A dis­grun­tled em­ployee fails to make case against his old boss

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - MERCEDES SCHLAPP ● Mercedes Schlapp is a Fox News con­trib­u­tor, co-founder of Cove Strate­gies and for­mer White House di­rec­tor of spe­cialty me­dia un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush.

Dur­ing Thurs­day’s show­down Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee hear­ing, fired FBI Di­rec­tor James B. Comey came across as less as a fear­less cru­sader for the truth and more as a dis­grun­tled em­ployee up­set with the boss who un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously let him go.

He de­lib­er­ately shared his memos about his talks with Pres­i­dent Trump with his friend Daniel Rich­man, a for­mer FBI agent and Columbia Law School pro­fes­sor, ex­plic­itly hop­ing it would lead to the ap­point­ment of a spe­cial coun­sel, a ploy that suc­ceeded bril­liantly. The de­ci­sion to share the sen­si­tive memos is trou­bling be­cause of Mr. Comey’s “unau­tho­rized dis­clo­sure of priv­i­leged com­mu­ni­ca­tions,” as Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Marc Ka­sowitz, was quick to point out.

Strangely, Mr. Comey de­cided not to share that same memo with At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions or the act­ing deputy at­tor­ney gen­eral, hold­ing his in­for­ma­tion close while wait­ing for the right mo­ment to strike. He felt “de­famed” by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and took di­rect ac­tion against the pres­i­dent. This was Mr. Comey’s per­sonal re­venge af­ter los­ing his job.

Lib­er­als cheered Mr. Comey when he loosely de­nounced the pres­i­dent a liar, and re­vealed he be­gan com­pil­ing the memos af­ter their very first meet­ing out of con­cerns the pres­i­dent would lie about what hap­pened.

“I knew there might come a day when I might need a record of what hap­pened not only to de­fend my­self but to pro­tect the FBI,” Mr. Comey said.

But dur­ing the hear­ing, Mr. Comey re­peat­edly ap­peared un­sure of him­self. He re­flected that he should have acted more firmly in his deal­ings with the pres­i­dent. Mr. Comey’s in­de­ci­sive and self-de­scribed “cow­ardly” ac­tions are now on record and fur­ther jus­tify why the pres­i­dent was right to dis­miss him.

Mr. Trump fared well on the le­gal ques­tion on the ob­struc­tion of jus­tice. The ex-FBI chief had to ad­mit that he was never di­rectly or­dered to end the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Rus­sia or of for­mer Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser Michael Flynn. Mr. Comey did feel un­com­fort­able meet­ing with the pres­i­dent alone, and the pres­i­dent’s staff should have ad­vised him against meet­ing with Mr. Comey dur­ing an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Mr. Trump ex­pects loy­alty and is trans­par­ent about his ac­tions and mo­tives. He felt he could con­fide in Mr. Comey and be hon­est his feel­ings con­cern­ing Mr. Flynn, but a “hope” is not the same thing as a di­rect or­der to an FBI di­rec­tor to stop an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

What was par­tic­u­larly shock­ing was to see Mr. Comey play by a dif­fer­ent set of rules depend­ing on the pres­i­dent he was serv­ing. Were there memos as­so­ci­ated with Mr. Comey’s meet­ings with Pres­i­dent Obama, or with for­mer At­tor­ney Gen­eral Loretta E. Lynch when she told Mr. Comey to de­scribe the Hil­lary Clin­ton email probe as a “mat­ter” rather than what it plainly was — an in­ves­ti­ga­tion? Why not write up memos on these pri­vate com­ments if he was un­com­fort­able with Ms. Lynch’s char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of the Clin­ton probe? Yet Mr. Comey clearly dis­trusted Mr. Trump and be­gan his ca­reer as a memo-writer only when Mr. Trump was head­ing to the White House.

Even if he missed most of his tar­gets Thurs­day, Mr. Comey in his tes­ti­mony still rep­re­sented a needed po­lit­i­cal stress test for the pres­i­dent and his team. The pres­i­dent’s learn­ing curve is over. An­other mis­step could po­ten­tially crip­ple this ad­min­is­tra­tion be­yond re­pair.

Mr. Trump needs to un­der­stand the sen­si­tive na­ture of deal­ing with the FBI and the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing the need to tread care­fully on is­sues un­der ac­tive le­gal in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The Comey con­tro­versy has cre­ated a dark cloud over this White House, at a time when Mr. Trump badly wants to move on to his leg­isla­tive agenda.

Mr. Comey did not have the strength of char­ac­ter to con­front the pres­i­dent and ex­plain how a pres­i­dent should in­ter­act with a top law en­force­ment of­fi­cer. And the pres­i­dent should have known bet­ter and got­ten bet­ter ad­vice from his team on how to prop­erly in­ter­act with the FBI.

Un­for­tu­nately, the po­lit­i­cal in­ten­sity sur­round­ing Mr. Comey is not about to end. But it will now be spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller who will be the one to de­cide Mr. Trump and his team’s fate — de­spite Mr. Comey’s failed ef­fort to de­fame the pres­i­dent.

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