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Comey testified under oath 15 days ago he had not been asked to stop an investigation for political reasons
The key question here is whether Comey's answer is limited to the Justice Department apparatus only, or anyone who might be in a position to make such a request. The context of Senator Hirono's question concerns a request from a Justice Department official, but Comey's answer doesn't really leave open the possibility that such a request came from someone above him.
Here's the key exchange:
HIRONO: Yes. And so speaking of the independence of not just the judiciary but I'd like you to clarify the FBI's independence from the DOJ apparatus. Can the FBI conduct an investigation independent from the department of Justice. Or does the FBI have to disclose all it's investigations to the DOJ? And does it have to get the Attorney General's consent?
COMEY: Well we work with the Department of Justice, whether that's main justice or U.S. attorney's offices on all of our investigations.
And so we work with them and so in a legal sense we're not independent of the department of justice. We are spiritually, culturally pretty independent group and that's the way you would want tit. But yes, we work with the Department of Justice on all of our investigations.
HIRONO: So if the Attorney General or senior officials at the Department of Justice opposes a specific investigation, can they halt that FBI investigation?
COMEY: In theory yes.
HIRONO: Has it happened?
COMEY: Not in my experience. Because it would be a big deal to tell the FBI to stop doing something that -- without an appropriate purpose. I mean where oftentimes they give us opinions that we don't see a case there and so you ought to stop investing resources in it. But I'm talking about a situation where we were told to stop something for a political reason, that would be a very big deal. It's not happened in my experience.
Now, most likely if Comey is asked about this during any sort of impeachment proceedings, he will say that Hirono didn't ask him about the request coming from the president, which is why he said it hadn't happened in his experience.
But there's a big problem with that explanation. If you read carefully what Comey said, you'll notice a) when he says it hasn't happened in his experience, he doesn't simply say it never happened at the hands of a Justice official. He says it's never happened in his experience, period; and b) when he says it would be a "very big deal" to be asked to drop an investigation for political reasons, the clear implication there is that Comey has never experienced the very big deal in question.
Wouldn't it be an even bigger deal if the person trying to stop an investigation for political reasons was the president of the United States?
And if the president really has asked you to do something like this, why sit there and not bring it up at all? Why leave the clear impression that you've never experienced anything of the sort when in fact you did experience it as part of a direct, one-on-one conversation with the most powerful man in the world? Aren't you leaving out an awfully important element of the answer to the question if you don't say what happened?
If Trump really did ask Comey to drop the Flynn investigation for political reasons, but Comey declined to mention it here because he was keeping his powder dry in case he needed it later, didn't Comey fail to give a complete answer under oath?
A lawyer would argue, perhaps successfully, that Comey didn't technically tell less than the truth because the president is not part of the Justice Department apparatus. But can anyone seriously argue that Comey provided all the information Hirono was seeking, if in fact this request from Trump happened as Comey claims? And why did Comey word the answer in a way that suggested anything of the sort would represent an extraordinary event he had not experienced?
If the Comey memo is real, and it says what the New York Times's anonymous sources claim it says, it's going to come down to Trump's word vs. Comey's word. Are you sure Comey's word is as good as gold, given the under-oath testimony he offered here?
Dan's new novel, BACKSTOP, is a story of spiritual warfare and baseball. Download it from Amazon here!