Establishment Republicans, Liberals, The Mainstream Media & Trump’s Firing of James Comey | Oligarchy on Blog#42

Establishment Republicans, Liberals, The Mainstream Media & Trump’s Firing of James Comey

I’ve had my share of criticisms of James Comey over the last three years, especially when it came to civil rights and law enforcement. Whatever disappointments I harbored, however, I had none when it came to his conduct with regard to Hillary Clinton, his handling of Michael Flynn, and the discrete manner in which he conducted himself with respect to his investigation of the Trump campaign in the months leading up to the election, right up to his firing. Had Comey not exercised a high degree of discretion, he would have been fired in January, putting an end, even sooner, to any real progress in the Russia-Trump investigation.

As I pointed out in a February piece on our nascent oligarchy under Donald J. Trump:

“What will our oligarch-in-chief do? What will our oligarch’s Attorney General do? Given both men’s conflicts of interest, what is even more germane is what the FBI will do. More than the Department of Justice, at this very moment, the Federal Bureau of Investigations is the arm of government with the relative independence to investigate and recommend action in a case such as Flynn. James Comey, yes, the same James Comey who has been maligned by the media for his own actions during the election, is in charge of investigating Flynn, and has been doing his job all along. Will Trump allow him the wide berth he is due? Will the media stop attacking him and just report on what Comey does? What will Congress do if Trump decides he wants to fire Comey?

Those questions are where the dangers lie and what we should all focus on. Everything else, in this corrupt state we call “oligarchy,” is white noise.””

And now, here we are… According to a new study the BBC reported on recently, we are now officially an oligarchy. That study was conducted by the same two Princeton professors, Prof Martin Gilens and Northwestern University Prof Benjamin I. Page, who, three years ago, determined that the U.S. was a plutocracy:

“This is not news, you say.

Perhaps, but the two professors have conducted exhaustive research to try to present data-driven support for this conclusion. Here’s how they explain it:

Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.

In English: the wealthy few move policy, while the average American has little power.

The two professors came to this conclusion after reviewing answers to 1,779 survey questions asked between 1981 and 2002 on public policy issues. They broke the responses down by income level, and then determined how often certain income levels and organised interest groups saw their policy preferences enacted.”

Our mainstream media, while highly critical of President Trump, his cabinet, and the congressional Republicans, has conspicuously sidestepped its duty to define for and then relay to the public the exact nature and dangers inherent in the state of our governance, namely, by not defining and then using the most explicit terminology in describing the form of government we are now under.

We are not – I repeat – we are NOT a democracy.
We are now an oligarchy.

If the Republican party is now not only under the complete control of the richest Americans, and that control is no longer achieved only behind the scenes through money in politics, but full control is in the hands of the highest possible level: the presidency and the top cabinet positions, we are an oligarchy.

If the Democratic party, over the years, came to be increasingly dependent on money in politics, it too ceded power to the richest Americans in many ways, beginning with becoming reliant on big donors and ending with giving those donor’s representatives seats at the table by way of cabinet-level positions, top advisory roles in the White House, and awarding permanent superdelegate positions to industry lobbyists in the DNC.

Both parties have been feeding from the same trough for decades. Whereas Goldman Sachs now has well-over a half dozen of its highest level executives in advisory and under-Secretary roles in the Trump administration, had Clinton won, they would have had at least half as many. As a reminder, Bill Clinton’s Treasury Department was run by Bob Rubin. Enough said.

In an environment in which democracy has been stifled by a confluence of:

  • single-party control of both houses of Congress
  • control over the highest office and cabinet positions by oligarchs
  • systematic obliteration not only of policy enacted under President Obama, but going as far back as undoing F.D.R.’s Great Society.

When all is said and done, the consequences of the 2016 election will be the most negative and farthest-reaching of any U.S. presidency, It will also have been achieved by what will turn out to be the most corrupt administration and Congress we’ve had, including the sessions of Congress immediately preceding and concurrent to F.D.R. At no time in U.S. history have we ever had to contemplate the possibility that our president is mentally-unfit nor that he might be compromised due to engaging in illegal activities with foreign agents. This is the narrative and context in which we must look at the firing of James B. Comey, and not what the media and liberal politicians have been advancing, in the way of the martyrdom of Hillary Clinton as a candidate whose voters were duped by the actions of a foreign power.

The Facts Remain…

As unfortunate as the timing of the infamous Comey letter was on October 20, 2016, the undeniable fact remains that it was prompted by a set of pivotal events:

  • Bill Clinton’s decision to mosey on over to former Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s plane just a couple of days after she cleared his wife of any wrong-doing in the email scandal, and;
  • Huma Abedin’s failure to tell the FBI – once her husband’s electronic devices were seized – that some of her work emails might be found on her husband’s laptop.
  • Most of all, though, as executive of her own political operation, Hillary Clinton should have ensured that everything she did – or was done in her name – was above board. We learned last year that Clinton never took the ethics training all State Department staff are required to take. Maybe she blew it off because, as a trained attorney, she didn’t see a need?

Hillary Clinton’s fateful decisions at the start of her tenure as Secretary of State and her subsequent actions caused an avoidable sequence of events that led directly to the investigation James Comey ended up being tasked with. No matter what other arguments one brings into the discussion, the starting point is always Hillary Clinton.

But The Timing and Motive, Though…

The job of an FBI director isn’t about timing or even motive, but about doing what needs be done, and in a way that is as separate as can be from the political process. Comey was investigating both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump separately, but concurrently last year. Both Clinton and Trump are inexorably tied to politics by virtue of their candidacies. There is nothing that would have decoupled politics from an investigation, whether Comey or some other FBI director was in charge.

While Clinton’s case had long been out in the open, the inquiry on the Trump campaign was not. For very obvious reasons, Comey kept the Trump investigation close to his chest so as not to jeopardize it.

Hillary Clinton caused her own investigation to drag on for two years by not submitting her emails for review well-before the primary even began, giving fodder to much talk about what was in them, needlessly, during the years in between her departure from State and the general election. Had she turned over her trove of emails immediately after leaving State, the matter would have been settled long before she threw her hat into the ring.

In contrast, once Michael Flynn was interviewed by the FBI, James Comey had no problem making public mention of his ongoing investigation of Trump campaign staffers and their connections to Russia. He testified about that and more last week on Capitol Hill.

To be clear, James Comey investigated Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server to run her State Department communications from, without the knowledge or sanction of her boss, and afoul of government regulations that were in place before she took office. The Inspector General’s investigation report includes all of the regulations past Secretaries of State were bound by at the time they served.

Hillary Clinton’s Achilles Heel: Poor Judgment and Flawed Ethics | Blog#42

Speaking from her Senate committee n May 10th, the day after Comey’s firing, Senator Feinstein gave an account of the events leading up to and following Comey’s firing:

But prior to this, Senator Dianne Feinstein spent quite a bit of time chastising James Comey during last week’s Senate hearing and, in her line of questioning, seemed only to want to re-litigate Comey’s decision to go public with his investigation of Hillary Clinton. This nearly six months after the election, and at a point in time in which Comey is the only official with the power and latitude to carry on an investigation into the corrupt practices of the Trump campaign and any current or future misconduct by Trump and his acolytes, all the while knowing that a firing on the part of Trump is well within his purview as president?

Feinstein’s interview answers are not only full of partisan bias, but also factual inaccuracies which, in the end, do not support her assertion that she has confidence in Comey:

“President Clinton’s ascent into Loretta Lynch’s plane was, I think, four months before…” (The tarmac encounter occurred on June 27, 2016) “… probably not at all relevant. Should he have done it? Probably not. But knowing him, it was on the spur of the moment and he just did it.” With respect to this thing, here’s the point: there was no new information in the Weiner computer. Now, what do I mean by that? There were 3,000 emails, 12 of which were classified,  and all of which were part of the earlier investigation. So, 11 days before the election, a real October surprise, the FBI director announces an investigation. Why didn’t he just go ahead and get a search warrant and find out what was in that computer before he did it?  Because a great injustice was done. There was nothing new in that computer…”

There are several problems with Senator Feinstein’s reconstruction of events, as told to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer who, as usual, doesn’t have a recollection of events at the ready.

First, Senator Feinstein makes rather crafty use of her familiarity with Bill Clinton’s habits and in a sweeping statement about his intent, clears him of any kind of dishonest intent in boarding a plane he should have stayed far away from, at any and all costs in deference to his wife’s presidential campaign effort. He didn’t and I went over all the facts at the time:

I see you, James Comey! Tarmac Me Once, Shame on You. Tarmac Me Twice, Shame On Me! | Blog#42

But the most egregious portion of her answer pertains to her claim that Comey and his staff failed to obtain a warrant. Here is a quote from my piece linked above, of the contemporaneous account of what immediately preceded the issuance by Comey of his October letter;

“…we are given more information in a Wall Street Journal article, “FBI in Internal Feud Over Hillary Clinton Probe.” This article details a lot of back and forth between top levels at the FBI and Department of Justice. At the center of it all is Andrew McCabe, whose wife’s political campaign was the recipient of a half million dollars contribution from long-time Clinton friend and associate, Governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia. That contribution is what eventually caused McCabe to recuse himself from Clinton-related cases, and the responsibility for their investigation and management to be moved to the FBI’s New York unit. McCabe’s recusal, apparently, did not mark the end of his involvement or the DOJ’s continued contact with him on Clinton matters:

“The latest development began in early October when New York-based FBI officials notified Andrew McCabe, the bureau’s second-in-command, that while investigating Mr.Weiner for possibly sending sexually charged messages to a minor, they had recovered a laptop with 650,000 emails. Many, they said, were from the accounts of Ms. Abedin, according to people familiar with the matter.
Those emails stretched back years…”
“At a meeting early last week of senior Justice Department and FBI officials, a member of the department’s senior national-security staff asked for an update on the Weiner laptop, the people familiar with the matter said. At that point, officials realized that no one had acted to obtain a warrant, these people said. Mr. McCabe then instructed the email investigators to talk to the Weiner investigators and see whether the laptop’s contents could be relevant to the Clinton email probe, these people said. After the investigators spoke, the agents agreed it was potentially relevant. Mr. Comey was given an update, decided to go forward with the case and notified Congress on Friday, with explosive results.”

It is clear from the WSJ article quoted above, that the tensions between the Department of Justice and the FBI are over whether or not to investigate, with the Department of Justice using its power to minimize the FBI’s ability to pursue its investigation, using all possible tools. Without making a judgment as to why this is the case, these DOJ barriers in the FBI’s way are curious. No satisfactory explanation has as of yet come out as to why the FBI director wasn’t in the loop from the beginning. That no one told him anything, in and of itself, is a very strange thing, until one understands that a) while the FBI is relatively autonomous, it is not entirely so, and b) it depends on the Department of Justice for the legal authority it gives it. Without the legal authority to search what it seized, the FBI’s work cannot be completed.”

Comey wrote his letter because he was unable to proceed as he felt he needed to, going through regular channels. Various high-level officials at Lynch’s DOJ blocked his way. That Wolf Blitzer didn’t remember or even know this part of the narrative is unsurprising. It is highly unlikely – neigh impossible – that Feinstein doesn’t know the facts or misremembered them in her interview with Blitzer.

Fast forward to the aftermath of Comey’s firing… When interviewed briefly after news broke that Comey was fired, Feinstein announced that she’d received a call from President Trump notifying her of his action. Unlike her senior Senate colleagues who immediately denounced Trump’s action, Feinstein’s only comment was to say that the Senate would give whomever Trump nominates a fair hearing. Clearly, Feinstein, even as she faces the reality of an FBI under Trump’s complete control, cannot bring herself to say anything that might be construed as a defense of any part of Comey’s tenure, even when it was the last thread of democratic governance in the context of a new, corrupt regime, in a nascent oligarchy under Donald J. Trump. Feinstein, like many of her fellow ranking Democrats, can’t set aside partisanship and, for once, act for the good of the nation. Hillary’s loss must be avenged, no matter what, including repeating a narrative she knows to be absolutely false.

While I single out Senator Feinstein here, it must be noted that she is hardly an outlier when it comes to very harsh criticism of Comey over the past few months. To a voice, her fellow Democrats all turned on Comey in order to protect a failed party and candidate.

As we wait for Attorney Jeff Sessions to get through the very dubious process of interviewing candidates for President Trump to replace James Comey with, we are informed that Andrew McCabe, the current Interim Director of the FBI, is under consideration. Jeff Sessions, of course, recused himself from anything having to do with the Russia investigation. Which brings me to Comey’s interim replacement, Andrew McCabe. who is prominently featured in the same piece I link to above, I See You, James Comey:

“At the center of it all is Andrew McCabe, whose wife’s political campaign was the recipient of a half million dollars contribution from long-time Clinton friend and associate, Governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia. That contribution is what eventually caused McCabe to recuse himself from Clinton-related cases, and the responsibility for their investigation and management to be moved to the FBI’s New York unit. McCabe’s recusal, apparently, did not mark the end of his involvement or the DOJ’s continued contact with him on Clinton matters:

“The latest development began in early October when New York-based FBI officials notified Andrew McCabe, the bureau’s second-in-command, that while investigating Mr.Weiner for possibly sending sexually charged messages to a minor, they had recovered a laptop with 650,000 emails. Many, they said, were from the accounts of Ms. Abedin, according to people familiar with the matter.
Those emails stretched back years…”
“At a meeting early last week of senior Justice Department and FBI officials, a member of the department’s senior national-security staff asked for an update on the Weiner laptop, the people familiar with the matter said. At that point, officials realized that no one had acted to obtain a warrant, these people said. Mr. McCabe then instructed the email investigators to talk to the Weiner investigators and see whether the laptop’s contents could be relevant to the Clinton email probe, these people said. After the investigators spoke, the agents agreed it was potentially relevant. Mr. Comey was given an update, decided to go forward with the case and notified Congress on Friday, with explosive results.”

It is clear from the WSJ article quoted above, that the tensions between the Department of Justice and the FBI are over whether or not to investigate, with the Department of Justice using its power to minimize the FBI’s ability to pursue its investigation, using all possible tools. Without making a judgment as to why this is the case, these DOJ barriers in the FBI’s way are curious. No satisfactory explanation has as of yet come out as to why the FBI director wasn’t in the loop from the beginning. That no one told him anything, in and of itself, is a very strange thing, until one understands that a) while the FBI is relatively autonomous, it is not entirely so, and b) it depends on the Department of Justice for the legal authority it gives it. Without the legal authority to search what it seized, the FBI’s work cannot be completed.”

That was last fall. Last week, in a Business Insider piece, we were reminded that:

“Earlier this year, the Justice Department’s inspector general announced a probe of the FBI’s handling of the Clinton email investigation.

Among the points of inquiry was whether McCabe should have recused himself from the case because of his family’s political ties.

Before McCabe was promoted to deputy FBI director, his wife, Jill, took money from Clinton ally and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s political action committee while running for state Senate.”

Barely a week after lashing out at James Comey in an interview, Hillary Clinton’s reaction to his firing was that there would be no comment. She passed on her chance to act like the mature statesperson her opponent can never be, take the high road and denounce the glaring cynicism underlying Trump’s stated reasons for firing Comey- not as an act of forgiveness of Comey – but, rather, in recognition of James Comey’s place as the keeper of the last shred of a semblance of democracy. It wasn’t to be, however.

It is obvious in this days-old video that Hillary Clinton wasn’t shy about blaming James Comey for her failed presidential bid. Just one week ago, Democratic senators, one after the other, chastised Comey during his appearance at a Senate hearing. Days later, Comey is fired and his deputy, who is now in charge in his stead, is himself under investigation by the DOJ‘s Inspector General for what may turn out to be a conflict of interest.

As we are about to witness the wolf eating the hens in the henhouse, Clinton, suddenly has nothing to say. Clinton’s loss to Trump and her grief supercede the good of the nation, healing after a most contentious election and, most important of all,  ensuring the safety of our nation from those who would betray her in the pursuit of their personal greed.

Comey, by the way, was exonerated, yet again,  in a newly-released study in the context of his influence over the election:

Pollsters Find ‘At Best Mixed Evidence’ Comey Letter Swayed Election

“FBI Director James Comey said this week that he is “mildly nauseous” at the idea that the FBI may have swayed the presidential election results. A new report may ease that nausea, if only a little.”We would conclude there is at best mixed evidence to suggest that the FBI announcement tipped the scales of the race,” wrote a panel of polling experts in a report released Thursday, about the FBI’s Oct. 28 announcement that it was investigating new information regarding Hillary Clinton’s emails.

The new report, from the American Association for Public Opinion Research, goes far beyond the Comey letter, however. More than a dozen pollsters and public opinion experts worked for months to determine what might have led polls to overestimate Clinton’s support. They found that state-level polls were particularly far off from the final election results, leading many forecasters to overestimate Clinton’s chances of winning.”

Clinton’s former campaign manager, Robby Mook, went on Twitter after news of Comey’s firing broke:

Had Mook and his staff not engaged in partisan witch hunts against Comey, especially in the months since the election and focused on ensuring that Comey’s independence was shored up rather than cut down, we might not be in this “Twilight Zone” now. After all, it doesn’t take a genius strategist to figure out that Comey would need support when the Trump administration figured out he was getting close to them in his investigation. If I was able to anticipate this turn of events in February, Mook should have foreseen it by late November.

But, six months out, the Clinton camp is still steadfast in its refusal to take any responsibility for the terrible campaign they ran, or to finally admit that the damage caused by Comey’s October surprise did not do their candidate in. There is no overarching principle or preponderance of evidence that will sway Mook or his minions.

Comey’s critics have been numerous and have come from all corners of the liberal world. Paul Krugman, who wrote no less than 12 op-eds vilifying James Comey in some fashion, between October 2016 and April 2017, following Comey’s ouster briefly tweeted to his followers:

About to close in? That was BEFORE Comey was fired!

The Good Pundit

As legal analyst and writer Jeffrey Toobin said on CNN, everything has changed. Not only can we not trust an FBI that may well end up under the control of Sheriff David Clarke, but even if a special prosecutor were to be named, he would depend on a highly suspect FBI, under the leadership of a Trump crony. This is now where we are.

Ninety-four senators voted to confirm Rod Rosenstein as Deputy Attorney General. Only six Democrats voted against his nomination.  Rosenstein is a Republican career prosecutor from Maryland who, because of Democrats, twice failed to be confirmed by the Senate in previous administrations’ nomination attempts. It is shocking that as many Democrats voted for him this time around, on the promise that he’d name a special prosecutor as soon as it became warranted. Judging solely on the fact that Rosenstein’s tenure at DOJ is only, what, two weeks old, one has to wonder if his oppo research on Comey isn’t part of a personal vendetta. If Comey is his first salvo, we should all cower in fear at what may come next.

The Weasel’s Last Laugh

Ironically, when word got out about James Comey’s firing, President Trump was hosting former Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, at the White House:

I wrote about Hillary Clinton’s relationship with Henry Kissinger last year:

Hillary Clinton Praises a Guy With Lots of Blood on His Hands | Mother Jones

The irony of Kissinger presence in the White House as Comey was being fired is a threefold:

  • Kissinger most famously served under Richard Nixon
  • Clinton considers Kissinger as her mentor
  • Kissinger’s visit now marks the day from which we now counting down to Trump’s downfall

Kissinger, whose influence lingers, past the deaths of most of his former colleagues and former boss, enjoys the privilege of bi-partisan adulation to the point where one can’t help but notice how incongruous it is, especially in as divided a nation as we are, that such a divisive figure as Kissinger could still have this many fans. It is a testament, not to Kissinger’s righteousness, but the power of defense money in politics.

The reaction from legal luminaries has been strong. Here are some priceless clips from Jeffrey Toobin’s appearance on CNN as news broke that Comey was fired:

Rex Tillerson played host to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov the morning after the “Tuesday Massacre.” Among Lavrov’s many talents is a killer deadpan.

As for Senate Leader McConnell’s response on the Senate floor?

Then again, what else would one expect from someone whose wife was made a cabinet member by the president?

In an eloquent op-ed in the Washington Post, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara asks:

Are there still public servants who will say no to the president?

“The encounter occurred in 2004, after White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. and White House Counsel Alberto R. Gonzales tried to overrule Comey’s and Mueller’s legal objection to a secret terrorist surveillance program. When the White House nonetheless sought the ailing Ashcroft’s blessing to proceed, Comey prepared to resign. Ultimately, Comey and Mueller prevailed.

Jim Comey was once my boss and remains my friend. I know that many people are mad at him. He has at different times become a cause for people’s frustration and anger on both sides of the aisle. Some of those people may have a point. But on this unsettling anniversary of that testimony, I am proud to know a man who had the courage to say no to a president.”

A friend reminds me of another anecdote about James Comey, retold in a 2014 60 Minutes interview with Scott Pelley:

“James Comey has kept a memo on his desk to remind him of unchecked government power. Marked ‘secret,’ it’s a 1963 request from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, titled “Martin Luther King Junior, Security Matter- Communist.” Hoover requests authority for technical surveillance of King. The approval is signed by Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

‘The lesson is the importance of never becoming untethered to oversight and accountability.’

James Comey: I believe that Americans should be deeply skeptical of government power. You cannot trust people in power. The founders knew that. That’s why they divided power among three branches, to set interest against interest.

Scott Pelley: With regard to privacy and civil liberties, what guarantee are you willing to give to the American people?

James Comey: The promise I’ve tried to honor my entire career, that the rule of law and the design of the founders, right, the oversight of courts and the oversight of Congress, will be at the heart of what the FBI does. The way you’d want it to be.

James B. Comey’s career as a civil servant ends on the same lofty note it began, casting aside any feelings of partisanship to do the right thing. His place in history, when the dust settles, will be that of a principled civil servant who, at a time of great political turmoil and corruption, did the very best he could to ensure that the truth sees the light.

Thank you for your service to the nation, James Comey!


Blog#42 is supported by the contributions of readers like you. Please support my work.


Related:

Video: May 3rd, 2017 Senate hearing with James B. Comey

James B. Comey testifies at House Select Intelligence Committee, March 20, 2017


Side note:

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve read through a media organization’s archival materials only to notice that key pieces of information are missing.

This CNN timeline of the Clinton email scandal is missing the Lynch-Clinton tarmac meeting. If it isn’t an key piece of the timeline, I don’t know what is! What comes to mind right now is Woody Allen’s 1973 movie, Sleeper, and the way history was portrayed in it. Click here to watch the clip at Turner Classic Movie’s website.