Regular CNN Guest Invokes O.J. Over Comey Firing, 'How Democracy Dies'

Appearing as a panel member on Thursday's New Day to discuss the firing of former FBI director James Comey, regular CNN guest Jason Johnson of The Root hyperbolically fretted that "this is how democracy dies" and worried that it was a "constitutional and a sovereignty crisis." A bit later, he even managed to work in a reference to O.J. Simpson as the group discussed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's role in the firing. 

Johnson: "It's his job to provide that information, but it's sort of like O.J.: 'I'm not saying I did it, but here's how I would if you had to.' And so, you know, he didn't want to end up getting blamed for this ultimately because he still has to walk through the hallways of the FBI and maintain relations with career investigators, and he wants to make sure the blood is not on his hands as the scandal spreads."

Shortly after 6:00 a.m. ET, CNN co-host Alisyn Camerota went to Johnson for his views, and The Root politics editor claimed he was not being hyperbolic as he began with hyperbole:

Like I said, this is how democracy dies -- and that's not hyperbole. When you have a situation where issues of national security are sublimated in favor of the personal desires, whims and loyalty pledges to the President of the United States, that is no longer a functioning democracy. This is a clarion call to every single member of Congress to stand up and call for an independent investigation of this entire administration, above and beyond what happened with Russia. 

He then added: "So it doesn't matter who the President picks. It doesn't matter who he picks to replace him. This is a constitutional and a sovereignty crisis."

Later, as co-host Chris Cuomo brought up Rosenstein's role in the firing, Johnson suggested President Donald Trump was lying about his reasons for firing Comey as he likened Rosenstein to O.J. Simpson. Johnson:

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It just seems, Chris, it seems really unlikely that James Comey would have a sit-down with President Trump and say, "You're not under investigation." What good investigator does that? That doesn't make any sense when it's an ongoing investigation. We know the President has had a tendency to lie. But even going back to Rosenstein -- and I pity him in a way in this situation. If your boss comes to you and says, "Look, tell me how to do something." 

He added:

Right, you know, it's his job to provide that information, but it's sort of like O.J.: "I'm not saying I did it, but here's how I would if you had to." And so, you know, he didn't want to end up getting blamed for this ultimately because he still has to walk through the hallways of the FBI and maintain relations with career investigators, and he wants to make sure the blood is not on his hands as the scandal spreads.

Below are transcripts of relevant portions of the Thursday, May 11, New Day on CNN

6:07 a.m. ET
ALISYN CAMEROTA: Jason, how do you see it?

JASON JOHNSON, THE ROOT: Like I said, this is how democracy dies -- and that's not hyperbole. When you have a situation where issues of national security are sublimated in favor of the personal desires, whims and loyalty pledges to the President of the United States, that is no longer a functioning democracy. This is a clarion call to every single member of Congress to stand up and call for an independent investigation of this entire administration, above and beyond what happened with Russia. So it doesn't matter who the President picks. It doesn't matter who he picks to replace him. This is a constitutional and a sovereignty crisis. 

And I have to say this, Chris and Alisyn, I think this is really important at the end of the day: Comey probably should have gotten fired anyway, but the timing of this is what makes it so problematic, and the reasons behind why the administration did it basically because he wouldn't give them a cheat sheet about his testimony last week. That's not how a democracy is supposed to function.

(...)

7:09 a.m. ET
CHRIS CUOMO: I'm sure that Rosenstein is trying to figure out how to deal with the fallout from this situation because that memo on its own face, you know, there are people who are cited in it -- whether it's Alberto Gonzales or Ayres who worked for Bush. Ayres said the reasoning is a sham in that memo. Alberto Gonzales came out and said, "Yeah, the timing is really weird here that's going on." So the basis in that memo are getting some criticism, and that's on Rosenstein. But he is going to be saved, I think, Jason Johnson, here from any intense scrutiny because of how obvious it is that this isn't about the Clinton investigation. 

And the best evidence of that is the President's own letter, that second paragraph where he says something we have been unable to verify with any source of the FBI and anyone who knows James Comey, which is that it was communicated to the President on at least three occasions that he is not part of the investigation. One, why would he put that in there if it's not about the Russia investigation? And, two, what does it mean if the President is lying? Or that that's not true and he was never told that?

JOHNSON: Right. It just seems, Chris, it seems really unlikely that James Comey would have a sit-down with President Trump and say, "You're not under investigation." What good investigator does that? That doesn't make any sense when it's an ongoing investigation. We know the President has had a tendency to lie. But even going back to Rosenstein -- and I pity him in a way in this situation. If your boss comes to you and says, "Look, tell me how to do something." 

Right, you know, it's his job to provide that information, but it's sort of like O.J.: "I'm not saying I did it, but here's how I would if you had to." And so, you know, he didn't want to end up getting blamed for this ultimately because he still has to walk through the hallways of the FBI and maintain relations with career investigators, and he wants to make sure the blood is not on his hands as the scandal spreads.

CyberAlerts Congress Russia Conservatives & Republicans Video James Comey FBI Jason Johnson Chris Cuomo Alisyn Camerota Donald Trump Hillary Clinton