Comey: Did he damage Trump?
President Trump “is in deep trouble,” said Jennifer Rubin in WashingtonPost.com. That was the undeniable takeaway from last week’s testimony by former FBI Director James Comey before the Senate Intelligence Committee, which clearly “marked a turning point” in the running melodrama of Trump’s troubled presidency. Comey testified that the president summoned him to an awkward, one-on-one dinner at the White House, where he asked if he wanted to keep his job, and then ominously said, “I expect loyalty.” At a later group meeting in the Oval Office, Comey testified, Trump ordered everyone else out of the room and pressured him to drop the FBI investigation of fired national security adviser Michael Flynn. “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go,” Trump allegedly said. These statements—along with Trump’s firing of Comey when he refused to bend to his will—look very much like obstruction of justice, an impeachable offense. Why was Trump so determined to get Comey to back off the investigation? asked Noah Rothman in NYDailyNews.com. You can only conclude he was very afraid “of what a deep dive into his campaign associates’ interactions with Russia might reveal.”
“It is never a good day when a former FBI director calls you a liar,” said Ed Rogers in WashingtonPost.com, but Comey’s testimony ended up being a “net plus for Trump.” For one thing, Comey corroborated the president’s claim—previously ridiculed by the media—that Comey assured Trump three times that he wasn’t personally under investigation. It may have been “clumsy, naïve, and smarmy” for the president to express “hope” that Comey would let the Flynn investigation go, but the fact that Comey ignored him proves it wasn’t an order or a crime. Trump-hating Democrats are desperate to get the president impeached, but if Trump can just settle down and let Mueller do his work, “the Russia investigation and all its subsidiaries will conclude without evidence of a crime.”
Trump’s defenders are in denial, said Ali Soufan in TheAtlantic.com. As a former FBI agent, I can read “between the lines” of Comey’s testimony, and he said several things that should keep Trump and his lawyers up nights. He made it clear several of Trump’s campaign aides are under investigation for their mysterious contacts with Russia—“and Trump was the head of the campaign.” When the Feds build a case against an organization, they start at the bottom and work upward, “turning” the lower ranks into informants as they go. And look who’s already under investigation: Flynn, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, former campaign adviser Carter Page, and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. “Bear in mind, too, that obstruction of justice is just as much a crime as collusion with a foreign power.” When asked if the president had obstructed justice, Comey said he was “sure” the special counsel—his friend and FBI mentor Mueller— would make that part of his investigation.
In FBI culture, said Jeff Stein in Newsweek, Russia is viewed as an enemy, and any American who colludes with the Russians as a traitor. “To us,” Comey said, “that is a very big deal.” Translation: Mueller and his team of top-notch federal prosecutors “will tear down the White House” searching for any evidence of collusion. If anyone connected to Trump had improper contact or financial transactions with Vladimir Putin’s henchman and spies, Mueller will find out. “Trump should have little doubt about that now.”