President Trump survived the pounding by Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday but had better keep his helmet and flak-jacket close. There’s more blitzing to come from Democrats and their fellow Trump-haters in the press – and that small but noisome band of unreconstructed “Never Trump” Republicans still on the loose.
The president’s skilled tormentor James Comey did say Thursday that the president was not the subject of an FBI investigation. Imagine that. Mr. Comey corroborating what Mr. Trump has been saying all along.
Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Roy Blunt of Missouri hit Mr. Comey with shuddering impact in asking why the one item Mr. Comey never leaked was that Mr. Trump was not the subject of the FBI investigation. Hard to believe that didn’t undermine trust in Mr. Comey a tad, even though some Republicans on the Intelligence Committee lavished such praise on him you might have thought for a moment that he was on the “Team Red.”
Mr. Comey got down to his real mission in claiming that Mr. Trump had ordered him to drop the FBI investigation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. It’s unpleasant for Mr. Trump to have to come to terms with the possibility that even some of his partisans aren’t ready to dismiss that completely, especially under the constant bombardment of the Trump-dissing major media.
The president, who booted Mr. Flynn on Feb. 13 and his FBI director on May 9, says he never came close to even suggesting a pass for the national security adviser whom he sacked for having lied about his relations with certain individuals of Russian persuasion.
For now, it’s a matter of whom you believe, with most Americans rightly wanting to believe their president. And there’s also on the president’s side America’s recollection of the believability of his rival for president last November.
Then there’s Mr. Comey’s own credibility problems, as alluded to by Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican.
Mr. Comey courageously stood up to President George W. Bush’s attorney general Albert Gonzales and Chief of Staff Andrew Card when they invaded Attorney General John Ashcroft’s hospital room to try to muscle him into signing the reauthorization of a domestic surveillance program already declared illegal.
As deputy attorney general, Mr. Comey not only sped to Mr. Ashcroft’s side that day but also signed a resignation letter and kept it on his desk until Mr. Bush withdrew the program. Victory for individual freedom and privacy. Good man, James Comey.
But as FBI director, Mr. Comey didn’t stand up to President Obama’s Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s ordering him not to use word “investigation” in announcing the FBI’s examination of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s classified, arguably felonious, email-server bumbling.
Instead, he agreed to refer to it as the “email matter.” Why cave to a Democratic administration? Because he told the committee on Thursday, it was not a hill worth dying on. OK. Self-preservation is a human instinct. Career over principle is not new to humankind or to humankind’s distant relatives – government careerists.
Credibility wobbles again when Mr. Trump allegedly asks Mr. Comey to let Mr. Flynn off the hook. Why doesn’t the righteous Mr. Comey write a letter of resignation and keep it on his desk in case Mr. Trump and his top Cabinet and agencies heads follow up by leaning on Mr. Comey to drop the Flynn case? Why does he instead leak his notes about his Oval Office conversation with the president?
At one point in responding to senators’ questions on Thursday, he said he is delighted to have learned from a Trump tweet that the president may have a recording of that private conversation about Mr. Flynn and hopes the president makes it public because it will show Mr. Comey is the truth-teller in all this and Mr. Trump the liar. All of which sounds like a particularly virulent case of ego uber alles.
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