Skip to main content
opinion

This week, the President of the United States fired James Comey, the director of the FBI, while that agency was in the midst of investigating possible collusion between Donald Trump's campaign and Russian officials. It's an unexpected plot twist and the letter terminating Mr. Comey's tenure was delivered by the President's bodyguard turned director of Oval Office operations. At first glance, it's easy to assume that someone at the bureau always wanted to live in a Tom Clancy bestseller and made a wish on a monkey's paw and this is why White House staff have found themselves bit players in The Perpetual Hunt for a Reasonable Explanation for that Insane Thing the President Just Did.

Not so fast, I say. There are so many people in this unfolding story. Other presidents get libraries; Trump's legacy should be a SparkNotes "Character List" presented in a bespoke gold Sharpie handwriting font. The saga ambitiously covers an extensive timeline. "Do you think Putin will be going to The Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow – if so, will he become my new best friend?" Trump excitedly asked his Twitter followers back in 2013. The network of connections – family, business, media and political – is beyond Byzantine, so forget your Clancy fancy. Let me put it this way: I give you 20 Ways the Trump Administration is Like a Russian Novel.

1. The whole thing takes way too long to unfold and you both can't put it down and want it to end but are terrified to see where it's going.

2. There is a seemingly endless and ever-changing stream of bureaucrats, officials and relations, a statistically significant number of whom have dinner with Russians. Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner met with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, at Trump Tower this past December. Jeff Sessions, then Trump surrogate, now Attorney General, eventually had to promise to recuse himself from Russia-Trump related investigations over his meetings with that busy Russian beaver of an ambassador. He can't be a very prepossessing man, this Kislyak, as no one ever seems to be able to remember if, when or about what they spoke with him, but his dance card has been mighty full of Trump folks seemingly very anxious to get in on the mazurka. Where does Sergey find the time?

3. It is an emotionally intense and philosophically challenging narrative in which it is difficult to sympathize with any of the characters for long. One finds one's relationship to each one changing in unpredictable yet entirely believable ways. What I'm trying to say is, "Natasha, you're bugging me right now and if you're sad, Count Comey, call me."

4. The world is undergoing perilous shifts, there is war where there might be peace, but you're never allowed to forget for very long that it's primarily about a really rich family.

5. Russian literature is rife with raised corpses. Scott Baio was at the inauguration.

6. While it captivates people around the world, much suggests it was primarily produced for the benefit of Russians.

7. A fine-looking woman lives apart from her husband, but at least the appearance of a marriage is maintained. Every smile she gives looks as if it's being weighed against the speeding-train option.

8. From time to time, someone starts going on and on about farmers and the working man. It gets very agrarian-sentimental for a while, but the chapters concerning the difficulties of rural life and ordinary people seem entirely divorced from the rest of the narrative.

9. There is a lecherous father with a substantial amount of money, which gives him power that he has no shame in exploiting. He has three legitimate sons who I can never quite keep straight and every time I think I've got the brothers figured out, I get distracted, wondering, "Why must mankind suffer like this?" or, "Is there a God?"

10. Donald Trump gleefully hawked a variety of Hillary-for-Prison-themed merchandise on his campaign website during the election but he has exhausted a great deal of Twitter energy and many of his twitchy surrogates in a concerted attempted to convince (actual, grown-up, not-secretly-three-really-gullible-borzois-in-a-trenchcoat) people that he fired Comey for being terribly unfair to the aforementioned Hillary Clinton. Previously, Trump could not say enough good things about Comey's handling of the Clinton e-mail investigation but, suddenly, he is shocked – shocked – to find that politicking is going on in here! His prose is neither rhythmic not witty, but truly, he is an unreliable narrator for the ages.

11. St. Petersburg was literally built on a swamp.

12. It's really depressing.

13. There is a man in the swamp citadel who has done some terrible things, partly because he feels people like him – "extraordinary men" – are entitled to do terrible things to achieve their goals but also because he wanted the cash. His hidden internal guilt torments him and leads him to … nah, I'm screwing with you. Steve Bannon is still having a great time.

14. It is shaping up to be a satire of Stalinism in which the Devil comes to town, embodies all the evils of capitalism, and exposes the hypocrisy of the ruling party. Only a talking (or even just a bog-standard) cat would make a more believable spokesperson than Kellyanne Conway. Also, I need a margarita.

15. Donald Trump's aesthetic is 100-per-cent Fabergé egg.

16. I would not be at all surprised to learn that one of the principal characters in this tale had attempted to make some easy fraudulent money by taking out massive loans using dead serfs as collateral, but I do not expect to learn this from tax returns.

17. America is a 999-line poem, in the possession of a narcissistic madman who's annotating it, 140 characters at a time.

18. Women are going to die in childbirth.

19. Donald Trump (and all the various people paid to communicate for Donald Trump) initially claimed his firing of Mr. Comey was a totally routine and unavoidable staffing change, done on the advice of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and was unconnected to the Russia investigation. There were letters.

Mr. Trump seemed legitimately surprised that people were alarmed at his actions, which is perhaps the most alarming part of this story. Then, apparently concerned that shifting the blame would also mean shifting the attention, he turned around and contradicted the absurd narrative his people had been desperately trying to duct-tape together on live TV and insisted the Comey-canning was all his doing. Two days in the life of PR Ivan Denisovich and four fairy tales after the story broke, the Trump team came round to, basically, "Yeah, we totally fired Director Comey to bring a conclusion to the Russia probe."

Later, worried his obstruction of justice would not get the recognition it deserved, Trump told NBC of his decision to axe Mr. Comey "I said to myself, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story."

Clearly this can only end in a duel.

20. A main character keeps retreating to his country estate.