Former FBI Director James Comey confirmed that Donald Trump — a man who has shown himself to be both vindictive and unstable — implicitly used his position as the most powerful person in the country to get Comey’s “loyalty” relating to investigations into former Trump advisor Michael Flynn. In response to this damning information, it appears that the right wing is collectively thinking: “hmm... how can we spin this?”
The ruse started early on in this morning’s public hearing. Senator James Risch of Idaho forged a path that others on the right would soon follow: pointing to Comey’s direct quotes and his thoughts in the moment. The only time you make an argument like that is when you’re so desperate to weasel your way out of being perceived as wrong, that you have to pull a Bubba and debate the meaning of “is” to try and save face.
Risch was very quick to point out that Donald Trump didn’t explicitly “ask” for loyalty... when Trump invited Comey to sit down for a one-on-one meeting in which Donald Trump allegedly said “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.” When an executive tells an employee in a one-on-one setting that they need and expect loyalty, the request is implicit because of the power dynamic at play. It’s clear that it played out: Trump had the power (and admitted to using it) to fire Comey. When a mob boss says “that’s a real nice watch you’ve got on there, be a shame if something were to happen to it…” most interpret that to be a threat, even though it’s not explicitly stated.
This is a classic legal trick usually used by defense attorneys looking to distract jurors when the defendant is backed into a tough corner, a la Donald. The key is to make the person giving the testimony defend their exact words against a literal interpretation of the words themselves. This doesn’t sound like an awful strategy at first — it has swung many jurors to decide in favour of very guilty-looking suspects). In this case, however, Risch and others are looking to strip the story of all context in order to twist the narrative for the less hyper-engaged public.
To say that Trump was not under investigation leads people who aren’t up to date on every aspect of the story to believe that he is free of any wrongdoing. That’s by design.
The right — Trump’s new personal lawyer March Kasowitz included — has been quick to say that there was no investigation into Trump while James Comey was at the FBI. This conveniently leaves out more context: Yes, as of Comey’s firing on May 9, there was no investigation of Trump by the FBI. What’s missing is that there are investigations by the House and Senate intelligence committees, and a private prosecutor answering to the Department of Justice. To say that Trump was not under investigation leads people who aren’t up to date on every aspect of the story to believe that he is free of any wrongdoing. That’s by design.
Back to Marc Kasowitz: in his statement, he said that, “although Mr. Comey testified that he only leaked the memos in response to a tweet, the public record reveals that the New York Times was quoting from those memos the day before the referenced tweet, which belies Mr. Comey’s excuse for this unauthorized disclosure of privileged information and appears to be entirely retaliatory.”
It is in the public record, so I looked it up. The New York Times posted an article on May 11 stating that “Only seven days after Donald J. Trump as sworn in as president, James B. Comey has told associates, the FBI director was summoned to the White House for a one-on-one dinner with the new commander in chief.” Trump made his infamous tape-threat tweet on the 12th (see above). The memo is first mentioned by the Times’ reporting on May 16. This lines up with what Comey said in his prepared statements: “As was my practice for conversations with President Trump, I wrote a detailed memo about the dinner immediately afterwards and shared it with the senior leadership team of the FBI.” Once again, the Trump team looks to leave out context for their own agenda.
For Trump’s loyalists, the testimony is no longer about Trump and any suggestion of his wrongdoing, but the supposed illegitimacy of Comey. Don’t forget: Trump himself literally admitted that he fired Comey because of Comey’s handling (or lack thereof) in the Russia allegations. Michael Flynn, the man in question who is being investigated separately by the House and Senate intelligence committees (not the FBI) has offered to testify if granted immunity (he didn’t get it). Michael Flynn himself even said that “When you are given immunity, that means you probably committed a crime.” There isn’t much left to spin. The whole point here is that Trump has been acting erratically and suspiciously, and one of the checks and balances making up our government is acting accordingly.
The worst part? It’s working. Just look at the headlines on Breitbart’s home page at time of writing: “…COMEY FEELZ HE WAS FIRED BECAUSE OF RUSSIA INVESTIGATION (BUT CAN’T PROVE IT)…” Again, Trump proved it for him. (Oh, and the front-page title has since been changed ― good thing I have a screenshot, shown above.) “STORY CHANGES: JAMES COMEY STATEMENT DIFFERS FROM NEW YORK TIMES DESCRIPTION OF ALLEGED TRUMP ‘LOYALTY’ DINNER” ― the article tries to make the case that Comey’s direct retelling of the dinner with Trump changes the substance of the story that the New York Times published. It’s a hard sell, but you be the judge. “JAMES COMEY HEARING DESTROYS OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE CASE AGAINST TRUMP.” In a lazily written article that features the quote of James Risch’s line of questioning that looked to rid Trump’s conversation with Comey of the relevant context, the writer exclaims that the case for Donald Trump committing obstruction of justice has been “smashed beyond repair.” As stated earlier, the lack of context is purposely misleading.
It is now on the rest of the media to call the right’s bluff. The right cannot live in denial of facts forever... and neither can Donald Trump.