Gowdy: Look, if Comey Really Felt This Way About Trump, He Could've Quit. But He Didn't.

Posted: Apr 16, 2018 4:15 PM

The man has a point.  Think about it: James Comey is running around hawking a book that blasts President Trump as a lying, misogynistic, spray-tanned mob boss with small hands, arguing that the president is "morally unfit" for the office he holds and intoning about the American people being "duty bound" to vote Trump out of office.  Regardless of whether you agree with all, some, or none of those assessments, Comey evidently harbored these feelings about Trump prior to getting axed, yet he clung to the powerful job anyway.  I happen to believe that Trump fired Comey in an inexcusable way, for dubious stated reasons, and conducted himself very poorly in its aftermath.  It's not hard to see why Comey might harbor some bitterness or vindictive pettiness -- even as he holds himself out as an unflappable statesman and paragon of integrity.  But as Gowdy suggests, if Trump were truly the threat to the republic that Comey says he is, why didn't the former FBI Director feel, well, duty bound to resign in protest and sound the alarm?  He didn't.  Skip ahead to the 6:30 mark or so for the relevant bit:

You can almost visualize Trump nodding along approvingly throughout that entire answer from Gowdy.  The ex-prosecutor essentially accuses Comey of cashing in on sour grapes, pointing out how he was more than willing to compartmentalize or ignore (or write private memos about) his supposed profound concerns about the president's character until he lost his influential gig.  Gowdy rips the A Higher Loyalty book tour as a "sad" enterprise that falls short of the high standard to which Gowdy holds his fellow members of the law enforcement community.  He also raps Comey for not telling Trump about the partisan provenance of the unsubstantiated Steele dossier, using the opportunity to again assail the Obama Justice Department for failing to fully and adequately disclose that extremely relevant detail to judges examining FISA warrants against a Trump associate.  

But I can't imagine the president would be thrilled with the other parts of the interview, which was conducted by Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace.  The retiring South Carolina Congressman defends the legitimacy of the FBI raids against longtime Trump attorney Michael Cohen, making several of the points we raised here.  He also says that Robert Mueller's actions in handling the Cohen information was done by the book, going on to (mostly) support Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein.  Quote: "I don't see a basis for firing [Rosenstein] in the handling of this probe."  Later, after dumping on Comey, Gowdy again went to bat on behalf of the genesis of the overall Russia investigation:

Even the memo authored by House Intelligence Committee Republicans affirms that the surveillance of Carter Page, justified by the Democrat-backed anti-Trump dossier (and about which Comey still isn't being entirely accurate), was not the original raison d'etre for the wider probe Gowdy, who has always been a straight shooter, is talking like a man who is totally liberated from partisan constraints.  He'll delight conservatives when he agrees with them (hammering Comey, calling for a second special prosecutor), but will anger Trump loyalists when he doesn't toe the White House line.  I'll leave you with three items: First, a piece by former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy, who's written extensively about his skepticism of Trump's legal jeopardy on alleged "collusion" and obstruction of justice.  His newfound concern that Trump may be in some genuine trouble stems from the Cohen developments, and is therefore notable:

President Trump now has real legal peril. The potential jeopardy stems from the investigation that came to light this week when the FBI conducted raids on the office and residences of his lawyer and self-professed “fixer,” Michael Cohen. I’ve never thought “collusion with Russia” posed jeopardy. If there had been anything criminal to that storyline, the politicized anti-Trump factions in the intelligence and law-enforcement agencies would have leaked it. And, notwithstanding Trump’s nauseating nods to Putin, the administration has taken enough aggressive steps against Russia that it is past time for the Kremlin to broadcast the big kompromat file if it exists. I’ve also never thought Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s other known angle, obstruction, posed a great risk.

There is a line between foolishness and crime. For important policy reasons, a president should not weigh in with the FBI director on the merits of investigating a friend and political ally; and it would be better if he did not make personnel moves that could be perceived as efforts to influence witnesses or affect the course of an investigation. But as long as a president’s actions — e.g., firing the FBI director, discussing the possibility of pardons — are on their face legal and within his legitimate constitutional authority, I do not believe they can validly predicate an obstruction prosecution. (In theory, they could be grist for impeachment, which involves a political inquiry into abuse of power, not a legal proceeding to establish the essential elements of a statutory crime.) The matter now under investigation by the FBI and federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York (SDNY), however, is a very live criminal investigation. Anyone potentially connected to it should be worried.

Read McCarthy's full analysis for his reasons why.  Second, here's Fox host Martha MacCallum asking a good question, rooted in the same premise I raised in this post:  

Comey keeps talking about his desire not to politicize the Bureau and Justice Department, yet he now admits that a number of of his key decisions were premised on explicitly political considerations.  I'm definitely sympathetic to this quasi-defense of Comey, but even if you agree -- as I do -- that the uniquely dreadful duo of Hillary and Donald put the FBI and DOJ in a terrible spot (and this circular firing squad is certainly interesting), Comey's choices are still highly questionable.  Last but not least, this made me laugh out loud: