Appearing before a joint session of the House Judiciary Committee and the Committee on Government Reform and Oversight on Friday, former director of the FBI James Comey was tasked with answering questions for which the American public has been clamoring. Yet, his testimony has perhaps raised more questions than it answered.
Taking big swings, the committee failed to land any major blows against Comey. A mix of verbal dodges, legal head slips, and the fairly typical lapses in memory resulted in a virtual tie. However, one thing has been made very clear: This was never about Russian collusion.
The Meat of the Matter
While the first hundred pages of the transcript deal mostly with talk of warrants, timelines, and questions of who was targeted during the Trump campaign investigation, the real meat and gravy begin with questions regarding former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Questions about Clinton’s deletion of emails, and her statements regarding said deletion appeared to be the only area of stress for Comey. When asked about the Russia investigation, he was far removed and could answer honestly that he would not be comfortable – or even legally able – to provide details regarding an ongoing investigation. And here’s the rub: The committee members already knew he couldn’t provide answers here.
Clinton’s servers, actions, and team, on the other hand, were fair game – and this was perhaps the real purpose of the meeting.
Clinton On the Ropes
Representative Trey Gowdy (R-SC), in his usual fine form, zeroed in on the questions to which mere mortals in the social media world have been demanding answers for the best part of two years. Did Clinton share classified information? Did she do so knowingly? Did she make false statements about these emails? Did the team tasked with deleting and sifting her emails have adequate security clearance? And, of course, why was it deemed appropriate not to bring charges over the potential crimes?
For some of these questions, Comey provided details to the best of his understanding, but regarding the decision not to prosecute, he was far from clear. Why did James Comey, as head of the FBI, decide not to go forward with prosecuting Hillary Clinton?
Gowdy pressed Comey on the circumstances surrounding the decision not to prosecute. With his usual flair for setting out the facts first, the South Carolina representative laid out piece after piece of the puzzle, and then hit Comey with the main questions:
Mr. Gowdy: … He [Clinton lawyer David Kendall] lied to the FBI; that is a crime. Lying to the public is not, as we’ve established. But is it not evidence of intent and/or consciousness of guilt? I mean, Secretary Clinton told the public that no classified information traversed her server, and that was false, right?
Mr. Comey: She maintained that – as I recall, that she did not – she thought she had successfully talked around the classified subjects. And the challenge for the prosecutors and investigators was proving that is false.
Mr. Gowdy: Well, and it would have been really interesting had she phrased it to the public: I did my best to avoid talking around any documents that may have been classified. But that is not what she said. She said: No classified information was either sent or received. Do you recall that?
Mr. Comey: Generally. I think that’s right. And, as you said, during her interview, she maintained that: I believed we had successfully talked – we had not crossed the line. We had talked around these subjects and were sufficiently vague as to not implicate the classification requirements.
Mr. Gowdy: She also said that no records were destroyed, that they were all retained. Do you recall her saying that?
Mr. Comey: I don’t remember. I believe you, but I don’t remember that.
Mr. Gowdy: Do you recall her saying her attorneys were overly inclusive in what they considered to be public as opposed to private?
Mr. Comey: No, I don’t remember that one.
Mr. Gowdy: You agree false statements sometimes is as much evidence of intent as you’re going to get?
Mr. Comey: In some cases.
Mr. Gowdy: Demonstrably false exculpatory statements.
Mr. Comey: Hard to answer in the abstract, but in some cases it can be your best evidence.
What to make of it? Comey admits that in some cases demonstrably false exculpatory statements are used as evidence of intent. In fact, this is pretty much all the Robert Mueller investigation has used for charging numerous associates of President Trump. So why, if it is good enough for the Special Counsel, was it not good enough for James Comey?
We are witnessing a two-tier prosecution system
The matter rests on intent. Did Hillary Clinton purposely lie to save herself? According to Comey’s answers, a case could be made for that. We are witnessing a two-tier prosecution system in which those who are on the side of President Trump are not afforded the same doubt of intent as those who oppose him.
When the rule of law fails to be applied equally, it is no longer just or right. And it was this point that Gowdy, and other committee members, were trying to make a part of the congressional record.