The president can be put on tilt

We didn’t learn much more from the great Jim Comey show than we learned from his opening statement. Only that Comey thought Attorney General Jeff Sessions should recuse himself for reasons that Comey cannot disclose. Other than that, the only thing that really came across was that the FBI’s former director is a cool customer, and possesses an ego large enough to glancingly refer to his own pink slip with an allusion to Thomas Becket.

Still, the very fact of the hearing was an unforced disaster for the president. And it reveals a flaw of character that will be a problem for the president going forward. Namely this: Donald Trump’s psychological state is easy to read and easy to manipulate. The president can be trolled into making grievous mistakes. He is far too obsessed with the news cycle to act soberly. That is a serious political risk for Republicans. It is a significant tail risk for our nation.

The evidence for Russian meddling in the U.S. election underwhelms me. Intelligence reports that feature the nefarious tweeting of the RT news network too close to the top do not impress. Half of what has appeared in the press — Nigel Farage is a person of interest! — looks like nothing more than intelligence agencies’ cynically using ideological affinity as a basis for presuming the existence of conspiracy. This allows left-leaning commentators to run around excitedly with a headline for a few hours and obviously annoys Trump. But substantively, there is so little there. Comey admitted that a New York Times report about Trump associates’ communicating with Russian intelligence figures was “not true.”

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