It seems FBI Director James Comey has been tip-toeing his way through a political minefield for several months now. His words and actions relating to the Hillary Clinton private server scandal pleased neither Democrats nor Republicans – for various reasons. The man appears to be an intelligence riddle wrapped in a democratic mystery inside a Republican enigma. So, the question must be asked: Are his words motivated by political chess or by a desire to protect the intelligence community; specifically, the FBI?
Conveniently, the famous turn-of-phrase “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma” was first used by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to describe the interests and actions of the Russian (then the Soviet Union) government.
Having managed to utilize the ancient art of verbal-ju-Jitsu to get himself through his testimony on Monday before the House Intelligence Committee, Comey has left many an unanswered question. Whilst seemingly shooting down President Trump’s assertions that he was the target of a surveillance operation initiated by Barack Obama, The FBI Director managed to leave open the possibility that evidence of any surveillance operation had not yet surfaced or had not been brought his attention. Comey is either extremely careful – or extremely careless – with his words; given his recent history, the former can be safely assumed.
Comey was clear that the suspicions of collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign staff and the Russians were still very much in play. Despite statements from the intelligence community and from members of Congress who have been briefed that there is no evidence of collusion, The FBI chief confirmed that the agency is investigating Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 election.
The one thing Comey seemed more reluctant to look into is how former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was identified from monitored conversations with the Russian Ambassador.
At the time, Flynn was a private U.S. citizen – regardless of any role he held as a surrogate for the Trump campaign. Private citizens caught up in surveillance operations are – by law – protected from exposure and identification. The FBI Director refused to confirm any investigation into the leaking of Flynn’s name or other seepages of classified information.
Addressing Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy’s question on a potential investigation of the revelations, Comey said “…I hope people watching know how seriously we take leaks of classified information, but I don’t want to confirm it by saying that we’re investigating it.”
So, what we know – or have been told – about The FBI’s intentions is this: The agency has concluded that no evidence of surveillance of the Trump campaign exists and are not investigating the matter further, even though Comey’s conclusions are far from irrefutable. Despite no evidence of collusion between Trump and the Russians, the agency is continuing to investigate the matter. Even though someone clearly broke the law by leaking Michael Flynn’s identity, Comey refuses to confirm that the matter is being investigated.
One must wonder about Comey’s priorities and, indeed, his loyalties; both the alleged surveillance of the Trump campaign and the illegal unmasking of Michael Flynn could, potentially, lead back to the Obama administration. It appears that Comey has little intention of following up on either issue. Meanwhile, he is willing to confirm flimsy allegations of collusion with the Russians are still the subject of investigation.
At this point, Comey must realize that his time as FBI Director is very limited. Firing him during an ongoing investigation that is linked, however fancifully, to the administration would certainly be very bad optics. Does Comey drag out an investigation that is unlikely to yield any credible conclusions, in order to hang onto his job? Why does he seem less than enthusiastic about pursuing the very serious matter of leaks, when at least one crime has been committed? Why does he appear to dismiss the President’s accusations of surveillance whilst not being willing to deny them definitively?
Finally; why were certain Republicans in Congress – Republican Senator John McCain, in particular – so quick to impose a very short deadline for the President to produce evidence of his allegations, but seem content to allow the collusion narrative to continue indefinitely.
It appears that collusion is happening, but it has nothing to do with the Russians; James Comey, John McCain – along with others in Congress – and who knows how many faceless civil servants, have a lot more questions to answer. Perhaps this is a glimpse into the much-talked-about ‘deep state.’