Reflections on James Covfefe's Testimony
Normally I publish my blog post on Saturday mornings because I was advised that is the day and time of the week when most people have leisure time to read. However, today's testimony by former FBI Director James Comey before the Senate Intelligence Committee has prompted me to issue a response immediately due to its importance and urgency to the state of this country's political and legal establishment.
First I'll start by commenting on Donald Trump's personal lawyer deciding to speak to the national media so soon after Comey's public testimony ended (Comey and the Senate committee then met behind closed doors to continue his testimony to address more sensitive/ classified issues that could not be discussed before the media so as to protect the integrity of ongoing investigations). Trump's camp declared that the President feels "completely vindicated" by Comey's admission that he told Trump that he was not personally under investigation and basically called Comey a liar- that Trump never asked for Comey's "loyalty." For the former, Comey merely stated that he told Trump he was not under investigation "at that time" but his close personal associates from both his campaign and his transition team clearly were under investigation and that during the course of the investigation it is entirely possible, based on the evidence uncovered, that Trump surely could become a leading, if not central, figure in the ongoing investigation. By no means did Comey ever "clear Trump" of wrongdoing and plainly stated that the investigation is now in the capable and ultra-professional hands of former FBI Director Robert Mueller.
As for the latter accusation that Comey fabricated the "loyalty pledge"- anyone who is not blindly biased towards Trump and has been paying attention to Trump's obvious lies and misleading statements not just during his presidency or candidacy, but through-out his entire public life, should trust Comey, who made a point to document as soon as possible every discussion he had with Trump for fear that Trump would lie about what was said, over Trump. Almost every senator on the committee- Democrat or Republican- praised Comey for his integrity, candor and service to the country for his testimony on multiple occasions on many topics, not just the current investigation involving Russian meddling in the 2016 election and whether Trump, or anyone of his associates colluded with the Russians. I found it compelling that Comey stated he hopes Trump does have tapes of their discussions because it will further validate his written memos as the truth and that if they do exist, he wholeheartedly would welcome their release.
Regardless of one's opinion of Comey (including how he handled the Hillary Clinton private email investigation and whether his announcement a week before the election that the investigation was being reopened cost Clinton the presidency- personally, I felt that Comey was placed in a "damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't situation" where he chose what he thought was the least damaging option: that it would have been far worse not to tell Congress the Clinton investigation was reopened for fear that if she won, Republicans would have been outraged and accused him of concealing relevant information prior to the election- hell, it was not Comey's fault that Clinton's top aide was married to a disgraced former Congressman under FBI investigation for sending sexually explicit messages to a minor, and that emails from Clinton were found on his computer), I think today's testimony is extremely disturbing and that only the tip of the iceberg has been made public so far. It is abundantly clear that the scope and handling of this investigation extends far beyond James Comey. I trust the FBI and Robert Mueller will get to the bottom of this wide-ranging issue and "possible" cover-up.
One thing that should be clear to anyone with reason is that this investigation was not opened as a biased or partisan attack on Trump. The FBI began the investigation way back in 2015, more than a year before the election, long before Trump had clinched the Republican nomination and at a time when many people were not even taking Trump's candidacy seriously, when U.S. intelligence agencies discovered that Russian spies were utilizing cyber techniques to hack into the Democratic National Committee and placing fake news on media websites to sow confusion about the American electoral process and its integrity. According to the unanimous conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies, Russia was interfering with the U.S. election because Putin sought to ensure that Hillary Clinton would not win the election. As was made clear during today's testimony, Putin is not a Democrat or a Republican, but an opportunist who was primarily interested in gaining advantage for his country's interests. In the 2016 election, it happened to be that he was opposed to the Democratic nominee, but Russia could target Democrats or Republicans in future elections based on Russian interests and that should be deeply disturbing to all Americans irrespective of political stripe.
So the current investigation at its outset was clearly non-partisan in nature and was all about protecting the integrity of the American electoral process and the accuracy of its outcome against a nefarious foreign adversary. It was only many months into the FBI's investigation that Trump's associates were pulled into scrutiny due to their former business ties with Russia, undisclosed, inappropriate and potentially illegal meetings with Russian officials, and President Trump's own words and actions regarding both the investigation and his dealing with Russian officials, including meeting with Russia's foreign minister and ambassador to the U.S. at the White House the day after firing Comey and reportedly telling them that "Comey was crazy, a real nut job!" and that he fired Comey to ease the pressure from the Russia investigation, which Trump repeated in an interview with NBC's Lester Holt, undermining his own aides who put forth the absurd and incredulous reason for Comey's firing based on his handling of the Clinton email investigation- incredulous because if that was the real reason, he would have fired Comey immediately after talking office, not four months later, and not after repeatedly telling Comey he was doing a great job and assured Comey he wanted him to stay on. Assuming what was reported is accurate, it is appalling that the President of the United States would speak in such an insulting manner about an FBI Director to any nation's officials, let alone Russia's, but also inform high-ranking diplomats of an investigation into meddling by THEIR government, which despite Comey's firing, is ongoing, and in fact, is only beginning under Robert Mueller's direction. Even if Trump is not colluding with the Russians, how naïve and wildly inappropriate is that?
Trump has repeatedly expressed his admiration for Putin, calling him a strong leader and being a much better leader than former President Obama. No duh!- any dictator is going to be a "stronger leader" than a President or Prime Minister of a democratically elected government who is actually bound by a Constitution and held in check by an independent legislative branch and judiciary, which Trump makes clear is his wont based on his pugnacious tweets every time Congress fails to pass legislation he wants enacted, a judge rules against his unconstitutional agenda, or any opponent or media member disagrees with his policies or his version of "the truth." Combined with his abundant criticisms and slights of traditional American allies, this has raised red flags for many career government workers and Congressmen, although it is shameful how little criticism Republican Congressmen has bestowed on Trump, for they know how inappropriate if not downright despicable some of Trump's actions and statements have been and yet they put their own party over the good of the country. At least in today's hearing, I was glad to see that all committee members- Democrats and Republican- put partisanship aside and acted in a cooperative and collaborative effort to distill the truth about Russian meddling into the U.S. election, Trump associates that may have been- willingly or unwittingly assisting the Russians- and any evidence of obstruction of justice because this is not a partisan issue.
Lastly, what in the world was Senator John McCain's problem? He was the last senator to ask Comey questions, and after more than two hours of intelligent, probing queries from Democrats and Republicans alike, McCain repeatedly asked Comey about the Clinton email investigation, which had nothing to do with today's hearing. McCain first asked why Comey decided not to bring charges against one candidate, but against the other candidate, the investigation is still ongoing. Comey explained that the Clinton investigation had been completed as of July, 2016 and the conclusion was that no charges would be brought against Clinton for her handling of government communications on her private email server, even though he publicly stated the obvious- that her actions were extremely careless and violated State Department rules but did not rise to the level of legal prosecution. But as for the investigation into Russian meddling into the election and Trump associates' potential involvement both with the Russian interference and possible cover-up, that is still ongoing and it will ultimately be up to Robert Mueller to decide if any charges are issued. But McCain reiterated his confusion about how these two investigations were/are being handled. At that I began shouting at the TV- "You dumbass! These are two completely unrelated investigations." The Clinton email scandal concerned her handling of government communications while she was Secretary of State four-to-eight years prior to 2016 and had nothing to do with the current investigation into Russian meddling with last year's election and subsequent inappropriate, possibly illegal interactions between Trump and his associates with Russian officials and the potential obstruction of justice by Trump and his associates with the FBI's independent review of this whole matter. I was flabberghasted that McCain could possibly be confused about the clear differences between the two investigations. Frankly, I thought, "Is John McCain having a stroke and/or is he showing signs of dementia, or is he trying to sow confusion during this congressional hearing just as Trump and Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway and other Trump underlings have been doing for the past several months?" I have long admired Senator McCain for his military service to this country and for his independent streak compared to other fall-in-line Republicans, but seriously he appeared as a tired, confused old man today and I think it is time for him to retire from political life for the sake of his country, though I doubt he will step aside voluntarily, nor do I suppose his loyal Arizona constituents will clamor for him to be removed from office.
I'll end this post by wishing Mr. Mueller good luck and hope that he is able to succeed in unearthing the entire truth in this matter. I also hope that Trump's admiration for Putin does not extend to the latter's penchant for brutally removing political obstacles in his path and that Mr. Mueller is not found dead in the coming days, weeks or months under mysterious circumstances like many of Putin's political and journalistic enemies.
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