Given the nature of the subject and the amount of time I personally gave to it last week this is sort of a three-part response to the Comey testimony provided on June 8th 2017 to the senate. (Click here to review the previous entries.) So for this let me answer the question that was given to me by CNN and explain my reasons—the question of course was whether or not I thought James Comey—former director of the FBI, should go to jail. In my 20 second answer, I couldn’t give the kind of answer I wanted because of the necessary theatrics of television so here it is in writing. Yes, James Comey should go to jail for lying under oath and for subversion of our republic. I’m sure he was lying, and I’m sure he held back information deliberately which is in many cases equivalent to lying and he is for all practical purposes a villain. Here’s why.
There was something that really bothered me about the way James Comey prepared his statements before the testimony, and the way he referred to tangible observations in such a lurid way. As I said to CNN, Comey’s written testimony along with the delivery of additional information to the senate reminded me of the early James Bond novels from Ian Flemming–of a much more disgraceful and reckless British agent than we saw in the films with Sean Connery and Roger Moore. The flair of Comey’s writing style reminded me not of a long time FBI agent—but actually that of a pent-up author wanting desperately to mater in the world just a few years before turning 60 years of age. My comments below come from the experience of being an employer myself and working with people the same age as James Comey—and in reading voluminous amounts of books over the years—particularly the work of Ian Fleming. I know all too well that when you hire fire and discipline around a thousand employees over a period of time some of them by nature will not agree with you. Sometimes they will work against you, and at some point in time will think you are the most evil person in the world because they can’t get you to see things their way—and they find themselves on the outside looking in—which often hurts their feelings. There are people out there who think I’m the most mean and evil person in the world. Does that make them correct? Of course not, but from their perspective their opinion is all they care about. And this is what we are talking about with Comey—an ex-employee who gambled and lost his job and is now on the outside and it hurts him. His testimony says all the things we need to know. If you know what to look for Comey spelled it all out before the hearing even took place by what he had written down, then illustrated gloriously during his sworn statements.
Again, this is experience on my part that I offer this breakdown, but Comey opened the door to it by his own testimony. Because he did that we have to account for the way he thinks and what his motives were based on the instinct of experience. For instance, below are a few of the Comey written comments that I found particularly damning for him so let me talk about them one at a time which will then be summarized to properly articulate my conclusion of why Comey should go to jail. Here is the first:
The IC leadership thought it important, for a variety of reasons, to alert the incoming President to the existence of this material, even though it was salacious and unverified. Among those reasons were: (1) we knew the media was about to publicly report the material and we believed the IC should not keep knowledge of the material and its imminent release from the President-Elect; and (2) to the extent there was some effort to compromise an incoming President, we could blunt any such effort with a defensive briefing.
That’s not what the IC was doing on their January 6th meeting with Trump where Comey cleared the room to report the unverified salacious and unverified material to Trump. They were showing the new president what they had on him and were warning him of information they “could” possess if needed for their own preservation. They were guilty of trying to create the kind of leverage that Comey complained about later which indicates that they were prone to thinking this way themselves—as a point of reference. The IC (intelligence community) was trying to throw Trump a bone so that they could win him over for their further employment. When Trump failed to feel threatened by this attempt, the members of the IC were deeply concerned as they left Trump Tower that day and it was at this point that the leaks from the IC began to flow freely to the press.
I felt compelled to document my first conversation with the President-Elect in a memo. To ensure accuracy, I began to type it on a laptop in an FBI vehicle outside Trump Tower the moment I walked out of the meeting. Creating written records immediately after one-on-one conversations with Mr. Trump was my practice from that point forward. This had not been my practice in the past. I spoke alone with President Obama twice in person (and never on the phone) – once in 2015 to discuss law enforcement policy issues and a second time, briefly, for him to say goodbye in late 2016. In neither of those circumstances did I memorialize the discussions. I can recall nine one-on-one conversations with President Trump in four months – three in person and six on the phone.
By his own admission Comey never did this with any other president prior, but the meeting rattled Comey to such an extent that he felt he better start now because it was always his intention after January 6th to rid the Beltway of this Trump threat. That was the same type of behavior that an employee who knows they are about to be fired does in an attempt to save their job, they begin gathering written recollections to use in human resources later. Comey lacking personal courage reverted to a passive aggressive approach, which was writing everything down. Comey understood early that Trump had doubts about him and his leadership in the FBI so he began to keep notes that he could use later to extort his futher employment.
My instincts told me that the one-on-one setting, and the pretense that this was our first discussion about my position, meant the dinner was, at least in part, an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship. That concerned me greatly, given the FBI’s traditionally independent status in the executive branch. A few moments later, the President said, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.” I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence. The conversation then moved on, but he returned to the subject near the end of our dinner.
Here Comey is hoping to use his experience as an FBI agent and director to overcome any doubt about what he’s saying about Trump. This detail about his personal dinner with Trump in the Green Room of the White House is particularly revealing. First Comey wants to show that he has a story to tell and is trying to attract agents for a big book deal, or even a Hollywood movie based on his experiences. The liberals of the Beltway who know film producers likely put the bug in his ear which he was receptive to after that January 8th meeting where Comey started writing things down. The salacious details here say a lot about Comey’s motives because he goes into almost screenplay detail—which has nothing to do with facts the way you’d expect an FBI director to illicit. Instead he relied on his feelings which are more aligned with the way a novelist would write. People forget that Ian Flemming, the great British writer and creator of James Bond was a British Naval Intelligence Division agent before he was a writer and if you go back and read his first book, Casino Royal, it actually sounds a lot like the way Comey writes in his interactions with Trump. Since Comey himself offered that “instinct” is admissible as evidence for the deduction of reason in this case, then I feel quite comfortable in concluding that Comey decided he was going to be a writer after his FBI career and Trump was going to be his villain that he’d write about. He’d be the toast of the swamp as his friends around the Beltway would honor him for all time as the Boy Scout who saved them from the lunatic businessman from New York during a short-lived presidency. The more he thought about it, the more alluring the thought became until it became so obvious that Trump could see it on his face. Prior to that January 27th dinner meeting, Comey had hidden his fantasy—but Trump could detect it and it changed the way that Trump thought about Comey as director of the FBI.
On February 14, I went to the Oval Office for a scheduled counterterrorism briefing of the President. He sat behind the desk and a group of us sat in a semi-circle of about six chairs facing him on the other side of the desk. The Vice President, Deputy Director of the CIA, Director of the National CounterTerrorism Center, Secretary of Homeland Security, the Attorney General, and I were in the semi-circle of chairs. I was directly facing the President, sitting between the Deputy CIA Director and the Director of NCTC. There were quite a few others in the room, sitting behind us on couches and chairs. The President signaled the end of the briefing by thanking the group and telling them all that he wanted to speak to me alone. I stayed in my chair. As the participants started to leave the Oval Office, the Attorney General lingered by my chair, but the President thanked him and said he wanted to speak only with me. The last person to leave was Jared Kushner, who also stood by my chair and exchanged pleasantries with me. The President then excused him, saying he wanted to speak with me. When the door by the grandfather clock closed, and we were alone, the President began by saying, “I want to talk about Mike Flynn.” Flynn had resigned 5 the previous day. The President began by saying Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong in speaking with the Russians, but he had to let him go because he had misled the Vice President. He added that he had other concerns about Flynn, which he did not then specify. The President then made a long series of comments about the problem with leaks of classified information – a concern I shared and still share. After he had spoken for a few minutes about leaks, Reince Priebus leaned in through the door by the grandfather clock and I could see a group of people waiting behind him. The President waved at him to close the door, saying he would be done shortly. The door closed. The President then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn, saying, “He is a good guy and has been through a lot.” He repeated that Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice President. He then said, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” I replied only that “he is a good guy.” (In fact, I had a positive experience dealing with Mike Flynn when he was a colleague as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency at the beginning of my term at FBI.) I did not say I would “let this go.” The President returned briefly to the problem of leaks. I then got up and left out the door by the grandfather clock, making my way through the large group of people waiting there, including Mr. Priebus and the Vice President. I immediately prepared an unclassified memo of the conversation about Flynn and discussed the matter with FBI senior leadership. I had understood the President to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December. I did not understand the President to be talking about the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign. I could be wrong, but I took him to be focusing on what had just happened with Flynn’s departure and the controversy around his account of his phone calls. Regardless, it was very concerning, given the FBI’s role as an independent investigative agency.
Even going to the trouble to mention the grandfather clock in this segment of Comey’s testimony is more of an attempt to paint a picture of the moment more than just reporting the facts. This only reiterates what I said about Comey wanting to be a novelist because the clock has nothing to do with the facts of the matter. The point of this entire segment is to paint Comey as the sole survivor of a treacherous cloud of villainy. Comey knew that his Beltway friends would soak all this up so he added extra detail for the sake of drama. In the contents of the discussion its obvious Trump wanted to protect his friend Michael Flynn from further embarrassment as the guy had just resigned a few days prior. There was no conspiracy or ill intent on the part of the president—since “instinct” is now admissible as evidence. What is particularly revealing here is the part where Comey tries to portray himself completely in control by saying “I did not say I would ‘let this go.” The president returned briefly to the problem of leaks. I then got up and left out the door by the grandfather clock”—and so on and so on. Listening to Comey speak in writing he was very much in control and was the protagonist of his own adventure, but from what he stated in his testimony he added that he was terrified of this one on one with Trump and he felt compelled that the weight of the office was upon him to stop the Russian investigation.
Essentially Comey decided some time before the election of 2016 that regardless of what happened he was going to seek money and fame in the private sector which likely shaped the way he handled the Hillary Clinton case. If he had prosecuted her—like he should have, the agents and movie makers would have held it against him. So days before the election when things were tight between Trump and Clinton he tried to take the light off her and help her out a few percentage points—because he wanted his book deal. It would have paid a lot more than he made as an FBI director and he’d gain fame for he and his family—along with his professor friends who leak stories to The New York Times. From Comey’s perspective of trying to make a little money for his family he’s a hero—he’s the protagonist standing up to the president in the Oval Office like a Boy Scout honest, clean and full of pride in Amerca. But in reality he was just another swamp monster working against the American people, actively subverting justice to keep a political party in power and when none of that worked he became one of the big leakers to the media in an attempt to bring down a properly elected American president violating his employment agreement with the FBI and the natural trust his position carried with it as head of the intelligence community.
Comey lied because he took it upon himself to become an activist, he wrote down information on government computers to be used as a weapon—no wonder he let Hillary Clinton go—but he did not state these intentions which were clearly present. Instead he painted himself as a bastion of the law who would uphold truth, justice and the American way. In reality he was just another cowering bureaucrat trying to hide in the swamp and ride out his years as he propped himself up as a future writer in the private sector. He lied because he did not state his intentions correctly for why he actually became a leaker. He said it was to preserve justice—but in reality it was to take down a president he didn’t like from the beginning and he wanted to be a hero to the left. He also lied in saying that he wasn’t political. His actions were very political and more than justified his termination without any further drama. But we all know how that turned out. Comey placed himself on a pedestal hoping to play at being the sacrificial lamb for the good of the ”Beltway.” But what he revealed of himself was that he was an activist for the preservation of the status quo and a leaker of information gathered in the Oval Office to be spread upon a salacious press in the way a plot from House of Cards might have a hard time believing. Yet that is precisely what happened. That is why Comey should go to jail. He abused the trust of his office. He sought to bring down an American president’s administration, and he misrepresented himself under sworn testimony. And he wrote down the evidence forcing us all to act on it.
And that’s that.
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