A statement released by fired FBI chief James Comey in preparation for his appearance scheduled Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee reveals that as a longtime Washington insider, he was uncomfortable interacting with the blunt-spoken and pull-no-punches President Donald Trump, an outsider’s outsider.
But he makes no claim of illegal activity in the statement.
He’s scheduled to testify, in an appearance the Hill already is describing as being held in a “feverish atmosphere,” about his conversations with the president, which Trump has encouraged him to do.
Democrats and others staging open and defiant actions and opposition to the sitting president have been hoping for weeks that something will appear to give them grounds for raising “obstruction of justice” claims against Trump.
Primarily, those would concern Trump’s suggestion to Comey regarding dismissed National Security Adviser Michael Flynn that he let the case go.
However, while those statements were reported by Comey, in his statement released on Wednesday, there was no indication from the former FBI chief that he considered anything illegal.
A statement claiming Trump obstructed justice by pressuring Comey would have caused problems for Comey, too, as federal law requires him to report immediately something he perceives as a threat like that, and he did not do so.
Comey stated, “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.’ (In fact, I had a positive experience dealing with Mike Flynn when he was a colleague as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency at the beginning of my term at FBI.) I did not say I would ‘let this go.’”
Much of the leftists’ weaponry they hoped to use against Trump fell by the wayside earlier Wednesday, when Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee, “In my time of service, which is interacting with the president of the United States or anybody in his administration, I have never been pressured, I’ve never felt pressure to intervene or interfere in any way with shaping intelligence in a political way or in relationship to an ongoing investigation.”
On Tuesday, the Washington Post claimed that in a one-on-one meeting with Coats on March 22, Trump “asked him if he could intervene with then-FBI Director James B. Comey to get the bureau to back off its focus on former national security adviser Michael Flynn in its Russia probe.”
But Coats said he didn’t necessarily believe what the newspaper, which claimed it had information from anonymous sources, said.
Coats appeared to flatly contradict that with his blanket statement that he never felt pressured to interfere or intervene in any investigation by the president or anyone in his administration.
National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers told the committee essentially the same message.
Trump’s opponents, who have continued to wage the anti-Trump campaign they launched when he was defeating now-twice failed Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton for the presidency in 2016 even after he was elected and took office, have wanted something – anything – they can use against Trump.
That’s been the genesis for the allegations about Russians interfering in the U.S. election, claims for which investigations so far have documented no evidence.
In a statement that was widely disseminated Wednesday, Comey described several in-person and several telephone conversations with the president.
Of course the controversy could heat up on Thursday based on whatever questions senators ask Comey, and whatever he answers, but the American public will also remember his own issues with credibility.
Wrote Edward Morrissey at the Week, “He dissipated his credibility with both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill during the FBI probe into Hillary Clinton. He outraged Democrats by publicly characterizing the conclusions of the investigation, and angered Republicans by not pursuing a prosecution over the secret email system and the serial mishandling of classified data.
“Having already done that once, Comey did it all over again just days before the election in a move which Democrats insist cost them the presidential election. And just before he was fired, Comey defended all of those actions, leading some Democrats to call for his termination.”
Comey’s description of Clinton’s handling of national secrets was that she was extremely careless, but then he stepped out of his role as an investigator and into the role of a prosecutor and said no charges were warranted.
He also recently refused to respond to Senate Judiciary Committee questions about his meetings with Trump, raising, for the Week, the question “why Comey wants to talk to them about Trump but not to the Judiciary Committee.”
Comey said he first briefed Trump on reports that the intelligence community knew were coming – unsubstantiated claims about alleged salacious and improper activities by Russia.
He said he also offered Trump, who did not ask for it, assurance that Trump was not under investigation.
At a later dinner with Trump, Comey said he felt like he was being told he needed to ask for his job and “create some sort of patronage relationship.”
He said that concerned him and while he was not on anybody’s side politically, that was the best stance for the president.
To Trump’s statement, “I need loyalty,” he claimed he responded with: “You will always get honesty from me.”
Regarding Flynn, Comey said the president described him as a “good guy” and said he hoped “you can see your way clear to letting this go.”
Comey claimed he made no promises.
Shortly after, he said, he asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to “prevent any future direct communication between the president and me.”
He also described Trump’s requests for the FBI to be able to “lift the cloud” coming from the unsubstantiated allegations.
“I responded that we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could.”
WND reported last month that the Washington Times reported it was President Obama’s CIA director, John Brennan, who prompted the investigation into claims the Trump campaign had inappropriate contacts with the Russian government.
But that’s the same John Brennan who, like other top Democrats, has stated he has seen no evidence of collusion with the Russians, and the same John Brennan who, among the other indiscretions, was caught lying to Congress.
The Times reported on Memorial Day that the reason the Obama administration last summer started investigating the Trump campaign “has come into clearer focus following a string of congressional hearings on Russian interference in the presidential election.”
“It was then-CIA Director John O. Brennan, a close confidant of Mr. Obama’s, who provided the information – what he termed the ‘basis’ – for the FBI to start the counterintelligence investigation last summer. Mr. Brennan served on the former president’s 2008 presidential campaign and in his White House,” the report said.
The Times reported Brennan told the House Intelligence Committee on May 23 “that the intelligence community was picking up tidbits on Trump associates making contacts with Russians.”
But Brennan did not name either the Russians or the Trump people, and he indicated he did not know what was said.
“But he said he believed the contacts were numerous enough to alert the FBI, which began its probe into Trump associates that same July, according to previous congressional testimony from then-FBI director James B. Comey,” the Times said.
The paper said the FBI probe of contacts “came the same month the intelligence community fingered Russian agents as orchestrating hacks into Democratic Party computers and providing stolen emails to WikiLeaks.”
“Mr. Brennan, who has not hidden his dislike for Mr. Trump, testified he briefed the investigation’s progress to Mr. Obama, who at the time was trying to aid Hillary Clinton in her campaign.”
But WND reported earlier this month Brennan told the House Intelligence Committee he did not know of any evidence of collusion, coordination or conspiracy between Trump and the Russian government.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former acting CIA Director Michael Morell also have stated they have seen no evidence of collusion.
At the time, Brennan said he had seen some Trump campaign operatives making contact with Russia, and he was worried it might lead to collusion. In response, the Obama administration surveilled the Trump team and had the FBI launch an investigation.