Often in Washington, there's so much smoke no one even bothers to check if there's a fire.
That was once the job of the media, but now "journalists" stand by fanning the smoke into everyone's eyes, like servants rhythmically moving a palm frond up and down in those old movies about Egypt.
What's more, stories explode in an instant — but then disappear without a trace. Think back to the last few weeks — how many of those super "scandals" President Trump was supposedly involved in are still in the news?
Which brings us to James Comey, the former FBI director fired for gross incompetence (and perhaps because he was a sanctimonious pedant as well). Last week — wait, earlier this week (has the story really died that fast?) — the "news" was saturated with reports that Trump tried to squash an FBI probe into former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn. Trump held Comey by the ankles — upside down — out the window of the White House's Lincoln Bedroom as he quoted lines from Scarface, reports said.
No, that didn't happen. Here's what Trump is said to have said to Comey, according to a memo Comey did not provide to anyone: “I hope you can let this go.” Smoke alarm! Run away! We're all going to die!
But wait. It turns out someone just left a Pop Tart in the toaster oven.
The New York Times published the memo story on Tuesday, citing "two people who read the memo."
"It was part of a paper trail Mr. Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president’s improper efforts to influence a continuing investigation. An F.B.I. agent’s contemporaneous notes are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations," The Times wrote.
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.
But for right now, it sure doesn't add up.