“Lordy, I hope there are tapes.”
This was former FBI Director Comey’s response to president Trump’s implication that their meetings were recorded.
As Comey answers questions in front of a Senate committee hearing today about his short tenure under the president and subsequent firing, we are getting a window into president Trump’s behavior that we rarely see. The full transcript can be found HERE. In the least, it confirms some of the implications we’ve read in the press, but weren’t sure about. It should be noted that both Republicans and Democrats have unanimously praised Comey on his integrity and attention to detail. So, it stands to reason that his testimony today is considered by them to be truthful. And, on that basis, it shows us the president is not. If that is all that comes out of this testimony, it will be significant. Most obviously, we see that the president lied when he denied asking Comey to end the investigation of Flynn’s Russian connections. The biggest question for me today is the same I had for Flynn: “if this is all manufacture fake news, and all were innocent, why lie about it?”
The timeline of events also appear more clearly than it did before. When all this began in the hours following Comey’s humiliating firing, news came out that Comey disagreed with the president’s account of their meetings. In response, the president tweeted, as usual:
In testimony today, Comey says he countered this by asking a colleague to leak unclassified information about the memo he wrote detailing their interaction. Note that this “leak” was not illegal. Perhaps he foresaw a possible scenario like this, and that factored into why he wrote the memo in a way it could remain unclassified and be shared. He knew that leaking it would not be a crime, were it needed at some point. He specifically said his hope was that knowledge of the memo would lead to a special counsel, and it did.
This back and forth may have best served the country by pushing the real investigation behind closed doors with special counsel, former Director Robert Mueller, where proper procedure and an apolitical investigation can happen. Both parties trust Mueller, and he should be able to assemble the mountain of circumstantial evidence into one or more conclusions. But in the end, it appears Comey played this perfectly under the circumstances. I cannot imagine myself acting any better, and likely not as prudent. The interactions between Comey and Trump are detailed in full HERE.
The takeaways from today’s testimony:
- Comey stated the president repeatedly affirmed (three times) that he would remain director, then reversed it in his meeting when he asked to clear the room on Feb 14.
- According to Comey, the president made his staff, including Sessions, Kushner and Preibus feel uncomfortable by asking them to leave the room so he could talk privately with Comey.
- Comey felt the president would lie about the event, so he wrote “the memo,” and shared the encounter with colleagues.
- When asked about Trump’s comments about tapes of the event, Comey said, “Lordy, I hope there are tapes.”
- Obstruction of justice was not something he could prove, but thought was possible, and believes Mueller is looking at. “The Special Counsel has all the memos.”
- The president lied about denying he asked Comey to end the investigation.
- The president repeatedly asked Comey for “loyalty,” and Comey rightly refused. In the midst of an “awkward silence,” Comey accepted Trump’s augmented request for “honest loyalty.”
- Comey stated, unequivocally that the president lied about him and the FBI, when Trump claimed the agency was “in disarray,” and had “lost confidence” in him. “Those were lies,” he said.
- As he keeps reminding us, president Trump was NOT a subject for investigation, but he is NOW. And it’s by his own doing. The tweeting and public denials invite scrutiny.
During these investigations in the House and Senate, some answers have been found, but the scope keeps getting larger, which should worry the Trump administration. While it doesn’t appear Trump himself “colluded” with Russia (despite his televised invitation to Russia to hack the DNC days before it did), but from Paul Manafort, to Michael Flynn, to even Jared Kushner, the amount of smoke is not to be ignored. And now, it appears paying attention to that smoke is shaking out questionable behavior by the administration itself. What took down president Andrew Johnson in 1868 (impeached, but not convicted) was not his actions in dealing with the South after the Civil War, but his attempt to appoint preferred officials in his administration with Congress in recess. It wasn’t the Watergate burglary itself that took down Nixon, but his attempt to obstruct justice and cover it up. President Clinton was not impeached on his questionable land deals during the Whitewater investigation, but lying about an affair under oath.
It may be that Trump’s demise may have nothing to do with members of his circle colluding with Russian interests, but rather his attempts to obfuscate and obstruct investigations into his associates on the Russia matter. Even if no real crimes are proven to have been committed, this presidency is forever tainted with unprofessional, “improper” behavior, and blatant dishonesty. If no real crimes happened, one has to wonder why so many of the president’s closest associates follow a pattern of omission, misleading, or flat out denial.
As expected, the Trump team is declaring victory by focusing on the color of the leaves, rather than the forest of trees. And on cue, Trumps attorney Marc Kasowitz claimed today that Comey “leaked” classified memos. He also said, “Mr. Comey made clear that the president never pressured” him. This is simply untrue. He said the exact opposite. So, the battle has now been reduced to “who is lying?” Well, I know where I stand.
No matter what happens over Trussiagate, removal of Russian sanctions, the $500 billion oil field, Ukraine policy, NATO or any other controversy, conservative Americans will have to grapple with the reality that our president is simply a dishonest and improper man, and is trying to hide something. While Chris Christie dismisses it as “normal New York conversation,” I’m reminded of Ted Cruz pressing on this during the primaries, when Trump said, “being from New York, my views are a little different than if I lived in Iowa.” No kidding. Maybe it doesn’t bother Christie, or Trump. But it bothers most of the rest of us.
Recent polls that show even half of Republicans, despite strong party loyalty, see the president as dishonest. Nixon resigned when he lost his party. How far behind is the GOP of 2017?