Former FBI Director James Comey chose to fly the friendly skies of CBS in his first interview since the Mueller Report’s release, and he used his airtime to cast aspersions on Attorney General William Barr and the president.
It was quite a tableau: Comey was bordered by a 4-foot poster of his book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, on one side with Gayle King, Norah O’Donnell, and John Dickerson firing softballs on the other. The now-private citizen took his seat-mates high in the skies where the air is thin (thus the thinking muddled) with morally superior simpers, and a few affected smirks thrown in for good measure. If you are wondering where Peter Strzok perfected his haughty body language, one might surmise that it came from a “Course in Non-Verbal Contempt” offered when Comey was still captain of the bureau.
Just after take-off, Mr. Comey labeled the Attorney General’s summation of the Mueller Report as “inadequate” and “misleading,” but he really let it rip once they reached cruising altitude. Here are a few of his declarations:
- “It [the AG’s summation] certainly gave the impression that Bob Mueller had decided that he was not going to rule on this question of obstruction of justice when that’s not what Mueller did. Mueller laid it out and signaled to a future prosecutor after this individual is out of the office you ought to take a serious look at charging him.”
- “It’s time to move on to do the most important thing that we do which is vote to determine who should represent us as president of the United States.”
- “The FBI doesn’t spy, the FBI investigates. We investigated a very serious allegation that Americans might be hooked up with the Russian effort to attack our democracy. The Republicans need to breathe into a paper bag.”
It was crystal clear from the outset that the former FBI director was among friends for this interview. Here is one of Norah O’Donnell’s questions – if it can be characterized as such:
“But you have tens of thousands of FBI agents on the front-lines every day – doing work to protect America – to keep this country safe – and when the Attorney General undermines the integrity of those agents by suggesting they’re involved in spying against a president, What does that do to the reputation?”
Back in the day, a reporter would have been fired for such a blatant suck up to an interviewee. Now it is merely par for the course. But let’s not get too bogged down in form over substance. Mr. Comey must know he is in some hot water for his actions while serving as FBI director and is positioning himself on offense for the potential battle ahead. Ergo his assertion:
“What should the FBI do when it gets that information? It should investigate to figure out whether any Americans are hooked up with this massive interference effort. And that’s what we did. And as I said earlier, we should have been fired if we didn’t.”
Make no mistake: Mr. Comey’s fierce defense of the FBI’s counterintelligence operation against the Trump campaign during the last presidential election cycle is nothing more than a sloppy derriere-covering undertaking. That may also be the reason to undercut AG Barr as well. If he throws out every suspicion that he harbors against Barr now, it could go a long way to undermine the AG’s credibility later.
Indeed, there will be questions fired at James Comey for his conduct and behavior as America’s top cop. No matter what semantic game they play (spying vs. surveillance), Mr. Comey will need to come clean – under oath – concerning what he ordered the bureau to do and when.
All this is reminiscent of a line once uttered by none other than American businessman and philanthropist T. Boone Pickens: “The higher the monkey climbs the tree, the more you can see his ass.” Thus Mr. Comey best be careful not to keep climbing a tree so easily blown over by the ever-changing winds of the Swamp.
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