Shortly after Comey’s dismissal, Dana Shell Smith, the U.S. ambassador to Qatar, vented her frustration on Twitter. “Increasingly difficult to wake up overseas to news from home, knowing I will spend today explaining our democracy and institutions,” she wrote.
If that seems challenging, imagine waking up in Washington these days and having to explain American politics to folks back home. That task falls to D.C.’s foreign correspondents.
“What will it actually take for Republicans in Congress to dissociate themselves from Trump and start reining him in?” asked Clemens Wergin, the Washington bureau chief for the German newspaper Die Welt, in an email. “Trump already started eroding America’s institutional integrity and he is dishonoring the American presidency and American democracy, which once was a beacon to the world.”
Wergin told me that, in his reporting, he has been describing the Comey episode to his readers as “an institutional crisis” for which the most likely explanation is “that the man in power doesn’t like the way the Russia investigation is handled, it might even become dangerous for him. So he fires the one leading official who is not beholden to him, hasn’t been nominated by him, and has a reputation for standing up to power.”
“I try to identify for our readers what the most likely sources of danger for Trump in the Russia saga might be, but I also caution that most Republicans are still lining up behind Trump and that it is difficult to imagine a Nixon scenario with the Republicans in control of Congress,” he said.
Wergin added that he’s also written a commentary on the developments, which made the argument that “up to Comey’s firing, Donald Trump had only spoken and tweeted like the head of a banana republic; now he also acted like one.”
Chidanand Rajghatta, a D.C.-based foreign correspondent for the Times of India, told me that it’s difficult to explain to readers in India “the minutiae of who said what when why.” Instead, he’s “trying to stick to [conveying] the broad themes of a very different and temperamental president in action, the inexperience and incoherence of the administration, [the] breakdown of trust/internecine political warfare, etc.,” Rajghatta said in an email.
A recent dispatch did just that. The U.S. political system “erupt[ed] into a firestorm over the motive and the manner in which President Trump dismissed Director James Comey from service on Tuesday, plunging the rocky four-month old administration into yet another crisis,” Rajghatta wrote. “Trump’s aides and spokespersons tripped over each other in trying to explain and rationalize the President’s decision amid explosive disclosures that surfaced by the hour on Wednesday and Thursday.”
It’s hard to “filter so much information, misinformation, contradictions, and false statements from a wide range of sources,” Raquel Krahenbuhl, the Washington correspondent for Brazil’s GloboNews, wrote to me. “The firing and the aftermath deepen the credibility crisis within the White House. The White House’s struggle to explain such a consequential firing is something that is important to translate to our audience.”