By Nancy Thorner & Ed Ingold -
Did President Trump record his meetings with Director Comey, or did he not? That is the question burning in the minds of Democrats. More important, it had a profound effect on Comey’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary committee. Comey’s testimony was honest, if not perfectly forthright.
- He confirmed that he had told Trump, on three separate occasions, that the President was not under investigation. This is in direct conflict with statements leaked to the New York Times, possibly by Comey or one of his close associates prior to the committee hearing.
- He admitted to deliberately leaking his recollections of those conversations to a friend, who in turn, leaked it to the NYT
- He declared his reason for leaking the information was to create a demand for a special counselor to investigate Russian involvement in the election
- He threw in tidbits which demonstrated that AG Loretta Lynch had directly obstructed the FBI’s investigation of Hillary’s email and handling of classified information.
- He affirmatively denied that anyone attempted to obstruct the investigation.
Evaluating Comey's Testimony and Integrity
How do we know other effects on Comey’s testimony? What would he have said had the threat of an audio recording not been present? Listen to the way he answered most of the questions, “I think,” “My impression was,” I felt,” and notably, “I could be wrong.” These are weasel words (aka, legalese) which make the point he wished to project, but difficult to prosecute if found to be wrong. Had there been no threat of independent evidence, Comey would probably have answered affirmatively.
Brit Hume of Fox News described Comey’s testimony as a few facts interspersed amid a stream of innuendoes which serve as "click bait" -- term used in the Internet universe to describe a salacious headline to grab your attention -- for Democrats, without any real substance to back them up. The term should be part of the Republicans’ talking points, mentioned at every opportunity and derided for what they are and the fools who seize on them.
Concerning the honesty and integrity of James Comey, a State of the Nation post on May 18, 2017, The Inside Story on James B. Comey, describes how Comey has functioned as a Clinton (and Obama administration) fixer while becoming fabulously wealthy as he went in and out of private enterprise and government "service." He also covered up/refused to investigate other government embarrassments for the Bushes.
Interesting is the reported reason for the timing of Comey's firing. Trump had to have him out of town so that computers, records could be seized before he could have them destroyed. Every move had to be carefully orchestrated so that no leakers could warn Comey.
Leaks Decry Loyalty
In the past, notably in Senate testimony days before being fired, Comey declined to answer the question whether Trump was under investigation. This, in effect, seemed to confirm the President was under investigation. That is most likely the “cloud” to which the President referred.
There have also been a long series of leaks which the liberal press and Democrats have spun to make the President look bad or foolish. “Loyalty”, under these circumstances, could consist of a pledge to quash leaks and investigate their source and not work against the President’s policies behind his back. The President said, and Comey confirmed before the Senate committee, that Trump encouraged Comey to investigate possible collusion with the Russians (or other foreign powers) by campaign workers and staff.
It probably doesn’t matter, at this point, whether the recordings are real. They have served their purpose, to keep Comey truthful. No amount of denial or proof to the contrary after the fact would ever erase the impact of false testimony. Of course, Democrats will never accept that they never existed. It must be a cover-up, interference, or destruction of evidence. The Secret Service, who would be involved, has affirmatively denied their existence. What remains to be heard is testimony whether any evidence at all has been gathered to support the Democrats’ claims of collusion. Of the 17 (3, 4, or 22, depending on the source) intelligence agencies, only the FBI has demurred on this question.
Comey stated his intention in leaking information was to create a demand for a special counselor to investigate Russian involvement in the election, his wish was granted with the appointment of Muller a special counselor to investigate Russian involvement in the election.
Special Counselor Mueller Ignites Concern
It has been rumored that President Trump was thinking of firing Mueller, which the President has the constitutional authority to demand the Attorney General to do. There is also growing opposition to Mueller’s appointment among conservatives outside the administration for these reasons:
- Mueller is known to be close friends with former FBI director James Comey, whose credibility he would have to weigh against the president’s if Mueller decided to probe whether Trump committed obstruction of justice by expressing the hope that Comey would be lenient with former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
- Mueller has added a former Clinton Foundation attorney to his investigative team. The attorney, Jeannie Rhee, defended the Clinton Foundation against Freedom of Information Act requests regarding Hillary Clinton’s illicit private email server.
Firing of the special counselor is opposed vehemently by Republican swamp citizens Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Susan Collins (R-ME). Political quoted Graham as saying, “There’s no reason to fire Mueller. What’s he done to be fired?” The same source quoted Collins as saying that firing Mueller would “certainly be an extraordinarily unwise move.” Disapproval also came from Speaker Paul Ryan on the special counsel probe of Russia meddling: "Let Robert Mueller do his job."
The investigation by Congress and potentially by Mueller is no longer about possible Russian meddling in the election. With recent testimony, it is not even about Republican collusion with the Russians. It is about anything Russian and anything related to President Trump and his cabinet. Every phrase uttered is interpreted in the worst possible light.
The Democrats would like to see the Mueller investigation to be prolonged and as wide ranging as that of Archibald Cox in the ‘90s. In that case, Whitewater was quickly cleared, but the investigation focused on a young intern and presidential groupie, Monica Lewinsky.
The Democrats are going after Jeff Sessions in a similar fashion, to the effect “We know he didn’t do anything with the Russians, but he didn’t tell us he wasn’t doing anything when we asked.” By his detractor's logic, each new fact uncovered reveals two new scandals on either side.