Analysis: Seven More Questions James Comey Must Answer

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Posted: May 17, 2018 11:01 AM
Analysis: Seven More Questions James Comey Must Answer

Over the last two years, I've written a number of analyses about fired FBI Director James Comey.  Some have been partial defenses, or at least pushback against over-the-top attacks.  Others have been criticisms.  Still others have simply urged him to return to Capitol Hill for public Congressional hearings in order to address additional issues.  Now that his book tour media blitz has subsided, I had my radio producer reach out to his representatives to see if we could get him on the air for an interview.  They responded by informing us that they are not adding new commitments to the former FBI chief's schedule at this time; basically, a polite 'no.'  If he'd agreed to join us, there are a number of questions I would have put directly to him -- instead, I'll convey them here:

(1) Mr. Comey, you told Fox News, NBC and ABC that you did not testify in closed Congressional committee sessions that the FBI agents who questioned former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn reported contemporaneously that they didn't suspect Flynn had lied to them, based on his demeanor during the interview.  "I didn't believe that, and I didn't say it," you told Fox anchor Bret Baier in late April.  But a newly-less-redacted House Intelligence Committee report appears to confirm that you did offer that testimony.  Furthermore, a letter from the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee affirms that you made sworn statements to that exact same effect under questioning from US Senators.  How do you explain the fundamental contradiction between your fairly adamant assertions in multiple nationally-televised segments, and the official record, as revealed by Congressional leaders?

(2) In the aforementioned interview with Bret Baier, you stated that you were not sure if the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign had funded the anti-Trump Steele dossier, on which the Russia investigation at least partially relied to obtain surveillance warrants.  But the bankrollers of the dossier is a matter of public record.  How is it possible that a man in your position would not know that key detail, especially if the file was replied upon to help secure warrants?  Can you understand why many people would be incredulous over your professed ignorance on this point?  Relatedly, you claimed in the same televised exchange that Steele's anti-Trump research had initially been paid for by Republican sources.  As Baier noted at the time, that's not correct.  It's a talking point that has long been debunked (some Fusion GPS oppo research was bankrolled by GOP-tied sources, but those ties were severed prior to the involvement of Mr. Steele and the creation of his infamous dossier).  Why would you feel comfortable advancing an inaccurate claim about the dossier's financial backing while declining to confirm an accurate and widely-known fact on that same issue?

(3) In A Higher Loyalty, you wrote that your investigatory decisions and optics management were guided -- at least in part -- by polls indicating that Mrs. Clinton was going to win the election: “It is entirely possible that, because I was making decisions in an environment where Hillary Clinton was sure to be the next president, my concern about making her an illegitimate president by concealing the restarted investigation bore greater weight than it would have if the election appeared closer or if Donald Trump were ahead in all polls. But I don’t know.”  Isn't this explicit politicization?  Why should public election polling be relevant at all to the law enforcements decisions of the FBI Director?  Was this a mistake?

(4) In justifying your decision not to recommend criminal charges against Mrs. Clinton for her grossly negligent (or as you phrased it "extremely careless") handing of classified information through her policy-violating private email server, you cited a lack of criminal intent as the decisive factor.  Setting aside the fact that the black-and-white statute itself doesn't require intent to prove that particular crime, why don't Clinton's multiple public lies (confirmed as lies by you during Congressional testimony) about her actions point to her intent?  You've said that unlike lying to the FBI, lying to the media is not a crime.  That's right.  But don't her repeated lies suggest consciousness of guilt?  Also, how does setting up an improper, accountability-dodging private email server -- which requires complicated, affirmative actions -- then improperly deleting thousands of work-related emails constitute "carelessness" or "sloppiness"?  Were those not calculated decisions?  

(5) On this same subject, within days of the existence of the email server being publicly reported by the New York Times, a Clinton subordinate set about permanently destroying tens of thousands of emails housed on that server, including using a tool called "Bleach Bit."  Clinton later claimed that none of those deletions were of official emails, a statement you said was absolutely false.  Again, why would the FBI consider this proactive conduct to be "sloppy," as opposed to strong indicators of intent and consciousness of guilt?

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(6) You've said that if people lie to federal investigators, they will be prosecuted.  It has now been demonstrated by the nonpartisan Inspector General's office that your former FBI deputy, Andrew McCabe, lied to federal investigators and lied under oath.  Why wouldn't he be charged?  Meanwhile, a House Intelligence Committee report accuses former DNI James Clapper of lying to members of Congress under oath when he denied leaking information about the Steele dossier (and high level briefings about it, thus legitimizing its contents) to the media.  Clapper "flatly denied ‘discussing[ing] the dossier [compiled by Steele] or any other intelligence related to Russia hacking of the 2016 election with journalists,'” the report states, before noting that the ex-intelligence official subsequently changed his story after being confronted with evidence of his communications with a CNN anchor.  Do leaks like this damage the intelligence community's credibility as nonpartisan actors, and is lying to Congress in sworn testimony a crime?

(7) It has recently been reported that the Justice Department had a "top-secret intelligence source that was part of the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign."  When was this source engaged by the FBI?  When exactly was the Russia counter-intelligence investigation launched, and what specifically triggered it?  And to channel the Wall Street Journal's Kimberly Strassel: "When precisely was the Steele dossier delivered to the FBI? When precisely did the Papadopoulos information come in? And to the point, when precisely was this human source operating?"