The battle lines have been drawn in the biggest Washington showdown in decades; one side you have “Comey is a leaker,” on the other you have “Trump is a liar.”
On Thursday, fired FBI Director James Comey testified for nearly three hours, providing details of his conversations with President Trump related to Russian interference in the 2016 election. At the end of this #ComeyDay, I see no smoking gun, but rather a case of “he said, he said.”
In the absence of a blue Gap dress, we are left with one man’s word against another. One man’s credibility against another, with no way to trust but verify. As Comey said, “Lordy, I hope there are tapes.” Don’t we all?
Through his prepared statement, memos of conversations with the President, and sworn testimony, Comey came across as credible. He did say President Trump was not the subject of an investigation. He also provided his account of conversations in which the President stressed the need for loyalty from the former FBI director, inquired about Comey letting go of the investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and asked Comey to help “lift the cloud” of Russia.
The stickiest point of contention in the “he said, he said” remains the question of who’s lying. The fired FBI director said Trump terminated him in an attempt to change the course of the larger Russia probe, and then launched a campaign of lies to discredit him. Comey went on to say the President lied about the reason for his firing. A White House spokeswoman then said definitively, “The President is not a liar. “
Perhaps the biggest revelation was Comey’s self-unmasking as a leaker; he told members of the committee that he orchestrated the leak of his memos with the President through a close friend, in hopes of prompting the appointment of a special counsel. His plan worked.
Republicans walk away from the hearing with the satisfaction that Comey acknowledged President Trump was not under investigation. President Trump’s team, through personal attorney Marc Kasowitz, are claiming vindication and accusing Comey of making unauthorized disclosures of privileged communications with the President.
This is all well and good, but my concern is that the bigger issue of Russian interference is getting lost in all of the high stakes drama. Wednesday, Sen. John McCain noted, “What an Orwellian existence we live in.” The Russians have done tremendous destruction to our free and open society and that needs to be a major focus. Sen. Mark Warner, vicechair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, stressed that we need to be in a better position in 2018 and beyond.
In the end, I don’t believe Comey made the case against Trump, but rather a strong case for his integrity and that of the FBI. With all the detailed notes, there was no definitive evidence of wrongdoing by the President.