Donald Trump angrily lashed out at former FBI director James Comey on Twitter this morning, but his tweets were less revealing about Comey than they were about the President's own contempt for the rule of law.
A new Post/ABC News poll finds that Trump enters into this battle with Comey - and into the larger war with Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III that forms the backdrop for this skirmish - at a serious disadvantage. But before we get to that, let's unpack what Trump just said about Comey.
Trump tweeted in two parts that Comey is a "LEAKER & LIAR" and an "untruthful slime ball" who botched his handling of "the Crooked Hillary Clinton case," and added: "It was my great honor to fire James Comey!" Everyone is remarking on how Trump appears to be emotionally melting down, now that news organizations are widely covering Comey's new book.
But once again, Trump appears to be making an actual argument underneath all the all-caps bluster that should not passed unnoticed. He is suggesting that he relished firing one of the nation's chief law enforcement officers at least in part because he did not prosecute his political opponent.
The original fake pretext that Trump used to fire Comey was enshrined in a memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, which recounted that Comey had mishandled the Clinton email probe in a way that was unfair to her. By cntrast, today's version of events highlights that Clinton is "crooked," apparently meaning Comey mishandled the Clinton case by not prosecuting her alleged criminality. (This is in keeping with Trump's calls for Clinton's prosecution since the election.) Now, we all know Trump fired Comey out of rage over the Russia probe. But still, Trump today casually suggested he's retroactively pleased he fired Comey because he failed to "LOCK HER UP!"
Trump's efforts to cast Comey and law enforcement as soft on Clinton corruption, of course, are all about creating an alt-narrative to discredit Mueller's investigation, which grew out of the one Comey previously oversaw. Comey's new book recounts Trump's efforts to hamstring or derail that probe by demanding his loyalty, leaning on him to go easy on former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and, ultimately, firing him. NBC News reports that Mueller may be closing in on findings of obstruction of justice, and so Trump's nonstop lies designed to delegitimize the probe are intensifying.
But the new Post/ABC poll represents a major public vote of confidence in the investigation - and a major repudiation of Trump's delegitimization of it as a mere "witch hunt." It finds that 69 percent of Americans support Mueller's efforts to investigate possible Russia-Trump campaign collusion, and 64 percent support Mueller's investigation of Trump's business activities, which, you may recall, Trump declared as a red line that Mueller mustn't cross. It even finds that 58 percent support Mueller's investigation of hush money paid to women who alleged affairs.
What about public attitudes towards Comey? Well, the poll finds that Americans see Comey as more believable than Trump by 48-32, and disapprove of Trump's firing of Comey by 47-33. Those numbers aren't that high for Comey, but they are shockingly low for Trump.