Seeking the truth – Now in Session

 

“Jim saw himself as the person whose job it was to protect the F.B.I. from a group of people—not just the president—who did not respect the independence or the integrity of the law-enforcement function, in the context of some very high-stakes investigations.”

Yet that line of reasoning plays right into one of the most consistent criticisms of Comey—that he saw himself as the last honest man in Washington, a righteous defender of higher principles and bigger than his job title.

Vanity Fair

June 5, 2017 6:54 pm

 

Moment of Truth

Image result for vanity fair - comey

Former FBI Director James Comey takes his seat to testify before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on “Russian Federation Efforts to Interfere in the 2016 U.S. Elections” on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. June 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

 

The Four Questions that Could Turn James Comey’s Testimony into a Bombshell

At Thursday’s Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, the fired F.B.I. director can say only some of what he knows. Here’s how to read between the lines.
 John Dean (Watergate, 1973) and Oliver North (Iran-Contra, 1987) are the leaders when it comes to incendiary White House scandal testimony, at least until Thursday, when former F.B.I. Director James Comey will appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee to describe the tense interactions that led to his abrupt firing by President Donald Trump last month. Comey’s testimony has the potential to surpass these predecessors. Much depends on what Robert Mueller, the recently appointed special counsel, now in charge of the sprawling Trump-Russia investigation, has cleared Comey to discuss. Particulars of the F.B.I.’s work examining possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives will be off-limits. But this still leaves plenty of latitude—and it’s impossible to imagine the voluble Comey would have agreed to testify if he were limited to repeating only his name, rank, and serial number. “I wouldn’t expect that Jim is going to be sitting at a green-felt table with a list of boundaries given to him by special counsel,” says David N. Kelley, a longtime Comey legal colleague and friend.

1.  Mr. Comey, in the letter President Trump wrote informing you of your dismissal, he said that you told him on three separate occasions that he was not under investigation. Is that true?

His answer is crucial. If he flatly denies telling Trump any such thing, Comey will be accusing the president of lying. But Comey’s response will no doubt be more nuanced, drawing a distinction between whether his comments to Trump were in the context of a national security investigation or a criminal inquiry.

2.  It has been reported that you wrote a memo describing a conversation with President Trump in which he told you, regarding the F.B.I’.s investigation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, that he “hoped you could let this go.” Is that true? Did you think the president was making a benign, casual remark, or was he making a calculated effort to pressure you?

The committee’s seven Democrats, led by Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, will probably use their questions to try to construct a damning narrative about Trump and the Russians. Merely confirming what has been reported about the Flynn memo would be a powerful statement. But the tone of Comey’s answers will be nearly as important as any facts he discloses.

So far, only a tiny fragment of Comey’s memos have been leaked. And their dry style is familiar to F.B.I. veterans. “As an F.B.I. agent, that’s what we do—put conversations down on paper,” says Asha Rangappa, who spent three years with the bureau and is now a dean at Yale Law School. “And you’re taught to do it in a way that you don’t editorialize.”

Thursday’s hearing, however, will be all about editorializing. “How pressured did he feel? As a senator, you’d definitely want to get to that,” Wittes says. “Did he ever feel like the investigation was at risk?”

3.  If Comey declares his notes are evidence, it will be a bombshell—but it will also open him up to the following line of attack.

Mr. Comey, if you were so disturbed, why didn’t you quit or bring the information to the attention of your superiors at the time?

The panel’s eight Republican senators will try to impugn Comey’s competence and integrity, and paint the intelligence community as biased against Trump. Questioning why Comey kept quiet about Trump’s actions is key, because it strikes at his motives. Republicans have suggested Comey was sandbagging the president, stashing compromising information for future use against the White House.

“I’m pretty sure I know Jim’s answer to this one,” Wittes says. “Jim saw himself as the person whose job it was to protect the F.B.I. from a group of people—not just the president—who did not respect the independence or the integrity of the law-enforcement function, in the context of some very high-stakes investigations.”

Yet that line of reasoning plays right into one of the most consistent criticisms of Comey—that he saw himself as the last honest man in Washington, a righteous defender of higher principles and bigger than his job title.

“With the asterisk that we don’t know if what his friends are saying is what Comey actually said or did, the idea that he was sitting on information is shocking to an F.B.I. agent,” says Michael German, a 16-year bureau veteran who is now a scholar at the Brennan Center for Justice. “That information is what we call evidence. You don’t manage evidence. You document the evidence and you report it up the chain of command. Yes, Comey was in a unique position because the attorney general [Jeff Sessions] was recused from the case, so it can’t go there. The deputy attorney general [Rod Rosenstein] was acting, so does Comey wait until he’s confirmed? I can understand a delay. But that first day that Rosenstein was signed in as deputy attorney general, I think this conversation with the president would have been the first item on my agenda to discuss with him.”

4. Mr. Comey, when you testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month as F.B.I. director, you said there had been no interference with the bureau’s Russia investigation. I am reminding you that you are under oath. Why are you contradicting yourself now?

Republicans will try to scuff up Comey by suggesting he relied on a phony Russian document in the Clinton e-mail investigation and by reminding everyone that the F.B.I. was forced to correct Comey’s recent Senate testimony about Huma Abedin forwarding “hundreds and thousands” of e-mails to Anthony Weiner’s laptop. Catching Comey in an on-the-record falsehood about the lack of interference, though, wouldn’t just undermine his testimony about Trump—it might expose him to perjury charges.

Comey’s response could be downright Clintonian: he was asked whether Justice Department officials had tried to stop the investigation, not whether the president had.“Maybe the answer is, ‘There was no successful interference,’ ” Wittes says. “Jim can answer, ‘My job was to protect the investigation, and I did it. So there was no interference. I never said there was no attempt to interfere.’ Nobody asked him that question in those hearings: ‘have you been pressured?’ ” If Comey says yes, the implication would be that in his view Trump did indeed try to obstruct justice, but that he prevented it.

Comey’s friends say he disdains the spotlight. Somehow he keeps finding himself at its center, and this will be the grandest theater yet. “I haven’t talked to Jim about it, and I don’t need to: Of course he’s looking forward to testifying,” Wittes says. “This is somebody who shows his work. This is somebody who errs on the side of explaining himself. And we know in our hearts that one of the two interlocutors in those conversations, Trump and Comey, has more to fear from the contents of them than the other does.”

http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/06/james-comey-testimony-bombshell

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