After former FBI Director James Comey’s lengthy transcribed testimony on Friday before the House Judiciary and Oversight committees, he said to reporters, “I have total confidence that the FISA process was followed and that the entire case was handled in a thoughtful, responsible way by DOJ and the FBI. I think the notion that FISA was abused here is nonsense.”
This from someone who, behind the closed doors of the hearing, demonstrated precious little knowledge or recollection of how the process WAS handled. He answered questions with “I don’t know” 166 times, “I don’t remember” 71 times, and “I don’t recall” 8 times. All the variations of these non-answers that he gave in testimony add up to 245 times. That’s a lot of things for the head of the Bureau to be blissfuly unaware of.
Comey’s pleas of ignorance are especially hard to believe considering that he has consistently said that whenever he wanted to remember something, he would make notes of the event, right away. He did this a lot. In fact, it was his contemporaneous notes about his meeting with Trump that he leaked to his professor friend, with the express purpose of getting them to the New York Times and seeing a special counsel appointed to look into Trump. If Comey was such a conscientious note-taker, how is it that he has forgotten so much?
Logically, it’s just not possible. Comey is the one who advised the President of a “salacious and unverified” report (the Steele dossier). These two things cannot both be true: 1) Comey knew the dossier was unverified, and 2) he is confident that the FISA applications to spy on an associate of then-candidate Donald Trump were handled correctly. According to law, the information in the applications must be verified –- not just secondhand but by the FBI itself. If Comey wants to maintain that he didn’t know at the time where that information came from (as he did, incredibly, in testimony), I don’t buy it but we can at least debate it. However, it’s undebatable that today, Comey knows perfectly well where that dossier came from and that the information in it was –- and still is –- unverified, and for him to say now that the FBI handled the FISA applications appropriately is laughable.
Looking at the transcript of the hearing, we can see that Comey admitted that he’d repeatedly referred to the dossier as unverified. (He did remember that. Maybe his memory was triggered by knowledge that the committees had other testimony to that effect.) Texas Rep. John Ratcliffe asked him, “Do you recall that, on numerous occasions...you, in your capacity as the FBI Director, referred to the Steele dossier as salacious and unverified?” Comey replied, “Yes. I don’t know that I was referring to all of it...” Ratcliffe asked, “But, again, your characterization of it was that it was unverified, even though you had verified it to the court?” Comey: “...what I understand by ‘verified’ is we then try to replicate the source information so that it becomes...our conclusions rather than a reliable source’s...and that work wasn’t completed by the time I left in May of 2017, to my knowledge.”
Aha. It’s right there, in sworn testimony, that while he was in charge, Comey knew that the FISA application contained unverified information. He referred to the dossier as unverified on numerous occasions. Yet he told reporters afterwards that the idea the process was abused is “nonsense.” The word “nonsense” is better applied to what Comey is trying to put over on us.
Talking with the reporters, Comey went even further, slamming attempts to look into the process. Sen. Lindsay Graham (the expected incoming chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee), speaking with FOX News’ Maria Bartiromo on Sunday, brought up his comment that looking into the handling of the FISA warrant process would be “sort of a joke.” “I don’t think it’s a joke at all,” Graham said, “that a warrant was issued based on a document paid for by a political party, prepared by a foreign agent, that’s unverified, to basically surveil a member of a presidential campaign. That’s not funny to me. I want to know how that happened and the role he played.”
Graham gave assurance that his committee would be focusing on all of this in the coming year, and went on to say that Trump’s choice for attorney general, Bill Barr, is the most qualified person available and should be overwhelmingly confirmed, “unless politics regarding Trump have completely destroyed the Senate.” Barr has been confirmed three times by voice vote (meaning it wasn’t even close, or they would have had a recorded vote). So maybe we’ll soon have an AG with some intestinal fortitude.
Rep. Jerry Nadler can shut down all the Republican-led House investigations into the REAL Russian “collusion” that was done on the Democratic side –- plus Hillary’s obstruction of justice and violation of the Espionage Act –- but the Senate will soldier on. And in the next few weeks, while the House committees are still in Republican hands, they’ll continue with their work, too. First, the House intends to find out what’s been going on, in terms of money and resources, with the “Hillary” investigation being handled by Judge Huber in Salt Lake City.
And I guess the Holy Grail for the House committees is still to get Rod Rosenstein’s testimony; good luck with that. Even in Washington, I’ve rarely seen people as slippery and hard to pin down as Rosenstein, Lynch and that crew; the only ones to rival them are Bill and (especially) Hillary, who have been the King and Queen Of Slippery since we were all together in Arkansas.
As for the Michael Cohen sentencing memo, this is what has most “journalists” screaming that Trump has been implicated in campaign finance violations. All together now, let’s pull out our earplugs, stick them in our ears, enjoy the quiet, and take a closer look at this.
First, we can set aside the notion that Cohen was directly involved in any kind of meaningful discussions with Russia about the campaign as was first alleged. He never went to Prague. Russians tried to engage HIM, but nothing came of it. So, in that sense, what we’ve learned is exculpatory for Trump.
But Cohen’s activities weren’t just examined by Mueller –- the special counsel had passed some of them off to the prosecutors for the Southern District of New York, who have also issued a sentencing memo. This one deals in part with campaign finance, in particular the payoffs to two women, and this is where the Cohen case gets tricky. Cohen was induced to plead guilty to a criminal charge of campaign finance violation to the tune of $280,000 and, importantly, to say that he was acting at the direction of the President. Never mind that Cohen is a big-time liar; this looks like a set-up to charge the President himself with similar violations.
If it is, it will be a clear example of the two-tiered justice system. As Andrew C. McCarthy points out, when the Obama campaign was found to have committed violations totaling nearly $2 million --- much more than in the Cohen (Trump) case --- the Obama Justice Department decided not to prosecute. The Federal Election Commission was satisfied merely with the payment of a $375,000 fine.
McCarthy goes into all the ramifications of this legal mess; read all the in-the-weeds details at the link below. One thing to keep in mind is that Trump is not legally bound by the assumption made in the Cohen case that the payments were campaign contributions. Trump certainly had other reasons for wanting to make these women go away that had nothing directly to do with running for President, and he can still argue that point.
But given the aforementioned two-tier justice system, as well as the determination of House Democrats to impeach Trump, it may be a moot point. Jerry Nadler has already said this is an impeachable offense, and they’ll go after Trump no matter what. The media will be with them; every day on CNN and MSNBC will look just like this past weekend of hysteria. At the very least, by putting Trump through an impeachment fight, they’ll be able to “rein him in” and limit what he can do in office, just as the anti-Trumpers in the FBI were trying to do. Elections have consequences, and the worst-nightmare consequence of Republicans losing the House is that Democrats will impeach Trump for “high crimes and misdemeanors” that he didn’t even commit –- things that Obama and Hillary really did do but were never punished for. The only thing that might possibly stop them is knowing what a huge political price they’re bound to pay.
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