James Comey’s Remarkable Story

June 9, 2017

James Comey’s Remarkable Story

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President Trump appears to be guilty of obstruction of justice. That’s the only rational conclusion to be reached if James Comey’s opening statement for his planned testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, on Thursday, is to be believed. The lurch of the Trump Presidency from one crisis to the next scandal produces a kind of bombshell-induced numbness, but that should not prevent us from appreciating the magnitude of Comey’s statement.

The statement, alongside other established facts, doesn’t just lay out evidence; it tells a story. In this tale, the President knows how much power he possesses and dangles it before those who serve him. The F.B.I. director was in the middle of a ten-year term, which was designed to give him some insulation from political pressure, but there was a catch: Trump could still fire him. And Trump clearly knew it, as he repeatedly demanded Comey’s personal loyalty. An early conversation, on January 27th, over dinner in the Green Room of the White House, set the tone: Comey was to answer to Trump, or the F.B.I. director would be gone. As Comey put it, he saw that Trump was trying to set up a “patronage relationship.”

Soon enough, Trump called on Comey’s loyalty. The President was worried about the F.B.I.’s Russia investigation, and he wanted a premature exoneration from Comey. The director hedged, clearly uncomfortable with the demand, but finally told Trump, in rather convoluted ways, that he was not a subject of the investigation—at least not yet.

But the Russia probe continued to worry the President, and soon he had more demands. The climax of Comey’s statement is his cinematic recounting of a meeting with the President in the Oval Office on February 14, 2017. The drama begins after the meeting, when the President instructs the other officials present, including Vice-President Mike Pence, to leave the room. Trump even takes the extraordinary step of asking the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, who was Comey’s boss, to go, in order to allow the President to speak with the director alone. Trump then shoos Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, out of the Oval Office, too. (When Reince Priebus, the chief of staff, looks in, a while later, Trump also asks him to stay out of the conversation.) This insistence on a one-on-one meeting suggests what prosecutors like to call “consciousness of guilt.” All these high-ranking officials had clearance to hear anything that Trump might want to say to the director, so the fact that the President wanted them out of earshot would seem to indicate that he knew that what he was telling Comey was wrong—that it was, indeed, an obstruction of justice.

When the two men were alone, Comey writes, Trump asked him to help out the just-fired national-security adviser, Michael Flynn. In Trump’s typical scattershot fashion, he started talking about Flynn, but segued to the subject of leaks, before getting back on topic. In the key passage of Comey’s statement, he writes:

The President then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn, saying, “He is a good guy and has been through a lot.” He repeated that Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice-President. He then said, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” I replied only that “he is a good guy.”

This part of Comey’s testimony, if it’s accurate, is a smoking gun. The President is instructing his subordinate to stop an F.B.I. investigation of Trump’s close associate.

Comey told the F.B.I. leadership team about Trump’s outrageously improper request, but he did something more, too. When Comey went to see his direct boss, Sessions, he made an urgent request:

I took the opportunity to implore the Attorney General to prevent any future direct communication between the President and me. I told the AG that what had just happened—him being asked to leave while the FBI Director, who reports to the AG, remained behind—was inappropriate and should never happen. He did not reply.

The language is uncharacteristic for the lawyerly F.B.I. director: he implored his boss to put a stop to the President’s meddling. But Sessions, a more loyal soldier, said nothing.

The most important piece of evidence in the obstruction case against Trump is actually never mentioned in Comey’s opening statement. That evidence is what occurred on May 9th. Comey had not acceded to the President’s request that he cease the investigation of Flynn and the connection to Russia, and he paid the price with his job. Later, Trump all but confessed that he had rid himself of this meddlesome director because of Russia. He told NBC’s Lester Holt, “When I decided to just do it”—to fire Comey—“I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story.’ “ The day after the firing, the President boasted to the visiting Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, saying, “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.

There is, of course, much more to know about this story. Did Trump use other government officials to try to stymie the Russia investigation? During an Intelligence Committee hearing on Wednesday, senators pressed Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, and Admiral Mike Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency, about their contacts with Trump on the issue; they refused to answer. They may eventually tell what they know—as, surely, will others. But the story is now complete in its outline, if not its details, and Trump’s culpability is clear to anyone who cares to look.


19 thoughts on “James Comey’s Remarkable Story

  1. Even Donald Trump’s $1500 an hour lawyer,could not stop his turkey hide from getting roasted by James Comey.Come next turkey day and there will not be any turkey left to be roasted.Good riddance to bad garbage.

  2. Americans wanted change at any cost.They couldn’t care less if their choice is a cheat who stiffed his contractors or students from his phony Trump U.They couldn’t care less if their choice is a groper in chief,a statutory raper or a horndog who rapes his own wife.Well,in the end Donald Trump groped and grabbed all his supporters by their p*ssies.Serves them right for choosing a horndog.

  3. It was political theater of the best kind. The nature of the events that led James Comey to testify before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence today are extraordinary. Comey’s testimony of his version of events was even more so. The clip that sums up today’s hearing isn’t actually from the hearing at all. It’s from the moments before the hearing, as a low-grade hurricane of Senate business swirled around an implacable Comey at its eye. That image – an unruffled professional, speaking on behalf of no one but himself and prompted by nothing but his own sense of right and wrong – is the one Comey projected throughout the hearing. It was a masterful performance. James Comey came away from his public testimony before the Senate Intelligence committee with his integrity intact. The Republicans huffed talking points prior to the testimony. They puffed a failed narrative during testimony. But in the end, they couldn’t make Comey’s integrity fall.

    James Comey testified that Trump demanded his loyalty, and directed him to drop a criminal investigation into his former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn. Comey further testified that he believes Trump ultimately fired him in order to alter the course of the FBI’s Russia investigation. These discussions and others took place in one-on-one telephone conversions and meetings initiated by Trump, or after Trump cleared the room of other people. Comey wrote memoranda about his conversations with Trump because he was worried that Trump and his Administration would misrepresent them.

    The most tantalizing hint Comey dropped Thursday wasn’t about Trump. It was about Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Comey said that he expected Sessions to recuse himself from the Russia investigation even before Sessions officially did so. Under questioning from Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), he admitted that he hadn’t just made that assumption based on what was publicly known about the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak meeting, but based on something else he’d known – but he wouldn’t publicly say what that thing was. I expect Sessions to resign soon. Trump is already unhappy with him anyway.

    In my opinion, this testimony constitutes evidence of an intention to interfere or potentially obstruct at least a portion of the Russia investigation, if not more. It will be important for Congress to obtain evidence to corroborate this testimony. No matter how Republicans want to spin it, the investigation took a big step forward. Donald Trump has a world of problems. In fact, Trump son in law Jared Kushner will be meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee as the Russia investigation is inside the West Wing and getting closer to Trump. Kushner will, of course, defend Trump, but it will be how he responds to the Senators’ questions that will serve to add fuel to the growing Russia inferno.

    The one immediate result of James Comey’s testimony is that it took the Russia scandal to a whole new level of serious. Witnesses are talking, and the White House isn’t. Anytime that a president has to send his lawyer out to field questions, it’s a very bad look. Trump couldn’t get a top flight law firm to represent him, and the lawyer he has just made things a lot worse. Trump’s lawyer Marc Kasowitz flat out lying and threatening Comey with prosecution. He claimed that Comey is a leaker who could be prosecuted. Threatening a witness with prosecution is at best witness intimidation, at worst, it is a presidential abuse of power. Either way, the man who was supposed to defend Trump may have added to the tally of offenses that this president has committed that could be impeachable.

    James Comey was just the beginning. The real intrigue is yet to come.

    • His day of reckoning will not come anytime soon since there are still many Americans who think DJT is a God Send POTUS. As long as they believe Jesus Christ is behind him ( Jerry F and KKK), Trump is safe politically. There you are, LaMoy.

      That is the power of vested interest. So the American voter is actually powerless. The same can be said of his Malaysian counterpart. –Din Merican

    • Yes, Din, I’d agree with you there, that Trump’s day of reckoning will not come anytime soon. America’s Trump crisis is a crisis of partisan politics. A political crisis needs a political solution. The most important Comey takeaway is that congressional Republicans don’t care.

      The Comey hearing was a moment of high political drama. But it was also a fundamentally meaningless spectacle. Nobody approached the hearing with an open mind, and, more to the point, there is no real legal issue to investigate. The question of Russian interference in the 2016 election is an important foreign policy and counterintelligence matter, and it’s possible it’ll reveal that crimes have been committed. But as far as Trump is concerned, the only evidence that matters was the evidence from his interview with Lester Holt in which he said he fired the FBI director in order to stymie the Russia investigation.

      The question before Congress is whether or not it’s appropriate for a president to fire law enforcement officials in order to protect his friends and associates from legal scrutiny. And the answer congressional Republicans have given is that it’s fine. The question before the public is now whether or not these congressional Republicans will face political consequences for having reached that conclusion.

    • LaMoy,’
      We in Asia have to learn to live with this American devil we did not put in power in 2016. It is a problem for Americans to deal with. In the meantime, we hope he does not blow us up with his America alone policy.–Din Merican

  4. I watched Director Comey’s testimony on CNN last night. His presentation was taught and concise. There were many things left unsaid but averred to – which i presume will be divulged in the closed session of the Senate Committee.

    Jared Kushner, Seesions et al, will probably end up re-circumcised without the benefit of anesthetics and Drumpf will end up talking to himself besides tweeting inanities whole wearing adult disposable nappy. Melania will have to remain in NY to avoid marital rape and BDSM. Viagra and other PDEI, Xanav-Benzodiazepines and antidepressant/psychotic medication sales will surge to new heights.

    Time to buy into La Moy’s Co. stock!

    For those who are hankering to see Drumpfski impeached asap, i very much doubt so. It will take at least 1-2 years, before Dir Muller finishes the Special Counsel investigations. Let’s not be naive. But the Congressional voting next year will be a rumpus. The Putin-Russkie plot thickens – and yes, the average American might be in for another bout of rabid McCathyism and parochialism, in the guise of Patriotism. Viva Americano!

    Fortress America was breached by their own invention – the Internet, and not by desperate, poverty stricken Hispanic immigrants or rabid Muslim terrorists, who breed like rabbits.

  5. The Christian Right in the USA has always been associated with some form of extremism i.e. fierce anti-communism in the past and fierce Islamophobia today.
    In the South of the USA, it was often racist and white supremacist too.

    Today, the Christian Right wants to bring about a Christian America utopia (their right-wing version) and they are very upset because more and more Americans support civil rights for homosexuals. They have no fear about global warming or even nuclear war since they are awaiting the so-called Second Coming of their

    The Christian Left, on the other hand, include groups such as the African-American churches, the Catholic Worker people, progressive Christians such as the Southerner Jimmy Carter, Bill Moyers etc.

    • Can I ‘bantah’ to your terminology because I am a Christian, and I think I am right, and not wrong. 😛

      Lumping these two things together is a group called Christian Right is too simplistic.
      //They have no fear about global warming or even nuclear war since they are awaiting the so-called Second Coming of their
      //they are very upset because more and more Americans support civil rights for homosexuals

  6. Trump: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

    I loved the way the Republican senators tried to convince Comey that Trump did not “order” Comey to let Flynn go because Trump used the word “hope”.

  7. Trumpanzees are airing ads attacking James Comey on Fox News and CNN. This shows how nervous and scared they are.

  8. If mid-terms go badly for Republicans, then impeachment is certain. The Republican party is now under tremendous pressure to survive the mid-term elections

  9. Pardon me, Dr Phua – ideally there shouldn’t be Christian Rightists or Leftists. But what to do..

    Generally, there are the:
    * ‘Evangelicals’ who cherish Literalness and Religiosity to the extent of absurdity;
    * Mainline who follow orthodoxy, reason and tradition;
    * Progressives who try to to insinuate ‘modern’ techniques and liberality;
    * Charismatics who speak in tongues (glossolalia), insist on miracles and who see the Old Testament as equal to the New. Yet, they are more conservative than any Pope.

    The Drumpfazites can belong to any of these wide groupings, but their opponents (“Leftists”, to the uninitiated) usually are either Mainline (including the Catholics and Orthodox) or Progressives. The Southern Baptists are considered conservative support Drumpf, yet the Anabatists who are ultraconservative are anti-Drumpf.

    The schism occurs when folks weaponize their belief-systems (soulish) instead of relying on their faith and spirit.

    If you want to bring in POTUS’ denomination – you would notice that Reagan was a Congregationalist, both the Bushes and Clintons are Methodist and Obama is a Progressive Evangelical. Drumpf claims to be Lutheran and probably inherited the worst of Martin Luther’s (the original – not M.L. King) foul mouth and temperament, if not his piety and sanctity.

    Pope Francis, a Jesuit saw through him:

  10. When you leak State Secrets they must relate to Crimes Against the State or matters inimical to the Interest of the State to be protected by the Courts. And in any case, a Government Employee cannot reveal secrets even after he has retired or sacked.

  11. Edit:
    The whole comment made earlier should read :

    ” It all boils down to ‘ he says, he said.’
    Who is to believe ?
    They lied. ”

    Errors regretted.

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