“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”
Let’s take a close look at this one sentence from Donald Trump’s letter telling James Comey that he is fired. Let’s consider how phrasing reveals superficiality and dishonesty.
First, as an English teacher, I can’t resist pointing out some little grammar issues. 1) Because a gerund takes the possessive, Trump should have written, “I greatly appreciate your informing me.” 2) Few of us are still disturbed by a split infinitive, but the word “effectively” could easily come at the end of the sentence. I think that sounds slightly more elegant. But I admit these are quibbles. So, we move on.
We move on to wonder, given the lack of specificity or precision, whether Comey really did offer three separate assurances that Trump was not under investigation. Comey has made clear, publicly, that the FBI is investigating Russian ties to the Trump campaign and administration. As a result, Comey could not possibly have insisted that Trump would not at some time be a target himself. (I can’t wait to hear Comey’s response when reporters ask him about those “three occasions.”)
And if Comey really did offer Trump those three assurances, why does the President “greatly appreciate” it? If Comey said that no investigation had yet focused on Trump, he was simply offering the facts—and probably in response to a question from the White House. He wasn’t doing the President a favor. There is nothing there for Trump to greatly appreciate.
And what’s with the “nevertheless”? Even if Comey had somehow merited appreciation, it should have nothing to do with Trump’s concurring with the DOJ’s evaluation of Comey’s fitness for leadership of the FBI. If Trump had bothered to fire Comey in person, there would have been an opportunity for him to explain that it was nothing personal. But such a personal touch was clearly not a priority for Trump. After all, Comey learned he had been fired when the news came up on a TV monitor in the room where he was addressing FBI agents in Los Angeles. (The news reached the media before it reached Director Comey!) And Trump’s clumsy attempt to share his superficial appreciation—this irrelevant interjection in a letter made public—leaves us all feeling a little creepy. More importantly, it leaves us painfully aware that Trump is merely trying to set aside any thoughts that he would ever (Heaven forbid!) fire the FBI director because he is leading the investigation into his possible, probable, obvious connections with the bankers and other thugs running Russia today.
Finally, Trump makes an error that my high school freshman are told to avoid when he fails to acknowledge counter-arguments that are on all his readers’ minds. He makes no mention of the fact that he is concurring with the judgment of an Attorney General who has recused himself, because of his own lies, under oath, about meetings with Russians. That an Assistant Attorney General, on the job for just two weeks, made the same judgment is of virtually no interest at all. Trump is concurring with a rookie and a man implicated as a conspirator. He is thus claiming to be shocked, truly shocked, by Comey’s announcements concerning Crooked Hillary’s campaign—even though he delighted that Comey, while failing to find Clinton’s conduct criminal, did cast doubts on her judgment and proclaimed her “reckless” in her handling of classified information.
Comey was doing a great job when he threatened the success of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Now, not long after going public about investigating the Trump administration, he must be fired for the way he handled information that led to that threat on the Democratic candidate. Nonsense.
Trump had already fired Sally Yates, and had already dismissed Preet Bharara, prior to yesterday’s Tuesday Afternoon Massacre. Let it do to Trump what the Saturday Night Massacre did to Nixon. And let whatever staff writer crafted Trump’s letter firing Comey learn a little more about grammar, supporting evidence, and especially the need to recognize opposition arguments, the knowledge we all have that undermines every claim the letter makes.