Well there is some disagreement about what the biggest take away from James Comey’s testimony in front of the U.S. Senate Committee on Intelligence. Was it that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is under investigation? That’s really big news. Or was it that the former Director of the FBI said he believed the president was giving him “direction” to end the investigation into Michael Flynn’s ties to Russia? That has the potential to start impeachment hearings …
Or was it that former Director Comey decided to take copious notes about his interactions with Donald Trump because he felt the nature of the man (Trump) was such that he couldn’t be trusted to tell the truth. “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.”
Well okay, it’s been well documented for years Donald Trump is a liar, going back decades, but it was a revelation — a shocking moment — to have an ex-public official, a former Director of the FBI, call the President of the United States a liar, under oath. It’s never happened before, at least not in modern times. Not even President Nixon was called a liar under oath, although John Dean testified in the Watergate hearings Nixon knew of the cover-up long before the Nixon tapes confirmed the president had lied about his knowledge of the events.
Now it’s in documented testimony from a public official our president is a liar and that his campaign and transition teams are under investigation for the ties to, and possible collusions with, the Russian government which hacked the DNC and DCCC to influence the 2016 presidential election.
Committee Chair Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) asked, “Do you have any doubt that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 elections?” Comey replied, “No.”
Then Burr asked, “Do you have any doubt that the Russian government was behind the intrusions in the D triple C systems and the subsequent leaks of that information?” Comey’s reply: “No, no doubt.”
Then there was the new revelation about the Russian hacking. Burr asked, “Do you have any doubt the Russian government was behind the cyber intrusion in the state voter files?” Comey’s reply, “No.”
So now we know the Russians tried to affect the voter roles in various states by hacking into voting software vendors.
Burr then asked Comey if Trump or any of his subordinates had asked him to end the Russia investigation and the former director said no.
After the chairman of the committee asked his questions the Vice Chairman, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), came right out of the gate with, “I want to go through a number of the meetings that you referenced in your testimony, and let’s start with the January 6th meeting in Trump Tower, where you went up with a series of officials to brief the President-elect on the Russia investigation. My understanding is you remained afterwards to brief him, on again, ‘Some personally sensitive aspects of the information you relayed.’ Now you said after that briefing you felt compelled to document that conversation that you actually started documenting it as soon as you got into the car.
“Now you’ve had extensive experience at the department of justice and at the FBI. You’ve worked under presidents of both parties. What was about that meeting that led you to determine that you needed to start putting down a written record?”
Comey’s response shook the foundations of the capital. “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.”
He called the president a liar. “I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting …”
Well, we all knew that, for years, going back to Trump’s birther days at least. But here was a former, high ranking, public official calling the President of the United States a liar, on the record — under oath.
After Senator Warner’s questions established the fact that President Trump is a liar, Senator James Risch (R-ID) asked some questions to give Trump some cover, like, “You don’t know of anyone ever being charged for hoping something, is that a fair statement?” Good questions senator. They got to the bottom of nothing.
Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) was next in line for questions and she got right to the red meat of why Comey is now one of the unemployed. “Why do you believe you were fired,” she asked?
“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. Again, I didn’t know that at the time. I watched his interview. I read the press accounts of his conversations. I take him at his word there. Look, I could be wrong. Maybe he’s saying something that’s not true. I take him at his word, at least based on what I know now.”
Which was the president’s interview with Lester Holt of NBC. The president said, “And in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said ‘you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won’.”
And that makes perfect sense if you’re trying to end investigations into your campaign and transition teams.
Feinstein followed with, “Talk for a moment about his request that you pledge loyalty and your response to that and what impact you believe that had.”
Comey replied, “I don’t know for sure because I don’t know the president well enough to read him well. I think it was — first of all, relationship didn’t get off to a great start, given the conversation I had to have on January 6th. This didn’t improve the relationship because it was very, very awkward. He was asking for something, and I was refusing to give it. Again, I don’t know him well enough to know how he reacted to that exactly.”
Feinstein: “Do you believe the Russia investigation played a role?”
Comey: “In why I was fired?”
Comey: “Yes. I’ve seen the president say so.”
So, James Comey believes that at least part of the reason he was fired had to do with the Russia investigation, based on what the president publicly stated in a television interview.
Later in the hearing Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) asked a series of questions about the seriousness of the penetration by the Russians into our 2016 elections. He then asked Comey, “Did the president in any of those interactions that you’ve shared with us today ask you what you should be doing or what our government should be doing or the intelligence community to protect America against Russian interference in our election system?”
Comey replied, “I don’t recall a conversation like that.”
In other words the president was never concerned about the security of our nation faced with an attack by a hostile country. His only concern was his own fortunes and those of his confederates.
But, we probably knew that anyway, based on everything President Trump has said about Russia meddling in our elections.
Politico put a full transcript online for anyone to read and it is interesting to see it all in one piece. The former Director of the FBI kept meticulous notes of all his interactions with President-elect and then President Trump for exactly this moment. He purposely wrote the notes so they that would not be classified and therefore able to be shared publicly.
Which seems to have escaped the minds of Trump and his lawyer. The president did not tweet during the hearings, going 46 hours without a social media outburst, but Friday morning he finally tweeted, “Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication … and WOW, Comey is a leaker!
Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication…and WOW, Comey is a leaker!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 9, 2017
Wait — so many false statements and lies, but complete vindication?
Later in the day when the president was having a press conference with the president of Romania, Klaus Iohannis. Trump said he was, “…Very, very happy, and, frankly, James Comey confirmed a lot of what I said, and some of the things that he said just weren’t true.”
When asked if he ever asked Comey to pledge loyalty to him, the president replied, “I hardly know the man. I’m not going to say, I want you to pledge allegiance. Who would do that? Who would ask a man to pledge allegiance under oath? I mean think of it. I hardly know the man.” You can watch the exchange here, at about the 22:02 mark.
But we know from past reporting that Donald Trump has always demanded loyalty from his employees.
The good thing about Trump’s comments, besides their entertainment value, is that they can be entered into the record of any legal proceedings that might come down the road.
Trump’s loyal minions in Congress are sticking with him. Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) told Chuck Todd of NBC, “It seemed as if he wanted to throw lots of people under the bus. It seemed as if he did get a little bit emotional. I think he has a very interesting relationship with the truth.”
Todd asked her if she thought Comey had committed perjury. The congresswoman replied, but backed off her assertion. “That’s not for me to say.” Well, you said it, Congresswoman, in a cowardly, weasel way.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) told reporters we should give Trump a pass on his obstruction of justice because he’s a novice at public service. “The president’s new at this. He’s new to government, and so he probably wasn’t steeped in the long-running protocols that establish the relationships between DOJ, FBI and White Houses. He’s just new to this.” He then added, “I’m not saying it’s an acceptable excuse, it’s just my observation.”
Glad we got that straighten out. President Trump is just new at this.
The funniest thing Ryan said was that if it were a Democrat in the same situation the GOP wouldn’t be going after that president. Really? The political party that held seven Benghazi investigations?
In his press conference with Klaus Iohannis the president once again hinted that he had recordings of his conversations with James Comey. Let’s end the suspense and just agree the president is lying about that as well. If he did have “tapes” (who still uses analog recording devices anymore?) he would have made them public, just to clear his name. Like his tax returns, we will never hear those recordings, regardless of how many times Trump hints he has them. The guy is a serial liar.
The question for the rest of us is this: Do we take the word of a former Director of the FBI who, despite his mistakes, has never been accused of being dishonest, or believe a president who had made dishonesty a central tenet of his administration?
I’m going with the FBI guy.
One last thing: Can anyone explain what the heck was going on with Senator John McCain (R-AZ)?
Photos are screen shots from YouTube unless otherwise noted
Tim Forkes started as a writer on a small alternative newspaper in Milwaukee called the Crazy Shepherd. Writing about entertainment, he had the opportunity to speak with many people in show business, from the very famous to the people struggling to find an audience. In 1992 Tim moved to San Diego, CA and pursued other interests, but remained a freelance writer. Upon arrival in Southern California he was struck by how the elected government officials and business were so intertwined, far more so than he had witnessed in Wisconsin. His interest in entertainment began to wane and the business of politics took its place. He had always been interested in politics, his mother had been a Democratic Party official in Milwaukee, WI, so he sat down to dinner with many of Wisconsin’s greatest political names of the 20th Century: William Proxmire and Clem Zablocki chief among them. As a Marine Corps veteran, Tim has a great interest in veteran affairs, primarily as they relate to the men and women serving and their families. As far as Tim is concerned, the military-industrial complex has enough support. How the men and women who serve are treated is reprehensible, while in the military and especially once they become veterans. Tim would like to help change that.