President Trump’s pattern of running the White House like a bad reality TV show continues to cause headaches at the Capitol. This latest episode stars former FBI director James Comey, and it reveals how predictable this show has become, as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are quickly retreating to their partisan corners.
For some members of the GOP, Comey’s new book, A Higher Loyalty, is an existential threat.
"This president has been targeted with an unconstitutional and usurpation of his rightful authority that was given to him by the voters," Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) tells Rolling Stone. "And we have had what [Trump] calls – and what I believe is true – a deep state effort to undermine his authority and the FBI director seems to have been a part of that cabal."
But even Rohrabacher, who has been accused of being sympathetic to the Russians, adds that the president could tone down the barbs.
James Comey is a proven LEAKER & LIAR. Virtually everyone in Washington thought he should be fired for the terrible job he did-until he was, in fact, fired. He leaked CLASSIFIED information, for which he should be prosecuted. He lied to Congress under OATH. He is a weak and.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 13, 2018
....untruthful slime ball who was, as time has proven, a terrible Director of the FBI. His handling of the Crooked Hillary Clinton case, and the events surrounding it, will go down as one of the worst “botch jobs” of history. It was my great honor to fire James Comey!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 13, 2018
"I wouldn’t use those terms – the president has a different sense of propriety in using those terms than I do, but I think the sentiments are correct," Rohrabacher says, referring to Trump's recent Twitter attacks.
Of course, Comey's book is playing quite differently for Democrats.
"Generally, when Trump reacts so vehemently to something like this, it tends to verify the object of his ire," Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) says. "So what he’s doing is the opposite of the intended affect. It tends to add credibility to the Comey book and to the source, Mr. Comey."
Comey contends that the president bristled at the very mention of prostitutes and other salacious allegations compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele in his infamous dossier. While the president tweets ominous accusations that the former FBI director is a felon worthy of handcuffs, Connolly says one is only left to speculate about just exactly which chord Comey has struck with Trump.
"Why would he be so hysterical in his tweets about James Comey, unless, maybe, Comey’s drawn some blood here with telling the truth?" Connolly asks.
Connolly, a member of the House Oversight Committee, has expressed frustration with Republican leaders, along with most every rank and file member of the GOP, whom he believes are enabling Trump. Democrats have asked their Republican counterparts on the committee to issue more than 35 subpoenas on topics similar to what Comey is alleging in his book.
Comey served as deputy attorney general and even briefly as acting attorney general (when John Ashcroft was hospitalized) under former President George W. Bush, so many Democrats are wondering why the likes of the Republican National Committee are now trying to discredit him, even going so far as to create a website devoted to his downfall.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) ran away from a reporter when asked to discuss the Comey revelations, saying only, "I’m not going to talk about anything."
Other Republicans seem more inclined to give president Trump a pass.
Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA) tells Rolling Stone: "I understand that’s how [Trump] operates – that wouldn’t be how I operate, but that’s the way he does it."
Wittman, who contemplated a run for governor before Trump captured the White House and upended the GOP, is considered a moderate in this Congress.
"Donald Trump is Donald Trump," Wittman says. "All of this is a lot of back and forth. Obviously a book is out there and there’s going to be a disagreement between the president and Mr. Comey. So I think it’s a natural progression of what this is."
A Higher Loyalty is set to hit stores Tuesday morning. The release will likely prompt more rage-filled Trump tweets, though many Democrats do not expect Republicans to have Trump-related epiphanies overnight.
"They’ve become enablers in a classic sense of the word," Connolly says. "And it’s shameful and disgusting, and I believe they are going to pay a very high price for it when the voters cast their judgment on their performance."