The biggest reveal in the testimony Thursday of former FBI Director James Comey wasn’t about Russia; it wasn’t about Michael Flynn, or even electoral hacking. It was about what a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad boss Donald Trump is. America is stuck with the most Horrible Boss ever, and rather than protect us, the Republicans in the Senate are the worst human resources officers known to mankind.
When Comey released his written statement Wednesday, I commented on MSNBC that it read like the most intense HR complaint letter I’d ever heard. But that was nothing compared with what Comey said Thursday during his nearly three hours of public testimony in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee, covering his firing, the Russian hack of the 2016 election and potential obstruction of justice.
I thought it was bad enough that the letter made it clear that Trump would probably be under investigation, and made more than one reference to the president’s penchant for “hookers” (Comey’s words, not mine), but the in-person testimony was more damning. If the Comey letter was Tupac’s “Hit ’Em Up,” then the Senate testimony was the Wendy Williams interview where he spilled hot tea all over Trump’s lap.
While the larger national security issues regarding the sanctity of American elections were at stake, you also had to see this Senate hearing for what it was: an exit interview for an employee who got harassed, then fired by his boss. The Democrats on the Senate panel were the HR investigators trying to get as much out there as possible, knowing full well that the Republicans on the committee were playing the role of Trump patrons, finding every excuse they could to downplay what happened and why.
James Comey painted a picture of a boss who was somewhere between Kevin Spacey in Horrible Bosses, Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada and plantation-loving celebrity chef Paula Deen. Even though the FBI directorship is a 10-year appointment that is considered to be relatively independent of the White House, Trump tried everything in the book to push Comey into a patronage relationship. Forget Undercover Boss—Trump was just blatant about trying to intimidate Comey. He isolated the director for personal meetings to demand loyalty, consistently dangled Comey’s job in front of him and made repeated suggestions to stop the Russia-Michael Flynn investigation.
But Comey did what most people do: He kept his head down and figured eventually that his boss would figure out “This is not how this works,” because everyone thinks they can manage a terrible boss. Wrong. When asked by Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) why Comey started taking notes about every one-on-one meeting with Trump, he didn’t miss a beat, saying this:
Because of the nature of the person, I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting.
According to Luther the Anger Translator, that really means: “My boss was a lying weasel, and I knew if I didn’t record everything that happened, he’d stab me in the back the first chance he got.” Which might explain why Comey went out of his way to call Trump a liar several times in his testimony. Who can blame him, when he gets fired for one public reason and then his former boss says it was another on Twitter?
Comey’s exit interview was bad enough, but the Republicans in the Senate were the hardest to stomach. We all knew going in that they won’t impeach Trump and will have his back until 2020 (at least). However, the mental gymnastics they went through to cover for Trump were just shameful.
In quick succession, Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Tom Cotton (R-Tenn.) played a mixtape of victim-blaming hits straight from a 1980s workplace drama. It was enough to make any woman, or person of color who’s ever had to testify about workplace discrimination, harassment or abuse, have flashbacks.
Well, Director Comey, if President Trump was so bad, why didn’t you just quit?
Wait, so I have to give up my job, and end my career, because my boss is a maniac? What kind of nonsense is that?
If you really thought Trump was putting pressure on you to shut down the Russia investigation, why didn’t you tell Attorney General Jeff Sessions?
Oh, you mean the Attorney General Sessions who lied about his connections to Russia and had to recuse himself from the case ? The same Attorney General Jeff Sessions that Trump appointed because he was a campaign surrogate?
Crazy as it may sound, Comey did actually reach out to Sessions to say, “Don’t let me be alone with that guy again,” and Sessions never did anything about it, until later conspiring with Trump and acting Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to fire Comey under false pretenses.
Why did you keep taking phone calls from the president?
Yes, because not taking calls from your abusive boss who threatened your job makes perfect sense.
These GOP senators are the same kinds of people who ask abused women with kids, “Why did you stay with your husband? Weren’t there homeless shelters for you and your three kids?” Or chastise rape victims, “If he raped you, why did you continue going to that same college; couldn’t you transfer?”
The reality is, whether you are the former head of the FBI or a fry cook at Carl’s Jr. on the 7-to-10 shift, most people try their damnedest to keep their heads down and do their jobs, deal with abuse and keep working for the greater good (whether that’s keeping the lights on or fighting Russian spies and hackers). In this case, that hope was misplaced.
The Interstate 95 corridor is littered with men and women who thought they could work for Trump by doing their jobs and staying the course (take Sally Yates or the 47 federal prosecutors), or kissing up to him and compromising their dignity (shout out to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie), only to find that neither plan really works.
Trump is a nasty, vindictive and unpredictable boss who will fire you on a whim regardless of norms, national security or common decency. Thursday’s testimony just reinforced that fact and made it apparent yet again that the nation has no ombudsman, authority or HR office to call for help. Since we can’t switch jobs (Europe is about to just ignore all our passports), our only hope is to organize and get rid of as much of middle management as we can by 2018.