Former FBI Director James Comey's "Testimony of the Century" turned out to be not just disappointing to those who have been calling for Donald Trump's impeachment since before he was even inaugurated, but devastating to some of the key anti-Trump narratives, most importantly the Russia collusion conspiracy theory. The person who came out looking the worst from the hours-long testimony wasn't Trump or even the FBI director he fired, but a Democrat darling: Barack Obama's Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Another major casualty of Comey's testimony was the establishment media, in particular, the New York Times.
In response to a series of questions from Republican Sen. James Risch about false reports based on unnamed sources, Comey exposed a widely cited New York Times February 14 "bombshell" article alleging that "Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence." The article, Comey made clear, was almost entirely false, apparently based on sources who either simply didn't know what they were talking about — a trend Comey noted among many of the leak-based stories coming out of the media.
As The Daily Wire underscored at the time, the Times’ article, seeping with innuendo and nefarious implications and built upon previous unsubstantiated allegations, was clearly crafted to push the Trump-Russia collusion narrative, despite admitting at one point to having "no evidence" of any wrongdoing by Trump and his associates. Here’s how the "bombshell" piece began:
Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.
American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election.
The officials interviewed in recent weeks said that, so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation.
But Comey blew the whole anonymous source and "no evidence"-based story to pieces in his testimony on Thursday. Here’s how his exchange with Risch went (partial transcript via John Sexton):
RISCH: You talked with us shortly after February 14th, when the New York Times wrote an article that suggested that the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians. You remember reading that article when it first came out?
COMEY: I do. It was about allegedly extensive electronic surveillance communications.
RISCH: And that upset you to the point where you actually went out and surveyed the intelligence community to see whether you were missing something in that. Is that correct?
COMEY: That’s correct.
RISCH: After that, you sought out both Republican and Democrat senators to tell them that, hey, I don’t know where this is coming from, but this is not the case, this is not factual. Do you recall that?
RISCH: So, again, so the American people can understand this, that report by the New York Times was not true. Is that a fair statement?
COMEY: In the main, it was not true. And, again, all of you know this, maybe the American people don’t. The challenge, and I’m not picking on reporters, about writing stories about classified information is that people talking about it often don’t really know what’s going on. And those of us who actually know what’s going on are not talking about it. And we don’t call the press to say, ‘hey, you got that thing wrong about this sensitive topic.’ We just have to leave it there.
When asked later by Republican Sen. Tom Cotton if it would be fair to characterize the Times story "as almost entirely wrong," Comey replied, "Yes."
Sexton notes that the Times has since tweeted that it would be looking into its story and "report back" soon.
While it wasn’t a great day for either Donald Trump or James Comey, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, with both men being at least partly exonerated on several points. But it was a devastating day for both Lynch and the establishment media.