March 20th, 2017

Comey’s testimony: much ado

On Russia and the election, and on wiretapping:

Comey confirms the FBI started the investigation in July. All he can tell the committee is what they’re investigating: Collusion between Trump campaign and the Russians…

[NSA Director Mike Rogers] said that the NSA has not changed its assessment on Russian interference from January. That report found that Russia did launch a campaign, but it did not change the election outcome. Rogers said NSA found no evidence of vote changes and that no one stole information from the RNC or the Trump campaign…

Nunes and Schiff could not find evidence of wiretapping on the Trump Tower. Nunes said in his opening statement the wiretap didn’t exist, but other forms of surveillance possibly existed.

Comey has no information to support Trump’s tweets that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower and that no president can order a wiretap.

Much ado about nothing at this point, on both sides. That does not mean that all of this won’t have propaganda value for the left; it does and it will.

And the emphasis on the word wiretapping (which Trump originally had in scare quotes) is unfortunate. I believe Trump used the word both as shorthand for the more general word “surveillance,” as well as to get attention. But I think its use gave the left an unfortunate amount of ammunition against him.

See also this:

Comey revealed just enough to stoke public suspicions, confirming that they’re looking at potential links between the Trump campaign and Russia, but gave no further details with which to judge how credible those suspicions are.

Trump made that “wiretapping” accusation to counter the “Russia hacked the election for Trump” allegations. But the Russian-hacking allegations are given credibility by the fact that there’s an ongoing investigation and by the spin the press gives to them, whereas Trump’s allegations are being called unconfirmed and unproven.

I continue to think that Trump’s reputation as president will ultimately rise and fall not on these issues, but on the practical question of what he actually accomplishes or fails to accomplish in terms of policy. That’s slow going right now, although the Gorsuch confirmation hearings have finally begun.

That’s the first step in getting Gorsuch on the Supreme Court: a confirmation devoutly to be wished. And one I believe the Democrats will be unable to stop, although they will try their utmost to do so.

25 Responses to “Comey’s testimony: much ado”

  1. Irv Says:

    Neo – “Trump made that “wiretapping” accusation to counter the “Russia hacked the election for Trump” allegations.”

    I understand a person thinking that might be the case but I just don’t do well with statements that pretend to know for sure what was in Trump’s mind. Isn’t it at least possible that he made the wiretapping allegation solely in reference to the newspaper articles, the released transcripts of his conversations with world leaders and the released transcripts of General Flynn’s conversations?

    Does everything he does have to be because of politics? Doesn’t he ever get the benefit of the doubt about anything? Why do you think so many of his followers are convinced of his good intentions? Are we all dupes of a charlatan like Obama’s and Clinton’s followers? At least so far he has done, or at least attempted to do, exactly what he said he would do during the campaign. This has certainly not been the case in the past most of the time.

    I know I’m overreacting to a simple statement of what you think his motives were but I’m not reacting to just that statement. So many evaluations about Trump are not based on his actions or stated motives but on his assumed motives coming from very poor evaluations of his character.

    Once someone has decided that his character is flawed it’s altogether too easy to assign base motives to his actions. I firmly believe that Trump is a victim of such and that much of the criticism of him is based on the ceaseless character assassinations put forth by the democrats/mainstream media/entertainment media/federal bureaucracy/(so called) educational complex.

    Please excuse my rant but sometimes it feels good to just blow off a little built-up steam. Thanks for providing a place for me to do that.

  2. Irv Says:

    Neo – By the way, I really enjoyed and agreed with the article as a whole.

  3. Cornhead Says:

    Drag Susan Rice, James Clapper and John Brennan in front of the same committee and quiz them on the leaks. Watch them take the Fifth.

  4. Yann Says:

    I believe Trump used the word both as shorthand for the more general word “surveillance,” as well as to get attention. But I think its use gave the left an unfortunate amount of ammunition against him.

    No, Neo. He’s doing it on purpose, and it’s a very clever trick. It’s exactly the same game he played with the Sweden tweet. He writes something that it’s basically truth but it’s written in some ambiguous way that can be mistaken.

    Of course, media takes the bait and healines “Trump is lying”. Then he waits, and waits a bit more for headlines to scalate, and finally he says: “eeh… of course the tweet about Sweden was true, when I said -see last night- it was about the special news report last night”, or “eeh… of course the tweet about wiretapping was right, I used the quotas to point out that it could be traditional old school wiretapping or any other more modern surveillance system instead”.

    Outcome: people feels that media lied. And it erodes the media influence a bit more, and a bit more… the guy is clever, and he’s playing the long run.

  5. Yann Says:

    Addendum.

    I tested my theory when the Sweden stuff. I suspected he had some ace up the sleeve and that there was an logical (though not obvious) explanation for the tweet. I checked Trump twitter to see how long it would take to tweet it. It was almost 24 hours.

    He WAITED. He waited until the whole thing escalated. And then, he tweeted about the Fox News Report.

  6. Frog Says:

    I regard Comey as a wordsmith lawyer. He is quoted as saying he had no info that Trump was surveilled. That is not quite the same as denying anyone in the FBI surveilled Trump. Comey reminds me of Bill Clinton and what the meaning of the word “is” is.
    In short, Comey is no truth-teller.
    I would like to see him fired. ASAP.
    But it ain’t gonna happen.

  7. J.J. Says:

    Trump on the Tucker Carlson show:
    “I’ve been reading about things,” Trump said. “I read in January a New York Times article. I think they used the exact term ‘wiretapping.’ I read other things. I watched your friend Bret Baier where he was talking about certain, very complex sets of things happening. I said, ‘Wait a minute, there is a lot of wiretapping happening.’”
    http://dailycaller.com/2017/03/15/trump-says-he-found-out-he-was-being-wiretapped-after-reading-new-york-times-article/

    Trump seems inartful at answering the question. Most of us would tick off such things as the leaking of General Flynn’s conversation, Trump’s phone calls with the Australian PM and Mexico’s President , and the leaking of Jeff Sessions’ meeting with the Russian ambassador as evidence that someone in the Obama administration was surveilling and leaking to weaken Trump.

    “Radio host Mark Levin used his Thursday evening show to outline the known steps taken by President Barack Obama’s administration in its last months to undermine Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and, later, his new administration.” He s detailed ten different instances. You can read about them here:
    http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2017/03/03/mark-levin-obama-used-police-state-tactics-undermine-trump/

    It’s all circumstantial evidence, but certainly merits investigation, but is not being investigated. (Per Comey today.) Why?

  8. Yancey Ward Says:

    Trump is going to regret keeping Comey as FBI director.

    And can no one on that committee asked a simple straightforward question that can’t get word-smithed to death?

    I have written it many times, it is easy to get to the bottom of this story- you just have to subpoena Loretta Lynch, all of Lynch’s direct subordinates in the DoJ, John Brennan, and James Clapper. You then ask them under oath whether or not a FISA warrant was requested targeting Trump or any of his staff, if a criminal warrant was requested, and whether any of these warrants were signed off on by a judge/s?

    Instead, what you get are non-denial denials like “I don’t have any information” on that, or “In an open hearing, I can’t comment” on that etc. It really is as if not a single member of Congress really wants to get the truth on anything.

  9. Yann Says:

    Trump is going to regret keeping Comey as FBI director.

    If you were planning to make a deep cleaning in the CIA, wouldn’t be you interested in keeping the FBI head? (at least, for a while). This way, you’ll have an easy defense when you’re accused of political cleaning in the CIA: “if there was a political cleaning, the FBI would have been included too, and here you have the same old team though”.

  10. Big Maq Says:

    “But I think its use gave the left an unfortunate amount of ammunition against him.” – Neo

    An understatement by what we’ve seen.
    .

    “I continue to think that Trump’s reputation as president will ultimately rise and fall not on these issues, but on the practical question of what he actually accomplishes or fails to accomplish in terms of policy. “

    Depends on who you are.

    A committed trump supporter will see no wrong in trump’s behavior, h*ll or high water.

    A committed leftist will see no right, come h*ll or high water.

    It is the rest that can change their mind, and where most of the electorate is. Even this can be divided to those whose support of trump is Conditional, and those that are Curious.

    I posted this distinction here:
    http://neoneocon.com/2017/02/12/why-the-9th-circuits-decision-on-the-tro-is-dangerous/#comment-2174347
    .

    It is a big part of what I’ve been on about trump of late.

    He needs to provide leadership rather than “distraction”, as that “distraction” is taking away his (and the GOP in Congress’) ability to deliver on his “promises” (i.e. moving the “ball” forward).

    Moreover, for those changes to be lasting (i.e. survive beyond the next dem POTUS), he needs to swing more than those already in his base (i.e. also, moving the “ball” forward).

    We focus our blame on the left, the msm, etc. all we want, but going to bat for trump on these “distractions” only encourages it, rather than holding him accountable, and responsible for this escalation too.
    .

    Also, this hits at an underlying assumption his core supporters seem to be making… the idea that once trump “delivers” everyone will suddenly forgive him the crap he took us through to get “there”.

    That is a huge bet, that I don’t think is merited, since
    a) I don’t think his core supporters will get all they dream they will be getting from trump, even if he had 100% agreement (either from outbound expectations deliberately set, or from the limitations of his office to create the results by policy alone); and
    b) trump has been rather incoherent and mendacious that few would be convinced it was to trump’s credit any good result (and the msm will very much highlight this aspect all along the way).
    .

    Ultimately, if we think what we’d like trump to implement is not at all sellable to the electorate, then, perhaps, these “distractions” are a way to move the “ball” forward.

    If so, are we really interested in retaining a democracy here?

  11. Big Maq Says:

    @JJ – if you have to reference brietbarf you already lost the argument.

    On the Sunday shows, every GOP Congressman interviewed responded that they have not seen any evidence so far.

    The most deftly answered was Sen Cruz who said that he’d like to get to the bottom of this as part of the current investigations.

    Look, someone can probably put together a list of events, like those in brietbarf, that shows Ted Cruz’s father is linked to the Kennedy assassination. That is hardly the basis to make trump’s claim credible.

  12. Big Maq Says:

    “Once someone has decided that his character is flawed it’s altogether too easy to assign base motives to his actions. I firmly believe that Trump is a victim of such and that much of the criticism of him is based on the ceaseless character assassinations put forth by the democrats/mainstream media/entertainment media/federal bureaucracy/(so called) educational complex.” – Irv

    Forget trump for a moment.

    If a neighbor has repeatedly, provably lied to you, on big and small things, how will you take his incredible claims in future?

    Do you lament that he is “victim” getting a bad rap, and so you choose to believe him automatically?

    Or, do you ask him for something more substantial as proof to back up his claim?

    Convicted criminals face this uphill battle every time they seek employment. Would you / do you hire them and ignore this?

    As POTUS, trump has extraordinary power, much more than anyone, to bring evidence to the public.

    Like his tax returns, that he promised to released if elected, fat chance at getting anything that is remotely close to directly supporting his full claim.

  13. Brian E Says:

    It’s interesting that the media reports that Trump’s public support is falling. According to Gallup:

    Jan. 20-29 Approval: Republicans- 89%; Independents- 42%; Democrats- 13%.
    March 6-12 Approval: Republicans- 88%; Independents- 36%; Democrats- 9%.

    Now compare that to GW Bush.

    Feb 1-4, 2001 Approval: Republican- 88%; Independents- 53%; Democrats- 32%.
    March 9-11, 2001: Approval; Republicans- 89%; Independents- 56%; Democrats- 33%.
    Oct 1-3, 2004 Approval: Republicans- 94%; Independents- 40%; Democrats- 11%.
    Jan 9-11, 2009 Approval: Republicans- 75%; Independents- 28%; Democrats- 6%.

    The Democrat outrage at losing the election– having it stolen by the Rooskies is real. Democrats barely tolerate Trump now, but like him better than Bush when he left office. It’s unlikely he’ll ever get much more than 13%, unless the economy rebounds and sustains at 3-4% GDP growth.

    Trumps signature issue, was jobs. For real job growth we need real economic growth. Second was controlling illegal immigration.

    If you believe Big Maq, Trump’s style will trump Trump’s performance. I hope he’s wrong.

  14. parker Says:

    Big Maq,

    I agree with much of your analysis in that results matter. Trump is not someone I would invite to a backyard barbecue, but I am giving him a lot of slack. So far he is attempting to deliver on the goals he campaigned on. He has the entrenched bureaucracy, the msm, hollyweird, gope, and of course people like Schumer and wacko birds like Maxine the darling of the loony left Waters.

    He certainly is not anyone’s idea of a conventional POTUS, but as far as I am concerned neither was the lawless messiah. Fight fire with fire is not an insane method of fighting fire.

  15. parker Says:

    BTW, Comey becomes ever more a bad player, IMO, every time he appears in public. No way do I trust that he has more than a dead skin layer of integrity.

  16. Irv Says:

    Big Maq – You toss around the word ‘lie’ so often and so easily in talking about Trump. You seem to regard all exaggerations, misstatements, generalizations and campaign rhetoric the same as the intentional lies of people like Obama and Clinton. That’s the way the left applied the word lie to almost everything Bush ever said.

    How do you suppose that Trump’s supporters knew that when he used the word ‘wiretapped’ he meant that Obama used the federal government resources to monitor him during the campaign and after the election? How did we know when he said ‘build a wall’ that he meant simply secure the border? How did we know that when he talked about a Muslim ban that he meant terrorists and not 1.6 billion Muslims? There are numerous other examples, too many to list here.

    It simply amazes me that the media and the left simply cannot figure it out? I guess Trump ought to hire an interpreter for the media and the anti-Trumpers in much the way sign language interpreters are used for the hearing impaired.

    Maybe the problem isn’t that they can’t understand, maybe it’s that they don’t want to understand. Possible?

  17. Cap'n Rusty Says:

    Tha aim of Trey Gowdy, like any good prosecutor, is to convince the jury, not the newspapers. The American people are the jury.

    Gowdy v Comey; Round One

    Gowdy v. Comey; Round Two

  18. Yankee Says:

    There were some real problems with Director Comey’s testimony. First off, he said that Vladimir Putin and Russia had a preference for Mr. Trump as President. That’s speculation. What is the point of making such a statement, and what is he basing it on? Comey has no business saying anything like that, because it’s not part of his job.

    Second, Mr. Comey (rather pompously) said that only a judge can order a wiretap. No duh. The real question is, who went to the judge in the first place to request a “wiretap” (or other surveillance) under the FISA act? Only someone highly placed within the Justice Department, and hence part of the Obama administration, could do something like that.

    Last, and most important, NO ONE has been able to state clearly, specifically, and definitively what it is that the Russians did to “interfere” in the election, or to “collude” with Mr. Trump and his associates.

  19. Cornhead Says:

    General Flynn was working inside Trump Tower after the election. This is when his conversations with the Russian diplomat was recorded and transcribed.

    Now was Flynn wiretapped or was some other method used?

    The media needs to learn not to take Trump literally and also recall that he used quotation marks around the words wire tapped.

  20. Cornhead Says:

    Yankee

    There is no way that Putin wanted the candidate that supported fracking, KXL, DAPL and American energy. Right now we are exporting LNG to Europe and stealing market share from Russia.

    Comey was way, way off base.

  21. Lee Says:

    I keep reading the word “wiretap” and I do think Frog has hit the nail on the head. I am not sure it is worth actually, technically “wiretapping” any more. Plausible deniability – Comey can say, in all honesty, that no one “wiretapped” Trump.

  22. J.J. Says:

    Cap’n Rusty, thanks for the links. Gowdy, as usual, on point.

    Big Maq, you obviously saw the Breitbart link and failed to read the article. Just alt-right propaganda, you’re thinking. Wrong! This info was presented by Mark Levin on his show and also by Sean Hannity on his show.

    Here are some items that stood out for me:
    “4. October: FISA request. The Obama administration submits a new, narrow request to the FISA court, now focused on a computer server in Trump Tower suspected of links to Russian banks. No evidence is found — but the wiretaps continue, ostensibly for national security reasons, Andrew McCarthy at National Review later notes. The Obama administration is now monitoring an opposing presidential campaign using the high-tech surveillance powers of the federal intelligence services.

    6. January: Obama expands NSA sharing. As Michael Walsh later notes, and as the New York Times reports, the outgoing Obama administration “expanded the power of the National Security Agency to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections.” The new powers, and reduced protections, could make it easier for intelligence on private citizens to be circulated improperly or leaked.

    7. January: Times report. The New York Times reports, on the eve of Inauguration Day, that several agencies — the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Treasury Department are monitoring several associates of the Trump campaign suspected of Russian ties. Other news outlets also report the existence of “a multiagency working group to coordinate investigations across the government,” though it is unclear how they found out, since the investigations would have been secret and involved classified information.

    8. February: Mike Flynn scandal. Reports emerge that the FBI intercepted a conversation in 2016 between future National Security Adviser Michael Flynn — then a private citizen — and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The intercept supposedly was part of routine spying on the ambassador, not monitoring of the Trump campaign. The FBI transcripts reportedly show the two discussing Obama’s newly-imposed sanctions on Russia, though Flynn earlier denied discussing them. Sally Yates, whom Trump would later fire as acting Attorney General for insubordination, is involved in the investigation. In the end, Flynn resigns over having misled Vice President Mike Pence about the content of the conversation.

    9. February: Times claims extensive Russian contacts. The New York Times cites “four current and former American officials” in reporting that the Trump campaign had “repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials. The Trump campaign denies the claims — and the Times admits that there is “no evidence” of coordination between the campaign and the Russians. The White House and some congressional Republicans begin to raise questions about illegal intelligence leaks.”

    These are all media reports that Levin catalogued showing that the media itself was outing the fact that the Trump campaign was being surveilled by the Obama administration. It is circumstantial evidence, (unnamed government officials or sources) but there is enough there to warrant investigating whether it was the Obama administration behind the leaks or if it was some disaffected intel spooks who didn’t like Trump and decided they could bring him down?

    Remember it was campaign dirty tricks that led to the Nixon administration’s downfall. Also remember that Obama’s MO throughout his career has been to commit dirty tricks on his opponents. He used the government to try to silence James Rosen, to attack TEA Party groups, to undermine the Second Amendment through Fast and Furious, etc. So, we have the previous record of Obama to examine to determine if he is the sort who might do such things.

    I think Gowdy was right on point and Comey was dancing like tenderfoot walking on hot coals.

  23. Frog Says:

    When I get discouraged over politics and politicians, Gowdy always steps in. What a man! Comey hid and dodged behind “the FBI never comments on an investigation”. Though putting the lie to that by volunteering about the investigation into Russian connections earler this same day.
    Slippery SOB is Comey. I’m still trying to figure what his real game is. Nihilism, maybe. Takes out Hillary, now’s trying to out Trump.

  24. Manju Says:

    That report found that Russia did launch a campaign, but it did not change the election outcome.

    I doubt the report said this. The intelligence community has made no assessment as to whether Russian interference made a difference and said so during yesterday’s testimony,

    But they have determined that Russia didn’t actually change vote tallies. That’s very different conclusion.

  25. expat Says:

    Powerline has a very good assessment of why the Russians would have hacked us. The Hillary backers think that she is the center of the universe, but I think things look a little different on the other side of the globe.
    http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2017/03/what-to-make-of-russias-unusually-loud-interference-in-the-2016-election.php

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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