President Trump shakes hands with James B. Comey at the White House on Jan. 22. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

What’s the difference between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton? He’s president of the United States. She isn’t. He’s under investigation by the FBI. She isn’t. And those two differences explain why Republicans, especially those in the White House, were foolish to think that Democrats would not criticize the firing of FBI Director James B. Comey.

What Trump did got immediate Democratic pushback because it was a blow to the foundation of American democracy: the rule of law. A president with profound respect for the Constitution, not to mention good sense (political and otherwise), wouldn’t dare do what Trump did. Especially if that president’s campaign were being investigated by the FBI for possible collusion with Russia. And that reverential commander in chief most definitely wouldn’t even think of threatening the man he fired with retaliation.

That tweet alone shows Trump’s disrespect for the office he holds and the Constitution he swore to protect. More important, it shows that whatever reverence he holds, it is for himself.

That explains why Trump decided himself to fire Comey because of pique over “this Russia thing,” as he told “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt on Thursday. That explains why he then asked the Justice Department to come up with a rationale for sacking him, not caring that his embrace of Comey’s questionable handling of the Clinton email probe as the pretext for firing him would be met with instant suspicion. That explains why he sent his aides, including Vice President Pence, out to hammer away at a false narrative for two straight days and then completely walked away from it in his stunning interview with Holt. That explains why he went into great detail with Holt about what he said were the three times he asked Comey if he was under investigation, despite the appalling appearance of conflict and potential intimidation. That explains why Trump demanded Comey’s loyalty. And it now explains why all the deserved bad press he has generated against himself led him to threaten to do away with the White House press briefing “and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy.”

The silence from Republican leadership in the face of Trump’s appalling affront to the Constitution is rank hypocrisy compared to their high-pitched howling over the former president Bill Clinton’s impromptu tarmac meeting in Phoenix last June with then-Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch when the FBI was investigating Hillary Clinton’s emails.

What will it take for Republicans to find their conscience and stand up for our nation’s founding principles against a man who time and again demonstrates he couldn’t care less about them?

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj
Subscribe to Cape Up, Jonathan Capehart’s weekly podcast