in mind. “Attorney General Lynch, for example, did not appoint a special prosecutor on the Clinton matter. I did criticize that. I was a politician. We had a campaign on. I didn’t research the law in depth. Just the reaction, as a senator, of concern.”

Ms Davidson goes on to indict the Attorney General for his short stint in his office remembering the incredible inconsistencies between the time on the campaign trail and what is happening now.  These inconsistencies only begin with the ultimate lie (of 2016) that the Republicans and conservatives told their audiences – that Hillary Clinton belongs in jail.

So to those in the Fox News universe firing James Comey may action makes sense, in fact it may seem as if President Trump is doing the honorable and courageous thing to fire the FBI director for his sins of failing to complete his job of finding Hillary Clinton guilty and putting her behind bars as promised.

But if some significant percentage of American’s can’t see through these lies, those telling the stories certainly know what they are doing and why.

Amy Davidson ends her piece with this, and I think it is profound.

“But Administration officials apparently thought that, since everyone seemed to have a reason to be angry with Comey, they could do what they wanted with him—even though he was the F.B.I. director and was investigating people connected to the White House, and even though there is such a thing as obstruction of justice. By all accounts, the White House was generally surprised by the outraged reaction—which came not only from Democrats.

Those expectations were based on a bully’s logic: if you beat up on the unpopular kid, no one will call you on it, no matter the right or wrong of the matter. And this is a bully’s Administration. With Trump, and with the Cabinet members like Sessions who help him along, one can focus on the absurd and miss the vicious.”

The victim of the viciousness in this case was James Comey.  His termination came only days before he (reportedly) had asked for significant more resources and staff for the FBI investigation into a foreign power’s influence on the 2016 election.


further reading:

An Open Letter to the Deputy Attorney General  (Editorial Board | New York Times | May 11, 2017)

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One thought on “When Does the Campaign End and When Does Governing Begin?

  1. Henchman Of Justice says:

    Trump and the White House should love California then, constant campaigning……. 24/7/365/holidays are extra credit points to boot.

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