Avowed Resistance Democrat and partisan pundit James Comey, the fired FBI Director, cannot stop inserting himself into the national debate -- further deepening many Americans' belief that his political agenda shaded his decision-making as a law enforcement officer. Fresh off publishing a Washington Post op/ed (which blended fair points with tendentious assertions and insults), Comey decided to lash out at Attorney General William Barr on Twitter, blasting Barr's recent and impressive interview with CBS News:
Bill Barr on CBS offers no facts. An AG should not be echoing conspiracy theories. He should gather facts and show them. That is what Justice is about.— James Comey (@Comey) June 1, 2019
This is, ironically, a fact-free attack. Barr offered quite a few facts during his lengthy interview with Jan Crawford, a number of which I enumerated and analyzed last week. My retort:
He offered many facts in the interview. He was quite careful in his comments of two ongoing investigations into previous officials’ actions, including you. He echoed no “conspiracy theories.” https://t.co/yzh0tXE6MJ— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) June 1, 2019
My presumption -- a safe one, I think -- is that the "conspiracy theories" to which Comey is alluding involve the current inquiries into the origins and methods of the Trump-Russia probe undertaken by the Obama (and Comey) era Department of Justice. Was that investigation adequately and appropriately predicated, and was it carried out by the book, without any abuses of power? Those are the questions currently being examined by DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz and US Attorney John Durham. In light of Comey's complaint, did Barr comment recklessly on these issues, to the point of "echoing conspiracy theories"? Here is the key portion of what he said on those fronts:
CRAWFORD: You're saying that spying [on the Trump campaign] occurred. There's not anything necessarily wrong with that.
CRAWFORD: As long as there's a reason for it.
BARR: Whether it's adequately predicated. And look, I think if we -- we are worried about foreign influence in the campaign? We should be because the heart of our system is the peaceful transfer of power through elections and what gives the government legitimacy is that process. And if foreign elements can come in and affect it, that's bad for the republic. But by the same token, it's just as, it's just as dangerous to the continuation of self-government and our republican system, republic that we not allow government power, law enforcement or intelligence power, to play a role in politics, to intrude into politics, and affect elections.
CRAWFORD: So it's just as dangerous- So when we talk about foreign interference versus say a government abuse of power, which is more troubling?
BARR: Well they're both, they're both troubling.
BARR: In my mind, they are, sure. I mean, republics have fallen because of Praetorian Guard mentality where government officials get very arrogant, they identify the national interest with their own political preferences and they feel that anyone who has a different opinion, you know, is somehow an enemy of the state. And you know, there is that tendency that they know better and that, you know, they're there to protect as guardians of the people. That can easily translate into essentially supervening the will of the majority and getting your own way as a government official.
He specifically argues that spying or surveillance against a presidential campaign or its associates isn't necessarily a problem if there's a sound legal basis for those actions, and if the resulting process plays out by the book. Is that the case here? Mssrs. Horowitz and Durham are tasked with getting to the bottom of those very questions. I'll add, as i've noted before, that if there were truly a 'deep state coup' underfoot against Trump's candidacy, it's curious that its conspirators never deployed the nuclear bomb of leaking the existence of a counter-intelligence probe into his campaign, based on actionable intelligence of improper or suspicious contacts with the Russians, while it was underway. Trump barely won as it is. It's not a leap to believe that if this explosive fact had dropped prior to the election, it would have killed his chances. It didn't happen. That matters. Nevertheless, there are counter-examples of disturbing bias among senior officials and top investigators -- as well as very serious questions about the provenance and role of the infamous (and heavily discredited) Steele Dossier, which Robert Mueller did not explore. The "investigation of the investigation" is well-founded and necessary. Let's pick up where Barr and Crawford left off in the above exchange:
CRAWFORD: And you are concerned that that may have happened in 2016?
BARR: Well, I just think it has to be carefully look at because the use of foreign intelligence capabilities and counterintelligence capabilities against an American political campaign to me is unprecedented and it's a serious red line that's been crossed.
CRAWFORD: Did that happen?
BARR: There were counterintelligence activities undertaken against the Trump Campaign. And I'm not saying there was not a basis for it, that it was legitimate, but I want to see what that basis was and make sure it was legitimate...I don't want to get you know, too much into the facts because it's still under review. But I think it's important to understand what basis there was for launching counterintelligence activities against a political campaign...What was the process- who had to approve it? And including the electronic surveillance, whatever electronic surveillance was done. And was everyone operating in their proper lane? And I've selected a terrific career prosecutor from the department who's been there over thirty years, he's now the U.S. attorney
That is a completely fair question and a legitimate vein of inquiry. Saying so is not tinfoil-hattery. Throughout this back-and-forth, Crawford presses Barr for more information at multiple points, including requests that he expand upon his concerns and name certain names. He declines each time -- on at least five different occasions, by my count -- explicitly refusing to divulge any more information or engage in any speculation. In other words, he is explaining why he ordered the Durham probe, to augment the IG's work, and disclosing its mandate. He is not reaching a pre-emptive judgment, and he is not wandering down speculative paths based on any possible suspicions he may harbor. And he's vouching for the superb reputations of both men charged with pursuing these facts. Does Mr. Comey care to assail the reputations of Durham or Horowitz? Are they, too, now untrusted purveyors of capital-J 'Justice' due to their indirect association with the "soul eaters" of the Trump administration?
If he's unwilling to challenge these individuals' integrity, perhaps Comey should keep his mouth shut until the facts are gathered and shown -- especially since some of those facts very likely involve his own actions, and those of his close colleagues. Also, if Comey purports to be upset over public officials indulging or entertaining potential conspiracies for public consumption, Byron York flags an interesting flashback:
Oh, come on. This is FBI chief who on ABC 4/15/18 discussed dossier pee tape at length; said 'it's possible.'— Byron York (@ByronYork) June 2, 2019
RT @comey: Bill Barr on CBS offers no facts. An AG should not be echoing conspiracy theories. He should gather facts and show them. That is what Justice is about. pic.twitter.com/KQVn0UnZuM
Rather than leaving the impression that the totally unverified (and quite possibly Russian-planted) tale of Russian prostitutes urinating on Donald Trump in a Moscow hotel room might be true -- who can say really? -- shouldn't Comey have gathered facts, then shown them, and not gone an inch further? After all, that's what capital-J Justice "is about." Based on his endless self-serving and self-righteous punditry, I'm increasingly convinced that Comey's dismissal from his post at the FBI was a healthy, if belated, development for the country. I also can't help but wonder if Barr's commentary about "arrogant" government figures who conflate "the national interest" with "their own political preferences" may have struck a nerve with Comey. Some critiques cut a bit too close to the bone and provoke reflexive responses.