Horowitz: Trump Incompetently Abuses Power

Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Rob Horowitz, GoLocalProv MINDSETTERâ„¢

Rob Horowitz
In his ham-handed firing of FBI Director James Comey last week, President Trump managed to combine a spectacular level of incompetence with what Republican Strategist Steve Schmidt, accurately termed “an enormous abuse of power.”

From the moment Comey was fired it was all too obvious that the main reason was his ramping up of the FBI investigation into possible collusion between Russia and Trump Associates during the 2016 election campaign. Contrary to efforts by the President and his surrogates to dismiss or downplay the investigation, chalking it up to Democratic sour grapes.  Andrew B McCabe, the acting Director of the FBI called the investigation "highly significant” when he testified in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee in Comey’s place this past Thursday.

The threadbare cover story sanctioned by the President and advanced by the Vice-President and hapless Administration Spokespeople, Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, that Comey was fired on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s recommendation based on the FBI Director’s overreaching and inappropriate public pronouncements during the Hillary Clinton investigation was immediately greeted with the skepticism it deserved  This skepticism was enhanced by Trump inserting in his letter to Comey outlining his rationale for firing him that the FBI director had told him three times that he was not under investigation—a highly unlikely occurrence. Leaks from with-in the White House and from the Justice Department soon credibly established that the memo was done at the President’s request and that he had already indicated he wanted to fire Comey. 

President Trump confirmed that the Russian investigation was very much on his mind when he decided to fire Comey in his interview with NBC Nightly News Anchor, Lester Holt. To put it simply, he sanctioned a false cover story, had his spokespeople go out and tell it to the American public, and then abandoned it when it fell apart. 

But if this wasn’t bad enough, President Trump then upped the ante,  personally attacking Comey and even implying in a pathetic attempt to intimidate the former FBI Director that  he taped their conversations. In a situation in which the parallels to Nixon and Watergate were already gaining media traction, actually raising the specter of a taping system in the White House was the equivalent of putting gasoline on a raging fire.

By the end of the week, after dutifully repeating the false White House talking points, which the President himself blew out of the water, Trump’s allies in the media attempted to define the problem as one of communication and attribute much of it to his communications staff. But this was a problem created by the President who was once again willing to tell the American people something that just wasn’t true and that he knew wasn’t true. As former Republican Congressman and current host of Morning Joe on MSNBC, Joe Scarborough pungently put it, “A fish rots from the head first.”  President Trump already is viewed by a substantial majority of the American public as dishonest- a reputation he has well-earned through his telling of repeated falsehoods, Last weeks serial set of untruths will harden and expand this perception.

Most importantly, President Trump abused his power by firing the person who was leading an investigation into his campaign. FBI Directors have 10-year terms to insulate them from politics and preserve their independence. Trump violated that spirit and whether or not his actions meet the legal standard for obstruction of justice, impeding the investigation is precisely what he was attempting to accomplish in firing Comey. 

Showing that there just may be karma in the universe, Trump’s combination of mendacity and incompetence probably ensures that the investigation will continue unimpeded and with increased public scrutiny and interest.


Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.

  • Jennifer Duffy

    Cook Report

    "We don't really know what a Trump presidency means for the nation, never mind the smallest state.  One of the unintended consequences of last night's results is that Sen. Jack Reed won't be chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Chalk that up as a loss for RI."

  • Pam Gencarella

    Head of Ocean State Taxpayers' Association

    "Trump’s win means that his signature issue, illegal immigration, could have a big impact on RI, hopefully reversing our course as a sanctuary state and saving the state taxpayer millions of dollars.  While we agree with his 'repeal and replace' Obamacare stance, we have no idea what that means to the RI debacle known as UHIP.  It is not a stretch to believe that federal funding for this kind of system will be off the table so, will RI be stuck with this massively expensive system that still doesn’t work and that is expected to cost another $124 million to fix?  

    Trump's belief that there is significant fraud in the Food Stamp program and the policies that may come from that belief could have a negative impact on RI's local economy since there are businesses in certain cities that rely heavily on this program, fraud and all. On the upside, we may be able to ditch the UHIP program if there is significantly less need for processing welfare program requests (ie. Medicaid and food stamps) resulting from fewer illegal immigrants and less fraud.  While we are ambivalent about his touted child care policies, if enacted, it may force our legislators to revisit the ever growing state cost of subsidies in this area and possibly reduce the fraud and abuse in this system." 

  • Kay Israel

    Professor at Rhode Island College

    "With a Republican President and Congress, Rhode Island will probably be excluded from the 'fruits of victory."  

    The congressional delegation will be able to vocally make their presence felt, but in the long term it's more symbolic than substantive.  

    For Rhode Island it's a matter of holding on and waiting until '18 or '20 and a surge in Democratic influence."

  • Jennifer Lawless

    Professor at American University

    "The RI congressional delegation just became even less powerful than it was. With unified government, Trump doesn’t need to quell Democrats’ concerns or acquiesce because he’s worried about a Democratically-controlled Senate.

    His appointments will reflect that. His executive orders will affect that. And the conservative policy agenda he puts forward will affect that."

  • Len Lardaro

    Professor at University of Rhode Island

    "Well there's a few things -- because there's not going to be gridlock, that's a big difference if it had been Hillary and a GOP Congress, in which nothing would got done. We'll at least get a half a billion in infrastructure that's going to pass which will have an impact.

    I think you'll see there will be reduced reliance on government nationally -- and that's where we'll stick out like sore thumb. We've relied way too much on government -- and our government is highly inefficient and ineffective.  Maybe, just maybe, in this who cycle of things we might be forced to be small and more efficient for once.

    A couple of other things -- interest rates jumped. The one to follow is the ten year government bond rate -- which is tied to mortgages. It went from 1.7% to 2.05% in one day. The point is -- if the ten year stays high, mortgage rates will start going higher -- and in the short time people will run to re-finance. 

    That's the short term impact -- but then if rates stay hight, that will make mortgages more out of reach. And we just passed a bond issue to limit open space -- housing has limited upside here.
    The next thing -- the Fed Reserve will go ahead with tightening next month. A strong dollar will hurt manufacturing. When the dollar is strong our exports become more expensive overseas. 

    Our goods production sector -- manufacturing and construction -- in the near term will do a little better, but as time goes on will be more limited. But something you won't hear, is there are lags in fiscal policy, of six months to year. So we won't really see the effects until the third our fourth quarter of 2017, going into 2018."

  • Mike Stenhouse

    RI Center for Freedon and Prosperity

    "As the unbelievable turned into reality this morning, it struck me that the presidential election was not really all about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. It was about a fed-up people, revolting against a corrupt system - the "beast" - that relentlessly favors insiders. Hillary personified the beast, while Donald personified the slayer.

    Sadly, based on election results in our state, Rhode Island's version of the beast lives on. I fear our political class has not learned the lessons from the Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump movements - and will continue with their government-centric, anti-family, anti-business status quo."

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