Disgraced former FBI director and current professor of ethical leadership (I am not making that up) James Comey was interviewed by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour today. Amanpour was definitely out of her depth. At one point she suggested that the chants of “lock her up” were hate speech and “threats” (we actually hope they qualify as promises). My colleague, bonchie, posted on that earlier today.
The interview was a series of softball questions that let Comey engage in tee-ball batting practice. He got to accuse Trump and his supporters of trying to burn Justice and the FBI to the ground (sounds like a plan if we can salt the earth afterwards). And there was this:
Shouldn't the FBI Director have been on top of that? https://t.co/m8dy8c9bus
— WhiteHousePressCorps (@whpresscorps) April 2, 2019
But the most interesting part was his reaction to the demands being made by both President Trump and many Congressional Republicans, like South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, that some sort of investigation needs to be conducted into exactly how the decision was made to a) use the Steele dossier as evidence for FISA warrants and b) to open an investigation into a major political campaign without giving the candidate a courtesy briefing.
During an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Comey was asked about whether he feared possible counterinvestigations.
“I don’t fear it personally. I fear it as a citizen,” he said. “Right? Investigate what? Investigate that investigations were conducted? What would be the crime you’d be investigating? So it’s a terrible cycle to start.”
Comey condemned the president’s rhetoric of “calling for the locking up of his political opponents, including people like me.”
“It will just be more of that dangerous step, and would I hope, although he’ll continue to disappoint me, the Republicans would finally stand up and say that kind of thing,” he said.
The former FBI director, however, maintained that he would be willing to answer questions if an investigation were opened.
“Me, personally, ask me questions,” Comey said. “Go ahead. I would like to answer them in the daylight, if I could.”
This is where Comey is wrong. Beyond, him and his cronies in the FBI and Justice being called to account for attempting what looks like a soft coup against President Trump, there were precedents set here that are aimed at the very heart of our system of government.
1. Opposition research developed by a political campaign was used to start a so-called counterintelligence investigation of the presidential campaign of a major political party.
2. Unverified opposition research was used to obtain FISA warrants on a former member of that campaign.
3. Comey, himself, was involved in creating the media hook that let CNN report that Trump had been informed of the hookers-peeing-on-the-mattress allegation.
4. Senior FBI and Justice officials collaborated with the people who developed the opposition research.
5. Senior FBI officials who had expressed animus towards the subject of the investigation were allowed to participate in that investigation for several months…until they were exposed in the media.
6. Comey, himself, tried to create a fact-set that would trigger the appointment of an independent counsel.
7. Senior FBI, and possible senior Justice, officials tried to develop a situation to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove the president.
8. The FBI and the Justice Department refused to adequately investigate allegations into another campaign because the campaign refused to cooperate and because that candidate was the presumptive winner.
9. In the end, there was nothing.
And no, Comey really doesn’t want to answer those questions.
People were harmed. Reputations were trashed. A concerted effort was made to smear the president by leaks of innuendos and falsehoods. All of that fairly screams for an inquiry and for corrective action, both in terms of punitive personnel actions, if not prosecutions, and procedural safeguards to ensure this can’t happen again to anyone.