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Is that “scandal face” he’s giving us?! (Photo by Alex Wong/Staff via Getty Images)
Comey began by describing his first meeting with then-President-Elect Trump on January 6 at Trump Tower, at which he personally briefed Trump about an intelligence community assessment concerning Russian interference in the 2016 election. Comey says he alone briefed Trump on the details, out of respect for Trump’s privacy; this would have included the dossier material talking about Trump’s supposed Russian “pee-tape.” Comey explained that he was worried that the briefing might lead Trump to believe he was under investigation by the FBI on a counterintelligence level. He also explained that Trump was correct that he was not under personal investigation:
In that context, prior to the January 6 meeting, I discussed with the FBI’s leadership team whether I should be prepared to assure President-Elect Trump that we were not investigating him personally. That was true; we did not have an open counter-intelligence case on him. We agreed I should do so if circumstances warranted. During our one-on-one meeting at Trump Tower, based on President-Elect Trump’s reaction to the briefing and without him directly asking the question, I offered that assurance.
This confirms Trump’s account, at least in part.
According to Comey, he spoke with Trump one-on-one nine separate times in four months, “three in person and six on the phone.” Comey mentioned the January 27 dinner at which Trump supposedly asked for Comey’s assurance once again that he was not under investigation, and received it, and at which Trump suggested that Comey asked to retain his job. Comey claimed that Trump asked him for a loyalty oath during the dinner. Here is Comey’s fuller account:
It turned out to be just the two of us, seated at a small oval table in the center of the Green Room. Two Navy stewards waited on us, only entering the room to serve food and drinks. The President began by asking me whether I wanted to stay on as FBI Director, which I found strange because he had already told me twice in earlier conversations that he hoped I would stay, and I had assured him that I intended to. He said that lots of people wanted my job and, given the abuse I had taken during the previous year, he would understand if I wanted to walk away. My instincts told me that the one-on-one setting, and the pretense that this was our first discussion about my position, meant the dinner was, at least in part, an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship. That concerned me greatly, given the FBI’s traditionally independent status in the executive branch. I replied that I loved my work and intended to stay and serve out my tenyear term as Director. And then, because the set-up made me uneasy, I added that I was not “reliable” in the way politicians use that word, but he could always count on me to tell him the truth. I added that I was not on anybody’s side politically and could not be counted on in the traditional political sense, a stance I said was in his best interest as the President. A few moments later, the President said, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.” I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence. The conversation then moved on, but he returned to the subject near the end of our dinner. At one point, I explained why it was so important that the FBI and the Department of Justice be independent of the White House. I said it was a paradox: Throughout history, some Presidents have decided that because “problems” come from Justice, they should try to hold the Department close. But blurring those boundaries ultimately makes the problems worse by undermining public trust in the institutions and their work. Near the end of our dinner, the President returned to the subject of my job, saying he was very glad I wanted to stay, adding that he had heard great things 4 about me from Jim Mattis, Jeff Sessions, and many others. He then said, “I need loyalty.” I replied, “You will always get honesty from me.” He paused and then said, “That’s what I want, honest loyalty.” I paused, and then said, “You will get that from me.” As I wrote in the memo I created immediately after the dinner, it is possible we understood the phrase “honest loyalty” differently, but I decided it wouldn’t be productive to push it further. The term – honest loyalty – had helped end a very awkward conversation and my explanations had made clear what he should expect.
While the story grew and grew from, “I hope you can …” into “I’ll kill your whole family if you don’t,” everyone forgot to check what Comey has actually said. While The Times went with two anonymous sources, let’s do the old-fashioned thing and just go right to the primary source — the former director himself.
Comey, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 3, said — under oath — that he’s never been pressured to close an investigation for political purposes.
“Not in my experience. Because it would be a big deal to tell the FBI to stop doing something like that — without an appropriate purpose.”
“I mean where oftentimes they give us opinions that ‘We don’t see a case there and so you ought to stop investing resources in it.’ But I’m talking about a situation where we were told to stop something for a political reason.”
“That would be a very big deal. It’s not happened in my experience,” Comey told the senators.
The former FBI director has let Trump twist in the wind over the purported memo. But Comey is expected to testify again before Congress as early as next week, and a lawmaker there will almost certainly ask about this contradictory conundrum.
As has been stated before: either Comey thought Trump was obstructing justice before and failed to report it to anyone – which will put Comey in real hot water – or he really believes Trump didn’t do anything more than spark an awkward conversation. However, under oath, he said he had never been pressured to end an investigation. Sounds to me like this either a non-story or Comey is in trouble.
Under the law, Comey is required to immediately inform the Department of Justice of any attempt to obstruct justice by any person, even the President of the United States. Failure to do so would result in criminal charges against Comey. (18 USC 4 and 28 USC 1361) He would also, upon sufficient proof, lose his license to practice law.
So, if Comey believed Trump attempted to obstruct justice, did he comply with the law by reporting it to the DOJ? If not, it calls into question whether the events occurred as the Times reported it…
…by writing a memo, Comey has put himself in a box. If he now accuses the President of obstruction, he places himself in legal jeopardy for failing to promptly and properly report it. If he says it was merely an uncomfortable conversation, he clears the president of wrongdoing and sullies his own image as a guy who attempted to smear the man who fired him.”
This is what I was saying yesterday. This apparently happened in February, and the memo was apparently written in February. If Comey believed Trump was trying to obstruct and had made an illegal demand, it should have been reported immediately to the DOJ… not to the New York Times after he was fired in May, three months later. Which is why this whole memo stinks of revenge and not much else. He had to know the facts presented in the last paragraph of the quoted text above.
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) (The Associated Press)
So, according to this, Trey Gowdy has taken himself out of consideration for FBI director.
This may not be a popular opinion, but I’m kind of glad he did. Personally, I think Gowdy is much more useful where he already is, and he would become less useful as the FBI director. Besides, it makes him susceptible to being fired by future – or current – presidents, which could remove him from usefulness to the country all together.
What does freak me out a little is that Merrick Garland – Obama’s unsuccessful choice for the Supreme Court after the passing of Scalia – is apparently gaining some support for the short list to replace Comey. This is not a good idea at all. Apparently, no one will confirm or deny whether he is being considered for the role, but several members of the government have publicly stated support for this horrible idea.
There has been a lot of speculation about who might eventually replace James Comey for FBI director, but one name is being floated around that might shock you: Judge Merrick Garland.
Garland certainly has the credentials to be FBI director, having worked as an assistant U.S. attorney to the District of Columbia and as Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti’s special assistant. Garland also was a crucial player in obtaining the death penalty for Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber.
Between that and the Democrats’ constant drumbeat that Neil Gorsuch stole Garland’s Supreme Court seat, it’s easy to see why Lee and other Republicans like the idea of Garland as FBI director.
However, it’s unlikely that the Democrats will go along with it, as the far-left Daily Kos is already calling it a “Republican idea to steal another seat from Merrick Garland.” The Democrats will howl about another judicial vacancy for Trump to fill.
“The first question the administration has to answer is, ‘Why now?’” Schumer told reporters. “Were these investigations getting too close to home for the president?”
Schumer then called on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint a special prosecutor, saying “America depends on you to restore faith in our criminal justice system, which is going to be badly shattered after the administration’s actions today.”
Other Democrats attributed sinister motives to Comey’s firing, with two Senators, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Patrick Leahy of Vermont, describing it in press statements as “Nixonian.” Another Democratic senator, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, said the firing “is disturbingly reminiscent of the Saturday Night Massacre during the Watergate scandal and the national turmoil that it caused,” later adding “We are careening ever closer to a Constitutional crisis.”
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. said that Comey “should should be immediately called to testify in an open hearing about the status of the investigation into Russia and Trump associates at the time he was fired.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., also tweeted “the need for an independent special prosecutor is now crystal clear.”
“This is just one person. It’s the director,” Collins said. “The investigation is going forward, both at the FBI and in the Senate Intelligence Committee in a bipartisan way.”
Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., the chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, said he was “troubled by the timing and reasoning” for Comey’s dismissal.
“In my interactions with the Director and with the Bureau under his leadership, he and the FBI have always been straightforward with our Committee,” Burr said in a statement. “Director Comey has been more forthcoming with information than any FBI Director I can recall in my tenure on the congressional intelligence committees. His dismissal, I believe, is a loss for the Bureau and the nation.”
“I have long called for a special congressional committee to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election,” McCain added. “The president’s decision to remove the FBI Director only confirms the need and the urgency of such a committee.”
Comey should have resigned. Period. And he should have done it a long time ago.
But I’ll be honest, I am a little torn on this one. I’m glad the trash was taken out, but it was poor timing, as many others have said. We do keep hearing that very little evidence has been brought forth about Trump and Russia, regardless of the comments from people like Schumer. And we keep getting told that Trump himself isn’t under investigation, for whatever good that does him.
However, the timing of this could have been better.