Af­ter the big re­veal, Comey still has some ques­tions to an­swer

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - MATT MACKOWIAK Matt Mackowiak is the pres­i­dent of Austin­based Po­tomac Strat­egy Group, a Repub­li­can con­sul­tant, a Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion and BushCheney re-elec­tion cam­paign vet­eran and for­mer press sec­re­tary to two U.S. sen­a­tors. He is the host of a new nati

For­mer FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey’s tes­ti­mony be­fore the Se­nate in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee Thurs­day will re­ceive breath­less tele­vi­sion cov­er­age, un­like any­thing in re­cent years. Broad­cast net­works ABC, NBC and CBS are pre­empt­ing day­time pro­gram­ming. Top an­chors are cov­er­ing the hear­ing. Press de­mand for seats in­side the com­mit­tee hear­ing room is at a record level. Pub­lic in­ter­est is high given Mr. Comey’s sud­den and un­ex­pected fir­ing and the firestorm that has sur­rounded it.

Much of the Demo­cratic ques­tion­ing will fo­cus on the con­tents of his con­tem­po­ra­ne­ous memos and the sub­stance of his pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions with Pres­i­dent Trump about the agency’s on­go­ing probe into charges of Rus­sian hack­ing of the 2016 elec­tion and any col­lu­sion by the pres­i­dent or his cam­paign team.

The Se­nate in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee re­leased Mr. Comey’s de­tail-rich open­ing state­ment Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, and the ac­count in his pre­pared tes­ti­mony un­sur­pris­ingly ap­pears to con­firm ear­lier me­dia leaks about what he will say.

Dur­ing ques­tion­ing, I ex­pect that Mr. Comey will de­scribe how he felt, but not re­veal any­thing about the sta­tus or progress of the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion. This will en­rage Demo­cratic mem­bers of the com­mit­tee, an anger that was al­ready bub­bling af­ter top U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials de­nied they ever felt any im­proper pressure from Mr. Trump be­fore the same Se­nate panel Wed­nes­day morn­ing.

But two other lines of ques­tion­ing should not be lost in the cov­er­age.

First, if Mr. Comey re­ally was asked by Pres­i­dent Trump to “let it go” when speak­ing of the FBI probe into for­mer Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor Michael Flynn, why did he not in­form Congress at the time? Sev­eral news re­ports sug­gested that Mr. Trump made this re­quest to Mr. Comey in the Oval Of­fice in Fe­bru­ary, ac­cord­ing to Mr. Comey’s own memos and just-re­leased tes­ti­mony.

I see only three pos­si­ble ex­pla­na­tions: that the pres­i­dent did not say what Mr. Comey claimed; that Mr. Comey did not feel at the time that the pres­i­dent’s re­marks were in­ap­pro­pri­ate or an at­tempt to ob­struct jus­tice; or that the FBI chief did think the pres­i­dent went over the line but chose not to in­form the over­sight com­mit­tees.

A con­tem­po­ra­ne­ous memo is one thing, but Mr. Comey had a re­spon­si­bil­ity to in­form Congress if he sin­cerely felt the pres­i­dent was in­ter­fer­ing with an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion. His ap­par­ent de­ci­sion not to in­form Congress at the time un­der­mines his cred­i­bil­ity at a time when he most needs it. His cred­i­bil­ity is the foun­da­tion for ev­ery­thing he will swear to at Thurs­day’s hear­ing.

Then there’s the whole ques­tion of the leak­ing of clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion from the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity, leaks clearly de­signed to em­bar­rass Mr. Trump and his team.

We have never seen such ram­pant il­le­gal leak­ing of clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion. This week the first ar­rest was made re­lated to these leaks, with an NSA records con­trac­tor charged with turn­ing over se­cret doc­u­ments to a news or­ga­ni­za­tion.

This should not be the end of the leak in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion about our in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity, clas­si­fied re­ports, in­tel­li­gence col­lec­tion and pri­vate brief­ings given to the pres­i­dent have all been leaked to the me­dia. If leak in­ves­ti­ga­tions are un­der­way, then that fact is be­ing hid­den from Congress and the pub­lic, and while the first ar­rest was un­ex­pected, many more leaks still must be pros­e­cuted.

Did Mr. Comey ag­gres­sively go af­ter these mat­ters as FBI di­rec­tor? If so, where did those probes stand when he was fired? If not, why was he not in­ves­ti­gat­ing them?

Per­haps as im­por­tantly, James Comey needs to ex­plain how his very pri­vate views have be­come pub­lic knowl­edge, in­clud­ing the ex­is­tence, and the con­tents of, his memos about his con­ver­sa­tions with Mr. Trump, which would be clas­si­fied.

Whom did he tell about them? Where are the memos now, and why hasn’t the Se­nate in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee re­ceived them? How many are there? Have any jour­nal­ists seen them? Who leaked them to the me­dia? If Mr. Comey is not the leaker, to whom has he pro­vided his records, and un­der what au­thor­ity?

Mr. Comey was un­der with­er­ing at­tack when he was fired, but as FBI di­rec­tor, he had a re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­tect clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion at all times, even af­ter he was fired.

Mil­lions of Amer­i­cans will be watch­ing this hear­ing to learn more from Mr. Comey. He needs to an­swer those ques­tions.

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