A few quick thoughts
In about ten minutes, former FBI Director James Comey will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. When the news first broke about Comey’s meeting with Trump and the claims that Trump seemingly attempted to obstruct justice, I noted there were two possibilities: Either Trump had obstructed justice and needed to be impeached or the media vastly overplayed its hand. Based on Comey’s prepared introductory remarks, it seems like option 2 is what we are seeing.
On one level, Comey’s recitation of his history with Trump shows the President to be a rather insecure narcissist who really has no idea how government is supposed to operate. His demands for loyalty make sense for a businessman who has just completed a hostile takeover of a company, but have no place when dealing with government officials in positions where they required the advice and consent of a co-equal branch of the government. Comey did not owe loyalty to President Trump. Comey’s duty of loyalty was to the United States Constitution and his oath to uphold the law.
This is where Comey’s testimony hurts him. Comey does not appear to be some guardian of Truth, Justice and the American Way. His own words damn him as bureaucrat seeking to maintain his position. He promises the President “honest loyalty” and then immediately runs home and drafts a CYA memo outlining everything he thinks Trump did wrong. That is not loyalty. More important, that is not honesty.
Comey’s claims regarding the incident when Trump is said to have pressured him to end the investigation into Mike Flynn also doesn’t make sense. Leaving aside his claims that he “understood the President to be requesting we drop any investigation of Flynn”, that means whatever you want it to mean and doesn’t even remotely come close to obstruction. What damns Comey is his reaction. If he really believed the President was attempting to obstruct an investigation, he had an obligation to notify the Attorney General ASAP. Comey claims he didn’t because he believed Sessions was going to recuse himself into the Russian Investigation. But Sessions had just been sworn in five days prior. There was absolutely no indication that Sessions would recuse himself. Indeed, the news at the time seem to suggest Session wouldn’t recuse himself. And it wasn’t for another two weeks that he did. So there was nothing on February 14, 2017 that would allow Comey to believe Session shouldn’t be told that President of the United States was committing a crime.
Likewise, Comey claims he didn’t tell the then Acting Deputy Attorney General, Dana Boente, “who would also not be long in the role.” Boente was appointed as the temporary AG on February 9, 2017, the same day Sessions was sworn in as the Attorney General. Boente remained in that position until April 25, 2017 when Rod Rosenstein was confirmed by the Senate. Even if you believe that Comey had some special insight that Session would be recusing himself (and there is nothing in the prepared statement to support that assertion), the idea that Comey thought it better to conceal the possibility of Presidential criminal activity from the Deputy AG who would be on the job for another six weeks rings hollow.
And there is something very odd in Comey’s belief that the best way to enforce the laws of the United States and make sure the President wasn’t breaking them was by writing it down in a memo. As that was the only action he took regarding Trump’s remarks, then the FBI cannot claim the President was obstructing its investigation
(As an aside, I am also surprised by Comey’s claim that he only spoke privately as FBI Director with President Obama twice. Even accepting Comey’s view that he reports to the Attorney General, the idea that the President would not call the head of the FBI to have a one on one conversation shows a surprisingly low level of interest by President Obama in law enforcement activities, especially given the various terrorist attacks, such as the Pulse Nightclub, or the San Bernardino attack. Maybe it was true that Obama found out about everything that happened in his administration through the media).
The great irony in all of this is Trump’s demand for loyalty seems to have stemmed from a desire to have the DOJ and FBI publicly confirm what Comey told the President privately three times: Donald J. Trump was not under criminal investigation in connection with the Russian Influence Investigation. Comey as a private citizen did what Trump wanted him to do while he ran the FBI.
So there is no obstruction and no criminal wrong doing by Trump. And it is very unlikely anything Comey says today is going to change those facts.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Pond, the citizens of the UK are voting in a snap election. As we await the first election results from Sodor, it appears likely that Theresa May will return as Prime Minister of a Conservative Government and Jeremy Corbyn and Labour will be the opposition. The polls showed a tightening race. But interestingly, the Conservative vote remains steady, at about 45% (+/- 3 pts) in all the polls. Labour’s gains came from the other leftish parties. So it is not that Labour convincing people not to vote for the Conservatives, but convincing people not to dilute the opposition. It’s not really clear this is a viable long term election strategy, especially in a campaign that was, until the recent terror attacks in Manchester and London, primarily focused on the Brexit campaign.
And while May and the Conservatives have a lot of questions to answer about why there are so many potential terrorists walking around the UK, Corbyn’s views of Islamic Terrorists does not appear to be one that will resonate with voters who wish to feel safe.
Comey may win. In which case, the populist revolt which gave us Brexit and Trump rolls on, confounding the chattering classes who thought/hoped the wave had broken in the French Elections. And that means we are truly be living in interesting times.