Mr. Comey’s big day

He gets his chance to straighten his con­flict­ing sto­ries about in­ter­fer­ence

The Washington Times Daily - - EDITORIAL -

Amer­ica will be all ears when James Comey opens up Thurs­day about his con­ver­sa­tions with Pres­i­dent Trump and al­le­ga­tions that the Rus­sians in­ter­fered with the 2016 elec­tion. What­ever he says, the Never-Trumpers will nod that their worst sus­pi­cions have been con­firmed, that the com­man­der in chief is a Manchurian can­di­date with a thing for Rus­sia. Per­haps Mr. Comey will per­suade ev­ery­one that there is, af­ter all, a “there” there. So far there’s no fire, no smoke, only a va­por pro­duced by heavy breath­ing.

Whether by clever ma­nip­u­la­tion of fac­toids — some­thing that looks like facts, might be facts but in fact are not facts — or by dumb for­tune, Mr. Comey has re­mained at the cen­ter of a year-long ruckus that fol­lowed Mr. Trump’s un­likely vic­tory over Hil­lary Clin­ton, an au­then­tic fact that the Democrats just can’t get over. The for­mer FBI di­rec­tor has skill­fully fed the con­tro­versy grow­ing out of the ac­cu­sa­tion that Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn col­luded with the Rus­sians to cook the elec­tion re­sults. Mr. Comey’s ver­sion, of­fered well af­ter the fact, of a St. Valen­tine’s Day con­ver­sa­tion with the pres­i­dent por­trays the pres­i­dent as hav­ing at­tempted to de­rail that in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Fol­low­ing that meet­ing, Mr. Comey wrote him­self a memo in which he quoted the pres­i­dent telling him, “I hope you can see your way clear to let­ting this go, to let­ting Flynn go.” The Democrats as­sume Mr. Comey’s ver­sion of the pres­i­dent’s re­mark is ac­cu­rate, and take it as proof that the pres­i­dent thus tried to in­tim­i­date Mr. Comey into drop­ping the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and com­pounded it when he sacked Mr. Comey. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion has con­tin­ued, and is now in the hands of Robert Mueller, the in­de­pen­dent coun­sel ap­pointed by the pres­i­dent’s ad­min­is­tra­tion.

’Tis a puz­zle­ment. The dis­tinc­tion be­tween pressure and ob­struc­tion is sub­jec­tive. Pressure is what Wash­ing­ton is all about, ex­erted from ev­ery di­rec­tion. Ob­struc­tion of jus­tice is cal­cu­lated, ne­far­i­ous and a crime, and it doesn’t hap­pen ev­ery day. The sim­plest gauge of whether Mr. Comey in­ter­preted Mr. Trump’s words as an ac­tual at­tempt to ob­struct and sub­vert jus­tice may be the fact that he, as the na­tion’s top crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tor, did noth­ing about it ex­cept tell it to his di­ary some weeks later.

If Mr. Trump is guilty of a sin of com­mis­sion, Mr. Comey is guilty of omis­sion. The pres­i­dent could have used ex­ec­u­tive priv­i­lege to bar Mr. Comey from tes­ti­fy­ing about the con­ver­sa­tion, but de­cided to let him have his say. Mr. Comey has done him­self no fa­vor leak­ing his “dear di­ary” rec­ol­lec­tions, re­veal­ing him­self as ei­ther a wellmean­ing In­spec­tor Clouseau try­ing art­lessly to de­fend the re­pub­lic, or a spe­cial pleader in search of Klieg lights and the tele­vi­sion cam­eras. Mr. Comey has con­firmed the im­pres­sion of many on the left and the right that the pres­i­dent did the in­evitable thing in fir­ing him.

Wash­ing­ton is even more agog than usual, wait­ing for the bomb­shells and block­busters to shake the ground and light up the sky. Sev­eral cap­i­tal sa­loons have in­vited cus­tomers to spend their happy hours at the bar, there to cel­e­brate or con­sole with ap­pro­pri­ate po­tions as the af­ter­noon wears on.

The U.S. Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee spread ap­pe­tiz­ers Monday, tak­ing tes­ti­mony from the di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency and the Di­rec­tor of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence about whether they had been in­tim­i­dated or oth­er­wise leaned on to tailor their in­ves­ti­ga­tions to the needs of the White House.

“In the three-plus years that I have been the di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency,” tes­ti­fied Adm. Mike Rogers of the NSA, “to the best of my rec­ol­lec­tion, I have never been di­rected to do any­thing I be­lieve to be il­le­gal, im­moral, un­eth­i­cal or in­ap­pro­pri­ate. And to the best of my rec­ol­lec­tion, dur­ing that same pe­riod of ser­vice, I do not re­call ever feel­ing pres­sured to do so. Dan Coats, the Di­rec­tor of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence, tes­ti­fied that “in my time of ser­vice, [in] in­ter­act­ing with the pres­i­dent of the United States or any­body in his ad­min­is­tra­tion, I have never been pres­sured. I’ve never felt pressure to in­ter­vene or in­ter­fere in any way with shap­ing in­tel­li­gence in a po­lit­i­cal way or in re­la­tion­ship with the on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

So let the games be­gin.

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