|Homage of the Estates (nobility, clergy, and commoners) to Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, from the 1515 Liber Missarum of Margaret of Austria. Via Wikimedia Commons.|
Countess Maggie and the Chevalier de Thrush have a nugget of narratological interest, right in the lede:
After President Trump accused his predecessor in March of wiretapping him, James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, was flabbergasted. The president, Mr. Comey told associates, was “outside the realm of normal,” even “crazy.”They're using it for the titillation value, clash of the titans, oh-no-he-dit-unt, but the really useful information is when Comey was so indiscreet as to say those things, in response to the famous tweet:
How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
Or maybe later, but sparked by that. Because if you fill it in with the information Comey publicly divulged in his testimony of March 20—
Mr. Comey told the House Intelligence Committee, “We have no information to support” President Trump’s assertion on Twitter that President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower.
“We have no information to support those tweets,” Mr. Comey said, repeating moments later, “All I can tell you is that we have no information that supports them.”—it composes itself into that new part of the story, from Trump's letter of termination, in which he thanked Comey for assuring him "on three separate occasions" that he was not a subject of FBI investigation, which is a lie, of course, but one whose relationship to fact we don't yet know.
My idea is that that's what Comey told Trump, that the "tapp" wasn't real, or rather that he "had no information" on such a thing. Or said, three times, in Trump's hearing, possibly including when he was watching the March 20 hearing. Because for one thing, we know he either doesn't understand or doesn't want to understand the difference between wiretapping and general investigation:
Trump and his spokesman, Sean Spicer, have sought to defend the claim, despite the absence of hard evidence. At first, the White House declined to comment, saying the matter should be investigated by Congress. Under mounting criticism, however, they have sought to change the terms of the issue, saying the definition of “wiretapping” could include “broad surveillance” or intelligence-gathering in general. (Paul Farhi/Wapo)In that familiar carelessness (as in the Cummings case) and technological illiteracy (remember, he also couldn't tell the difference between the emails on Hillary Clinton's private server and the ones exchanged by John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee, but fudged the two issues into one preposterously vague sense of scandalousness of which he clearly had no idea what was supposed to be scandalous about it). He convinced himself that Comey had told him he wasn't being investigated, and of course he was certain Comey was lying.
If this reconstruction is right, what Trump was really saying in that letter was some sarcasm of the sluggish-heavy kind Trumpy people use for wit: "thanks for informing me, on three separate occasions, that you were not investigating me, you fucking liar, and I'm making sure you won't get any more chances to do it."
With no ability to recognize that his vindictive impulse wouldn't stop the investigation from going on (the enraged agents won't put up with it), because he's a
strategically incoherent, predictably unpredictable, private-sector lord who ran his family business by doing what he wanted when he wanted and with limited consideration for consequences stretching beyond his own immediate interests and gratification (Michael Kruse)and now he's trying to be an Emperor using the same technique. It's just so awful.
NBC interview with Lester Holt:
"I actually asked him" if I were under investigation, Trump said, noting that he spoke with Comey once over dinner and twice by phone.
"I said, if it's possible would you let me know, 'Am I under investigation?' He said, 'You are not under investigation.'"
"I know I'm not under investigation," Trump told Holt during the 31-minute White House interview.
It would be highly unusual for someone who might be the focus of an FBI probe to ask whether he was under investigation and to be directly told by the FBI director that he was not.And even weirder to do it three times. "Hey, Jim, it's the president. I know it's late, I just wanted to check on something, am I under investigation? Of course I remember you told me yesterday, you think I'm demented? And at dinner last week too. I was just thinking what if anything changed, would you call and let me know? Like if you started investigating me yesterday afternoon and then forgot? Fuck man you don't have to be nasty about it." [hangs up violently] Not exactly what happened, I'm sure. Though we're getting a hint of why Comey thinks Trump is crazy, if we didn't already know.