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Tag: leaks

Removing All Doubt: There Is Something Wrong With James Comey

Removing All Doubt: There Is Something Wrong With James Comey

There is an old adage that says it is better to remain silent and appear the fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt. It is an adage that former FBI Director James Comey would be well advised to heed.

For some time now, I’ve been convinced there were grounds to believe something was wrong with Comey. Having listened to the troubled and troubling blather coming out of this man’s mouth, I’ve wondered about how grounded in reality he is. But after listening to all or part of several more interviews he’s given in the past couple of weeks, generated to promote Comey’s recently released memoir, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, I now believe it is irrefutable that there is something intrinsically wrong with this man.

I’m not a psychologist or psychiatrist, so this is not any kind of clinical diagnosis. It’s just my own observations and the non-professional conclusions they lead me to. That said, I do base a large part of my conclusions on my background of having been a U.S. Government employee, a Foreign Service officer, who served in a range of circumstances and who also was entrusted with high-level security clearances over the years of my service.

One just has to listen to the words, and observe the demeanor, of Comey to realize he’s gone off the rails. But in his apparent eagerness to let the rest of us know what a true mensch he is and sell some copies of his book in the process, he also tells us all the idiotic, cowardly, and even illegal things he himself did along the way. As has been asked more than once, what lawyer would allow his or her client to go public with some of this stuff, as Comey has?

Comey is highly critical of President Donald Trump, but he prefers to damn through innuendo and inference and petty comments rather than having the courage to state his beliefs, whether correct or not, plainly. He whines his way through interview after interview, sounding more like a teenage girl (with all due respect for teenage girls) dealing with the emotional angst of adolescence than like a former FBI director.

Asked if he thinks the Russians have anything on Donald Trump, Comey says (with strategic hesitations), “I think it’s possible. I don’t know. These are more words I never thought I’d utter about a president of the United States, but it’s possible.”

Comey, in his book, belittles the President’s looks, his hair, his skin color, the size of his hands. In doing so, he comes across as petty, if not downright childish. But his intents are transparent, and he cites a widely discredited dossier – now known as the Steele Dossier, named after the British ex-spy, Christopher Steele, who compiled it – as the basis for his belief that there might have been collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. But Comey still says he doesn’t know that the dossier was commissioned and funded by the Democratic Party. It was this same unsubstantiated, politically motivated dossier that now-disgraced former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe – hand-picked by Comey himself – presented before a FISA court to obtain a warrant to spy on the Trump presidential campaign.

Comey, again in his whiny way, prefaced with those same “I never thought I’d ever have to say this” words, claims the President is morally unfit to hold the office. But what can be said of Comey, who defends these swarmy tactics and who invented new legal definitions to protect then-candidate Hillary Clinton from the prosecution she certainly was due after her blatant abuse of national security interests?

Some of what Comey says would be comical, were it not for the position with which he had been entrusted. I mean, it takes a special kind of idiot to believe one could blend into blue curtains in the White House and thus become invisible to the President, as Comey has described in interview after interview. But even that idiocy is surpassed when Comey says he thought this was a “brilliant” strategy. Along with the moronic nature of this comment comes a clear sense of what a coward this man truly is. He held a high government post and it behooved him to represent that post firmly and with dignity, regardless of his personal feelings about the President. Instead, he thought to try to blend into the curtains. I wonder what some of the agents working under him, facing the real possibility of lethal danger on a daily basis as they go about performing their duties, think of this.

Time and again Comey refers to his wife and even his daughters to explain something or other he did or said. But Comey’s wife and daughters – avowed Clinton supporters, as if that should even matter – were not appointed FBI director. Comey was, and his spouse or offspring should have had absolutely no bearing on how he conducted himself in office. In pulling them into his battles he again shows how unfit he was to hold the office he did.

Comey invents new legal and political defenses to protect himself as well as Hillary Clinton. He has the audacity to say that, prior to his July 2016 announcement letting Clinton go scot-free for the crimes she committed, that he knew whatever he decided would make one side or the other unhappy. Why on earth should such a concern even have entered into his calculations? The FBI’s job is to investigate crimes and present the results of its investigations to the Justice Department and prosecutors to determine how they should be handled. The FBI director is not supposed to be a political figure, and pleasing or displeasing any constituency shouldn’t ever be a consideration. Clearly Comey didn’t, and still doesn’t, understand this.

Again he says that when new evidence came to light in October 2016 that thousands of Hillary Clinton’s official emails wound up on the unsecured computer of former Rep. Anthony Weiner, the husband of Clinton aide and confidante Huma Abedin, and convicted of sexting to an underage girl, Comey says he had to consider what the protocol was for releasing such information in the run-up to a national election. What protocol? What on earth is he talking about? And once more, why should this even have entered into Comey’s calculations? Well, he himself admits that he expected Clinton to win the election and thus didn’t want her to start her presidency under a cloud of illegitimacy.

“I don’t remember spelling it out, but it had to have been, that she’s going to be elected president and if I hide this from the American people, she’ll be illegitimate the moment she’s elected, the moment this comes out,” Comey told George Stephanopoulis in his initial interview just prior to publication of his book.

And there is your explanation, such as it is.

Once more, Comey shows himself to be a political actor and not the properly dispassionate director of the nation’s top law-enforcement agency. Aside from that, one has to ask, does not the American public have the right to know whether a presidential candidate has broken the law and their trust? Even worse, why would an FBI director make a political calculation about whether or not to release something damning of one of the candidates? It is clear that Comey has had no compunction about casting a cloud over the Trump Administration. It was only because he thought Trump had no chance to win and he wanted to prevent this “cloud” from casting a shadow on a newly elected Hillary Clinton that he went public about the emails found on Weiner’s computer in what has since become known as “the October Surprise.”

As I pointed out in my piece of last June, Comey openly admitted to breaking the law in his testimony before Congress at that time. He admitted to leaking — if not classified, highly confidential information – he had gathered in his official capacity to a university professor with the express expectation that it would subsequently would be leaked to The New York Times. And in open testimony he admitted, in violation of 18 U.S. Code Section 4, that he had failed to report his suspicions that President Trump might have been trying to influence the course of an investigation while at the same time dismissing the words of former Attorney General Loretta Lynch urging him to call the FBI’s inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s email offenses “a matter” as opposed to “an investigation.” And he continues to make these admissions in his book-pushing interviews.

Now Comey comes along and says that Hillary Clinton was never “a target” of the FBI’s investigation. This ostensibly is how he can justify never having her questioned under oath and exonerating her even before the interview the FBI did conduct with her. This is especially outrageous to me, having held the same clearances, signed the same papers, and bearing the same responsibilities as then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did. Without a scintilla of doubt, had I done even a fraction of what Clinton did, I would not only have been a target of an FBI investigation, but I’d almost certainly be languishing in a federal prison as a result of it.

It is unprecedented that an FBI director would usurp the normal role of the Justice Department in deciding on the matter of a prosecution based on the results of an FBI investigation, but Comey didn’t stop there. He went on to invent new legal grounds that let Clinton off the hook for the clear and blatant mishandling of highly classified national security information, as even Comey admitted she had done. And as part of the bigger political plot, Lynch let it all go by, never interceding to assert her authority as AG. Her little meeting on the tarmac in Phoenix with Hillary-husband Bill Clinton just prior to the Comey announcement had clearly made its point. Meanwhile, more recently, as Comey has become such a blabber mouth of all that went down, Lynch has taken some action to cover her own ass in the matter.

Other than I think he should have done it at the beginning of his tenure as President, I don’t fault President Trump for firing Comey which, lest we forget, came at the recommendation of Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein. As Rosenstein wrote in his memo to AG Jeff Sessions recommending Comey’s termination, “Almost everyone agrees that the Director [Comey] made serious mistakes; it is one of the few issues that unites people of diverse perspectives. The way the Director handled the conclusion of the email investigation [of Hillary Clinton’s private email server] was wrong. As a result, the FBI is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a Director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them.”

While the inaction of Lynch’s DOJ against Clinton is no surprise, it is something of a surprise that current AG Jeff Sessions has been so slow to pursue his own actions against her or others involved in protecting her and leaking information to the media. Sadly, what comes as less of a surprise to me is how most in the media fawn and idealize Comey. This all started with the initial “set-up” interview on April 15 by (for lack of a kinder term) “journalistic” whore George Stephanopoulos, former Bill Clinton Communications Director and Clinton sycophant. And it has repeated itself through obsequious interview after obsequious interview, where the same questions and responses are repeated, verbatim or virtually so, ad nauseum, while little-to-no attention is paid to the crimes of Hillary Clinton and Comey’s role in exonerating her.

One interview, though, stands out, which is the interview that Fox News Chief Political Anchor Brett Baier did with Comey on April 26. What is most notable about this interview, aside from the questions Baier asked which did probe Comey’s response to the things overlooked or glossed over in the “softball” interviews conducted by others, was that Comey showed up 15 minutes late for it. He had texted that he was “stuck in traffic” to explain his tardiness. Now one has to ask, is it possible for any single human being to be that stupid? Especially for one who had been spending so much time giving on-the-air interviews as Comey was, surely he knew the importance of allowing more than enough time to get to the studio on time. There is the alternative question, too, which is whether Comey was deliberately late because he wished to cut short the interview time and limit the amount of post-interview discussion among Fox analysts? So again we’re faced with this great choice: Comey is an idiot, or Comey is a coward. My call? He’s both.

A more hopeful view of things is that there might be some real action to come out of all this after all. At long last we’re getting criminal referrals, from Congress to the DOJ, of Comey, his deputy McCabe, Loretta Lynch, and even Hillary Clinton, among others involved in this twisted frustration of justice, and AG Sessions says investigations are under way. But as I said before, and I’ll say again, I really don’t expect any prosecutions to evolve, other than perhaps of some very low-level actors, if that. I’d be happy to be proven wrong, but I think there are two distinctly different forms of “justice” in this country – the one for us ordinary shlubs, and the one for the likes of the Clintons and Comeys and Lynches of the world. They get away with things as a matter of course for which the rest of us would be put behind bars.

That doesn’t change my view that something is seriously wrong with James Comey. It just goes to show that one can open one’s mouth and remove all doubt that one is a fool, and most in the media won’t even notice. And if you’re in the right political class, you can openly admit to having committed crimes and no one will do a thing about it.

Let there be no doubt about either of these things.

 

Photo of James Comey by AP – used under fair use provision

Threading the Needle Badly

Threading the Needle Badly

Like many, if by no means all, Americans on June 8, I watched the testimony of former FBI Director James Comey before the Senate Intelligence Committee on live television. My perception was that Comey’s testimony was deliberately crafted to be self-serving and to deflect criticism from himself to his former boss, President Donald Trump. It also was my perception that, in trying to thread the needle of truth, he did it clumsily. In the end, he indicted himself at least as much as he indicted the President.

Comey has a disarming “gee-whiz” way about him that causes him to come across as a good guy – a characteristic of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn that he and Trump, according to Comey’s testimony, agreed on – and his reputation has been one of a straight shooter. I can’t say much of his previous service, but that reputation has to be called into question after his actions and public statements during the past year, the June 8 testimony not dispelling those questions. It’s been said Comey is not a political animal, but it is hard not to see so much of what he’s done and said in the past months as anything other than political. Ironically, Comey has garnered criticism from both Republicans and Democrats, was fired by Trump and lambasted by Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, and yet his apparent leanings toward the Dems are hard (to be generous) to ignore. Harder to ignore is his apparently muddled approach to things that demand clarity, not confusion.

That is all back story to yesterday’s testimony. Watching it unfold, I heard a lot of statements that either seemed to not say a great deal or which could be read, alternatively, as exonerating the President of wrong-doing, or not exonerating him, depending on one’s view and predisposition. But the general tedium came crashing down, along – literally – with my jaw when Comey related how he had written a supposedly “private” memo about a meeting with the President in the Oval Office, which he subsequently provided to a “friend” with the expectation this friend would leak the memo to the media. I could hardly believe that an FBI director would do such a thing, and that he would publicly admit, apparently with some pride, to having done it was even more shocking.

There are times recently, just listening to Comey, I have had to wonder whether he was, in the vernacular, “losing it.” Some of his statements have sounded borderline deranged, or at least very much like whinging. But when he made this statement before the Senate committee, I was absolutely flabbergasted. Perhaps he saw himself as playing up to what he perceives as his audience in the media, but in the process he was admitting to the very real possibility that he had violated federal law. Comey also, as was pointed out by legal expert Jonathan Turley earlier today, seriously undermined his credibility as a potential witness in the unlikely event that any criminal charges eventually are leveled against the President.

This onion is so big it’s hard to determine where to start peeling it. For argument’s sake, had Comey felt the President was in fact trying to influence the outcome or direction or even conduct of an FBI investigation, he had an affirmative obligation under 18 U.S. Code Section 4 to report it. Not to a friend, not to a professor at Columbia University (that’s who this friend is), not to the New York Times, but to the Justice Department. Failure to do is arguably a crime. Surely the head of the FBI should know this. Surely he should know that, even if it doesn’t rise to the level of a crime, it represents an astounding lapse of judgment, a lapse further aggravated by going public with it under oath. Apparently Comey didn’t, and still doesn’t.

The next layer of this onion concerns how Comey went about this. Again under oath, he admitted to using a government laptop in a government vehicle to write a private memo, with the intent of leaking it, of an official meeting with the President. Comey insisted the memo contained no classified information, and that may well be true, but that is a peripheral issue. What Comey did as FBI director was in his official capacity as a U.S. Government employee – a rather highly placed one, one might add – and his notes and memos didn’t belong to him. They are the property of the U.S. Government and, by extension, of the American people. Whether these acts would qualify for prosecution is irrelevant. They were clearly improper and ill-advised, and they reflect more than poorly on someone in Comey’s position. Perhaps Comey was afraid of getting fired if he reported his suspicions about Trump through proper channels, but that is a flimsy excuse and indefensible. If the President was violating the law, that pales in comparison to fears for one’s job. What kind of personal cowardice was Comey acting from?

It’s little wonder that Comey, on March 20, said the FBI wouldn’t be going after government leaks to the media. No crime, no problem, as the old adage goes, but also perhaps another indication of Comey covering his own ass. It’s also little wonder that Comey, initially, declined to testify before the Senate committee and, after yesterday’s performance, maybe he shouldn’t have.

While most in the so-called mainstream media have been quick to jump on Comey’s testimony as damning of Trump, it was at least as damning of Comey. In fact, it was Comey himself who testified that he told Trump at least three times that he was not the subject of an FBI investigation. Yet, in the same session, Comey admitted that he agreed with former Attorney General Loretta Lynch to categorize the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s misuse of her official emails as “a matter” rather than as “an investigation.” While Comey said it made him “queasy” (as if we should care), he agreed to the request. Comey also made no official recommendation after Mr. Hillary “Bill” Clinton met with AG Lynch for half an hour in an aircraft on the tarmac in Phoenix while the FBI was looking into his wife’s actions. Obstruction of justice? Any more so than Trump saying he “hoped” the FBI would conclude its investigation of his campaign? Today Lynch is pushing back against Comey’s allegation, so we can assume it hit some nerve, perhaps a legal one, in the former AG.

Now let’s get real about all this. It really doesn’t matter whether Comey, or Trump, or Lynch, or either of the Clintons broke the law. It all comes down to politics, and the separate legal system that exists for people like that than for the rest of us. I am a former Foreign Service Officer and former intel analyst, and I have said all along that, had I done what Hillary Clinton did with her emails and email servers, I would be in prison. I have no doubt of that and, were I not prosecuted and imprisoned for such misdeeds as Hillary Clinton committed, there would be something radically wrong with the system. Well, guess what? There is something radically wrong with the system.

It was Comey who should be held personally responsible for putting his finger on the scale and letting Hillary off the hook. Even by his own extended public statement – itself unprecedented – last July, Clinton met every requirement for committing a felony offense under Section 793(f) of Title 18 of the federal penal code. Even with the most cursory look at what Hillary did, and the disregard with which she held either the law or the security of the American people, it would be obvious how she violated both the law and the high trust that was placed in her. And Comey made note of that. But then it was Comey who went on to invent a new legal concept (“intent,” something the actual statute does not require when gross negligence is involved, as it was) to let Clinton off the hook. He proceeded to extrapolate that made-up concept to postulate there were not sufficient grounds to mount a prosecution of then-candidate Clinton. Those of us who signed those agreements concerning handling of classified material at the State Dept. knew that was bogus, and the interests of the American people, ostensibly the basis for the statute, were tossed out to protect one privileged person.

I have to almost choke on the hypocrisy of those making such a big deal about possible Russian meddling in the U.S. election, something Comey dwelled on in his testimony before the Senate committee. If one ignores the fact that the Russians, and the Soviets before them, have always tried to meddle in our affairs, if one ignores the fact that the U.S. is guilty of far more meddling in other countries’ affairs – even to the point of overthrowing other countries’ governments – and if one ignores the more recent fact that the Obama Administration actively paid for and sent campaign advisers to Israel to work (unsuccessfully) against the re-election of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – all inconvenient facts studiously ignored by the mainstream media – there is little doubt that Hillary Clinton’s wanton negligence in handling highly classified information almost certainly did far more to jeopardize the security of the country than anything the Russians might have done during the campaign.

In fact, Hillary goes a long way toward proving the old adage that no good turn goes unpunished. While Comey single-handedly prevented her prosecution, that hasn’t stopped her from accusing Comey of tipping the scales leading to her defeat. She asks us to ignore the utterly crappy campaign she conducted, in her “blame-everyone-but-myself” crusade, while attacking Comey. While it’s sometimes true that being hated by both sides is an indication you’re doing something right, it can also indicate you’re going about things very wrongly. I would argue the latter applies in Comey’s case. Worse, I would argue that Comey was derelict in his duties as FBI director to pursue the law and justice and not involve himself in any extraneous issues.

Anyway, if anyone was expecting Comey to bring clarity to the current imbroglio engulfing Washington and on which the “all-Trump-all-the-time” media is fixated, they must surely be disappointed. We’re just at the beginning of this road, and Comey’s muddled testimony only confirmed and, if anything, assured that. Meanwhile, don’t count on anyone of note being brought to justice, and don’t count on much being done to fix the many things that need fixing in this country, now that Congress has yet another excuse to dither and delay.

 

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