Before providing an update on my commentary on the NYT story about the FBI investigating Trump, I’d like to thank readers for their insightful responses. It’s impossible to respond to each one personally, but here are just a few of them, with my comments…
From George M:
I have been surprised to see that neither you nor anyone else has made the point that when Trump made his crack about the Russians finding the missing Clinton emails, there was nothing to be hacked. Mrs. Clinton had destroyed them. It would have been impossible for this to be a Trump request for the Russians to go get the emails. Put in context, it was a recognition that the Russians (and others) had almost certainly gained access to the Clinton server, and so had the missing emails.
True --- by that time, the emails had already been deleted from Hillary’s server with BleachBit. The Russians (and whoever else was hacking) would have gained access while she was serving as Secretary of State and until Judicial Watch’s FOIA request triggered the revelation about her private server and her subsequent destruction of subpoenaed evidence. Trump was making A JOKE. Even some who recognized it as a joke have observed that it might not have been particularly funny or well-advised, but I thought it was hilarious and that the point it made (which you also make in your last line) was great. Russia would have already had them!
From William T:
Mike, if Mr. Comey was so thoroughly anti-Trump that he would become part of a ‘bloodless coup’, why did he re-open the ‘Clinton email investigation’ so close to the election with the obvious negative impact on Ms. Clinton’s presidential campaign?
Comey himself has established through his own statements --- especially in recent months --- that he seethes with anti-Trump fervor. He has proven it, not only beyond a reasonable doubt, but beyond a shadow of a doubt. He almost rivals ex-CIA chief John Brennan in his readiness to viciously attack Trump. In his live appearances, he stresses that the Democrats MUST win in 2020, no matter what has to be done. He has made it crystal clear where he stands. So to make sense of his handling of the Hillary “investigation” (which was never really an investigation at all), we work under that assumption.
Given his opinion of Trump and the clear pro-Hillary stance of his FBI team, Comey would not have wanted to re-open the Hillary email “investigation” case at all if he could possibly have avoided it. Indeed, the FBI had known for several weeks of the existence of Anthony Weiner’s laptop, which appeared to be a treasure trove of Hillary’s classified emails. Why the curious delay? Well, assuming Comey would want to mitigate the damage to Hillary’s campaign as much as possible, the late timing of the re-opening appears deliberate. Re-opening the case weeks earlier might have been potentially more damaging, but waiting till after the election –- well, they wouldn’t have been able to get away with that. (What if it had leaked?) As I recall, the timing put them in a convenient (for them) time crunch; they gave themselves several days to go through hundreds of thousands of emails before saying “Okay, nothing here,” but later it turned out they had gone through only a few thousand.
Some people think that Comey's effect on Hillary's campaign was sort of a wash --- first he helped, then he hurt. I don't see it that way. I think first he helped, then he tried to help again as much as he could. And remember, if he hadn't let her off the hook in July 2016, she would NOT have even been the candidate.
Thanks for writing to challenge me on a point like this. As I’ve said before, I don’t want to just be preaching to the choir.
From Lawrence F:
I worked with the FBI frequently during my 54-year career in the Defense Department. Even the younger FBI agents joked that before they could get promoted to GS14 - "Supervisory Special Agent" - they would have to have their sense of humor surgically removed. There is something about the J. Edgar Hoover building in DC that inhibits any humor (in spite of the fact they often unwittingly produce some hilarious moments for normal people).
Your letter explains a lot. But what’s the excuse for all the OTHER people who have lost their sense of humor?
The New York Times article about the FBI secretly investigating President Trump as a possible Russian agent has turned out to be like a Rorschach test, in that one’s interpretation can determine one’s mental condition.
Rational people were horrified that, in the United States of America, a sitting President would be secretly investigated by the FBI simply because they disagreed politically with his actions. To anyone with a functioning brain, the reasons given in the story were invented and clearly bogus. Rational people could also see the double standard at work, knowing that President Obama would never have been subjected to such politically biased scrutiny and that Hillary Clinton and her campaign got away with working with Russians (through the Christopher Steele dossier) to defeat Trump. At this point, many rational people are just about ready to “repeal and replace” the FBI, keeping the dedicated lower-level agents (numbering about 35,000) but starting over with the upper echelon and putting some legal restraints and accountability on them.
But in the past few days, we’ve also seen incredibly irrational interpretations. The most visible ones, of course, were on media outlets such as CNN and MSNBC, where selective perception and mental instability were on full display. Instead of seeing the incredible overreach of the FBI, irrational people took the story at face value and concluded, with no evidence, that Trump really must have been acting in the interest of Russia rather than the United States. (“What a bombshell!” “The President is a traitor!”) They truly believe that Trump wasn’t joking when he made the quip about Russia finding Hillary’s emails. They seriously think he was giving instructions to his comrades in Moscow. That is ludicrous. And they utterly fail to see the very obvious double standard shown by the FBI when it came to investigating Russia “collusion.” Try to explain it to them, and they either become angry or willfully obtuse, with the stunned, quizzical look of someone who’s just been hit in the head with a 2x4.
Never mind that the NYT reporters admit in their story that there was no evidence of Trump working on behalf of Russia. (It should be mentioned that this admission doesn’t come for several paragraphs.) The media went crazy anyway.
Laura Ingraham had a spectacular guest on her show Monday night to discuss this: Chris Swecker, former assistant director of the FBI and a 24-year special agent. Using the NYT story as an ink-blot test, we can safely diagnose him as “highly rational.” Swecker says the biggest surprise is that anyone would consider the New York Times to be a credible source on this subject. He challenges their sources, suggesting the possibility that they’re getting their information from the very people who have been discredited, such as Andrew McCabe, James Comey, Strzok and Page, and the rest. To his mind, nothing these people would say regarding their tenure at the FBI would be credible.
He refers to the Hillary email case as a “kid-glove investigation.” He says the investigators are disgraced and have lost their “last little pocket of supporters” within the FBI, so there’s no reason to trust anything they were doing during that time.
He feels for the rank-and-file agents, who are highly qualified and motivated and are doing the very best job they can. “They don’t deserve what that ‘Comey inner circle’ has brought down on them...he’s been sort of using the FBI as a shield and saying, ‘If you criticize me, you’re criticizing the FBI.’” He says he’s heard from hundreds of agents who all agree that Comey was “a rogue operator.” They tell him that his ‘inner circle’ consisted of people who had been “promoted beyond their capabilities” and “in no way represent the FBI.”
In related news (related In terms of law enforcement overreach), John Solomon has a new report on attempts at the DOJ to increase their “reach” into journalists’ records. The DOJ wants to be able to 1) lower the threshold that prosecutors must meet before requesting subpoenas, and 2) eliminate the requirement that the DOJ alert news organizations first before issuing a subpoena. They just keep pushing. No doubt their targets will be those relatively few journalists on the right, always a favorite scapegoat.