There are no two-ways about it: former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee all but buried the already paper-thin narrative that Donald Trump and his associates colluded with Russia in order to win the election.
As we know, this is not the end of the narrative. I’m not so naïve as to believe CNN and MSNBC will allow facts and sworn testimony to dash their ratings-driven fairytale.
But for those who do consider and form opinions based on factual, first-hand accounts, Thursday’s hearing cleared Donald Trump of many baseless charges. Further, it exposed revelations regarding the co-mingling of political agendas and FBI operations and the lack of basic journalistic standards by the American news media that are alarming in their grander implications.
Here’s what we learned.
Donald Trump was never under FBI investigation
The president had, prior to Thursday’s hearing, stated on at least three occasions that he was assured by then FBI Director Comey that he was not the subject of an investigation regarding collusion with Russia.
That’s right; there was not enough evidence, not even an inkling of credible suspicion, to pursue an investigation into Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.
Here’s an excerpt of the exchange between Comey and a Senate Intelligence Committee member:
Member: “I gather from all this that you’re willing to say now that while you were director the President of the United States was not under investigation, is that a fair statement?”
Comey: “That’s correct.”
Member: “So that’s a fact that we can rely on?”
Comey: “Yes sir.”
If that is not crystal-clear enough (it is), another member of the committee asked essentially the same question, in her own wording:
Member: “I’m trying to understand whether there was any kind of investigation of the president underway.”
Before claiming total innocence, there is still the possibility that Donald had his underlings do his dirty dealings with Russia, and that he would plausibly protect them from investigation to whatever extent possible, therefore insulating himself from being implicated.
Not so fast.
It’s true, Trump admitted to “hoping” that former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who was under investigation, would not be charged. The exact quote from Trump, according to a memo Comey took of the conversation:
"I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go." (CNN)
As has been pointed out, nobody has ever been prosecuted for “hoping,” and for Donald Trump to advocate for a man he had high regard and respect for is not unusual, and certainly not criminal.
In fact, Comey revealed that President Trump actually encouraged the FBI to investigate his “satellite associates” for any evidence of wrongdoing:
‘Mr. Comey’s testimony also makes clear that the President never sought to impede the investigation into attempted Russian interference in the 2016 election, and in fact, according to Mr. Comey, the President told Mr. Comey “it would be good to find out” in that investigation if there were “some ‘satellite’ associates of his who did something wrong.”’ (WaPo)
In conclusion, Donald Trump was never deemed worthy of inquiry by Director Comey and the FBI, even encouraging thorough investigation into any of his associates. These investigations have yet to reveal evidence of collusion.
There is no evidence of Russian involvement in the 2016 U.S. election
This has been stated periodically by even members of the left, including those leading the frantic, torch and pitchfork wielding mob calling for Donald’s impeachment, preferably his head if they can get it.
To this point, there is no evidence of Russian interference in the U.S. election. None. Not a trace.
Forget the fact-deficient report released that spoke of some ambiguous “influence campaign.” We are talking evidence, tangible connections that would support the twisted logic that continues to drive the Trump/Putin Best Friends Forever storyline.
Once the Russia interference narrative got going, and the FBI began investigations, did they experience pressure from the President-elect to stanch such inquiries, as a guilty man likely would?
Let’s ask Jim, why don’t we?
Member: “Did the president, at any time, ask you to stop investigations into Russian involvement in the 2016 U.S. elections?”
Comey: “Not to my understanding, no.”
And, during those investigations, was there ever any sign that Russians had in fact sabotaged Hillary to help install their alleged puppet?
Member: “Are you confident that no votes cast in the 2016 presidential election were altered?”
Comey: “I’m confident. When I left as director I had seen no indication of that whatsoever.”
Yet your news feed remains clogged with Trump/Russia stories. Which leads me to…
Unprecedented lack of journalistic standards led to the publication of false allegations
The February 14th edition of the New York Times contained a story which posited that Trump aides had contact, on a repeated basis, with Russian intelligence officials. This report was based upon the accounts of four anonymous “current and former American officials,” and went so far as to claim, “phone records and intercepted calls” corroborated these allegations. You can read the entire piece here, but it’s probably not worth your time.
I say it’s not worth your time, because Comey testified that the story was, essentially, made up. Fake news, if you will.
It is a prime example of the use of anonymous source accounts and quotes as the primary basis for a news story, a journalistically and generally unethical practice. It is irresponsible on the most basic level. Anonymous sources are a tool that any real journalist knows should be used only as a last resort and even then in exceptional cases.
The logic is clear: somebody unwilling to attach their name to a comment, particularly an allegation of nefarious activity against a president, has no incentive to be truthful. There are no ramifications to fabricating or simply lying, as nobody, possibly including the reporter, knows your true identity.
Yet, these masked “American officials” were relied upon by the New York Times to publish allegations that Russians and Trump had employed extensive electronic surveillance as part of their supposed collusion against Hillary Clinton.
And, as it turns out, they were lying:
Member: “That report was not true, is that a fair statement?”
Comey: “In the main, it was not true…the people talking about it often really don’t know what’s going on, and those of us who actually know what’s going on are not talking about it. And we don’t call the press to say ‘hey, you got this wrong about that sensitive topic.'”
What is the public to think? How are we to know which “anonymous source” to trust? How do we even know this “source” is real? Remember Stephen Glass?
We can’t know what is true and what is ‘fake news,' and that’s why the media has taken such a deserved credibility hit.
Now that Comey exposed the story as materially false, the New York Times has released this statement:
“The original sources could not be reached after Mr. Comey’s remarks.”
Read into it what you will, but you probably should not read the New York Times if you want verified, truthful news.
It was former Attorney General Loretta Lynch that put pressure on Comey to downplay the Clinton E-mail investigation
There is a consistent irony in many of the narratives that the left has used to defame Donald Trump. That irony being that, many times, Trump is eventually exonerated, and the left is exposed as engaging in the activity they accused the President of.
Add this to that list of ironies: Amidst an investigation which partly concerns allegations that Donald Trump pressured Jim Comey in order to influence an investigation, it was revealed that former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, an Obama and Clinton loyalist, did just that.
Lynch’s infamous tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton was concerning to Comey, he said. But it was her insistence on downplaying the significance of the investigation into the DNC e-mail scandal that revealed the extent of her partisanship:
Comey: “at one point the attorney general asked me not to call it an investigation, but instead to call it a matter, which confused me and concerned me… it gave me the impression that the Attorney General was looking to align the way we talked about our work with the way a political campaign was describing the same activity, which was inaccurate, we had a criminal investigation open.”
Comey acknowledges that this was questionable now, but at the time, he did as she asked. She was the Attorney General, but she was appointed by and loyal to a particular political party, and her partisanship should not have been a factor in the decision-making of the FBI Director.
Which is another reason Comey was not fit to continue as the FBI’s Director. Once politics pervades the veil of the FBI, all bets are off regarding personal and national security.
But there’s an even stronger reason that Comey’s dismissal was justified…
Comey, the Director of the FBI, was the source of a leak from the FBI
That’s right, the man who has referred countless times to the need for security of information, investigated a server in the name of protecting said sensitive information, and is generally charged with maintaining the security of the Bureau, leaked a memo himself.
I’m not sure if it’s unprecedented, but it is certainly immoral, regardless of the rationale.
He describes transcribing a memo of the conversation in which President Trump said he “hoped” that the Flynn investigation would cease, giving the memo to a friend, who in turn gave it to a New York Times reporter.
He says he did this as part of an effort to get a special counsel appointed in order to investigate the Russia connection further.
Yet, he is now testifying under oath that he never felt there was interference from the Executive Branch into the Russian investigation, and no evidence of collusion. So what could have been so pressing, so vital to national security, that Comey would be willing to violate ethical standards and divulge details of a private conversation with the president to a reporter?
We can’t read minds, but Comey has proven vulnerable to political pressure (i.e. the Loretta Lynch “matter” request being honored), and everybody knows that Comey has been at the center of political strife for months.
Regardless of his motive, an FBI director admitting to being one of the many anonymous sources that go against basic standards of ethics and accountability is a dangerous precedent.
Comey, toward the end of his testimony, gave us one more insightful and unequivocally factual nugget of truth:
“The FBI will be fine without me.”
Yes, Mr. Comey, yes it will.