Should Trump Fear Comey’s Testimony?
Democrats in Washington, D.C. are in a celebratory mood.
So are network heads in New York.
Santa Comey is coming to town.
On Thursday, former FBI director James Comey is scheduled to testify before the Senate. And the prevailing wisdom says that Comey will do serious damage to Trump’s presidency by implying that Trump has attempted to stymie a full investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. In preparation for such expected testimony, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats attended a briefing at the White House, at which Trump asked him and CIA Director Mike Pompeo to intervene with Comey on the Trump-Russia investigation. Here’s the Post:
The president then started complaining about the FBI investigation and Comey’s handling of it, said officials familiar with the account Coats gave to associates. Two days earlier, Comey had confirmed in a congressional hearing that the bureau was probing whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 race. After the encounter, Coats discussed the conversation with other officials and decided that intervening with Comey as Trump had suggested would be inappropriate, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal matters.
But is this really evidence of interference? Or is it just evidence that Trump was annoyed by the Trump-Russia investigation, and by Comey? Did he ever attempt to materially shut down the investigation by depriving it of resources, by firing key people, by refusing cooperation?
Meanwhile, The New York Times got into the act as well, running a story obviously leaked from Comey himself:
The day after President Trump asked James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, to end an investigation into his former national security adviser, Mr. Comey confronted Attorney General Jeff Sessions and said he did not want to be left alone again with the president, according to current and former law enforcement officials. Mr. Comey believed Mr. Sessions should protect the F.B.I. from White House influence, the officials said, and pulled him aside after a meeting in February to tell him that private interactions between the F.B.I. director and the president were inappropriate. But Mr. Sessions could not guarantee that the president would not try to talk to Mr. Comey alone again, the officials said.
In early March, Sessions recused himself from the Trump-Russia investigation. ABC News reported yesterday that Trump was enraged by the recusal, and that it has soured the relationship between Sessions and Trump. As Hank Berrien reports:
Justice Department spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores would not comment when asked ABC News if Sessions had threatened or offered to resign. Additionally, White House press secretary Sean Spicer would not confirm whether Trump still has confidence in Sessions, saying, “I said I have not had a discussion with him on the question. I don’t, if I haven’t had a discussion about a subject, I tend not to speak about it.”
Again, no hard evidence of Trump attempting to shut down the investigation. Trump wanted a guy he trusted to head up the DOJ on the matter, but he didn’t fire Sessions or attempt to replace him with a lackey who would do his dirty work.