July 25, 2017

Obstruction and the (near) treason of James T. Comey (by Wolf Howling)

Trump Comey Loyalty

Trump did not obstruct justice. It was Comey who sought to unseat an elected president using deceit, felonious Misprision, and probable illegal leaking.

Introduction

The dictionary defines treason as “the crime of betraying one’s country, especially by attempting to . . . overthrow the government.”  In the strictest sense of the word, James Comey, in carrying out his duty as FBI director during the Trump administration, did not commit treason. His acts, however, were intensely disloyal and marked by his overarching arrogance and his contempt for the President, all to America’s detriment.  This is seen most clearly in the way Comey attempted to target President Trump for an obstruction of justice charge.

Comey served as the director of the FBI from September 2013 until President Trump fired him on May 9, 2017.  Since his firing, Comey has passive-aggressively acted to prove that Trump attempted to obstruct justice by ordering Comey to stop investigating Gen. Michael Flynn.  Comey took this claim public by leaking the contents of two private notes that he had never before shared with the Attorney General, that he now claims to have sat on for the past several months for “investigative” purposes (despite a legal duty to notify the AG immediately if he believed he witnessed a felony).

In sum, Comey took a very ambiguous event, unlawfully concealed it for months from the AG in order to prevent the President from clarifying what happened, and then stage-managed a leak to cause maximum damage to Donald Trump’s administration.  True, Comey is not directing a crowd of people with torches and pitchforks, but he has misused and manipulated our legal system to the same end.  Comey is not the hero of this story; he is the serpent.

A note about this article: At the end of this article, you will find a detailed timeline, including Comey’s own averments before Congress. In the narrative part of this essay, to support my factual statements, I will refer to this timeline with letters of the alphabet denoting specific events and Roman numerals denoting Comey’s testimony.

The Current Situation

Before President Trump fired Comey, the MSM’s narrative was that the President and members of his administration colluded with Russia to steal the election from the world’s most qualified candidate.  Following Comey’s testimony even MSNBC’s Chris Matthews acknowledged that the collusion charge “came apart.”  That does not mean the Left will let it go; it means only that there is nothing more than conjecture and innuendo supporting the charge.

The Left’s newest claim is that Trump tried to obstruct justice because he asked Comey to end the Flynn investigation.  The support for this claim is Comey’s currently unsubstantiated assertion that President Trump, when he cleared the room to speak privately with Comey and raised the Flynn investigation (among other things), showed criminal intent.

Additionally, the Left claims that President tried to obstruct the FBI’s investigation into Russian meddling.  Following Comey’s testimony, this claim should rightfully be dead. However, \the questions that Democrats asked him on June 8 make it apparent that they are going to try to shoehorn their primary argument — that President Trump tried to obstruct the Flynn investigation — into a secondary argument that this obstruction was, in fact, part of a larger plan to derail the Russia investigation itself.

The one thing that Comey’s testimony unequivocally revealed is that Comey successfully and with premeditation manipulated the system [V] to cause the acting AG, on May 17, to appoint a special counsel.  That council, in what is a massive conflict of interest, is Comey’s old boss and close friend, Robert Mueller.  Moreover, it appears that Mueller is assembling a very partisan group of attorneys to undertake the Russia investigation.

Mueller is currently charged with investigating both the Russian meddling and these new obstruction charges. The practical effect of appointing a special counsel is severe, if for no other reason than it will add months, if not years [V-B], to the Russia investigation as Mueller comes up to speed.  That will unnecessarily prolong the “cloud” over the Trump administration, harming President Trump’s ability to govern, and allowing the MSM to continue their daily attacks in an effort to destroy Trump in the public square.  Moreover, for the foreseeable future, President Trump will be dogged by Democrat claims that he engaged in the same conduct that brought down the Nixon administration in 1974.  It is insidious.

Comey and his relationship with President Trump

The first thing to note in assessing where we are today is that Comey was anything but the professional he purports to be.  He held President Trump in contempt, seemingly from the moment of the President’s election.  When Comey testified about his first meeting with President Trump back in January, he slandered the President by saying that he (Comey) felt he needed to document his interactions with President Trump because of a “gut feeling” about  “the nature of the person. I was honestly concerned he might lie . . .”  [I-A and C] .

During his testimony, Comey repeated his claims that President Trump acted inappropriately in meetings but he reaffirmed that he never once Comey raised this alleged concern directly with the President, when he could have helped a Washington neophyte avoid the appearance of impropriety [VIII].  Later, when Trump made legal requests to “remove the cloud” — i.e., for Comey to publicly announce what he had told Trump on three occasions, that Trump was not and had never been the subject of investigation for colluding with Russia — Comey outrageously all but ignored the request [VI].

What makes Comey’s slander even worse is that he accompanies it with a lie about his past dealings with another Republican president. It turns out that Comey told Congress an outright lie regarding his relationship with President Bush. Thus, to emphasize just how deeply he suspected President Trump, he emphasized that he never felt the obligation to memorialize meetings with President Bush. By testifying that way, Comey burnished his bona fides as a non-partisan actor who trusted Democrat and Republican alike. He just didn’t trust President Trump. Except that, as a PowerLine reader uncovered, Comey’s contemporaneous documents prove that this is untrue:

The one-on-one meeting with President Bush concerned the reauthorization of the Bush administration’s warrantless surveillance program, a drama in which Comey played a key role. As Deputy Attorney General, he refused to sign the reauthorization order on behalf of DOJ, and he was one of those who rushed to John Ashcroft’s hospital bedside.

A sharp-eyed reader pointed out that, as it happens, Comey has left behind an account of that meeting with President Bush. It is recounted in Angler, a book-length attack on Dick Cheney by Barton Gellman. Comey was one of Gellman’s chief sources.

[snip]

Comey brought this episode up last week in order to paint himself, not as a sneak who dictated a memo to cover himself every time he had a conversation with a president, but rather as an honest man who was uniquely concerned about Donald Trump’s trustworthiness.

But Comey’s Senate testimony was untruthful. He told the committee that he didn’t document his important meeting with President Bush, but only “sent a quick email to my staff to let them know there was something going on.” Gellman reproduces that email in Angler. He got it from one of the recipients.

[snip]

Comey’s assertion that this “quick email” just told his staff “there was something going on” was false. The email was substantive: it documented Comey’s account of the conversation he had with the president. Comey didn’t wait five minutes to create a record of what he said to the president, and what the president said to him.

[snip]

[I]t is crystal clear that Comey rendered a “report” on his meeting that included these extensive, self-serving quotes, and that Comey’s side of the story was preserved in notes–unclassified notes, that sounds familiar!–against any possible future contingency.

In short, Comey’s statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee that “I didn’t feel, with President Bush, the need to document it in that way” was false. He did document his story about his meeting with President Bush, in great detail, in a “report” that was turned into “unclassified notes.”

[snip]

What comes across from looking at all the relevant facts and testimony is that Comey was supremely arrogant, disloyal, and dishonest in his dealings with the President.  And as is shown in greater detail below, the way in which Comey handled the allegation that President Trump obstructed justice as to Michael Flynn was not merely manipulative and dishonest, it was likely itself a felony. [XII-B]

The Russia Investigation

The investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election has been ongoing since the summer of 2016 [A].  To the extent that it involves hacking claims, incredibly, James Comey, as director of the FBI, has never ordered his agents to secure the servers at issue and subject them to a forensic analysis [B].  He instead has relied on reports from a third-party, Cloudstrike, that the DNC hired to analyze their servers.

Under normal circumstances, this would violate protocol.  Under these circumstances, where Comey’s hands-off approach directly benefits the DNC’s assertion that the election is invalid because, rather than an insider hacking their servers and leaking emails, it was Russians who did so, Comey’s decision to forego an independent forensic analysis is simply outrageous.  (It is just as outrageous as the travesty of justice that was his handling of the Hillary Clinton investigation.)

That aside, a year into the investigation, it is not clear that anyone associated with President Trump colluded with the Russians.  All MSM claims aside, the only person we know is in legal jeopardy is General Michael Flynn, President Trump’s National Security Advisor until the President fired him on February 13 [III-B].  There is no evidence that Flynn himself was colluding with Russia to meddle in the election.  Instead, President Trump fired him for  lying about the nature and content of a post-election phone conversation Flynn had with the Russian Ambassador.  Flynn’s legal jeopardy stems from lying about aspects of that conversation to the FBI, as well accepting  payments from foreign governments without Pentagon approval.

As to President Trump himself, Comey has testified that on three occasions, January 6, February 14, and April 13, he personally informed the President that the FBI was not targeting him in connection with the Russia investigation [IV-B].  Comey also explicitly testified that President Trump never tried to interfere in the Russia investigation [IV-C].  To the contrary, Comey testified that the President supported the investigation and wanted to know, once the investigation wrapped up, if “some of my [people] have done something wrong [VI-A and B].”

Attacks On The Trump Administration And Trump’s Request For  Comey To Say Publicly That The President Was Not Being Investigated

From January 6 until the day he was terminated, Comey never corrected the public record regarding the Russia investigation, even though one would have to be deaf and blind to miss the MSM’s constant negative barrage against Trump. [F] Moreover, one would need to be a functional idiot to believe that the administration’s ability to govern was not serious hurt due to these leaks and allegations.

On February 14, the New York Times ran a bombshell story claiming that “Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, . . . [G]”  If true, those facts would have been a smoking gun establishing collusion.  They weren’t true, though.

Comey later testified that he was surprised by the report and immediately canvassed his agents to confirm whether the report was true.  Based upon the evidence his own agents brought back to him, Comey determined that the Times story was false.  Comey briefed members of Congress on this in closed session, but at no time did he publicly correct the record, leaving the public believing that the government had solid evidence that President Trump’s campaign had indeed colluded with a foreign power to sway the election [VII].

Not only did Comey fail to correct the record, in March he testified in such a way as to leave the impression that the Trump administration, including the President himself, was in fact being investigated. Instead, Comey publicly stated, “I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts [I].” Through a significant omission — failing to mention that the FBI was not investigating President Trump — Comey strongly implied that the Times story was correct and that the FBI was investigating the President.

The pressure from this negative and false tsunami of reports was so overwhelming that, on March 30, President Trump phoned Comey and complained that the Russia investigation had created a “cloud” over his administration.  Comey testified that he understood the President to be complaining about how all of the invariably negative, and often provably false, stories were hurting his ability to govern. Comey further testified that he understood that President Trump wanted Comey to state publicly what Comey had already privately told Trump three times: namely, that the President was not and never had been the subject of an investigation related to Russian meddling [VI-A and B].

Comey admitted in testimony that what President Trump asked for was, under the circumstances, “reasonable [VI-C]” and not in any way “illegal [VI-B]”   Indeed, Comey has a history of willingly helping out politicians  far past the point of being reasonable or, perhaps, even lawful.

During the 2016 campaign, Comey easily acceded to then-AG Loretta Lynch’s directive telling him to have the FBI use the Clinton campaign’s mischaracterization of the FBI’s criminal investigation, which meant having the FBI refer to the criminal investigation simply as a “matter” [X-A] rather than what it was — an investigation.  Then, in order to save Clinton from the fruits of her numerous felonies, Comey took it upon himself to exceed his authority and announce that Clinton should not be prosecuted, a feat he accomplished by rewriting the applicable law.  Comey admitted in his June 8 testimony that he did so specifically to ensure that no special prosecutor would look into Hillary’s conduct [X-B].

When it come to the Trump administration, though, Comey abandoned past practice. He refused to erase a cloud Comey himself conceded was invalid and, in the mirror image of his response to Clinton’s legal travails, committed a possible felony in his haste to have a special prosecutor dog the Trump president.

This is not surmise. This is what Comey himself testified to before Congress. In response to the President’s request on March 30 for Comey to make a public statement [VI-D]:

FEINSTEIN: You told the president, “I would see what we could do.” What did you mean?

COMEY: It was kind of a cowardly way of trying to avoid telling him, we’re not going to do that. That I would see what we could do. It was a way of kind of getting off the phone, frankly, and then I turned and handed it to the acting deputy attorney general.

That’s just breathtakingly disgraceful.

Think of it: The leader of the free world asks one of his employees to perform an act that is both reasonable under the circumstances and legal (and indeed, good for the country) and that employee not only refuses to do the act, he does not explain to his boss any reason for refusing, thereby using a lie by omission to create a false impression in his employer’s (and the public’s) mind.

In his written testimony, Comey claimed that he wouldn’t do what the President asked because making the announcement President Trump requested would come with a concomitant duty to publicly correct the record if the President was investigated in the future [J].  Comey’s explanation is risible. First, it does not come close to justifying the way in which Comey handled President Trump’s request.  Second, it is impossible to argue that Comey had the authority to make this decision. The decision was and is the President’s.

The combination of Comey’s arrogance and his contempt for President Trump was toxic.  With that act alone, Comey earned his firing a hundred times over.

Comey also has claimed that he sent President Trump’s request to the deputy AG, but implies that neither Comey nor the deputy AG ever followed it up.  Then, eleven days later, Comey, in his written testimony [K], avers that the President called him a second time

. . . and asked what I had done about his request that I “get out” that he is not personally under investigation. I replied that I had passed his request to the Acting Deputy Attorney General, but I had not heard back. He replied that “the cloud” was getting in the way of his ability to do his job. He said that perhaps he would have his people reach out to the Acting Deputy Attorney General. I said that was the way his request should be handled. I said the White House Counsel should contact the leadership of DOJ to make the request, which was the traditional channel.

Clearly President Trump’s priorities were not Comey’s, nor did Comey feel the need to make them so.

President Trump did not have contact again with Comey.  Between April 11 and Comey’s termination less than a month later, Comey did nothing to correct the public record.

Facts Underlying The Obstruction of Justice Charge

The charge that President Trump obstructed justice is based on a memorandum Comey wrote about his February 14 meeting with President Trump. In that memorandum, he purports to quote the President saying [H]:

I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is good guy. I hope you can let this go.

According to Comey’s written testimony [H]:

I replied only that “he is a good guy.” . . .  I did not say I would “let this go.”

One would think that a reasonable person, in response to Comey’s alleged reply, would either understand Comey to have said no or, if the person wanted Comey to take action, would follow up on Comey’s bland reply in order to have Comey’s assurance that he would, in fact, act. Using that reasonable man standard, President Trump’s failure to respond to Comey’s ambiguous statements should be interpreted to mean that the President understood Comey to be saying “no” and, having had his say, was happy to drop the matter. The one thing that is obvious is that Comey did not intend to resolve the ambiguity.  Indeed, as subsequent events showed, Comey did all that he could to preserve  it.

Comey’s desired obstruction claim gains strength from his further assertions that, at a January 27 meeting, President Trump asked Comey for a pledge of loyalty, a claim President Trump disputes. Comey also asserts that the President acted with a nefarious purpose when he cleared the Oval office before the February 14 private conversation.  Comey makes much of this latter point in his testimony:

WARNER:  February 14th, seems strange, you were in a meeting, and your direct superior the attorney general was in that meeting as well, yet the president asked everyone to leave, including the attorney general to leave, before he brought up the matter of general Flynn. What was your impression of that type of action? Have you ever seen anything like that before?

COMEY:  No. My impression was something big is about to happen. I need to remember every single word that is spoken . . .[I-B] . . .

COMEY:  . . .  Of significant fact to me is so why did he kick everybody out of the Oval Office? Why would you kick the attorney general, the president, the chief of staff out to talk to me if it was about something else? So that, to me, as an investigator, is a significant fact. [XI]

Let’s deal with this in reverse order, the meetings first.

One: According to Comey, for the bulk of their meeting on February 14, Comey and President Trump talked about “leaks,” not about Michael Flynn. [H].  Comey, though he attaches guilt to the fact of a private meeting, makes no claim that the “long” discussion about leaks at the February meeting was a mere cover for raising the Flynn issue. Given that leaks are the ultimate bane of this administration; given that they are coming from multiple sources, including some that are in the White House; and given that it was the FBI’s job – and no one else’s – to identify those leaks, the reasonable man standard argues that President Trump acted reasonably when he spoke privately with Comey, notwithstanding Comey’s myriad self-serving characterizations.

Two: Comey repeatedly complains that it was inappropriate for President Trump to meet with him privately.  Yet by Comey’s own admission, at no time between January 6 and May 9 did Comey raise this issue with President Trump.  It is very hard to square Comey’s current claims about how inappropriate the private meetings were — and indeed, to attach proof of guilt to the meetings — with the fact that at no time did he raise the issue with Trump, an experienced businessman but a political neophyte.

Comey tries to explain this away by saying that he was, in essence, a weak man whom President Trump intimidated [III-I].  That utterly belies Comey’s history, which shows him to be anything but a shrinking violet.  In 2004, Comey famously threatened to resign as Deputy Attorney General rather than accede to White House requests that he certify key aspects of the NSA surveillance programs as Constitutional.  It also does not seem to accurately describe a man who famously assumed powers not his in order to publicly exonerate Hillary Clinton and short-circuit the lawful process.  But that aside, even if Comey is, selectively at least, a weak man, his weakness is not proof of Trump’s guilt. (As an aside, given that Comey’s self-flagellation as “weak” does not pass the smell test, the alternative explanation for Comey’s conduct is that he was setting up the President for a fall.)

Three: President Trump’s and Comey’s private meeting on February 14 was their third meeting. Both prior meetings had been, in whole or part, private.  Indeed, for the first of those meetings, it was Comey asking to clear the room and speak privately [D].  Taking together the first two meetings, that alone establishes a pattern and practice in itself devoid of any inference of wrongdoing.

Four: Comey admits that he has previously met in private with another President.  On two occasions, he met in private with Barack Obama  Yet, mirabile dictu,  Comey attached nothing nefarious to those meetings nor did he indicate that he ever warned Obama about how inappropriate such meetings were. [VIII-A].

Five (and this is a laugher): Comey plays along with Senator Heinreich’s line of questioning, which relies on a premise that President Trump’s invitation to a private dinner was particularly suspect [I-B].

HEINRICH: How unusual is it to have a one-on-one dinner with the president? Did that strike you as odd?

COMEY: Yeah.  So much so, I assumed there would be others, that he couldn’t possibly be having dinner with me alone.

Right.  A person who has spent his life as a private businessman would never think to meet and discuss business over the intimate setting of a private dinner.  It must be proof of guilty intent.  Spare me.

Paul Mirengoff sums up the circular logic Comey is applying to find President Trump committed obstruction of justice.

Clearing the room can only be evidence of intent to obstruct justice if what Trump did after the room emptied was an attempt to obstruct justice. So the whole “clearing the room” business begs the question.

In other words, why President Trump cleared the room is meaningless if his statement to Comey does not, in and of itself, create a case of obstruction in the first place.

As to the claim — which President Trump disputes — that the President asked for a pledge of loyalty during the January 27 meeting, the inference Comey wants to make is that Trump was conditioning Comey’s retention as FBI Director on Comey blindly following Trump’s subtle insinuations and outright orders, whether legal or illegal.  But it is Comey himself who shoots down that inference in his testimony.  Comey, when asked whether he interpreted Trump’s supposed request for loyalty as suggesting “that your job might be contingent on how you handled the investigation?,” replied that

I don’t know that I’d go that far. I got the sense my job would be contingent upon how . . . he felt I conducted myself and whether I demonstrated loyalty. But I don’t know whether I’d go so far as to connect it to the investigation.[II]

When Senator Wyden followed that up by asking whether the President “was trying to create some sort of patronage,” Comey replied,  “Yes, at least consider how what you’re doing will affect the boss as a significant consideration.” [II]  There is nothing at all nefarious in that.  The same could probably be said of what every executive since time immemorial has expected of those whom he or she manages and leads.  And indeed, as it turns out, President Trump had more than ample reason to be concerned about Comey’s loyalty.

There’s one other point to be made here, which is that, through his dealings with the President, Comey acted as if he was a fourth, and independent, branch of America’s constitutional government. He was not. The FBI is a part of the administration branch of government that reports to the President. Both the President and all members of the FBI owe their first loyalty to the American people. However, if the President’s conduct is not illegal, or the subject of an investigation querying whether there was illegality, it actually goes without saying that the FBI director owes his boss (i.e., the President) loyalty.

The government, as is true for any business, cannot function if the CEO’s employees are trying to undermine him. This is a truism that gains further credence from the fact that Comey’s self-described conduct  wrongly injured an innocent man and, by extension, harmed the entire American body politic.

Trump Fires Comey

On May 9, President Trump fired Comey with a public announcement.  The administration initially justified the firing by pointing to a memo that Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein prepared. (Initiating yet another round of anti-Trump fake news from the MSM.) In subsequent days, President Trump made clear that, while the issues in Rosenstein’s memorandum mattered.the President’s decision to fire Comey largely centered on Comey’s handling of the Russia investigation, a fact that Comey admits in his testimony.

Comey testified repeatedly that he took President Trump at his word:

I know I was fired because of something about the way I was conducting the Russia investigation was in some way putting pressure on him, in some way irritating him. And he decided to fire me because of that. I can’t go farther than that.

Having said that, Comey invites the public to speculate that the ulterior reason for his firing was because he refused to cooperate in the Flynn investigation [IX-B].  But there are no facts that support that theory, and indeed, as I pointed out above in the section on Trump’s Request For Comey to Correct The Public Record, more than ample and reasonable justification for the President to fire Comey.

As Andy McCarthy opines, “I don’t see how Trump could have handled Comey’s dismissal worse — no warning, conflicting explanations, talking him down in a meeting with Russian diplomats, savaging his reputation.”  But as McCarthy also opines, that does not change the fact that Trump had reasonable concerns that Comey was misleading the public by failing to correct the public record at the President’s request. (McCarthy does not seem to have considered that President Trump deliberately fired Comey without warning, and while Comey was far from his office, in order to preserve records that Comey might have altered or destroyed if he’d been given lead time and access to his office. McCarthy is of course right about the problems arising from the President’s conflicting explanations and bad-mouthing.)

Legal Standing of Obstruction of Justice Charge

President Trump, to my knowledge, has not confirmed or denied that Comey truly and accurately recorded the President’s statements on February 14.  Let’s assume for the moment that he did.  Does that, on its face, rise to the level that a juror could find proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump committed obstruction of justice?

There are two statutes that provide for obstruction of justice charges, 18 USC §§ 1503 and 1512.  The essence of both statutes is that the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant acted for a “corrupt purpose” — i.e, that, “acting with an improper purpose [the Defendant] engage[s] in conduct knowingly and dishonestly with the specific intent to subvert, impede or obstruct the proceeding,” or acting with “consciousness of wrongdoing.” That is a high bar.  As defense attorney Greg Jarrett explains:

To put it simply, “hoping” that something happens is not a crime.  The law demands much more than that.  Felony obstruction requires that the person seeking to obstruct a law enforcement investigation act “corruptly.”  The statute specifically defines what that includes:  threats, lies, bribes, destruction of documents, and altering or concealing evidence.  None of that is alleged by Comey.

Instead, the fired FBI Director recounts how President Trump expressed compassion for the man he dismissed as his National Security Adviser, calling Michael Flynn “a good guy” who “has been through a lot.”  Comey agreed.  Then the president said, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.”

The president’s statement is not an order or mandate.  It is not even a “request,” though Comey insists he understood it to be.  But even if we construe it as such, it is not enough to constitute obstruction.  Not even close.  There must be a “corrupt” act that accompanies the directive.

For example, if the president had said, “Bury whatever incriminating evidence you have, exonerate Flynn, and terminate the investigation of him entirely… or I will fire you.”  That is, arguably, obstruction.  It includes two corrupt elements –a threat and concealing evidence.  However, this is not what happened.

Comey knows all this.  Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, posed the key question: “Do you know of any case in which someone has been charged with obstruction based on the word ‘hope’?”  Comey answered, “I don’t.”  On that point, Comey is correct.

Hoping or wishing for an outcome bears no resemblance to the crime of obstruction as defined not just by statute, but by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2005 case of Arthur Anderson v. United States. . . .

I agree with Jarrett’s analysis, though I would add to it.  First, the defendant must act knowingly with the intent to do a corrupt act.  That is why Comey is so intent on portraying each of his meetings with President Trump in private as beyond the pale and, as to the February 14 meeting in particular, as subject to only one possible explanation: namely, that President Trump cleared the Oval Office because he intended to obstruct justice.  For the reasons I address in the Obstruction of Justice section, above, because the pattern and practice for Comey and President Trump, during their first two meetings and the bulk of the February 14 meeting, was to discuss leaks, it is not possible to infer beyond a reasonable doubt any sort of nefarious intent.

Second, President Trump has the power to pardon whomever he chooses whenever he chooses.  He could have pardoned Flynn on the same day he fired him.  Indeed,  there is only one way to argue that what Trump did is corrupt. One would have to tie Flynn’s “legal jeopardy” directly into the Russia meddling investigation and then suggest that President Trump was not trying to help out a friend whom he had just had to fire but, instead, that the President’s true, ulterior motive was to impede the Russia investigation because he was conscious of his own guilt.  That is a shoehorn of gigantic proportion.  Indeed, Comey shot down any attempt to make that argument when he repeatedly testified that the President did not try to impede the Russia investigation.  Moreover, all indications are that the Flynn investigation is not directly related to alleged Russian meddling.

Three, acts subsequent to February 14 bear heavily on this analysis and are particularly important given that President Trump’s statements, as Comey memorialized them, are ambiguous.  What matters is not Comey’s self-serving interpretation of how he felt about what the President said, but rather whether the President in fact meant to obstruct the investigation into Michael Flynn.

After February 14, President Trump never again raised the Flynn issue with Comey [III-H].  Likewise, after February 14, no one — let alone anyone acting on President Trump’s behalf — ever broach with Comey the issue of “letting go” of the Flynn investigation [III-H].  Further, irrespective of what Comey now claims, Comey apparently did not at the time interpret President Trump’s request as an order to end the investigation.  That is, in response to President Trump’s vaguely expressed “hope that you can let this go remark,” Comey did not say that he would do so. Instead, Comey made a noncommittal response and President Trump permanently dropped the matter. Indeed, Comey continued the investigation right up until the day he was fired [H and III-H].   All of that belies Comey’s claim now that he interpreted Trump’s expression of hope as a directive.  [IX-B].

Four, there is the fact that President Trump only fired Comey twelve weeks after the February 14 meeting.  By May 9, though, Trump had ample and legitimate justification for firing Comey over his handling of the Russia investigation so as to leave the public believing that Trump himself was under investigation for collusion.

It light of the above, it is safe to say that “no reasonable prosecutor” (to coin a phrase) would bring obstruction of justice charges against President Trump.  Comey has thrown a lot of innuendo and self-serving characterizations against the wall to see what sticks.  The MSM has of course embraced Comey’s tale of criminality with complete abandon which, as we’ll discuss later, appears to be part and parcel of Comey’s intention.

Having said all of that, note that the President is the sole person in government with the final and plenary authority to fire an FBI director, to direct that an investigation be stopped (or started), and to grant federal pardons.  As such, according to Harvard Law Prof. Alan Dershowitz, President Trump uniquely cannot commit the crime of obstruction of justice.  “You cannot have obstruction of justice when the president exercises his constitutional authority to pardon, his constitutional authority to fire the director of the FBI, or his constitutional authority to tell the director of the FBI who to prosecute and who not to prosecute.”  The only body the President is answerable to for exercise of his authority is Congress.

Comey’s Actions As Manipulative, Dishonest, Unlawful, and Treasonous

Comey explicitly states in his testimony that, when he leaked his memos to a friend, with the understanding that the friend would leak them to the media, Comey intended to cause “the appointment of a special counsel [V].”  That is brazen, especially given that he exceeded his authority and rewrote the law to avoid having a special prosecutor for Hillary’s malfeasance.  Comey also did this knowing that appointing a a special prosecutor  means that the Russia investigation will go on for months, if not years, harming our nation as a whole and, more specifically, threatening to bring down President Trump’s administration.

After President Trump spoke to Comey on February 14, and stated that he “hoped” Comey could “let go” of the Flynn investigation, it is inexplicable — for legitimate reasons at least — that Comey did not, then or at any time thereafter, attempt to clarify the obvious ambiguity in the President’s remarks.  Two questions — “Mr. President, are you ordering me to end the FBI’s investigation of Michael Flynn?” and “Mr. President, are you implying that you will take any negative act against me if I fail to halt the investigation of Michael Flynn?” — would have established whether or not President Trump was in fact attempting to “obstruct justice.”

Yet, Comey did not do that.  Nor did he give the Attorney General the option to do that, something which would have been reasonable given the ambiguity of the statement and Comey’s response.

Moreover, Comey was under a legal duty “as soon as possible [to] make known the same to some judge” information about the felony he had just witnessed.  (That language comes from 18 U.S.C. § 4, Misprison of a Felony.)  However, Comey claimed in response to questioning from Sen. Cornyn that he was not aware of any statute that would have imposed a legal duty on him to report the alleged felony, let alone report it “as soon as possible” after the Feb. 14 meeting [XII].

Really?  The head of the FBI is not aware of the law of Misprison of a Felony?  That would be the same FBI that, under James Comey, regularly released news bulletins about the people that they had charged with Misprison of a Felony?  Indeed, for but two of many, many examples:

U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of South Dakota
December 31, 2014

Mission Woman Charged with Misprision of Felony

United States Attorney Brendan V. Johnson announced that a Mission, South Dakota, woman has been indicted by a federal grand jury for Misprision of Felony. . . .

Do note the large letters of the press release.  Comey should have been able to read that.  Or how about:

FBI – FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION
05/01/2017 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 05/03/2017 08:47

Indictments Unsealed Against Arapahoe Man And Tennessee Man Charging Felon In Possession Of A Firearm And Misprision Of Felony

Acting United States Attorney Robert C. Stuart announced that an indictment has been unsealed charging Anthony Todd Weverka, age 54 of Arapahoe, Nebraska, with Misprision of Felony. The charge alleges . . .

For Comey, the nation’s top law enforcement officer, with years of experience at both the Attorney General’s office and the FBI, to claim that he was blissfully unaware of a duty to immediately report the facts of his meeting with President Trump to the Attorney General if he thought it was a felony . . . well, it’s hard to see how that is anything but a bold-faced lie.  The reality is that Comey’s decision to conceal evidence of what he now claims was a felony for months after the February 14 meeting makes him prima facie guilty of misprision of a Felony.

READ  What all the Comey testimony boils down to

And if Comey missed the class at law school taught on misprision of a felony, perhaps he might still have caught the class that addressed the duties and responsibility of members of the FBI who witness a felony.  That would be 28 USC § 535(b) which states that “Any information, allegation, matter, or complaint witnessed, discovered, or received in a department or agency of the executive branch of the Government relating to violations of Federal criminal law involving Government officers and employees shall be expeditiously reported to the Attorney General by the head of the department or agency, or the witness, discoverer, or recipient, as appropriate . . . [XII-C].”

There is nothing reasonable about Comey’s actions on February 14 or thereafter, although one can make some reasonable inferences from his unreasonable actions. It is reasonable to infer from Comey’s actions that he unlawfully concealed evidence of what he now claims was an obstruction of justice felony, not because he was forgetful or “weak,” but because the Attorney General’s office would most certainly have immediately approached President Trump to clarify those statements. Obviously, doing the right thing would have ruined what appears to have been a premeditated plan by Comey.

And it is Comey himself that provides the evidence that his actions on February 14 and thereafter were taken with premeditation.  They were actions to circumvent the law with the intent, at some future date, to attack Trump by leaking the memo of the February 14 meeting to the  public.  Comey claims that he regularly made memos of his interactions with Trump.  On February 14, though, he did not memorialize the entirety of his “long” discussion with the President, largely on the issue of leaks,  a document that would have been classified.  As Comey testified [I-B]:

Warner:  I found it very interesting that, that in the memo that you wrote after this February 14th pull-aside, you made clear that you wrote that memo in a way that was unclassified. If you affirmatively made the decision to write a memo that was unclassified, was that because you felt at some point, the facts of that meeting would have to come clean and come clear, and actually be able to be cleared in a way that could be shared with the American people?

ComeyWell, I remember thinking, this is a very disturbing development, really important to our work. I need to document it and preserve it in a way, and this committee gets this but sometimes when things are classified, it tangled them up.

Bottom line, Comey explicitly drafted a memo that, one can infer from the totality of the circumstance, he intended to leak to the public for maximum negative impact on President Trump.

It is  critically important to note that immediately after walking out of the Oval Office meeting on February 14, Comey actually spoke with Attorney General Sessions.  Comey concealed from Sessions any information about the alleged felony he now claims to have witnessed mere moments before.  Faced with this damning fact, one that sees him deliberately concealing from the Attorney General or his deputy a felony Comey allegedly witnessed moments before, Comey offered Congress a variety of unpersuasive excuses and explanations.

Comey’s first ostensible justification for concealing from Sessions the relevant facts about the February 14 meeting, despite meeting up with Sessions immediately after that meeting was because he allegedly wanted to avoid tipping off the President about the ongoing investigation [III-E]:

COMEY: . . . Why didn’t we raise the specifics [to AG Sessions on 14 Feb.]? It was of investigative interest to figure out, what just happened with the president’s request. I wouldn’t want to alert the White House it had happened until we figured out what we were going to do with it investigatively.

And what precisely was the FBI doing “investigatively”? Comey had the facts before him at that moment, none of which were subject to change — and all of which were subject to clarification internally but for Comey’s refusal to do so and but for his unlawful decision to conceal the facts from the Attorney General.  The only thing that perhaps could change is that the Flynn investigation took a turn and became relevant to the investigation into Russian meddling.  Both of those possible changes, though, would have zero relevance to whether President Trump, on February 14, acted to obstruct justice.

As Comey previously explained in his press conference in July, 2016, exonerating Hillary Clinton, “[i]n our system, the prosecutors make the decisions about whether charges are appropriate based on evidence the FBI has helped collect.”  In President Trump’s case, there were no other facts, although he might have reviewed prior cases to determine whether, on the facts he had, he could support a claim against the President. For example, in doing a thorough “investigation” of the allegations against Hillary Clinton, Comey stated:

[O]ur judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case. Prosecutors necessarily weigh a number of factors . . . [including] how similar situations have been handled in the past.  In looking back at our investigations into mishandling or removal of classified information, we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts.

So, just how in depth was the Trump “investigation?”  Leaving aside for the moment the question of tapes, the only possible element of “investigation” Comey could do while he sat on his February 14 memo would be to see if there were prior cases supporting a charge of obstruction of justice on similar facts.  Obviously, Comey considered doing this type of research to be an essential element of the Clinton investigation.   When it came to President Trump, though, not so much [III-C]:

RISCH:  I want to drill right down, as my time is limited, to the most recent dust up regarding allegations that the president of the United States obstructed justice. Boy, you nailed this down on page 5, paragraph 3. You put this in quotes. Words matter. You wrote down the words so we can all have the words in front of us now. There’s 28 words now in quotes. It says, quote, I hope — this is the president speaking — I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is good guy. I hope you can let this go. Now, those are his exact words, is that correct.

COMEY: Correct.

RISCH: You wrote them here and put them in quotes.

COMEY: Correct.

RISCH: Thank you for that. He did not direct you to let it go?

COMEY: Not in his words, no.

RISCH: He did not order you to let it go?

COMEY: Again, those words are not an order.

RISCH: He said, I hope. Now, like me, you probably did hundreds of cases, maybe thousands of cases, charging people with criminal offenses and, of course, you have knowledge of the thousands of cases out there where people have been charged. Do you know of any case where a person has been charged for obstruction of justice or, for that matter, any other criminal offense, where they said or thought they hoped for an outcome?

COMEY: I don’t know well enough to answer. . .

Nothing.  Indeed, bottom line, there is no evidence that Comey did anything remotely smacking of an “investigation” of his claims against President Trump, let alone any actions that would justify Comey withholding information about the obstruction of justice charge from the Attorney General.

Comey’s written testimony included other justifications for his decision to withhold evidence of an alleged felony until it suited his personal agenda:

It made little sense to report it to Attorney General Sessions, who we expected would likely recuse himself from involvement in Russia-related investigations. (He did so two weeks later.) The Deputy Attorney General’s role was then filled in an acting capacity by a United States Attorney, who would also not be long in the role. After discussing the matter, we decided to keep it very closely held, resolving to figure out what to do with it down the road as our investigation progressed.

Interestingly enough, neither of the applicable statutes contains a clause relieving Comey of his duty to report the felony he allegedly observed based on whom the Attorney General is at that specific moment. That the explanation is risible is par for the Comey course. At numerous points on February 14 and thereafter, Comey came up with one rationalization after another to justify his decision to conceal evidence that President Trump allegedly obstructed justice.

One other of Comey’s many justifications for withholding evidence about an alleged felony deserves attention here: Comey claimed that the evidence for making that report was just too weak. To that end, he asserted that he discussed the issue with the FBI leadership team and act based on their recommendations [H]:

[The FBI leadership team]  also concluded that, given that it was a one-on-one conversation, there was nothing available to corroborate my account.

Really?  The assembled top criminal investigators in America and no one thinks to ask whether there was a recording of the event?  It remains for Comey alone, three months later to have an epiphany in May because neither he, nor his “leadership team” had ever before previously considered that the meeting might have been taped.  That strains credulity beyond the breaking point, then circles back around to repeatedly to jump over the breaking point again.

Moreover, none of the many and shifting justifications Comey gives for concealing evidence of this supposed felony are remotely relevant to Comey’s legal duty to timely inform the Attorney General that he believed he had been witness to President Trump committing at felony.  Thus, one can reasonably infer that the justifications are mere window dressing to hide Comey’s criminal intent.

There are several other very important inconsistencies in Comey’s testimony, the foremost of which surrounds his decision to release his memo(s).  According to Comey’s written testimony,

[T]he president tweeted on Friday [May 12] after I got fired that I better hope there’s not tapes. I woke up in the middle of the night on Monday night [15 May] because it didn’t dawn on me originally, that there might be corroboration for our conversation. There might a tape. My judgment was, I need to get that out into the public square. I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter. Didn’t do it myself for a variety of reasons.

Let’s count the inconsistencies.  The first is one I’ve already addressed.  To believe Comey’s story, you have to believe that, despite convening the leadership of the FBI, our nation’s most experienced criminal investigators, to discuss the “one on one” conversation between Trump and Comey, neither Comey, nor anyone else in that august assembly, thought to ask whether the conversation might have been recorded.  Nor did they think to make any attempt to “investigate” the issue to find out. Ridiculous.

Second, with regard to those possible tapes, there is ample reason to suspect that Comey was already leaking his memos about his interactions with President Trump before the latter’s May 12 tweet darkly hinting that the conversations between President Trump and Comey might have been caught on tape. On the day before the President’s tweet, the New York Times ran an article detailing the private dinner conversation between President Trump and Comey that took place on 27 January.  The originating source for that leak could only be Comey.  Indeed, that is what prompted President Trump’s tweet the following day, giving Comey the laughable justification to leak his February 14 memo.  I would not be surprised at all to find that Comey orchestrated the leak of his January 27 memo explicitly to try to goad the President into giving him some bare patina of cover for Comey to then release the February 14 memo.

Three, one other of Comey’s many ostensible justifications for not timely informing the AG, as mentioned above, was to keep the White House in the dark [III-E]:

I wouldn’t want to alert the white house it had happened until we figured out what we were going to do with it investigatively.

That was probably a reasonable justification for the first few days after February 14.  But it was only reasonable if Comey wanted to prevent President Trump from destroying any tapes before Comey could obtain a search warrant against the President. By publicly leaking his “uncoroborated” February 14 memo, Comey completely vitiated that justification.  President Trump did not say in tweet that there were tapes of that meeting; he only stated that Comey “better hope” that there weren’t.  If you credit Comey’s ludicrous testimony that he had never considered that a recording of the meeting might exist, that tweet would be all the more reason for Comey to comply with his legal obligation to meet with the Attorney General and privately pass on his February 14  memo without tipping off President Trump that he would soon be subject to a warrant.  Instead, Comey blithely  took the risk that Trump might destroy a tape before anyone from law enforcement could even get a search warrant. Indeed, this same argument equally contradicts Comey’s claim that he tabled the February 14 memo because he was concerned that it could not be corroborated.

Four, here is how Comey described to Congress his motive for leaking the February 14 memo:

I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter. Didn’t do it myself for a variety of reasons. I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel. I asked a close friend to do it.

Later, when pressed by Sen. Blunt to list those reasons, Comey said:

Because I was weary the media was camping at the end of my driveway at that point. I was actually going out of town with my wife to hide. I worried it would be feeding seagulls at the beach. If it was I who gave it to the media. I asked my friend, make sure this gets out.

Aside from highlighting that Comey was pursuing a personal vendetta against President Trump, his explanation makes no sense. The first thing every news agency in the world is going to do is hunt down Comey to have him verify the authenticity of the leaked memo.  Any suggestion to the contrary is ridiculous.   The only way to make logical sense of the sequence of events is if the third-party became frightened about his potential liability for the act of leaking.  The other possibility is that Comey came to believe that he would not be able to successfully hide the fact that he was the leaker and decided to brazen out the facts.  Either way, Comey lied about this in sworn testimony before Congress.

There are other issues associated with this leak as well.  Did Comey violate the law by leaking a government document and one, moreover, that would at least be considered sensitive and perhaps subject to a claim of Presidential privilege?  Jonathan Turley examines that issue in some depth at The Hill.  He concludes that Comey probably committed several illegal acts in giving his memo to a third-party with the expectation that it would be leaked.  And just as a timely reminder from Andy McCarthy:

The prosecution of former CIA director David Petraeus for mishandling classified information, for example, centered on memos he wrote to himself (in the form of journals) that the government deemed classified because they included, among other things, summaries of conversations between General Petraeus (when he was commanding U.S. forces in war zones) and the president.

Do note as well that Petraeus was prosecuted for sharing this information with a woman who had a top security clearance.  Comey shared with the world his memo of a private conversation with the President of the United States.

Summary

What we are left with on the facts above is a reasonable conclusion that Comey, in order to harm President Trump, concealed evidence he was lawfully required to report to the Attorney General.  Further, Comey perjured himself repeatedly in his testimony before the Senate in support of what seems to be a deeply devious and, at some point, premeditated scheme.  And lastly, the facts at issue could not (and cannot) support a case of obstruction of justice against Trump, either for his actions on February 14 or at any other time.  Conversely, Comey, violating what has to be every ethical and moral, if not legal, duty not to bring a case he knows to be legally insufficient and not to announce the existence or non-existence of investigation, nonetheless made his charges against Trump known to the public and without any “investigation” to determine their sufficiency. Moreover, in doing these wrongful acts, Comey managed to commit both Misprision of a Felony and a possibly illegal leak.

This is not simple payback.  What Comey has done is not limited to his own hostility to President Trump.  Instead, it drastically affects the President’s ability to govern.  While Comey’s actions do not rise to an all-out, on-the-streets attempt to overthrow the Trump Administration using torches and pitchforks, they are a clear attempt to subvert the will of the American people by harming the Trump administration through unlawful acts and unlawful manipulation of the legal process. I will agree that we need a special counsel — but it should be to investigate the serial violations of the law evident in Comey’s acts since February 14, including perjury in sworn testimony before Congress.

Timeline and Testimony

A.  June 2016:  The FBI opened an investigation into Russian meddling in the election based on the claim that Russia hacked into both the DNC computers and the Clinton campaign computers.  As Comey stated in his testimony on 8 June 2017, the FBI did not confirm a single bit of that information.

B.  5 Jan. 2017:  Buzzfeed News reports that the FBI, instead of analyzing the servers itself, relied upon an analysis by a firm the DNC hired, Cloudstrike, and never even asked to look at either the DNC’s or Clinton campaign’s servers.

C.  16 Dec. 2016:  Almost immediately after the election, the progressive left raised the claim that the election had been “hacked” by Russia as a means of delegitimizing Trump’s victory.  Wapo reported on a leaked memo from CIA Director James Clapper stating in summary that Clapper, FBI Director Comey, and DNI Clapper all agreed that “Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the White House.

D.  6 January 2017:  At the first working meeting involving President Trump and James Comey, an intelligence briefing, when it was Comey’s turn to speak, Comey requested that the meeting be private.  Among other things, Comey assured the President at that time – and then two times subsequent – that he, President Trump, was not the subject of any investigations.

E.  6 January 2017:  Comey claims, in written testimony on 7 June, that he decided to document each and every contact with President Trump after that first meeting.  “I felt compelled to document my first conversation with the President-Elect in a memo. To ensure accuracy, I began to type it on a laptop in an FBI vehicle outside Trump Tower the moment I walked out of the meeting. Creating written records immediately after one-on-one conversations with Mr. Trump was my practice from that point forward. This had not been my practice in the past. I spoke alone with President Obama twice in person (and never on the phone) — once in 2015 to discuss law enforcement policy issues and a second time, briefly, for him to say goodbye in late 2016. . . .”

F.  2 February 2017:  The leaks about the Trump administration began even before he assumed the Presidency in Jan.  They were occurring a such a pace that Politico wrote on 2 Feb. that “A feeling of distrust has taken hold in the West Wing of Donald Trump’s White House and beyond . . . [following] a stream of leaks flowing from the White House and federal agencies . . .”

G.  14 February 2017:  The NYT ran a bombshell story claiming that “Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, . . .”  We now know, according to Comey at yesterday’s hearing, that this was a surprise to him and that he immediately canvassed his agents to discover if any of it was true.  It was not, but Comey did not come forward to notify the press or public of this false information.

H.  14 Feb. 2017:  Comey alleges that he memorialized a private meeting that occurred following a national security brief.  According to Comey, Trump dismissed everyone but Comey, then began to discuss his firing of Flynn before discussing at length the leaks of classified information.  “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.  According to Comey, Trump 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.” I did not say I would “let this go.”  Further, Comey stated in his written testimony:

I immediately prepared an unclassified memo of the conversation about Flynn and discussed the matter with FBI senior leadership. I had understood the President to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December. I did not understand the President to be talking about the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign. . . .  Regardless, it was very concerning, given the FBI’s role as an independent investigative agency.

The FBI leadership team agreed with me that it was important not to infect the investigative team with the President’s request, which we did not intend to abide. We also concluded that, given that it was a one-on-one conversation, there was nothing available to corroborate my account. We concluded it made little sense to report it to Attorney General Sessions, who we expected would likely recuse himself from involvement in Russia-related investigations. (He did so two weeks later.) The Deputy Attorney General’s role was then filled in an acting capacity by a United States Attorney, who would also not be long in the role. After discussing the matter, we decided to keep it very closely held, resolving to figure out what to do with it down the road as our investigation progressed.

I.  20 March 2017:  Comey, in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, states that “I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”

J.  30 March 2017:  In written testimony on 7 June, Comey states that Trump called him on March 30.  Trump allegedly “described the Russia investigation as “a cloud” that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country. He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia. He asked what we could do to “lift the cloud.” I responded that we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could, and that there would be great benefit, if we didn’t find anything, to our having done the work well. He agreed, but then re-emphasized the problems this was causing him.  Then the President asked [about the] . . . congressional hearing about Russia the previous week — at which I had, as the Department of Justice directed, confirmed the investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. . . . I explained that we had briefed the leadership of Congress on exactly which individuals we were investigating and that we had told those Congressional leaders that we were not personally investigating President Trump. I reminded him I had previously told him that. He repeatedly told me, “We need to get that fact out.” (I did not tell the President that the FBI and the Department of Justice had been reluctant to make public statements that we did not have an open case on President Trump for a number of reasons, most importantly because it would create a duty to correct, should that change.)

“The President went on to say that if there were some “satellite” associates of his who did something wrong, it would be good to find that out, but that he hadn’t done anything wrong and hoped I would find a way to get it out that we weren’t investigating him.”

“He finished by stressing “the cloud” that was interfering with his ability to make deals for the country and said he hoped I could find a way to get out that he wasn’t being investigated. I told him I would see what we could do, and that we would do our investigative work well and as quickly as we could.”

K.  11 April 2017: In written testimony on 7 June, Comey states that Trump called him on April 11, “and asked what I had done about his request that I “get out” that he is not personally under investigation. I replied that I had passed his request to the Acting Deputy Attorney General, but I had not heard back. He replied that “the cloud” was getting in the way of his ability to do his job. He said that perhaps he would have his people reach out to the Acting Deputy Attorney General. I said that was the way his request should be handled. I said the White House Counsel should contact the leadership of DOJ to make the request, which was the traditional channel.”

L.  2 May 2017:  Comey, in a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee:

a)  Refused to reveal whether the FBI was even investigating any of the tsunami of leaks coming from inside govt., including likely the FBI;

b)  refused to confirm or deny that the President was being investigated for collusion with Russia;

c)  when asked whether there should be an independent council appointed, based on the inference that President Trump could be under investigation, Comey replied “That’s a judgment for the — the deputy attorney general, the acting attorney general on this matter.”;

d)  in justifying his decision to publicly comment on the Hillary Clinton investigation, Comey claimed that he was justified in part because the matter was “of intense public interest.”

M.  9 May 2017:  Trump fires Comey, citing as justification a letter compiled by Assistant AG Rod Rosenstein.  In the following days, a series of alternate justifications are made public, including dissatisfaction with Comey’s handling of the Russia investigation and his failure to investigate leaks.

N.  11 May 2017:  NYT runs a story claiming that at a private dinner on 27 January, Trump asked Comey to pledge his loyalty and that Comey demurred.  When Trump later raised it again during the dinner, Comey supposedly “again replied that he would give him “honesty” and did not pledge his loyalty, according to the account of the conversation.”  This was information contained in one of the memos Comey wrote following the 27 January private dinner.

O.  12 May 2017:  Trump tweets, in response to the NYT article discussing their Jan. 27 meeting “James Comey better hope that there are no tapes of our private conversations before leaking to the press.”  Comey would later claim in written testimony to Congress that it was this tweet that caused him to remember his memorandums and to supply them to a third-party to leak, testifying under oath “the president tweeted on Friday after I got fired that I better hope there’s not tapes. I woke up in the middle of the night on Monday night [15 May] because it didn’t dawn on me originally, that there might be corroboration for our conversation. There might a tape. My judgment was, I need to get that out into the public square. I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter. Didn’t do it myself for a variety of reasons. I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel. I asked a close friend to do it.

P.  16 May 2017:  The NYT reports that a source read to them a memo written by Comey on Feb. 14 detailing Trump’s remarks about Flynn.

Q.  19 May 2017:  NYT reports  that an anonymous source leaked the summary of a meeting between President Trump and Russian officials, alleging that Trump told the Russians that he had fired Comey, and that doing so had relieved “great pressure. . . .”  “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to the document, which was read to The New York Times by an American official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”



8 June 2017:  Excerpts from Comey’s testimony, ordered by topic:

I,  Comey’s Decision To Memorialize Every Interaction With Trump, and in particular the Feb. 14 Meeting

I-A)  Warner:  What was about [the Jan. 6] meeting that led you to determine that you needed to start putting down a written record?

Comey:  A combination of things. I think the circumstances, the subject matter, and the person I was interacting with. Circumstances, first, I was alone with the president of the United States, or the president-elect, soon to be president. The subject matter I was talking about matters that touch on the FBI’s core responsibility, and that relate to the president, president-elect personally, and then the nature of the person. I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting so I thought it important to document. That combination of things I had never experienced before, but had led me to believe I got to write it down and write it down in a very detailed way. . . .   I created records after conversations that I think I did it after each of our nine conversations. If I didn’t, I did it for nearly all of them especially the ones that were substantive. I knew there might come a day when I would need a record of what had happened, not just to defend myself, but to defend the FBI and our integrity as an institution and the Independence of our investigative function. That’s what made this so difficult is it was a combination of circumstances, subject matter and the particular person.


I-B)  Warner:  February 14th, seems strange, you were in a meeting, and your direct superior the attorney general was in that meeting as well, yet the president asked everyone to leave, including the attorney general to leave, before he brought up the matter of general Flynn. What was your impression of that type of action? Have you ever seen anything like that before?

Comey:  No. My impression was something big is about to happen. I need to remember every single word that is spoken, and again, I could be wrong, I’m 56 years old, I’ve been, seen a few things, my sense was the attorney general knew he shouldn’t be leaving which was why he was leaving and I don’t know Kushner well but I think he picked up on the same thing so I knew something was about to happen that I needed to pay very close attention to.

Warner:  I found it very interesting that, that in the memo that you wrote after this February 14th pull-aside, you made clear that you wrote that memo in a way that was unclassified. If you affirmatively made the decision to write a memo that was unclassified, was that because you felt at some point, the facts of that meeting would have to come clean and come clear, and actually be able to be cleared in a way that could be shared with the American people?

ComeyWell, I remember thinking, this is a very disturbing development, really important to our work. I need to document it and preserve it in a way, and this committee gets this but sometimes when things are classified, it tangled them up.


COLLINS: Okay. You mentioned that from your very first meeting with the president, you decided to write a memo memorializing the conversation. What was it about that very first meeting that made you write a memo when you have not done that with two previous presidents?

COMEY: As I said, a combination of things. A gut feeling is an important overlay, but the circumstances, that I was alone, the subject matter and the nature of the person I was interacting with and my read of that person. Yeah, and really just gut feel, laying on top of all that, that this is going to be important to protect this organization, that I make records of this.

II.  27 January Dinner and What Was Meant By Loyalty

II-A)  WYDEN: . . .  I believe January 27th, all in one dinner, the president raised your job prospects, he asked for your loyalty and denied allegations against him. All took place over one supper. Now, you told senator Warner that the president was looking to, quote, get something. Looking back, did that dinner suggest that your job might be contingent on how you handled the investigation?

COMEY: I don’t know that I’d go that far. I got the sense my job would be contingent upon how he felt I — excuse me — how he felt I conducted myself and whether I demonstrated loyalty. But I don’t know whether I’d go so far as to connect it to the investigation.

WYDEN: You said the president was trying to create some sort of patronage. Behaving in a manner consistent with the wishes of the boss?

COMEY: Yes. At least consider how what you’re doing will affect the boss as a significant consideration.

III.  Flynn and Obstruction of Justice

III-A)  Note that in his written testimony, Comey did not equivocate.  Regarding Trump’s alleged statement that “I hope you can let this go,” Comey wrote “I had understood the President to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December.”


III-B)  BURR: Director, when the president requested that you, and I quote “Let Flynn go,” General Flynn had an unreported contact with the Russians, which is an offense, and if press accounts are right, there might have been discrepancies between facts and his FBI testimony. In your estimation, was general Flynn at that time in serious legal jeopardy, and in addition to that, do you sense that the president was trying to obstruct justice or just seek for a way for Mike Flynn to save face, given that he had already been fired?

COMEY: Gen. Flynn . . . was in legal jeopardy [by the time of Comey’s 27 Jan. meeting with Trump]. . . .  I don’t think it’s for me to say whether the conversation I had with the president was an effort to obstruct. I took it as a very disturbing thing, very concerning, but that’s a conclusion I’m sure the special counsel will work towards to try and understand what the intention was there, and whether that’s an offense.


III-C)  RISCH:  I want to drill right down, as my time is limited, to the most recent dust up regarding allegations that the president of the United States obstructed justice. Boy, you nailed this down on page 5, paragraph 3. You put this in quotes. Words matter. You wrote down the words so we can all have the words in front of us now. There’s 28 words now in quotes. It says, quote, I hope — this is the president speaking — I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is good guy. I hope you can let this go. Now, those are his exact words, is that correct.

COMEY: Correct.

RISCH: You wrote them here and put them in quotes.

COMEY: Correct.

RISCH: Thank you for that. He did not direct you to let it go?

COMEY: Not in his words, no.

RISCH: He did not order you to let it go?

COMEY: Again, those words are not an order.

RISCH: He said, I hope. Now, like me, you probably did hundreds of cases, maybe thousands of cases, charging people with criminal offenses and, of course, you have knowledge of the thousands of cases out there where people have been charged. Do you know of any case where a person has been charged for obstruction of justice or, for that matter, any other criminal offense, where they said or thought they hoped for an outcome?

COMEY: I don’t know well enough to answer. . .


III-D)  RUBIO: Director Comey, the meeting in the oval office where he made the request about Mike Flynn, was that only time he asked you to hopefully let it go?

COMEY: Yes.. . . .

RUBIO: . . .  He asked you on one occasion to let the Mike Flynn thing go because he was a good guy. By the way, you’re aware he said the same thing in the press the next day. He is a good guy, treated unfairly, etc. I imagine your FBI agents read that.

COMEY: I’m sure they did.


III-E)  COLLINS: I’d like to now turn to the conversations with the president about Michael Flynn, which had been discussed at great length. . . .  I remain puzzled by your response. Michael Flynn is a good guy. You could have said, Mr. President, this meeting is inappropriate. This response could compromise the investigation. You should not be making such a request. It’s fundamental to the operation of our government, the FBI be insulated from this kind of political pressure. You talked a bit today about that you were stunned by the president making the request. But my question to you is later on, upon reflection, did you go to anyone at the department of justice and ask them to call the white house counsel’s office and explain that the president had to have a far better understanding and appreciation of his role vis-à-vis the FBI?

COMEY: In general, I did. I spoke to the attorney general and spoke to the new deputy attorney general, Mr. Rosenstein, when he took office and explained my serious concern about the way in which the president is interacting, especially with the FBI. As I said in my testimony, I told the attorney general, it can’t happen that you get kicked out of the room and the president talks to me. Why didn’t we raise the specific? It was of investigative interest to figure out, what just happened with the president’s request? I wouldn’t want to alert the white house it had happened until we figured out what we were going to do with it investigatively.

COLLINS: Your testimony was that you went to Attorney General Sessions and said, don’t ever leave me alone with him again. Are you saying that you also told him that he had made a request that you let it go with regard to part of the investigation of Michael Flynn?

COMEY: No. I specifically did not. I did not.


III-F)  KING: In his press conference May 18th, the president responded, quote, no, no, when asked about asking you to stop the investigation into general Flynn. Is that a true statement?

COMEY: I don’t believe it is.


III-G)  KING: . . . when a president of the United States in the Oval Office says something like, I hope or I suggest or would you, do you take that as a directive?

COMEY: Yes. It rings in my ear as, well, will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest.

KING: I was just going to quote that, in 1179, December 27th, Henry II said, who will rid me of the meddlesome priest, and the next day, he was killed. Exactly the same situation. We’re thinking along the same lines.


III-H)  LANKFORD: Past the February 14th meeting, which is an important meeting as we discuss the conversations here about Michael Flynn, when the president asked you about he hopes that you would let this go, and the conversation back and forth about being a good guy, after that time, did the president ever bring up anything about Michael Flynn again to you? Had multiple other conversations you had documents with the president.

COMEY: I don’t remember him bringing it up again.

LANKFORD: Did a member of the white house staff come up to you asking you to drop the Michael Flynn case, anything referring to that?

COMEY: No.

LANKFORD: Did the Director of National Intelligence talk to you about that?

COMEY: No.

LANKFORD: Did anyone from the attorney general’s office, the department of justice ask about that?

COMEY: No.

LANKFORD: Did the head of NSA talk to you about that?

COMEY: No.

LANKFORD: The key aspect here is if this seems to be something the president is trying to get you to drop it, it seems like a light touch to drop it, to bring it up at that point, the day after he had just fired Flynn, to come back here and say, I hope we can let this go, then it never reappears again. Did it slow down your investigation or any investigation that may or may not be occurring with Michael Flynn.

COMEY:  No. Although I don’t know there are any manifestations between February 14th and when I was fired. I don’t know that the president had any way of knowing whether it was effective or not.


III-I)  Feinstein:  Let’s go to the Flynn issue. The senator outlined, “I hope you could see your way to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” But you also said in your written remarks, and I quote, that you “had understood the president to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December,”. Please go into that with more detail.

COMEY: Well, the context and the president’s word are what led me to that conclusion. As I said in my statement, I could be wrong, but Flynn had been forced to resign the day before. And the controversy around general Flynn at that point in time was centered on whether he lied to the vice president about his nature of conversations with the Russians, whether he had been candid with others in the course of that. So that happens on the day before. On the 1, the president makes reference to that. I understood what he wanted me to do was drop any investigation connected to Flynn’s account of his conversations with the Russians.

FEINSTEIN: Now, here’s the question, you’re big. You’re strong. I know the oval office, and I know what happens to people when they walk in. There is a certain amount of intimidation. But why didn’t you stop and say, Mr. President, this is wrong. I cannot discuss this with you.

COMEY: It’s a great question. Maybe if I were stronger, I would have. I was so stunned by the conversation that I just took in. The only thing I could think to say, because I was playing in my mind — because I could remember every word he said — I was playing in my mind, what should my response be? That’s why I carefully chose the words. Look, I’ve seen the tweet about tapes. Lordy, I hope there are tapes. I remember saying, “I agree he is a good guy,” as a way of saying, I’m not agreeing with what you asked me to do. Again, maybe other people would be stronger in that circumstance. That’s how Ed myself. I hope I’ll never have another opportunity. Maybe if I did it again, I’d do it better.


III-J)  COTTON: . . . . Mr. Comey, in 2004, you were a part of a well-publicized event about an intelligence program that had been recertified several times. And you were acting attorney general when Attorney General John Ashcroft was incapacitated due to illness. There was a dramatic showdown at the hospital here. The next day you said you that wrote the letter of resignation, signed it, went to meet with President Bush and explained why you produced to certify it is that accurate?

COMEY: Yes.

COTTON: At anytime during FBI director did you ever write and sign a letter of resignation?

COMEY: Letter of resignation? No, sir.

COTTON: Despite all of off that testified to today you didn’t feel this rose to a level of honest difference of opinion between accomplished and skilled lawyers in that 2004 episode.

COMEY: I wouldn’t characterize the events in 2004 that way but to answer, no, I didn’t find, encounter any circumstance that led me intend to resign, consider to resign. No, sir.

IV.  Trump was never a target of the Russia investigation

IV-A) Risch:  . . . I gather from all this that you’re willing to say now that, while you were director, the president of the United States was not under investigation. Is that a fair statement?

Comey: That’s correct.


IV-B) RUBIO: What it comes down to is the president asked . . . can you please tell the American people what these leaders in congress already know, which you already know and what you told me three times, that I’m not under personally under investigation.

COMEY: That’s right.

RUBIO: We learn more from the newspaper sometimes than the open hearings. Do you ever wonder why, of all the things in the investigation, the only thing never leaked is the fact the president was never personally under investigation, despite the fact that Democrats and Republicans and the leadership of congress have known that for weeks?


IV-C)  BURR: Director Comey, did the president at any time ask you to stop the FBI investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 U.S. Elections?

COMEY: Not to my understanding, no.

BURR: Did any individual working for this administration, including the justice department, ask you to stop the Russian investigation?

COMEY: No.

V.  Comey Manipulates Appointment of a Special Council

V-A)  COLLINS: Finally, did you show copies of your memos to anyone outside of the department of justice?

COMEY: Yes.

COLLINS: And to whom did you show copies?

COMEY: I asked — the president tweeted on Friday after I got fired that I better hope there’s not tapes. I woke up in the middle of the night on Monday night because it didn’t dawn on me originally, that there might be corroboration for our conversation. There might a tape. My judgment was, I need to get that out into the public square. I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter. Didn’t do it myself for a variety of reasons. I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel. I asked a close friend to do it.


V-B)  [Re – the impact of a special council]

CORNYN: [Regarding Clinton, after Comey admitted that it was justified in the Clinton investigation]Well if a special counsel had been appointed they could have made that determination there was nothing there and declined to pursue it, right?

COMEY: Sure. But it would have been many months later or a year later.

VI.  Trump Wants A Public Statement About the Russia Investigation (phone calls on 30 March and 11 April)

VI-A)  RUBIO: On a number of occasions here, you bring up — let’s talk about the general Russia investigation, OK? Page 6 of your testimony you say, the first thing you say is, he asked what we could do to, quote, unquote, lift the cloud, the general Russia investigation, you responded, we are investigating the matter as quickly as we could and there would be great benefit if we didn’t find anything for having done the work well. He agreed. He emphasized the problems it was causing him. He agreed it’d be great to have an investigation, all the facts came out and we found nothing. He agreed that would be ideal, but this cloud is still messing up my ability to do the rest of my agenda. Is that an accurate assessment?

COMEY: Yes, sir. He went farther than that. He said, and if some of my satellites did something wrong, it’d be good to find that out.

RUBIO: That is the second part. The satellites, if one of my satellites, I imagine he meant some of the people surrounding his campaign, did something wrong, it’d be great to know that, as well.

COMEY: Yes, sir. That’s what he said.

RUBIO: Are those the only two instances in which that back and forth happened, where the president was basically saying, and I’m paraphrasing here, it’s okay. Do the Russia investigation. I hope it all comes out. I have nothing to do with anything Russia. It’d be great if it all came out, people around me were doing things that were wrong?

COMEY: Yes. As I recorded it accurately there. That was the sentiment he was expressing. Yes, sir.


VI-B)  RUBIO: On the cloud, we keep talking about this cloud, you perceive the cloud to be the Russian investigation in general?

COMEY:  Yes, sir.

RUBIO: His specific ask was you’d tell the American people what you’d told him, told the leaders of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, he was not personally under investigation?

COMEY: Yes, sir.

RUBIO: What he was asking you to do, would you have done here today?

COMEY: Correct. Yes, sir.

RUBIO: Again, at that setting, did you say to the president, it would be inappropriate for you to do so and then talk to the White House counsel or somebody so hopefully they’d talked to him and tell him he couldn’t do this

COMEY: First time I said, I’ll see what we can do. Second time, I explained how it should work, that the White House counsel should contact the deputy attorney general.

RUBIO: You told him that?

COMEY: The president said, okay. I think that’s what I’ll do.

RUBIO: To be clear, for you to make a public statement that he was not under investigation wouldn’t be illegal but you felt it could potentially create a duty to correct if circumstances changed?


VI-C)  CORNYN: Let me just you ask to — given the experience of the Clinton e-mail investigation and what happened there. Do you think it’s unreasonable for anyone, any president, who has been assured on multiple occasions that he’s not the subject of an FBI investigation, do you think it’s unreasonable for them to want the FBI director to publicly announce that, so that this cloud over his administration would be removed?

COMEY: I think that’s a reasonable point of view.


VI-D)  FEINSTEIN: You describe two phone calls that you received from president trump. One on March 30th and one on April 11. He, quote, described the Russia investigation as a cloud that was impairing his ability, end quote, as president, and asked you, quote, to lift the cloud, end quote. How did you interpret that? What did you believe he wanted you to do?

COMEY: I interpreted that as he was frustrated that the Russia investigation was taking up so much time and energy. I think he meant of the executive branch, but in the public square in general. It was making it difficult for him to focus on other priorities of his. But what he asked me was actually narrower than that. I think what he meant by the cloud — and, again, I could be wrong — but the entire investigation is taking up oxygen and making it hard for me to focus on what I want to focus on. The ask was to get it out that I, the president, am not personally under investigation.

FEINSTEIN: After April 11th, did he ask you more ever about the Russia investigation? Did he ask you any questions?

COMEY: We never spoke again after April 11th.

FEINSTEIN: You told the president, I would see what we could do. What did you mean?

COMEY: It was kind of a cowardly way of trying to avoid telling him, we’re not going to do that. That I would see what we could do. It was a way of kind of getting off the phone, frankly, and then I turned and handed it to the acting deputy attorney general.

FEINSTEIN: . . . Who did you talk with about that, lifting the cloud, stop the investigation back at the FBI, and what was their response?

COMEY: The FBI, during one of the two conversations — I’m not remembering exactly — I think the first, my chief of staff was sitting in front of me and heard my end of the conversation because the president’s call was a surprise. I discussed the lifting the cloud and the request with the senior leadership team who, typically, and I think in all the circumstances, was the deputy director, my chief of staff, the general counsel, the deputy director’s chief counsel and, I think in a number of circumstances, the number three in the FBI and a few of the conversations included the head of the national security branch. The group of us that lead the FBI when it comes to national security.

FEINSTEIN: You have the president of the United States asking you to stop an investigation that is an important investigation. What was the response of your colleagues?

COMEY: I think they were as shocked and troubled by it as I was. Some said things that led me to believe that. I don’t remember exactly. But the reaction was similar to mine.


VI-E)  COTTON: Let me turn to a couple statements by one of my colleagues, Senator Feinstein. She was the ranking member on this committee until January, which means that she had access to information that only she and Chairman Burr did. She’s now the senior Democrat on the FBI Committee, which means she had access to information that many of us don’t. On May 3rd on the Wolf Blitzer show she was asked “Do you believe you have evidence that in fact that there was collusion between Trump associates and Russia during the campaign? She answered not at this time. On May 18th, on the same show, Mr. Blitzer said, “The last time you came on this show I I asked if you had seen any evidence that Russia had colluded with the Trump campaign.” You said not at this time. Has anything changed since we last spoke? Senator Feinstein said no, it hasn’t. Do you have any reason to doubt those statements?

COMEY: I don’t doubt that the Senator Feinstein understood what she said. I just don’t want to go down that route anymore because I’m — I want to be fair to President Trump.I am not trying to suggest something nefarious but I don’t want to get into the business of not to this person, not to that person.

VII.  The 14 Feb. NYT Article

VII-A)  RISCH: I remember, you talked with us shortly after February 14th, when the “New York Times” wrote an article that suggested that the trump campaign was colluding with the Russians. Do you remember reading that article when it first came out?

COMEY: I do, it was about allegedly extensive electronic surveillance in their communications.

RISCH: Correct. That upset you to the point where you surveyed the intelligence community to see whether you were missing something in that. Is that correct?

COMEY: That’s correct. I want to be careful in open setting, but —

RISCH: . . . After that, you sought out both Republican and Democrat senators to tell them that, hey, I don’t know where this is coming from, but this is not the case. This is not factual. Do you recall that?

COMEY: Yes


VII-B)  COTTON: On February 14th the New York Times published the story, the headline of which was “Trump campaign aides had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence.” You were asked if that as an inaccurate story. Would it be fair to characterize that story as almost entirely wrong?

COMEY: Yes.

VIII.  Private Meeting With Trump As Somehow Inherently Insidious And Inappropriate

VIII-A)  SEN. MARTIN HEINRICH: Mr. Comey, prior to January 27th of this year, have you ever had a one-on-one meeting or a private dinner with a president of the United States?

COMEY: No. Dinner, no. I had two one-on-ones with President Obama. One to talk about law enforcement issues, law enforcement and race, which was an important topic throughout for me and for the president. Then once very briefly for him to say goodbye.

HEINRICH: Were those brief interactions?

COMEY: No. The one about law enforcement and race and policing, we spoke for probably over an hour, just the two of us.

HEINRICH: How unusual is it to have a one-on-one dinner with the president? Did that strike you as odd?

COMEY: Yeah.  So much so, I assumed there would be others, that he couldn’t possibly be having dinner with me alone.


VIII-B)  COLLINS: I’d like to now turn to the conversations with the president about Michael Flynn, which had been discussed at great length. . . . I remain puzzled by your response. Michael Flynn is a good guy. You could have said, Mr. President, this meeting is inappropriate. This response could compromise the investigation. You should not be making such a request. It’s fundamental to the operation of our government, the FBI be insulated from this kind of political pressure. You talked a bit today about that you were stunned by the president making the request. But my question to you is later on, upon reflection, did you go to anyone at the department of justice and ask them to call the white house counsel’s office and explain that the president had to have a far better understanding and appreciation of his role vis-à-vis the FBI?

COMEY: In general, I did. I spoke to the attorney general and spoke to the new deputy attorney general, Mr. Rosenstein, when he took office and explained my serious concern about the way in which the president is interacting, especially with the FBI. As I said in my testimony, I told the attorney general, it can’t happen that you get kicked out of the room and the president talks to me. Why didn’t we raise the specific? It was of investigative interest to figure out, what just happened with the president’s request? I wouldn’t want to alert the white house it had happened until we figured out what we were going to do with it investigatively.

COLLINS: Your testimony was that you went to attorney general sessions and said, don’t ever leave me alone with him again.

 

IX.  Trump’s Justification For Firing Comey

IX-A)  FEINSTEIN:  Why do you believe you were fired?

COMEY: I guess I don’t know for sure. I believe — I think the president, at his word, that I was fired because of the Russia investigation. Something about the way I was conducting it, the president felt created pressure on him that he wanted to relieve.


IX-B)  REED: Thank you. You have testified that you interpret the discussion with the president about Flynn as a direction to stop the investigation, is that correct?

COMEY: Yes. . . .

REED: Our, yes, so you’re fired. Do you believe you’re fired because you refused to take the president’s direction, is that the ultimate reason?

COMEY: I don’t know for sure. I know I was fired. Again, I take the president’s words, I know I was fired because of something about the way I was conducting the Russia investigation was in some way putting pressure on him, in some way irritating him. And he decided to fire me because of that. I can’t go farther than that.

REED: Now, the Russian investigation as you’ve pointed out and my colleagues is one of the most serious hostile acts against this country’s history undermining our core of elections is not a discrete event. It will likely occur again and is likely being prepared for ’18, ’20 and beyond. And yet the president of the United States advised you because at your own — some relationship to the investigation. Then he shows up in the Oval Office with the Russian foreign minister first as classifying you as crazy and a real nutjob. He said “I faced great pressure because of Russia; that’s taken off.” Your conclusion would be that the president, I would think is downplaying the seriousness of this threat. In fact, took specific steps to stop a thorough investigation of the Russian influence, and also from what you’ve said or what was said this morning, doesn’t seem particularly interested in these hostile threats by the Russians. Is that true?

COMEY: I don’t know that I can agree to that level of detail. There’s no doubt it’s a fair judgment. It’s my judgment I was fired because of the Russia investigation. I was fired in some way to change — or the endeavor was to change the way the Russia investigation is being conducted. That is a very big deal. And not just because it involves me. The nature of the FBI and the nature of its work requires that it not be the subject of political consideration. And on top of that, you have the Russia investigation itself is vital, because of the threat. And I know I should have said this earlier, but it’s obvious, if any Americans were part of helping the Russians do that to us, that is a very big deal. And I’m confident if that is the case, director Mueller will find that evidence.

IX.  Comey’s Justification For Leaking The Feb. 14 Memo Through A Third Party

BLUNT: So why didn’t you give those to somebody yourself rather than give them through a third party?

COMEY:Because I was weary the media was camping at the end of my driveway at that point. I was actually going out of town with my wife to hide. I worried it would be feeding seagulls at the beach. If it was I who gave it to the media. I asked my friend, make sure this gets out.

X.  The Clinton E-Mail Investigation

X-A)  COMEY:  [The Bill Clinton – AG Lynch tarmac meeting on 27 June 2016] . . . capped it for me, that I had to do something separately to protect the credibility of the investigation [into Hillary Clinton’s serial violations of our security laws and the protection of government records], which meant both the FBI and the justice department.  There were other things that contributed to that. . . .  [A]t one point the attorney general had directed me not to call it an investigation, but instead to call it a matter, which confused me and concerned me, but that was one of the bricks in the load that led me to conclude I have to step away from the department if we’re to close this case credibly.

LANKFORD: Then you made a comment earlier a the attorney general, the previous attorney general asking you about the investigation on the Clinton e-mails saying you were asked to not call it an investigation anymore. But call it a matter. You said that confused you. You can give us additional details on that?

COMEY: Well, it concerned me because we were at the point where we refused to confirm the existence as we typically do of an investigation for months. And was getting to a place where that looked silly because the campaigns we’re talking about interacting with the FBI in the course of our work. The Clinton campaign at the time was using all kinds of euphemisms, security matters, things like that for what was going on. We were getting to a place where the attorney general and I were both going to testify and talk publicly about it I wanted to know was she going to authorize us to confirm we have an investigation. She said yes, don’t call it that, call it a matter. I said why would I do that? She said, just call it a matter. You look back in hindsight, if I looked back and said this isn’t worth dying on so I just said the press is going to completely ignore it. That’s what happened when I said we opened a matter. They all reported the FBI has an investigation open. So that concerned me because that language tracked the way the campaign was talking about the FBI’s work and that’s concerning.

LANKFORD: You gave impression that the campaign was somehow using the language as the FBI because you were handed the campaign language?

COMEY: I don’t know whether it was intentional or not but it gave the impression that the attorney general was looking to align the way we talked about our work with the way it was describing that. It was inaccurate. We had an investigation open for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, we had an investigation open at the time. That gave me a queasy feeling.


X-B)  CORNYN: Let me take you back to the Clinton e-mail investigation. I think you’ve been tanked agency a hero or a villain, depending on whose political ox is being gored at many different times during the court of the Clinton e-mail investigation, and even now perhaps. But you clearly were troubled by the conduct of the sitting Attorney General Loretta Lynch when it came to the Clinton e-mail investigation. You mentioned the characterization that you’d been asked to accept. That this was a matter. And not a criminal investigation. Which you said it was. There was the matter of President Clinton’s meeting on the tarmac. With the sitting attorney general at the time when his wife was a subject to a criminal investigation. And you suggested that perhaps there are other matters that you may be able to share with us later on in a classified setting. But it seems to me that you clearly believe that Loretta Lynch, the attorney general, had an appearance of a conflict of interest on the Clinton e-mail investigation. Is that correct?

COMEY: That’s fair. I didn’t believe she could credibly decline that investigation. At least not without grievous damage to the Department of Justice and to the FBI.

CORNYN: And under Department of Justice and FBI norms, wouldn’t it have been appropriate for the attorney general, or if she had recused herself which she did not do for the deputy attorney general to appoint a special counsel. That’s essentially what’s happened with director Mueller. Would that have been an appropriate step?

COMEY: Certainly, yes, sir.

CORNYN: And were you aware Ms. Lynch had been requested numerous times to appoint a special counsel and had refused.

COMEY: Yes. From, I think, Congress had — members of congress had repeatedly asked, yes, sir.

CORNYN: Yours truly did on multiple occasions. And that heightened your concerns about the appearance of a conflict of interest with the Department of Justice which caused you to make what you have described as an incorrectly painful decision to basically take the matter up yourself and led to that July press conference?

COMEY: Yes, sir. I ask — after President Clinton, former President Clinton met on the plane with the attorney general, I considered whether I should call for the appointment of a special counsel. And decided that would be an unfair thing to do because I knew there was no case there. We investigated it very, very thoroughly. I know this is a subject of passionate disagreement but I knew there was no case there. And calling for the appointment of special counsel would be brutally unfair because it would send the message, uh-huh, there’s something here. That’s my judgment. Lots of people have different views about it but that’s what I thought about it.

CORNYN: Well if a special counsel had been appointed they could have made that determination there was nothing there and declined to pursue it, right?

COMEY: Sure. But it would have been many months later or a year later.

 

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XI.  Veracity

XII-A)  HEINRICH: Fair enough. Told the reporter he never did that. You’ve testified that the president asked for your loyalty in that dinner. White house denies that. A lot of this comes down to who should we believe. Do you want to say anything as to why we should believe you?

COMEY: My mother raised me not to say things like this about myself so I’m not going to. I think people should look at the whole body of my testimony. As I used to say to juries, when I talked about a witness, you can’t cherry pick it. You can’t say, I like these things he said but on this, he’s a ten liar. You have to take it together. I’ve tried to be open, fair, transparent and accurate. Of significant fact to me is so why did he kick everybody out of the Oval Office? Why would you kick the attorney general, the president, the chief of staff out to talk to me if it was about something else? So that, to me, as an investigator, is a significant fact.

XII.  Comey’s Duty To Report Immediately If He Thought Trump Guilty Of A Crime.

XII-A)  CORNYN: . . . If an FBI agent has reason to believe that a crime has been committed, do they have a duty to report it?

COMEY: That’s a good question. I don’t know that there’s a legal duty to report it. They certainly have a cultural, ethical duty to report it.

CORNYN: You’re unsure whether they would have a legal duty?

COMEY: That’s a good question. I have not thought about that before. There’s a statute that prohibits the felony, knowing a felony and taking steps to conceal it but that’s a different question. Let me be clear, I would expect any FBI agent who has information about a crime to report it.

CORNYN: Me, too.

COMEY: But where you rest that obligation, I don’t know. It exists. . . .


XII-B)18 USC Sec. 4  Misprison of a Felony:  Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.]


XII-C)  28 USC Sec. 535(b)  Investigation of Crimes Involving Government Officers & Employees; Limitations

Any information, allegation, matter, or complaint witnessed, discovered, or received in a department or agency of the executive branch of the Government relating to violations of Federal criminal law involving Government officers and employees shall be expeditiously reported to the Attorney General by the head of the department or agency, or the witness, discoverer, or recipient, as appropriate, unless—
(1)  the responsibility to perform an investigation with respect thereto is specifically assigned otherwise by another provision of law; or
(2)  as to any department or agency of the Government, the Attorney General directs otherwise with respect to a specified class of information, allegation, or complaint.

XIII.  Comey’s Treatment Of The Memo & Information From The 14 Feb. Meetings

FEINSTEIN: So I want to go into that. Who did you talk with about that, lifting the cloud, stop the investigation back at the FBI, and what was their response?

COMEY: The FBI, during one of the two conversations — I’m not remembering exactly — I think the first, my chief of staff was sitting in front of me and heard my end of the conversation because the president’s call was a surprise. I discussed the lifting the cloud and the request with the senior leadership team who, typically, and I think in all the circumstances, was the deputy director, my chief of staff, the general counsel, the deputy director’s chief counsel and, I think in a number of circumstances, the number three in the FBI and a few of the conversations included the head of the national security branch. The group of us that lead the FBI when it comes to national security.

FEINSTEIN: You have the president of the United States asking you to stop an investigation that is an important investigation. What was the response of your colleagues?

COMEY: I think they were as shocked and troubled by it as I was. Some said things that led me to believe that. I don’t remember exactly. But the reaction was similar to mine. They’re all experienced people who never experienced such a thing, so they were very concerned. Then the conversation turned to about, so what should we do with this information? That was a struggle for us. Because we are the leaders of the FBI, so it’s been reported to us, and I heard it and now shared it with the leaders of the FBI, our conversation was, should we share this with any senior officials at the justice department? Our primary concern was, we can’t infect the investigative team. We don’t want the agents and analysts working on this to know the president of the united States has asked, and when it comes from the president, I took it as a direction, to get rid of this investigation because we’re not going to follow that request. So we decided, we have to keep it away from our troops.

Is there anyone else we ought to tell at the justice department? We considered whether to tell — the attorney general said we believe rightly he was shortly going to recuse. There was no other senate confirmed leaders in the justice department at that point. The deputy attorney general was Mr. Boente, acting shortly in the seat. We decided the best move would be to hold it, keep it in a box, document it, as we’d already done, and this investigation is going to do on. Figure out what to do with it down the road. Is there a way to corroborate it? It was our word against the president’s. No way to corroborate this. My view of this changed when the prospect of tapes was raised. That’s how we thought about it then.

About Bookworm 432 Articles
Bookworm came late to conservativism but embraced it with passion. She's been blogging since 2004 about anything that captures her fancy -- and that's usually politics. Her blog's motto is "Conservatives deal with facts and reach conclusions; liberals have conclusions and sell them as facts."