The reputations of FBI Director James Comey and Admiral Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, were enhanced by their joint appearance Monday before the U.S. House Intelligence Committee. The same cannot be said of their boss, President Donald Trump.
In the increasingly bizarre world of Trump’s Washington, the director and the admiral had to address the most serious issue of Russia’s manipulation of the 2016 presidential election through cyber hacking, something confirmed by U.S. intelligence agencies. Indeed, Comey stated that his agency is part of an investigation as to whether members of Trump’s team colluded with Russia to influence the election with the release through WikiLeaks, a website, of emails connected to Hillary Clinton’s campaign officials. Trump’s blasted such reports as “fake news” though the reports seem to have credibility with members of the intelligence community.
Comey’s acknowledgment of the investigation couldn’t have pleased Trump, who was tweeting from the White House.
And this came, of course, after the president, one of his early morning tweets last weekend, basically said President Obama had the phones at Trump Tower in New York wiretapped. That amounted to accusing the president of a felony, and no proof was offered. Comey and Rogers said no such evidence had been found.
Though some Republicans on the committee tried to turn the attention to the need to crack down on “leaks,” the maneuvering didn’t work. By day’s end, Trump appeared to be swinging wildly at his critics without landing any blows, and even Republicans seemed to be distancing themselves from the wiretap claim.
With a hopelessly flawed health care reform coming up, with Trump continuing to stoke his baseless wiretap claims and with his approval ratings plummeting, GOP leaders need to be emboldened to tell the president to control his outbursts and focus on serious governing rather than following the fate of his old “Apprentice” television show, which he was tweeting about along with Obama’s “wiretapping.”
If Trump doesn’t understand that what presidents say matters, the senior members of his party certainly do. They must now assert themselves for the good of the country.
The president could put his agenda in jeopardy (which would be a good thing, frankly) if he continues to react with tweets in which he seems focused entirely on himself. If Republicans on Capitol Hill fail to rein in their president and focus him on serious business, they may be repealed and replaced themselves come 2018.