Comey de­bunks Rus­sia, Trump news sto­ries

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY ROWAN SCAR­BOR­OUGH

A ma­jor New York Times story that helped spawn the un­proven Trump-Rus­sia col­lu­sion nar­ra­tive for months in Wash­ing­ton was de­bunked Thurs­day by for­mer FBI Di­rec­tor James B. Comey.

Asked by Sen. Tom Cot­ton, Arkansas Repub­li­can, whether the story was “al­most en­tirely wrong,” he an­swered, “Yes.”

In re­sponse to a sim­i­lar ques­tion by Sen. James Risch, Idaho Repub­li­can, Mr. Comey said that “in the main, it was not true.”

“The chal­lenge, and I’m not pick­ing on re­porters about writ­ing sto­ries about clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion, is that peo­ple talk­ing about it of­ten don’t re­ally know what’s go­ing on and those of us who ac­tu­ally know what’s go­ing on are not talk­ing about it,” Mr. Comey elab­o­rated.

Mr. Comey told the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee that when the Times story ap­peared Feb. 14, telling a story of nu­mer­ous con­tacts be­tween Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence and Pres­i­dent Trump’s cam­paign peo­ple and as­so­ciates, he knew it was not true.

He first dou­ble checked with the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity and then alerted both Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic se­na­tors not to be­lieve the Times.

It was a rare pub­lic mo­ment in Wash­ing­ton. A for­mer FBI di­rec­tor was to­tally dis­cred­it­ing a ma­jor in­ves­tiga­tive story by the na­tion’s most in­flu­en­tial news­pa­per and, in do­ing so, back­ing Pres­i­dent Trump.

That Fe­bru­ary, FBI deputy di­rec­tor An­drew McCabe dis­closed to White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus that the Rus­sian probe, by then eight months old, had not turned up ev­i­dence of col­lu­sion. Mr. Priebus ob­tained FBI per­mis­sion to re­lease the in­for­ma­tion and did so on a Sun­day po­lit­i­cal-talk show.

The Times story took on enor­mous im­por­tance since the po­lit­i­cal Left, and Democrats, re­lied on it to spin the Rus­sian col­lu­sion story in Congress, ca­ble TV and the in­ter­net.

The Times lede was a block­buster: “Phone records and in­ter­cepted calls show that mem­bers of Don­ald Trump’s 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and other Trump as­so­ciates had re­peated con­tacts with se­nior Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials in the year be­fore the elec­tion, ac­cord­ing to four cur­rent and for­mer Amer­i­can of­fi­cials.”

Mr. Comey said that “many many sto­ries” on the FBI’s Rus­sia probe “are just dead wrong.”

In a sense, Mr. Comey, whose tes­ti­mony on his meet­ings with Mr. Trump is con­sid­ered dam­ag­ing, was sup­port­ing the pres­i­dent’s reg­u­lar re­frain that Wash­ing­ton’s lib­eral press es­tab­lish­ment spe­cial­izes in “fake news” about him.

Con­ser­va­tives have said they think the Times story, and other ques­tion­able nar­ra­tives, are fed by Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials and holdovers in the fed­eral gov­ern­ment who are try­ing to sab­o­tage Mr. Trump.

Nearly a year into in­ves­ti­gat­ing Rus­sia’s at­tempt to in­flu­ence the elec­tion by hack­ing Demo­cratic Party com­put­ers, for­mer in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials and some law­mak­ers say there ex­ists no ev­i­dence of Trump-team col­lu­sion with the Krem­lin’s ef­forts.

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