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Ringing Comey's Bell

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AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

Amongst the many incredulous, remarkable, and possibly perjurious statements made by former FBI Director James Comey today before the Senate Judiciary Committee, this is probably the most dumbfounding exchange

Sen. Lindsey Graham: "You don’t remember getting an investigatory lead from the intelligence community? Sept. 7, 2016, U.S. intelligence officials forwarded an investigative referral to James Comey and Strzok regarding Clinton’s approval of a plan [about] Trump…as a means of distraction?” 

Comey: “That doesn’t ring any bells with me.” 

Graham: “That’s a pretty stunning thing that it doesn’t ring a bell. You get this inquiry from the intelligence community to look at the Clinton campaign trying to create a distraction, accusing Trump of being a Russian agent or a Russian stooge.”

Sen. Graham is referring to a referral sent by the Intelligence Community (IC) to the FBI in September 2016. According to a just-declassified letter from Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, the referral would be, by anyone's definition, memorable.

It read, in part: "U.S. intelligence officials forwarded an investigative referral to FBI Director James Comey and Assistant Director of Counterintelligence Peter Strzok regarding U.S. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's approval of a plan concerning U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump and Russian hackers hampering U.S. elections as a means of distracting the public from her use of a private email server."

Now, with all due respect to Sen. Graham, this was a great opportunity to ring Mr. Comey's bell with a few follow-up questions:

- "It doesn't ring a bell, Mr. Comey? Well, how many referrals did you receive from the IC regarding an international plot to frame candidate Trump paid for and orchestrated by the former secretary of state?"

- "Can you tell us what your normal procedures would be when you receive a referral such as this? Would you call a meeting? Would you initiate an investigation? Would you pick up the phone and get some more information?"

- "A tangential question, Mr. Comey... we know you opened an unprecedented counter-intelligence investigation on Mr. Trump on July 31 of that same year. We know you pulled FISA warrants to surveil several members of the Trump campaign and we know you withheld vital information from President-elect Trump during the transition so you could continue your investigation of him and several members of his newly-formed administration... Tell us, Mr. Comey, did you ever receive a referral from the IC about Mr. Trump? Or did you initiate all of those unprecedented and possibly criminal moves all based on your own judgment?"

- "Mr. Comey, by saying 'it doesn't ring a bell,' you are clearly leaving yourself quite a bit of wiggle room to avoid charges of perjury in the event we finally uncover a paper trail showing that you knew full well about this referral from the IC. So, to avoid us more lengthy delays, do you want to revise your claim now and acknowledge you got this referral and just ignored it?"

For Mr. Comey to claim a referral such as this, involving a foreign plot in coordination with a presidential candidate to frame their presidential opponent "doesn't ring a bell" is an insult to the American people's intelligence, especially considering that at that very moment he received the referral, his bureau was carrying through with an investigation that fit perfectly into the IC's description of Clinton's plot.

"Clinton is setting Trump up to make it look like he colluded with Russians to hack the DNC servers?  Hmmmm.... why does that sound familiar....?"

Comey needs to have his bell rung on this, or he needs to go to jail.

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