Email #174: “take the Fifth”?

“If you’re innocent,” Donald Trump said during an Iowa rally last summer, “why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?” He was condemning some of Secretary Clinton’s IT aides, saying that only criminals like “the mob take the Fifth.” The president’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has since evoked the 5th Amendment to avoid self-incrimination while under oath before the Senate. Flynn has also refused to turn over subpoenaed documents, which is itself a crime.

Hypocrisy aside, I am concerned why the President is still supporting someone who is at the heart of multiple Russia investigations and who the Republican-led House Oversight Committee already condemned for breaking multiple laws. Politico reported that the President “stunned” aides inside the White House by saying he should not have fired him and that Flynn was still a “good man.” Another source said: “Trump loves him.”

While loyalty is a virtue, it appears the President values loyalty over law. Paul Krugman recently accused the entire Republican party of a similar bias: “nearly all Republicans in today’s Congress are apparatchiks, political creatures with no higher principle beyond party loyalty.” I would like to think that doesn’t describe you, but I don’t know how else to explain so many of your inconsistencies.

You, for example, said you agreed with the Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein’s recommendation to fire FBI Director Comey. “Almost everyone agrees that the Director made serious mistakes,” said Rosenstein, “it is one of the few issues that unites people of diverse perspectives.” He criticized Comey for his statements about Secretary Clinton last summer because Comey ignored a “longstanding principle: we do not hold press conferences to release derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal investigation…. The Director laid out his version of the facts for the news media as if it were a closing argument, but without a trial. It is a textbook example of what federal prosecutors and agents are taught not to do.” Rosenstein also said Comey’s “letter to the Congress on October 28, 2016 … violated long-standing Justice Department policies and traditions. And it ran counter to … the proper way to conduct investigations during an election season.”

But in what sense do you agree with Rosenstein’s judgements? You strongly supported Comey’s letter at the time. You said in October:

“he thinks that given the fact that Mrs. Clinton has been traveling around the country for 3 ½ months saying that the FBI has cleared her of wrongdoing, that when there is new, and I believe, substantial information available why wouldn’t he tell the American people that this is still under investigation?”

That is the opposite of Rosenstein’s point. You supported what he later called “serious mistakes.” And on what basis did you say the reopened investigation had “new” and “substantial” information? You knew at the time that the source of emails—a PC owned by the husband of a top Clinton aide–likely included only duplicates of emails already reviewed. Did you “believe” based on wishful thinking? Or was your false statement a knowing misrepresentation designed to influence voters?

It seems you supported Comey’s decision in October because it aided your party, and it seems you supported Rosenstein’s decision in April also because it aided your party—even though the two decisions and your support of them are contradictory. Could you please explain what else than party loyalty could make you behave so inconsistently?

Or will you take the Fifth as you do with all of my questions?

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Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University where he teaches creative writing, contemporary fiction, and comics. He has published two novels, Pretend I'm Not Here (HarperCollins 2002) and School For Tricksters (Southern Methodist University 2011), and two nonfictions, On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa University 2015) and Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury forthcoming 2017).

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