I’VE SPENT THE LAST TWO DAYS responding to questions about the revelations in yesterday’s historic hearing on Capitol Hill.[1. Thanks to Craig for getting this started.] Here are my answers:
The FBI has been investigating the Trump people since the summer?!? WTF? Comey clearly didn’t like Clinton, so the motives behind his actions are questionable. Why didn’t he divulge anything about FBI investigations into Trump during the campaign?
There are several reasons. First, the FBI’s New York field office, notoriously pro-Trump and allegedly honeycombed with Putin sympathizers, initiated the Weiner laptop investigation, told Rudy Giuliani about it, and were threatening to leak it to the press if Comey did nothing. So he was in a tight spot. If he wrote the letter and the Hillary lost, he’d be accused of helping her; if he didn’t, the opposite…and this was a cause of concern, because he’d already pronounced her innocent, back in July, to the consternation of the GOP. He weighed his options and went with it.
(The letter itself, incidentally, was leaked almost immediately by Jason Chaffetz, who has been especially partisan and derelict of duty throughout this Trump mess.)
As for the Russia piece, that’s simple: as a highly classified, on-going counterintelligence investigation with enormous national security implications, he is legally bound not to discuss it at all. As Louise Mensch explained on 17 January, and I expounded upon a week later, all Comey can legally say about it is “I can neither confirm nor deny”—the GLOMAR defense.
What’s worse, letting a Manchurian Candidate become President or divulging counter-intelligence capabilities?
The former, surely, and Comey must realize that by now, if he didn’t at the time.
Is it possible that Comey wanted to confirm the existence of the Russia investigation before now?
Sure. It is notable that in Monday’s hearing, he acknowledged the investigation with permission from the Justice Department. This means that he asked for, and was granted, permission to say so now. It also might mean that he asked for, and was denied, permission to do the same prior to the election.
Wait, so OBAMA might have told him not to say something?
It’s not that outlandish a theory. Remember, Obama was deeply concerned about the integrity of the actual election. He might have concluded that such a revelation would play into the Russians’ hands and sully the perception of the results. Obama was also very sensitive about appearing too partisan; Comey announcing that Trump’s team was under investigation certainly would have come off that way. And remember, Hillary was supposed to win handily, and she did earn 2.8 million more votes. Yes, it’s certainly possible that remaining silent was not Comey’s preference.
Is Comey having buyer’s remorse? Fearing for his legacy? Playing some 3D chess long game against Russia?
Maybe all of the above. One thing’s for sure: no one can accuse Jim Comey, author of the “Comey letter,” of being an anti-Trump agent. He is uniquely qualified to prosecute the case. And whatever your feelings about him, he’s very good at his job and cannot be bought: exactly the sort of person Trump most fears.
Now what happens?
It appears that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort—the guy who was in charge when the campaign surged into the lead—was involved in some highly shady and illegal activity. Mike Flynn is already in hot water. Roger Stone was clearly communicating with the Russians, which was obvious to anyone paying attention at the time. And Carter Page, a key figure in the Steele dossier, is likely also under investigation. Oh, and I almost forgot about Jeff Sessions, who perjured himself rather than admitting he met with the Russian ambassador. That’s five people Comey can indict right now, and five opportunities for plea deals involving testimony against other bad actors. Even if this ends with just Manafort, Stone, and Flynn in jail, and Sessions having to resign in disgrace, that would be enough to torpedo the Trump presidency. Trump will never wash the stink off him.
But who really thinks it ends there?
What’s the timeline?
Comey said there is no timeline, and will not be giving updates. But I’m sure he’s keen on getting this done as quickly as possible. Now that the media is finally reporting this stuff the way it should have in July—to wit: my boss, who has no inside knowledge save for being a smart guy and an avid reader of many newspapers, told me the day Manafort was hired that he was a gun for hire for dictator types and shady characters; this is not exactly news—more information will emerge. Investigators like Louise Mensch have been pushing this boulder up the hill for months, and on Monday, Comey pushed said boulder over the hump. Already the Wall Street Journal has turned on Trump. I’ve seen op-ed pieces suggesting he should resign, and soon, before the house of cards comes crashing down.
Mensch predicts it will take a year to 18 months. Eric Garland, on the other side of the spectrum, thinks it will be a matter of weeks before Pence takes the oath of office. Let’s just hope this happens before Trump blunders us into a war with North Korea, or does any more damage to American democracy.
But we have to stay vigilant. We have to demand that the investigations continue. We have to spread the word about Trump’s complicity. We have to make demands of our representatives in Congress. As I wrote in January, “All it will take is sufficient political cover for enough Republicans (21 in the House, 18 in the Senate) to feel safe enough to join the Democrats in dropping the gavel” and he will be gone.[2. I also wrote, in that same January 13 article, “If his dealings with Putin and the Russians are deeper than we think—spoiler alert: they are; they also reek of urine—Trump may well be gone sooner than William Henry Harrison, our ninth president, who lasted all of 32 days in office.” We are 30 days past that, but my spoiler alert was dead-on] His approval rating is already at a historic low. A few points lower, and the Republicans will make like Billy Zane to abandon the Trump-tanic.
As it states in that Two Corinthians book: Jim Comey giveth, and Jim Comey taketh away.