Mr. Comey Goes To Washington
By Ben Purcell & Daniel Ross-Rieder
With James Comey testifying this Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee, all eyes in Washington were fixed on the recently fired FBI Director. As you might imagine, conservative & liberal analysts interpreted the significance of his testimony quite differently, with conflicting expectations about what will happen next.
The story so far:
- On May 9, President Trump abruptly fired the FBI director, citing a recommendation by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that criticized Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
- Days later, the President told Lester Holt that his decision to fire Comey was made regardless of any recommendations and with the Russia investigation in mind.
- The New York Times then reported that Trump had pressured Comey to drop the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. To many, the implication was that Comey was that Comey had been fired for not complying with the President’s request.
What we learned in Comey’s Testimony:
- Comey corroborates the reports by the New York Times and Washington Post. According to the testimony, Trump asked Comey for his loyalty on one occasion and asked him to clear Flynn on another.
- And he also backs up part of the President’s story. Comey told Trump on three occasions that the federal investigation into contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russian government did not extend to an investigation of Trump himself.
- There’s new context into how the Obama Justice Department’s handling of the Clinton email investigation influenced Comey’s decision to go public with the FBI probe. Comey said former Obama Attorney General Loretta Lynch had made him uncomfortable when she asked him to refer to the probe into Hillary Clinton’s emails as a “matter” instead of an “investigation.”
- We need to add something about learning that Comey leaked his memos to his friend, a Columbia law prof, who then leaked to NYT and the fact that Trump lawyers are insinuating potential legal action and Trump has branded Comey a “leaker.”
What was left unsaid:
- Did the president collude with the Russians? Comey offered that he’d be better positioned to share his view about whether the president colluded with Russia in a classified setting with lawmakers, based on his knowledge of the FBI investigation prior to being relieved of duty.
- Is Jeff Sessions a more prominent figure in the Russia investigation than we understood? We saw the Attorney General recuse himself from the investigation after reports emerged that he had met with Russian Ambassador Kislyak after testifying in his confirmation hearing that he had not. In his testimony, Comey suggested there were details about Sessions’ decision to recuse himself that he couldn’t talk about publicly. “Our judgment, as I recall, is that he was very close to and inevitably going to recuse himself for a variety of reasons,” Comey said. “We also were aware of facts that I can’t discuss in an opening setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic.”
What some of the smartest analysts across the right and the left said:
- At CNN, Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin says: “if that isn’t obstruction of justice, I don’t know what is.”
- Conservative Legal Scholar Alan Dershowitz walked away with the opposite conclusion: “I think it is important to put to rest the notion that there was anything criminal about the president exercising his constitutional power to fire Comey and to request – “hope” – that he let go the investigation of General Flynn.”
- Vox’s Andrew Prokop described the marathon testimony as “an extraordinary public critique of President Donald Trump’s conduct in office and character as a whole.”
Whose side of the story do you believe?
- Link: Congress has requested President Trump’s Comey Tapes. How Will The White House Respond?
- Link:Will the Department of Justice publicly announce a perjury investigation of James Comey in the next month?
- Link: It sounds as if Donald Trump’s lawyer may have accused Jim Comey of perjury. Will Donald Trump tell his side of the story under oath by 7/12?
Jeff Sessions is set to publically testify in the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow… What will be the impact on the participants in the investigations related to Russia, Flynn & Comey’s firing?
Link: Will Sessions materially deny Comey’s account of his conversations with Session as described in Comey’s senate testimony.
Link: … or that Comey was left alone alone with President Trump
Link: If asked, will Jeff Sessions deny that he met with Sergey Kislyak more than the two times that he has currently acknowledged?
Link: Will Jared Kushner testify by July 12th?
What will be the impact on the Trump presidency?
Link: Major polling outlets have begun asking Americans why they think Trump fired Comey. Currently ~31% of Republicans believe Comey’s was terminated to stop the Flynn-Russia investigation. By July 12th, will we have found that number rise by 10 points or more?
Link: Leading Judiciary Committee Democrat Diane Feinstein has called for the committee to look into Loretta Lynch’s conduct. Will any Democrats from the Committee push back this week?
Link: Will either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton publicly question or criticize Loretta Lynch’s behavior?
Other open Comey Quibbls:
- Link: Comey Aftermath – Will There Be a Grand Jury Indictment of a Key Member of the Trump 2016 campaign?
- Link (from early May) Is this story going away? [at the time, the consensus was that this story would go away]
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