As you would expect, our editorial team has thoroughly reviewed the statement released Wednesday by former FBI Director James Comey, as well as his subsequent testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee Thursday.
As we anticipated, Democrats picked up plenty of additional fodder for media collusion to propagate the fake news Trump/Putin conspiracy theory and claim that Trump obstructed the FBI investigation of his former national security advisor, Mike Flynn. The sole objective of the DemoMSM charade is to obstruct Donald Trump's conservative agenda, but as Mark Alexander wrote Wednesday, there is "no smoking gun."
Indeed, as Barack Obama's former CIA director, Michael Morell, said of the Trump/Putin connection, "There's no little campfire, there's no little candle, there's no spark. And there's a lot of people looking for it."
That notwithstanding, depending on which side of the political aisle you're on, the testimony was either much ado about nothing, or proof of the most corrupt and heinous administration in the history of the Republic.
Before getting into the details of Comey's testimony, in our editors meeting this morning, Mr. Alexander offered this brief analytical summary of the Trump/Comey dispute:
"In May, Trump bushwhacked Comey by firing him shortly after his testimony before Congress, in part because he would not say publicly what he confirmed he told Trump privately on three occasions — that Trump was not a target of the Russia investigation. Clearly, Democrats and their MSM propagandists are using their cooked-up Trump/Putin conspiracy to impede Trump's agenda, and by extension that of the Republican Congress, by undermining the legitimacy of his election.
"Trump then fumbled his explanation of why he fired Comey, first insisting the firing was based on his handling of the Clinton email investigation — which Comey did indeed handle very unprofessionally, asserting Clinton was not guilty just prior to the 2016 election.
"Comey admitted Thursday he then bushwhacked Trump by leaking his notes to the New York Times, and affirmed that he did so in order to prompt the appointment of a special prosecutor to further investigate Trump. That established just how 'political' Comey actually was in the Clinton case and is now in the Trump investigation, which is to say Comey is 'power drunk' if not partisan.
"It is clear that Comey's primary motivation for leaking those notes was not his devotion to our Constitution, but because he wanted to vindicate his reputation after being fired, when Trump carelessly and needlessly defamed Comey and the FBI, accusing him of mismanagement at the Bureau, and painting the agency as having lost trust in Comey and being in disarray.
"Despite Comey's assertion that Trump lied, we know for a fact that there were and are divisive concerns among the FBI rank and file about the political implications of Comey's actions, both with Clinton and now with Trump. But it was inexcusable for Trump to defame Comey by way of his now infamously absurd, sophomoric and boorish social media posts.
"That unforced error was followed by another — Trump's asinine Tweet about "tapes" of his conversation with Comey: 'James Comey better hope that there are no tapes of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!' That was a failed effort to head off anything Comey might release to the press. This sequence was yet another example of why we have argued repeatedly, that Trump needs to "stop saying stupid sh-t," as if he still controls his reality-TV show script. Apparently he — and his confidants who vetted those Comey posts — still errantly believe they control the script.
"It is not enough to excuse Trump's communication disasters by suggesting he is 'just inexperienced.' The problem is not inexperience, but unmitigated arrogance.
"Again, the endless loop of DemoMSM Trump/Putin collusion conspiracy coverage is baseless and nothing more than a political diversion and obfuscation tactic. I do not believe anything Trump said to Comey about the investigation of Flynn rises to the level of obstruction of justice. I do not believe that Robert Mueller as special prosecutor, would have allowed Comey to testify if he believed there were grounds for an obstruction case against Trump.
"But, unfortunately for Trump's agenda to restore some semblance of constitutional Rule of Law, he has carelessly fueled the flames of the Demo MSM diversion where there was otherwise not a puff of smoke."
On to the details of Comey's testimony...
There are four key facets to Comey's testimony: The obstruction accusation, Comey's leaking information, Loretta Lynch's obstruction of justice (and by extension, that of her boss, Obama) in the Clinton investigation, and the media's lies. Let's look at each one.
First, the most salient question: Did Trump obstruct justice? The Trump-hating Washington Post, which is dying to relive its own glory days of 1974 when it brought down a Republican president, says yes. Yet the story under the damning headline, "James Comey lays out the case that President Trump obstructed justice," doesn't quite live up to the hype. If, as the Trump haters allege, the president told Comey to drop the investigation into Flynn, fired Comey when he didn't comply, and then lied about the reason for his firing, then that's a plausible argument for obstruction of justice.
But if Comey's written testimony is accurate, Trump fired Comey for refusing to acknowledge publicly that Trump himself was not being investigated. Again, Comey told Trump that privately three times, but would not go public. Given the 24/7 Leftmedia hyperventilation over the phony Russian collusion narrative, Trump's request was understandable — he wanted to disperse the cloud hanging over his administration. It's especially logical given Comey's history of, ahem, exonerating Hillary Clinton after laying out how she in fact broke the law. So, if that's the reason, even if Trump fired Comey in a less-than-desirable manner and then contradicted his staff on the reasons, it was not obstruction of justice.
That said, in his spoken testimony, Comey asserted, "I know I was fired because something about the way I was conducting the Russia investigation was putting pressure on [Trump]." He added, "I was fired in some way to change, or the endeavor was to change the way the Russia investigation was being conducted." As he said, that's a "very big deal," albeit not at all criminal.
And, regarding Trump's "hope" that Comey would stop the Flynn probe: "I took it as a direction," Comey said. "I took it as what he wants me to do."
Yet in answering several variations of the question, Comey repeatedly said Trump did not ask him at any point to stop any investigation into Russian election interference, and Comey did nothing at the time to report or otherwise flag Trump's improper behavior.
We'll see what special investigator Robert Mueller — a good buddy of Comey's, by the way — thinks soon enough.
Second, Comey made a stunning admission of his own vindictiveness: After his firing, he helped leak his own notes to the press specifically to undermine Trump and to prompt the appointing of a special counsel to investigate. Why? Because, the former FBI director alleged, the president is a liar. "I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting and so I felt it important to document," Comey said when asked why he took notes from his meetings with Trump when he did not do so with Barack Obama or George W. Bush. He also said Trump's tweet about having taped conversations prompted him to leak his notes.
On one point, Comey is correct: "The administration ... chose to defame me and more importantly the FBI by saying that the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led," he said. "Those were lies, plain and simple. And I'm so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them, and I'm so sorry the American people were told them." Trump's tweets were incredibly foolish and defamatory.
Sen. Marco Rubio, of all people, came to Trump's defense, telling Comey, "The only thing that's never been leaked is the fact that the president was not personally under investigation." Isn't that telling? Indeed, every leak — including those perpetrated by Comey himself (was he behind others leaks?) — has been designed to undermine and delegitimize the president. Any information that might benefit Trump was kept under wraps.
Third, Comey had dirt on former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, too. As he testified previously, she told him not to refer to the Clinton "investigation" but rather the "matter." He explained, "I don't know whether it was intentional or not but it gave the impression that the attorney general was looking to align the way we talked about our work with the way the political campaign was describing the same activity, which was inaccurate. We had a criminal investigation open for the Federal Bureau of Investigation."
The real obstruction of justice? Lynch's clandestine tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton during the investigation into his wife's illegal use of a non-secure email server to pass top-secret communications while she was secretary of state. Or perhaps Obama's lie about when he learned of Clinton's use of that server. Or perhaps his attempts to influence the outcome of that investigation by publicly downplaying Clinton's willful lawlessness on more than one occasion. Or perhaps Clinton's use of BleachBit to destroy thousands of emails after they were under congressional subpoena.
The Leftmedia largely ignored those very real obstructions, but perhaps Hillary has a new passenger for her blame train.
Finally, the New York Times published fake news, and the Left hung a narrative on it. On Feb. 14, the day after Flynn resigned, the Times published a story headlined, "Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence."
"In the main, it was not true," Comey stated. Asked later if the story was "almost entirely wrong," Comey answered, "Yes."
Indeed, the story itself, in the third paragraph, noted, "The officials interviewed in recent weeks said that, so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation." Kind of undermines the headline, doesn't it? And yet the Times story became the centerpiece of the nascent narrative of collusion, which Democrats and their Leftmedia allies have only doubled down on since then. As Comey put it, the challenge for the intelligence community is not being able to correct the record on sensitive information. "[The] people talking about it often don't really know what is going on," he said. "And those of us who actually know what's going on aren't 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." That's why leaks are doubly damaging — which Comey ought to have taken to heart.
To sum it up, Comey emerged looking petty, vindictive and agenda-driven. Trump came out looking like a blundering and self-contradictory CEO who acted improperly at times — but, critically, one who does not seem to have broken any laws, or colluded with Russia. There's no impeachable offense here. Just politically costly ones.
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