Com­mit­tee carousel: Comey skates by tough ques­tions

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY CHARLES HURT Charles Hurt can be reached at churt@wash­ing­ton­ and on Twit­ter by @charleshurt.

Fired FBI Di­rec­tor James B. Comey ap­peared be­fore the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee last week to much fan­fare, bear­ing enough rev­e­la­tions for both sides to walk away claim­ing vic­tory. But as the dust set­tles, long­time Se­nate watch­ers are start­ing to won­der if Mr. Comey’s tes­ti­mony wasn’t just a show trial that is part of a larger cover-up aimed at de­stroy­ing Don­ald Trump’s pres­i­dency.

For ex­am­ple, why was Mr. Comey al­lowed to tes­tify be­fore the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, which has no over­sight ju­ris­dic­tion over the De­part­ment of Jus­tice or the FBI? The de­ci­sion served only to val­i­date and fo­cus all the at­ten­tion on the phantom probe into al­leged ties be­tween the Trump cam­paign and Rus­sia.

If the Se­nate re­ally was in­ter­ested in ex­plor­ing all the stated rea­sons for Mr. Comey’s fir­ing, from the Rus­sia probe to the in­ex­pli­ca­ble man­ner in which Mr. Comey han­dled Hil­lary Clinton’s il­le­gal email server, why not haul Mr. Comey be­fore the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, the com­mit­tee that ac­tu­ally does have ju­ris­dic­tion over the Jus­tice De­part­ment and the FBI?

Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Charles Grass­ley, Iowa Repub­li­can, is leg­endary for his no-non­sense, non­par­ti­san and metic­u­lous over­sight of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment agen­cies and de­part­ments. Mr. Grass­ley is now ac­cus­ing his own party lead­er­ship of erect­ing a “stone wall” to pro­tect Mr. Comey from his com­mit­tee. It is a sen­ti­ment shared even by Democrats. “At some point, the lead­er­ship in both the ma­jor­ity and the mi­nor­ity have to say [we] must have some role in as­sert­ing the ju­ris­dic­tion of this com­mit­tee,” fumed Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Min­nesota Demo­crat, who sits on the com­mit­tee. “It seems to me that all, nearly like 90 per­cent of th­ese is­sues, should be un­der our com­mit­tee.”

Equally cu­ri­ous was the In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee’s de­ci­sion to hold a hear­ing on the day be­fore Mr. Comey tes­ti­fied fea­tur­ing four top U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials. That hear­ing was sup­posed to be all about re­new­ing the For­eign In­tel­li­gence Sur­veil­lance Act.

In­stead, Democrats and Repub­li­cans alike spent the en­tire cha­rade fan­ning the wild con­spir­acy flames that some­how Mr. Trump col­lab­o­rated with the Krem­lin to tilt last year’s elec­tion. It made for the perfect ap­pe­tizer for the next day’s main course.

So, why would Mr. Comey be afraid of ap­pear­ing be­fore the com­mit­tee that has ac­tual over­sight of the FBI and De­part­ment of Jus­tice? Here are some of the ques­tions he wasn’t asked by the In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee and that he might not have wanted to an­swer:

Mr. Comey said he leaked his con­fi­den­tial notes of meet­ings with Mr. Trump to The New York Times be­cause he wanted to get a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor ap­pointed. Was this just to get re­venge against the pres­i­dent for fir­ing him? Or was Mr. Comey us­ing back chan­nels in­side the FBI to ma­nip­u­late the sys­tem into ap­point­ing a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor?

If so, that would be a pretty stun­ning rev­e­la­tion.

Also, Mr. Comey said he spoke pri­vately with var­i­ous col­leagues and at least one per­son out­side the FBI about his predica­ment. Mr. Comey should be re­quired to name ev­ery sin­gle per­son with whom he con­fided about the sit­u­a­tion both be­fore and af­ter he was fired.

An­swers to th­ese ques­tions would re­veal just how wide­spread Mr. Comey’s leak­ing op­er­a­tion went and pos­si­bly shed more light on whether Mr. Comey vi­o­lated the pres­i­dent’s ex­ec­u­tive priv­i­lege when he leaked his pri­vate Oval Of­fice con­ver­sa­tions.

Per­haps most im­por­tantly, Mr. Comey and Spe­cial Coun­sel Robert Mueller have been friends a long time in the swamp. What com­mu­ni­ca­tions did the two men have about any of this be­fore and af­ter Mr. Comey was fired? Did Mr. Comey co­or­di­nate in any way with Mr. Mueller to get him ap­pointed spe­cial coun­sel?

For that mat­ter, per­haps the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee should haul Mr. Mueller be­fore the com­mit­tee to an­swer some of the same ques­tions.

No­body said drain­ing the swamp would be easy.

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