Yesterday we witnessed the long-awaited public testimony of James Comey, former FBI director, before the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee. He was called before the Senate Intelligence Committee to testify about his myriad encounters with President Trump, which Mr. Comey characterized as inappropriate. On the other hand, the premise for this invitation to testify was over the notion and continued Democrat and political left narrative that the Trump team colluded with Russia to affect the outcome of the November Election.
There is much to analyze in former FBI director James Comey’s almost three hours of live testimony but my recap and summary, while lengthy, is rather simple. The big conspiracy theory and narrative that continues to circulate — that Trump and his team colluded with the Russians, and Trump fired Comey because he was getting close to the truth — was debunked. The secondary scandal (compared to active collusion with the Russians) — that Trump either abused his power or potentially obstructed justice when he fired James Comey — got clearer and it comes down to and calls into question Comey’s character and conscience. All and all though, there’s still an enormous amount of information that we simply don’t have and needs further analysis.
For a quick read though, let’s break this down into a series of quick take-aways to better understand the focus and revelations of the testimony.
– President Trump was never under investigation.
– President Trump did not obstruct justice.
– President Trump and his campaign or transition team did not collude with Russia.
– The Russians did not alter or affect the outcome of November’s Election.
– It is highly suspect, almost obvious, that James Comey wrote and post-dated his memo well after his meeting with Trump as a CYA.
– He thought or assumed his memo would be the impetus for the establishing of a special prosecutor.
– Mr. Comey leaked his own memo (through a law professor friend).
– Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch pressured Former Director Comey to cover for Hillary Clinton.
– Mr. Comey is a flawed and weak man, both in character and conscience – he said.
– There now was more than ample evidence to put Hillary in jail, but Mr. Comey chose not to pursue it.
– It is now quite obvious, that the mainstream media and other fake news outlets, but primarily CNN have been lying and making-up news stories this entire time.
– The Democratic Party no longer has the ability to scream “RUSSIA” every time Trump tries to do something…theoretically.
– Donald Trump is not a liar, he is a master at PSYOP and Deception to affect people’s, primarily his enemies, actions and behavior.
– The Russia story is dead, literally and theoretically.
Mr. Comey called Trump a liar. In fact, right from the beginning, Mr. Comey went after President Trump. In his brief opening remarks, he refuted the White House’s claims that the FBI had been in chaos during his tenure there, and that agents had “lost confidence” in him. “Those were lies, plain and simple,” he told the committee. President Trump, he claimed, “chose to defame me,” along with the rest of the bureau. This was in fact a stunning allegation from a former FBI director to a sitting president.
Mr. Comey also described his practice of taking notes after every interaction with President Trump. He stated that “I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting” and that, “I knew that there might come a day where I might need a record.” And, he further stated that, he considered “the nature of the person” — Trump — in his decision to take notes, implying that he thought Trump couldn’t be trusted to tell the truth. Again, both very inflammatory, accusatorially-based and a loose personal judgement, not at all factually grounded by evidence. As I previously noted, in my own analysis, based on the fact that Mr. Comey previously was known and having a reputation and habit of not ever taking notes. In fact, it is my contention and I am highly suspect and find it almost obvious, that James Comey wrote and post-dated his memo well after his meeting with Trump as a CYA.
With regard to Mr. Comey comment about the Presidents integrity and character, in a White House press conference, spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders shot back. “I can definitely say the president is not a liar,” she said.
Further, with regard to his so-called memos, of which we the public still have never seen, he stated that he engineered the leak of his memos. A big part of why Mr. Comey was even testifying on Thursday is because the memos leaked to the New York Times detailing his meetings with Trump. In those memos, which Mr. Comey also described in an opening statement for the hearing, Mr. Comey claims that President Trump told him, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty,” and that he asked him to go easy on the investigation into Michael Flynn, the national security adviser that President Trump had fired earlier this year, because he is a good guy. It should be noted that such a request from the President is not and does constitute an obstruction of justice, but us merely a wish or a desire. Nor was it a direct order.
Fast-forward to the hearing: Mr. Comey said that after President Trump seemed to threaten him in a tweet (“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”), Mr. Comey appeared to want to get his story out. It is for that reason and comment that I suggested that Donald Trump is not a liar, he is actually a master at PSYOP and Deception to affect people’s, primarily his enemies, actions and behavior.
Mr. Comey testified noting that, “I woke up in the middle of the night on Monday night, ‘cause it didn’t dawn on me originally that there might be corroboration for our conversation; there might be a tape,” he said. “And my judgment was I needed to get that out in the public square. So I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter.” Part of that thinking, I believe also suggests that that was when Mr. Comey determined he needed to draft and produce a memo to be able to leak. My belief is the leak necessitated the memo.
Mr. Comey noted that his friend, he said, is a professor at Columbia Law School. He decided to outsource the leaking “because I was weary. The media was camping at the end of my driveway at that point,” he said. “I worried it would be feeding seagulls at the beach.” Mr. Comey revealed that he thought the leak “might prompt the appointment of a special counsel.” And that’s exactly what happened.
With regard to the so-called implied existence of tapes, if tapes exist, Mr. Comey stated he wants them released, too. Those tapes President Trump tweeted about? Comey hopes they exist: “Lordy,” Comey said at one point, “I hope there are tapes.” In the post hearing White House press briefing on Thursday afternoon, Press Secretary Sanders said she has “no idea” whether there are recording devices at the White House.
During the testimony Mr. Comey then suggested that he thinks he was fired because of the Russia investigation. Noting, “the endeavor,” Mr. Comey said of his firing, “was to change the way the Russia investigation was being conducted. That is a very big deal.” He based that not on his own instinct, but on the president’s comments on the incident days later, when President Trump said that he considered “this Russia thing” before he fired Mr. Comey.
Mr. Comey seems to claim that he took President Trump’s prodding as directives rather than mere suggestions. That obviously fits Mr. Comey’s narrative. And according to Mr. Comey, as they discussed General Flynn, noting that President Trump told him, “I hope you can let this go.” Coming from the president of the United States, he said, “I took it as a direction … I took it as ‘this is what he wants me to do.” Of course the word hope is not the most operative or a directing word it’s merely a wish or a consideration and not an order or directive.
One of the most important pieces of testimony from Mr. Comey were that he used his platform before the Senate Committee to underscore the seriousness of Russian interference in our elections — and to refute Trump.
Comey disputed Trump’s assertion that the investigation into whether his campaign colluded with the Russian government to sway the 2016 election is “fake news.” Further noting that, “there should be no fuzz on this: The Russians actively interfered in our 2016 election,” he said. “That’s about as unfake as you can possibly get.” We get that and understand the Russians and numerous other major countries do that for political expediency because every nation has the desire to see leaders in place who they can deal with. But the critical bottom line from Mr. Comey is that Donald Trump and his campaign or transition team did not collude with Russia. Nor did the Russians activities alter or affect the outcome of November’s Election.
As I noted that it was revealed by Mr. Comey a comment or comments that brought into question his personal character and conscience – this was highlighted by the Clinton’s email scandal which in fact made a cameo appearance in the testimony. Several senators brought up Mr. Comey’s role in the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, and his decision to acknowledge the investigation in public. “At one point, the attorney general [Loretta Lynch] had directed me not to call it an investigation, but instead to call it a “matter,” which confused me and concerned me,” he said. After Lynch had an impromptu meeting with Bill Clinton at an airport last summer, Mr. Comey felt it was his duty to speak out. “That was one of the bricks in the load that led me to conclude I have to step away from the department if we’re to close this case credibly.” To mean this was again a signal and a questionable sign of weakness on the part of Mr. Comey and certainly not a positive trait and a character flaw for the Director of the FBI.
In the aftermath of Mr. Comey’s testimony several issues are still in question and perhaps at play and we know for sure the Democrats will continue to push and move forward unabashed, on at least two issues. One, despite Mr. Comey’s testimony that there was not Russian collusion Senate Intelligence Committee’s Russia probe will be continuing unabated, free from political pressure, and equipped with adequate resources.
Secondly, it’s worth pointing out that despite the dismissal of any obstruction of justice claim against President Trump, the Democrats will also continue to pursue this. Of course, such as a charge would have to clear a very high legal barrier. It must be taken into consideration that President Trump not only has the power to fire Mr. Comey, merely on his personal judgement as it applies to his loose of confidence, but he also has the power to end DOJ investigations. When criminally investigating a public official for the use of his lawful powers, the evidence of corrupt intent has to be well-nigh overwhelming before filing a credible criminal charge. At the same time, however, while a president can abuse his powers without violating criminal statutes, and while his actions can be wrong and dangerous, it does not necessarily mean he is breaking the law. And there are multiple elements of President Trump’s conduct that are obviously and deeply problematic at least as interpreted by many, certainly most Democrats and numerous NeverTrumpers. Impeachment is a political process, not a criminal trial, and anyone who believes that federal statutes will ultimately dictate President Trump’s political fate simply doesn’t understand the Constitutional process. President Trump’s primary protection against impeachment is and remains the loyalty of the Republican base and the Republican majority in Congress, not his ability to prevail before a criminal court jury of his peers.
Finally, we need to continue to move cautiously. Despite of the avalanche of anonymous leaks that seem to and will continue for some time, nearly three hours of sworn testimony from the former Director of the FBI, and a statement from the president — there is much we still don’t know. Both Houses of Congress’ Intelligence Committees will continue to go on with their investigations, as will the Special Counsel’s investigation.
Moreover, while some of the leak-based stories have proven accurate, others have been seriously challenged or flatly contradicted. Nothing that’s leak-based is “old news” until its confirmed through on-the-record testimony or proper investigative process. There are some people in Washington who can still keep secrets. While Mr. Comey’s testimony yesterday is seen by some as a milestone, not because it settled any significant issue but because it marked the first real opportunity to truly weigh the credibility of a significant witness. It was seen by others as James Comey’s day to cover his ass and he did just that, or he at least tried.
For President Trump, he was incensed that a totally bogus Russia storyline was hijacking his presidency and was therefore extremely eager for exculpatory details to be shared with the American people by credible law enforcement and intelligence officials. This reasonable desire led him to basically request Mr. Comey, and likely DNI Director Dan Coats, and NSA Director Admiral Mike Rodgers to state for-the-record that he was not under investigation for anything related to collusion with Moscow during the campaign, nor his transition. He also obviously believed that General Michael Flynn was innocent of deeper nefariousness vis-a-vis Russia, and that any ancillary prosecution related to his inaccurate statements would therefore be over-the-top and unfair (hence his problematic “let it go” request). I agree, and knowing General Flynn he is patriot and the last man on earth who would have allowed himself to be compromised, or turned by the Russians as many Democrats have inferred. They of course are all fouls and know nothing about the techniques of such activities and would even know it if happened to them, albeit wittingly or willfully.
It appears reasonable to conclude that when Trump’s fury boiled over after certain members of his team, as he viewed them, declined to back him, hence Comey, he fired him. But if his testimony revealed anything, in hind-sight President Trump did the right thing – Comey would have continued to trouble down the road, not only for the administration, but for America itself. Whether President Trump’s overall actions amount to an illegal decision or misconduct is certainly open for interpretation, but that case still feels thin to me and the President has the discretion to do so.
James Comey’s testimony may have been unflattering toward the president in a number of ways, but on the other hand it also helps fortify several pro-Trump narratives, as well. It contains neither a previously-unknown bombshell, nor a smoking gun. In the days and weeks ahead I expect the Democrats to hone in on Mr. Comey’s firing, and the reasons behind it, as a key Trump vulnerability and they will continue their onslaught.