Statements by former FBI Director James Comey cross the threshold into questioning President Donald Trump's character and ability to lead the nation. They have given rise to major concerns about the vulnerability of the U.S. electoral process and that nation’s position of leadership in the democratic world.
The facts which Comey testified to under oath before the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee open the door to serious ramifications. They present a lying and slandering president who fired the FBI director at a time last May which followed the agency's investigation into possibly improper links between former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and the Russian government.
The investigation involves members of Trump's intimate inner circle in an attempt to determine whether his election campaign team coordinated with the Kremlin in conducting a smear campaign against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton to decide the 2016 election in favor of Trump.
In response to questions from Senate Committee members, Comey reported that in several solo meetings set up by Trump in the intimacy of the Green Room or the Oval Office, the chief executive demanded loyalty and suggested that Comey "clear the cloud" that the so-called Russian plot had formed over him; in other words, stop the investigation. He also suggested that Comey publicly exonerate Gen. Flynn of the alleged intervention with respect to the Democratic Party.
If proven, what was revealed would confirm an abysmal ignorance on the part of Trump about the exercise of power. It would also show that the tycoon does not have the character or the political or diplomatic skills to hold a position with as many demands as the presidency.
In a leading nation, the influence of that nation’s chief executive is felt on issues ranging from climate change to international security against terrorism. The nation’s positions are key in the preservation of political, economic and military commitments of global reach.
The statement, made in front of millions of viewers who tuned in to the congressional hearings, fuels the debate over whether Trump's conduct is obstruction of justice, a crime that could turn the current investigations into a congressional judgment with a view toward removing the person who is governing.
Comey's testimony does not appear at the moment to provide direct evidence to support an indictment. But it is clear that the U.S. government is at the dawn of an institutional crisis that has called into question the orderliness of its electoral exercises and the people’s confidence in their democratic process.
There is no longer a debate over the Electoral College model that placed a candidate in the White House who obtained 2.8 million fewer popular votes than his opponent. Clinton got 65.8 million popular votes versus Trump's 62.9 million popular votes. But Trump won the Electoral College, with 278 delegates against the 218 that Clinton won.*
It is dangerous for the United States to invalidate the democratic will of millions of bona fide voters. Doing it through foreign intervention is fatal. The role of national security as a shield against external intervention by countries with interests in the United States, and the confidence of the rest of the world in the nation that proclaims itself the champion of democracy, are at stake.
Comey's statements will be followed by further steps in the investigative process, including those of Robert Mueller as a special investigator who has been appointed by the Department of Justice. It is up to him to determine whether there is evidence to support the allegations, or, if not, clear doubts about the president and his team.
The interpretations of what happened between Comey and Trump, and of their veracity and intentions, remain. It is necessary to get to the bottom of the matter promptly for the benefit of a nation which is proud of its democracy.
Editor’s note: The final vote of the Electoral College was 304-227 in favor of Donald Trump.