MARK POPE: Do you believe James Comey? [OPINION]
Do you believe James Comey?
Former FBI Director James Comey is on a book tour, promoting his new book. I have not read the book, but those who have say it is a memoir of Comey’s life – probably to establish credibility – blended with commentary about Comey’s experience of working under President Trump. In the book, Comey is quite critical of the president, saying he is not morally fit to be president. And of course, the president fired back on Twitter, calling Comey a liar, etc.
The book tour includes multiple media appearances by Comey on various broadcast and cable television news outlets. Comey’s first TV interview was with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. I watched excerpts from that interview and found Stephanopoulos to be very soft in his questioning of Comey. Stephanopoulos was not dogged in his pursuit of answers. He threw Comey softballs and let the former director answer. That’s fine. The probing follow-up questions simply did not happen with the much-hyped first interview.
This past Thursday, April 26, Comey sat down with Fox News anchor Brett Baer. I did watch this interview in its entirety. Baer is a consummate professional when it comes to delivering hard news, and asking probing questions of whoever is the subject of his questioning. The Comey interview was just what I expected. Well thought out by Baer, incisive, and fair.
Comey arrived late for the interview. Baer told us that “the Comey team is in contact with us as they navigate through Washington traffic.” Right off the bat, Comey’s arrogance was evident. Comey should have been in the Fox News studio 45 minutes or more in advance of the scheduled air-time.
Initial questioning from Baer dealt with Comey’s statement about the Hillary Clinton email case when she was Secretary of State. Recall that Comey described Clinton’s handling of her classified emails as “extremely careless” in an initial draft of his public statement. I was disappointed that Baer never mentioned what has been reported in the media about the decision not to pursue prosecution of Clinton. Numerous reputable sources – Fox News included – have stated, going back to late 2017, that Peter Strzok changed Comey’s original wording about Clinton’s handling of her classified emails. Comey wrote that Clinton’s conduct was “grossly negligent,” and Strzok later changed that wording to “extremely careless.” Grossly negligent behavior on Clinton’s part makes her misdeeds prosecutable under the 1917 U.S. Statute that governs the conduct of government officials.
Comey played dodge-ball with questioning about the (Christopher) Steele Dossier which was funded by the Democrat National Committee and later used as the basis for the issuance of a FISA warrant to spy on the Trump campaign. “I still don’t know that the DNC funded the Steele Dossier; I’ve only heard that in the media,” was the cavalier response given by Comey. In trying to marginalize the Steele Dossier in securing approval from the FISA court to spy on Trump & Co., Comey said, “the Dossier was part of a broader mosaic of facts laid out before the FISA judge.” Comey was, at a very minimum, guilty of misfeasance in office by not having his FBI verify the veracity of the Steele Dossier before it was submitted to the FISA court to secure a warrant to spy on Trump & associates. I also waited for Baer to follow-up with a question about Andrew McCabe’s statement in testimony to Congress that without the Steele Dossier, a FISA warrant would have never issued to spy on Trump and his associates.
Finally, one of the most glaring statements by Comey dealt with his denial that the contents of a memo he turned over to a Columbia University professor, Dan Richmond, was an FBI “work document.” Baer read Comey an excerpt from the legal agreement that Comey signed when becoming FBI Director: “prohibits the unauthorized disclosure of any information or material from, or related to, FBI files or any information acquired by virtue of my official employment without prior written permission by the FBI.”
Comey said memos he wrote about meetings with the president, and later “disclosed” to his professor buddy, are his personal memos, not official FBI documents, so their disclosure required no permission. I’m tending to believe the tweets of the president about Comey. Personally, I do not believe, nor trust, James Comey.