Speed Reads

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Lawfare editor and Comey ally deems former FBI director's opening statement 'the most shocking single document' since Watergate

After reading former FBI Director James Comey's opening statement for Thursday's congressional hearing, Lawfare editor-in-chief Benjamin Wittes concluded that President Trump's behavior as outlined by Comey is "conduct that a society committed to a rule of law simply cannot accept in a president." Comey's introductory statement outlines several of his one-on-one conversations with Trump, in which Trump urges him to "get out" that he isn't personally being investigated, pushes him to "let go" of the investigation into ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and pressures Comey to pledge his "loyalty."

Wittes, who has openly described himself as a friend of Comey's, deemed the prepared statement "the most shocking single document compiled about the official conduct of the public duties of any president since the release of the Watergate tapes." While Comey's account "draws no conclusions, makes no allegations, and indeed, expresses no opinions, " Wittes argued that it's still incredibly damning:

It's hard to express to people who are not steeped in federal law enforcement just how inappropriate these inquiries are, particularly when they involve an investigation in which the president has such deep and multifaceted personal stakes. No, they are not illegal. The president, after all, has constitutional authority to ask for whatever information he wants from his subordinates in the executive branch. But of course, the president also has the authority to give the State of the Union address in Latin and have it consist entirely of obscenities directed at the speaker of the House. To people who know the norms of federal law enforcement, the conduct described here is closer to that end of the spectrum of presidential behavior than it is to the normal range. [Benjamin Wittes, via Lawfare]

Wittes concluded that perhaps the biggest question presented by Comey's opening statement is whether we can trust Trump "to supervise the law enforcement apparatus of the United States in fashion consistent with his oath of office." "I challenge anyone to read this document and come away with a confidently affirmative answer to that question," Wittes wrote.

Read Wittes' full analysis of Comey's statement at Lawfare.