June 9th, 2017

More on Comey: did he commit an indictable offense? and other observations

Somewhat lost in the Comey shuffle for some analysts: Comey’s admission that he was the memo leaker.

Jonathan Turley wonders about the possible legal consequences:

One of the most interesting new disclosures today in the Comey hearing was the admission by former FBI Director James Comey that he intentionally used a “friend” on the Columbia law faculty to leak his memos to the media. Comey says that he did so to force the appointment of a Special Counsel. However, those memos could be viewed as a government record and potential evidence in a criminal investigation…

The admission of leaking the memos is problematic given the overall controversy involving leakers undermining the Administration. Indeed, it creates a curious scene of a former director leaking material against the President after the President repeatedly asked him to crack down on leakers.

Which by the way sheds some light on Trump’s questioning Comey’s “loyalty.” Maybe we could paraphrase that as Trump’s asking, “Are you planning to betray me?” And if Comey was going to be honest (or “honestly loyal”), he probably should have answered “Only if you fire me.”

Turley adds:

Besides being subject to Nondisclosure Agreements, Comey falls under federal laws governing the disclosure of classified and nonclassified information. Assuming that the memos were not classified (though it seems odd that it would not be classified even on the confidential level), there is 18 U.S.C. § 641 which makes it a crime to steal, sell, or convey “any record, voucher, money, or thing of value of the United States or of any department or agency thereof.”

There are also ethical and departmental rules against the use of material to damage a former represented person or individual or firm related to prior representation…

Comey’s statement of a good motivation does not negate the concerns over his chosen means of a leak. Moreover, the timing of the leak most clearly benefited Comey not the cause of a Special Counsel. It was clear at that time that a Special Counsel was likely. More importantly, Comey clearly understood that these memos would be sought. That leads inevitably to the question of both motivation as well as means.

In his testimony yesterday, Comey continually guessed at Trump’s motives. I suppose turnabout is fair play and we are free to guess at Comey’s. In view of that, Marco Rubio had an excellent question for Comey:

“Do you ever wonder why, of all the things in this investigation, the only thing that’s never been leaked is the fact that the president was not personally under investigation, despite the fact that both Democrats and Republicans and the leadership of Congress knew that and have known that for weeks?” Rubio asked Comey.

Comey responded “I don’t know,” adding that “matters briefed to the gang of eight are pretty tightly held,” referring to the eight lawmakers who have access to the most highly classified information.

But since Comey himself was the leaker, the implication is that he could have leaked it, and that he held back because that’s the item that would have helped Trump rather than hurt him. Therefore his answer here seems to me to be quite obviously disingenuous; he’s omitting himself from the picture.

Another point that emerged from the Comey testimony, particularly regarding Loretta Lynch (see this), is that Lynch as AG asked Comey to cover up the news that the FBI was investigating Hillary Clinton, and he complied with her request; whereas Trump asked Comey to reveal that he, Trump, was not under FBI investigation, and Comey refused to comply while simultaneously revealing other things that would reflect poorly on Trump.

Hmmmm.

This tweet makes a related observation: “Unlike Clinton, where Comey laid out why she was guilty and then let her off, he lays out Trump’s innocence, and concludes he is guilty.” Good point.

And Frank Lutz points out that there were two major “anonymously sourced BOMBSHELL[s]…that [were] debunked by Comey’s on-record testimony. Reporters must do better.”

My response is that it depends what you think the reporters’ goals were in printing those anonymously-sourced anti-Trump stories in the first place. If you think the reporters were trying to get at the truth, then of course they must do better. But I think they had a different goal. I think they were trying to print damaging stories about Trump, while covering their butts by speaking to people off the record who held positions close enough to Trump and the story that, if ever challenged, the reporters could claim that they had every reason to believe their sources were reliable. The goal is to harm Trump, and it was done with the knowledge that a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.

[NOTE: See this for a discussion of the provenance of that quote at the end of my post.]

37 Responses to “More on Comey: did he commit an indictable offense? and other observations”

  1. Frog Says:

    Comey is a worm.
    His buddy worm jailed Scooter Libby as his only scalp for a verbal misstep in the bogus Valerie Plame “investigation,” though the source of that leak was already known or knowable to Fitzgerald as Armitrage.

  2. Manju Says:

    referring to the eight lawmakers who have access to the most highly classified information.

    But since Comey himself was the leaker,

    Comey didn’t testify to leaking any classified info, let alone highly classified. He specifically said the info was unclassified (and thus not a leak…he used the term “shared”).

  3. Kae Arby Says:

    Donald Trump’s legacy is already written. No one person has successfully exposed just how corrupt our federal government is.

    KRB

  4. arfldgr Says:

    yeah… he stepped in it admitting that he leaked information to a colleg professor and THAT IS a crime

    on another note:
    Buckanen

    All the synthetic shock over what Kushner or Sessions said to Kislyak aside, this city’s hatred for President Trump, and its fanatic determination to bring him down in disgrace, predates his presidency.

    For Trump ran in 2016 not simply as the Republican alternative. He presented his candidacy as a rejection, a repudiation of the failed elites, political and media, of both parties. Americans voted in 2016 not just for a change in leaders but for a revolution to overthrow a ruling regime.

    Thus, this city has never reconciled itself to Trump’s victory, and the president daily rubs their noses in their defeat with his tweets.

    Seeking a rationale for its rejection, this city has seized upon that old standby. We didn’t lose! The election was stolen in a vast conspiracy, an “act of war” against America, an assault upon “our democracy,” criminal collusion between the Kremlin and the Trumpites.

    Hence, Trump is an illegitimate president, and it is the duty of brave citizens of both parties to work to remove the usurper.

    The city seized upon a similar argument in 1968, when Richard Nixon won, because it was said he had colluded to have South Vietnam’s president abort Lyndon Johnson’s new plan to bring peace to Southeast Asia in the final hours of that election.

    Then, as now, the “T” word, treason, was trotted out.

    Attempts to overturn elections where elites are repudiated are not uncommon in U.S. history. Both Nixon and Reagan, after 49-state landslides, were faced with attempts to overturn the election results.

    With Nixon in Watergate, the elites succeeded. With Reagan in Iran-Contra, they almost succeeded in destroying that great president as he was ending the Cold War in a bloodless victory for the West.

    After Lincoln’s assassination, President Andrew Johnson sought to prevent Radical Republicans from imposing a ruthless Reconstruction on a defeated and devastated South.

    The Radicals enacted the Tenure of Office Act, stripping Johnson of his authority to remove any member of the Cabinet without Senate permission. Johnson defied the Radicals and fired their agent in the Cabinet, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.

    “Tennessee” Johnson was impeached, and missed conviction by one vote. John F. Kennedy, in his 1956 book, called the senator who had voted to save Johnson a “Profile in Courage.”

    If Trump is brought down on the basis of what Putin correctly labels “nonsense,” this city will have executed a nonviolent coup against a constitutionally elected president. Such an act would drop us into the company of those Third World nations where such means are the customary ways that corrupt elites retain their hold on power.

    Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2017/06/the-impeach-trump-conspiracy

  5. parker Says:

    Time for Sessions to unleash the DOJ on Comey and Lynch. Too bad it is unlikely to happen.

  6. Manju Says:

    …he held back because that’s the item [Trump wasn’t under investigation] that would have helped Trump rather than hurt him.

    Comey was reluctant to publicly say this “for a number of reasons, most importantly because it would create a duty to correct, should that change”; according to his prepared remarks.

  7. Griffin Says:

    The thing that still gets me about the entire Comey proceeding was how so much of his comments were emotion based. This is a 60something year old man who has been involved in law enforcement on some level for years and yet it was so much ‘concern’ and he wasn’t ‘strong’ enough to stand up to the president.

    This guy needs to be talking to a therapist more than Congress.

  8. Dave Says:

    These coward snakes of the Washington weren’t strong enough to initiate an in your face confrontation but sure have the “Courage” to stab the president in the back when no one is watching by leaking through a friend. This is one thing I hate the most about liberals and in this case career politicians, they are like snakes who love stabbing people in the back. The thing I like the most about Trump and in many cases true conservatives is if they are unhappy with you in anyway they bluntly say it in your face, unlike liberals like Obama they keep putting on a smiley face even at heart they want to tear your in millions pieces and wait for an opportunity to stab you in your back when you look away.

  9. Yancey Ward Says:

    Until someone shows me proof otherwise, I must seriously consider that Comey wrote the memos after he was fired.

    Comey’s explanation for why he used a cutout for the leak doesn’t really make any sense if Comey is an honest person in the matter. Surely any reporter would have been willing to simply called Comey an anonymous source close to the investigation at his request, so it can’t be the case that it would have fueled reporters showing up on his doorstep if he had taken that route. What might not have been kosher for a particular reporter, however, was actually lying about the nature of the source. I strongly suspect that Comey didn’t want the journalist to write a phrase like “source close to the investigation” precisely because the memos were written after he was canned- if the reporter does that, it necessarily strongly implies that the memos exist at the FBI and/or the DoJ, but if Comey wrote them post-firing, then they don’t exist at the FBI and/or DoJ. This is what I would like someone in the Senate to address.

    My theory is that the Senate or Mueller has requested the memos from the FBI and the DoJ and was told they couldn’t be found anywhere, and Mueller asked Comey directly about this when they met before Comey’s testimony. Comey faced a decision- since it could no longer be held that the source for the leak were FBI or DoJ colleagues, Comey either had to deny the authenticity of the memo, verify the authenticity and deny knowing why they weren’t found at the FBI and how the reporter got them, or come clean and admit he was the leak all along and did so from private files. This is why he revealed it yesterday unprompted- he knew it was already known to at least Mueller and likely to members of the Senate panel.

    I don’t think he will face charges over this leak, and probably shouldn’t, but someone really should be looking into this as a matter of verifying his sworn testimony from yesterday. It shouldn’t be hard for Comey to prove he wrote these in January and February, especially if they are in the files he left at the bureau when he was fired. I got no sense at all from yesterday’s testimony that anyone on the panel has even seen the memos.

  10. MollyNH Says:

    Firing get Comet while he was “on the road” enabled him to be
    “Locked out” of his office, result ing in to access on what he had there, smart move.

  11. MollyNH Says:

    Wow that spell check is illiterate at best, should say ,
    FIRING COMEY WHILE he was etc…

  12. MollyNH Says:

    Snakes, comey, lynch, rice, Brennan even fats of Crowley and Hillary make Trump look like a far better man with integrity instead of theach snakes vile agendas.

  13. Yancey Ward Says:

    James Comet was sort of like Halley’s Comet in 1986.

  14. MollyNH Says:

    Using a phone makes correcting hard, sorry

  15. MollyNH Says:

    Lol Yancey

  16. Frog Says:

    Yancey Ward’s speculation is a good one. Thanks!

  17. Ed Bonderenka Says:

    Comey said he leaked his memo because he thought that there might be tapes based on the Trump tweet.
    A tape would make the memo unnecessary.
    It would be objective, as opposed to a memo that was leaked to admittedly provoke another investigation. An investigation he knew was unnecessary, but politically damaging to Trump.

  18. Snow on Pine Says:

    Comey came across as a particularly slimy and duplicitous weasel, the kind that Washington seems to be full of.

    I particularly loved his riff about how he was afraid of Trump, and afraid to be in the room alone with him.

    And Comey was supposed to be a tough guy?

    From his description, he seemed more like a submissive Cocker Spaniel.

    He has certainly destroyed the FBI’s former pretty sterling reputation.

  19. Ed Bonderenka Says:

    James Comey, by his own admission, former Director of the Federal Bureau of Matters.

  20. Griffin Says:

    Not sure I think he wrote the memos after he was fired but I would strongly question whether he went to the car and immediately wrote them like he claimed. And sorry the fact that he didn’t do this with Bush and Obama hurts his credibility. And his histrionics in the hospital room with Ashcroft back in the Bush administration makes him look like some kind of drama queen.

    But I do agree with Yancey on why he volunteered the leaking through his buddy. It has to be something like Yancey hypothesized because I can’t think of any other reason why he would have said it when he did.

    As I’ve said before this Comey character is the absolute worst kind of DC insider snake in the grass. Man, I hate people like this always working some angle while at the same time acting all self righteous.

  21. Paul in Boston Says:

    Here’s an interesting history of Comey’s career. It’s very telling that he had zero experience in law enforcement before being appointed by Obama as Director of the FBI. He seems to be a genuine swamp creature if even a quarter of what’s in the article is true.

    http://stateofthenation2012.com/?p=72788

  22. Quiet Conservative Says:

    The point about Comey’s double standard re. the Lynch matter is very telling. Even more telling is the lack of discussion by the MSM on this topic. If the campaign, election, and subsequent treatment of Trump has created any good at all it is that the veneer of impartiality by the media has finally been stripped bare; never again will they be able to say “we are impartial” with a straight face.

  23. AesopFan Says:

    Yancey Ward
    Says:
    June 9th, 2017 at 7:01 pm
    Until someone shows me proof otherwise, I must seriously consider that Comey wrote the memos after he was fired.
    …My theory is that the Senate or Mueller has requested the memos from the FBI and the DoJ and was told they couldn’t be found anywhere, and Mueller asked Comey directly about this when they met before Comey’s testimony.
    ..
    It shouldn’t be hard for Comey to prove he wrote these in January and February, especially if they are in the files he left at the bureau when he was fired. I got no sense at all from yesterday’s testimony that anyone on the panel has even seen the memos.
    * * *
    I don’t know the answers to all the questions, but here’s some information about Mueller and the memos, indicating they do exist.
    http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/334645-mueller-reviewed-the-comey-memos-report

    BY OLIVIA BEAVERS – 05/22/17 06:50 PM EDT

    Robert Mueller, the newly appointed special counselor in the Russia investigation, has reportedly been briefed on the memos former FBI Director James Comey used to document his private conversations with President Trump, CNN reports.

    The New York Times broke the news last week that Trump reportedly asked Comey to let “go” of his agency’s investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

    One memo Mueller reviewed confirms the Flynn report, a person familiar with the matter told the news outlet.

    * * *
    Does “briefed” and “reviewed” mean that Mueller had the actual original documents in his hands?
    I don’t know.
    We may have to check the kerning on whatever gets sent over to Congress.

  24. Ed Bonderenka Says:

    Paul in Boston: I read that a week ago.
    It was an email going around. I can’t find “Lisa Frank” and suspect it was written by a Trump insider trying to get the story out that the MSM won’t tell.
    It seems so convincing.
    Yet I blogged it, and read it on air, and it seems to get no response. Nobody called in about it. Blog responses were uninterested. ???

  25. AesopFan Says:

    Ed Bonderenka Says:
    June 10th, 2017 at 2:00 am
    Paul in Boston: I read that a week ago.
    It was an email going around. I can’t find “Lisa Frank” and suspect it was written by a Trump insider trying to get the story out that the MSM won’t tell.
    It seems so convincing.
    * *
    this was a reply to
    Paul in Boston Says:
    June 9th, 2017 at 10:14 pm
    Here’s an interesting history of Comey’s career. It’s very telling that he had zero experience in law enforcement before being appointed by Obama as Director of the FBI.
    * * *
    I read the article you linked.
    It seems like a lot of innuendo mixed with alternative facts, some of which I’ve seen before and some that look like inventive interpretations at best.

    On the basic charge, that Comey had zero law enforcement experience before being appointed FBI director, Wikipedia says this:
    “Comey was the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York from January 2002 to December 2003, and subsequently the United States Deputy Attorney General from December 2003 to August 2005 in the administration of President George W. Bush.”

    Unless you are restricting “law enforcement” strictly to “police” then the charge is false.

  26. AesopFan Says:

    I took a stroll over to Patterico’s to see what was up, mostly because Beldar comments over there, and he didn’t disappoint – although he did, very unusually, disagree with the host.

    http://patterico.com/2017/06/09/my-reaction-to-the-comey-testimony/#comment-2005428

    I’ll point out one respect in which I think Comey is worse than Trump:

    Trump doesn’t give, and will never give, a flying fig about the Rule of Law. He has no concept of the phrase, no concept of separation of powers or checks and balances or constitutional prerogatives and duties, with a weak grasp of history — and he just doesn’t care about any of it. He does what he does, and I think it’s ugly, but it is self-consistent.

    Comey understands every one of the things I just referenced, and the history behind them. He could teach them to 7th graders at the drop of a hat, explain them all eloquently with examples. In his own head, he is obedient to them and he’s done what he’s done in their service.

    Trump should know better than he (Trump) does, and that’s blameworthy. But Comey knew — and put himself outside and above the Rule of Law. You can (metaphorically) convict Jim Comey of that using nothing but his own words — indeed, you can almost make the whole case solely from his testimony in this hearing alone. Comey’s is a betrayal, not just a breach.

    Beldar (fa637a) — 6/9/2017 @ 10:13 pm

  27. Ed Bonderenka Says:

    Aesopfan, I had read that same wiki on Comey after receiving the email. I did not equate U.S. Attorney with managing a law enforcement agency. I may be wrong.
    But the gist of the narrative is that Comey has gotten wealthy in service to Clinton Inc.

  28. Frog Says:

    A one-day later piece by Turley is http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/the-administration/337160-opinion-the-damaging-case-against-james-comey

    Turley is a fairly liberal Democrat to boot.
    He cites 18 U.S.C. § 641 which makes it a crime to steal, sell, or convey “any record, voucher, money, or thing of value of the United States or of any department or agency thereof.” His memos, written on FBI computers, are thus the property of the US government. The key word is “convey”. The former FBI director is therefore a self-admitted criminal.

    From the Guardian (in Manchester!) we learn Comey is about to do a $10 mill book deal.

  29. Frog Says:

    On the Comey-Mueller connection, see http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2017/06/should-trump-fire-mueller.php
    The “special counsel” is a bull in a china shop, as we have previously seen with another of Comey’s friends, Patrick Fitzgerald,the special counsel in the BS Valerie Plame matter.
    Mueller is a good friend of Comey. Where will this end? Not in a good or just place, I fear.

  30. neo-neocon Says:

    Frog:

    Actually, Turley is somewhat more of a libertarian, although he is indeed a liberal and often votes Democratic.

  31. Comey must be indicted to uphold the rule of law | SOTN: Alternative News & Commentary Says:

    […] ___ http://neoneocon.com/2017/06/09/more-on-comey-did-he-commit-an-indictable-offense-and-other-observat… […]

  32. AesopFan Says:

    “In his testimony yesterday, Comey continually guessed at Trump’s motives. I suppose turnabout is fair play and we are free to guess at Comey’s. ” — Neo.

    I was thinking last night that all of the speculation on means, motives, and opportunity resembles nothing so much as the competing narratives in a murder mystery, where the detectives put forth suppositions, or the witnesses and suspects attempt to exonerate themselves and incriminate others, by spinning plausible stories that “explain” the murder — until, of course, the Hero Detective discovers evidence that falsifies the narratives, leaving only the Correct Answer.
    However, judging from other long-running political whodunits (assassination of JFK, Memogate, Benghazi, etc), we can expect that whatever answer we might get at the end of the hearings and Mueller’s investigation, there will people “yes, but” -ting until Doomsday for their own preferred narrative — no matter how convincing the conclusion is to the rest of the world.
    There is no cosmic Agatha Christie who can pronounce, “This is the answer because I said so, and I wrote the book.”

  33. AesopFan Says:

    Frog Says:
    June 10th, 2017 at 11:33 am
    On the Comey-Mueller connection, see http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2017/06/should-trump-fire-mueller.php..
    Mueller is a good friend of Comey. Where will this end? Not in a good or just place, I fear.
    * * *
    Most of the punditry talks about having a special counsel (which they insist on calling prosecutor) who is “independent of President Trump.”
    It is just as important to have one who is independent of the other parties in the fracas, especially Comey.
    Unless Mueller is morally stronger, less partisan, and more honorable than his friend, we will never get closure on the problem.

  34. AesopFan Says:

    Turley’s analysis is very detailed and persuasive (ditto Alan Dershowitz and other Democrats and non-Republicans appalled by Comey’s unprofessional conduct, in addition to the conservative commentators such as PowerLine and Beldar, see above).

    “Comey said that he took these actions days after his termination, when he said that he woke up in the middle of the night and realized suddenly that the memos could be used to contradict Trump. It was a bizarrely casual treatment of material that would be viewed by many as clearly FBI information. He did not confer with the FBI or the Justice Department. He did not ask for any classification review despite one of the parties described being the president of the United States. He simply sent the memos to a law professor to serve as a conduit to the media.

    As a threshold matter, Comey asked a question with regard to Trump that he should now answer with regard to his own conduct. Comey asked why Trump would ask everyone to leave the Oval Office to speak with Comey unless he was doing something improper. Yet, Trump could ask why Comey would use a third party to leak these memos if they were his property and there was nothing improper in their public release.”
    * *
    Is it really possible that Comey actually believed Clinton had not committed indictable offenses in re classified information? Because, that’s the same way he is treating “classified”* information himself.

    *(at lease confidential, certainly not private)

  35. AesopFan Says:

    Another major point from Turley, which speaks to the conversation above on Comey’s credentials in law enforcement, whether as an attorney or as an investigator.
    (I’ve marked sub-points with parenthetical letters.)

    “Comey actually showed both how to and how not to disclose such information.
    (a) When Comey released the information, he knew that he was going to be called to Congress where he could disclose this information properly after giving the White House a chance to claim privilege. Instead, he decided to release the information early. Why?

    Comey gave two equally implausible explanations.
    (b) First, he suggested that he wanted to get the information to investigators. However, he knew not only that he was likely to testify but that these memos would inevitably be demanded by both congressional and federal investigators.
    (c) Second, he said that he wanted to ensure the appointment of a special counsel. However on that Monday, many of us were saying that such an appointment was virtually inevitable. More importantly, he could have given the memos to investigators and properly laid the foundation for a special counsel.

    The fact is that the leaking of the memos worked to the advantage of James Comey, not Robert Mueller….

    (d)The greatest value of the memos would be to question Trump and other potential targets without their knowing of their existence. The memos could then have been used to establish false statements and pressure cooperation. Instead, Comey told possible targets, including Trump, about the evidence against them in the memos.”

    * *
    I think (d) is the most valuable point, especially for any actual independent investigation. But why would Comey “forewarn” Trump instead of letting a special counsel entrap him if he contradicted the memos? (The Scooter Libby ploy again)

    Compare this behavior to that in the handling of Clinton’s case: egregious grants of immunity, giving the perps time to hide the evidence, FBI itself allowing the destruction of even more evidence, etc etc — things that caused many, many people, including FBI agents, to tear their hair out because it was so far out of the norm for any usual investigation. And don’t forget Lynch’s explicit directive to Comey to soft-pedal on Clinton’s “matter” (not just a suggestion for clemency).

    Is Comey grandstanding, Machiavellian, or just incompetent?

    The Peter Principle eventually gets everyone.
    (I suspect it is highly operative for Presidents, because that office is above everyone’s level of competence when they get “promoted” to it.)

    Caveat for Comey’s possible rationale, though: saving the memos to give to investigators sounds like the right thing to do, but he may have feared, rightly or not, that they would just “disappear” — after all, that’s what he did with damaging evidence against others, including Hillary.

  36. AesopFan Says:

    Ed Bonderenka Says:
    June 10th, 2017 at 7:26 am
    Aesopfan, I had read that same wiki on Comey after receiving the email. I did not equate U.S. Attorney with managing a law enforcement agency. I may be wrong.
    But the gist of the narrative is that Comey has gotten wealthy in service to Clinton Inc.
    * * *
    True.

  37. Manju Says:

    Because, that’s the same way he is treating “classified”* information himself.

    *(at lease confidential, certainly not private)

    AesopFan:

    His memos are unclassified. If they were confidential than they’d be classified. Bur since they are unclassified they are not confidential.

    Anyway, he spoke with the President. A kajillion white house aides have spoken with Presidents. A gazillion books have published the contents of their convos.

    As long as the content wasn’t classified, the 1A protects the act of publishing.

    I understand we have a clever law professor with a unique argument. Well, Catherine Mckinnon is a clever law professor too. What’s my point. Don’t go all Andrea Dworkin on me, ok?

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