Former FBI director James Comey’s big moment in the spotlight came and went on Thursday. It wasn’t the bombshell the left hoped it would be; it did provide them with some decent headlines, but it also ripped apart their narrative of a president who colluded with the Russians to steal the 2016 election, then fired Comey to shut down the investigation. It also wasn’t the complete exoneration the right hoped it would be; Comey testified that Trump acted extraordinarily improperly, even though Comey himself didn’t act with pristine honor.
So, here are some takeaways.
1. Trump Didn’t Try To Kill The Russia Investigation. According to Comey’s testimony both yesterday and today, Trump didn’t attempt to kill the investigation into Russian election meddling. In fact, he even asked Comey to look into associations between campaign “satellites” and the Russian government. Comey was asked directly whether Trump asked him to stop the Russia investigation, and said “no.” That crushes the left’s biggest narrative – and the one they find most important, since it would alleviate Hillary of responsibility for her devastating 2016 loss.
2. Loretta Lynch Acted Improperly, And Comey Found It Troubling. Comey testified that Obama Attorney General Loretta Lynch asked him to stop calling an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails an “investigation,” but rather a “matter.” In actuality, The New York Times reported this in April, but Comey’s testimony deepened the inquiry: he stated that Lynch’s activity “confused and concerned me…that was one of the bricks in the load that led me to conclude I have to step away from the [Justice] Department if we’re to close this case credibly.”
3. President Trump Acted Improperly, And Comey Found It Troubling. Comey testified repeatedly that Trump edged around quid pro quo language more than once. At their January 27 meeting, Comey stated that Trump asked him for a loyalty oath, and that at their February 14 meeting, Trump said he “hoped” Comey could find a way to drop the investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s Russian phone calls. Comey also testified that President Trump told him in April that he remembered “the thing” – an easy way to interpret this would be as a quid pro quo. (Quick note here: if you’re disturbed at Lynch’s activities, you should be disturbed by Trump’s as well.)
4. Trump’s Actions May Earn Him An Investigation For Obstruction. Comey said he believed that special counsel Robert Mueller would look into potential obstruction of justice against Trump as part of the Russia probe. Comey added, “I don’t think it’s for me to say whether the conversation I had with the president was an effort to obstruct.”
5. Trump Probably Fired Comey Out Of Personal Pique. As I predicted in May, the story seems to be that Trump wanted Comey to publicly clear him – a not unreasonable request, given that Comey was privately telling him he wasn’t under investigation. In fact, in May, Senators Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Charles Grassley (R-IA) reported that Trump wasn’t under personal investigation. But Comey refused to say so publicly, explaining that if Trump later fell under investigation, he’d have to announce it. That’s ridiculous.
6. Comey Thinks Trump Is A Liar Who “Defamed” Him And The FBI, And Challenged His Credibility Over Tapes. The big headline from the left today is that Comey kept contemporaneous notes on Trump because he thought Trump was a liar from the get-go. He also testified that Trump defamed him and the FBI by constantly insulting them. This could be read as a dog whistle to current intelligence community members upset with Trump to keep on leaking.
Comey: “Those were lies, plain and simple.” https://t.co/AGoO1pLTXa
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) June 8, 2017
7. There’s Some Information About Attorney General Sessions’ Contact With The Russians We Still Don’t Know. Comey said there were “facts” that led to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal from the Trump-Russia investigation that are not yet public. Comey stated, “We also were aware of facts that I can’t discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic.” This is leading to more wild speculation, as seems to be the pattern with this entire story.
8. Comey Leaked His Memos To Prompt The Naming Of A Special Counsel. This is pretty amazing. Comey stated that he leaked the news of his contemporaneous notes after reading President Trump’s tweets stating that there could be tapes of the meetings between the two of them. He said he did so in order to prompt the appointment of a special counsel, since he didn’t trust the administration to perform the investigation. “Lordy, I hope there are tapes,” Comey said. It’s worth noting here that although Comey testified that he found Lynch’s conduct regarding the Hillary investigation suspicious, his response wasn’t to out Lynch or call for a special counsel, but to instead clear Hillary himself.
9. Comey Didn’t Quit When He Should Have. If Comey thought that Trump was continuously threatening his job, he should have gone public with it or quit. He certainly should have told the president that his conduct was inappropriate. He didn’t. That leaves him in a catch-22: he can’t openly claim obstruction, but say he didn’t feel obstructed enough to leave the administration. Comey’s defenders may claim that Comey’s ouster represented the final act of obstruction by Trump, but it’s not technically obstruction (as Alan Dershowitz has pointed out), and there’s no evidence that any investigation has slowed or closed as a result of Comey’s firing.