Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Former FBI Director James Comey’s, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership, tops the best seller list. He’s knocking them dead on just about every major talk show feuding with and name calling Trump, while lambasting the GOP, the sad state of American politics, and rousingly defending the integrity of the FBI. This is all great for Comey and book sales. However, there’s one thing that’s not so great and that’s there’s absolutely nothing coming from him that fulfills even a glimmer of the promise that he had anything that could sink Trump.
Everyone who’s had the slightest interest in the Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, waited with baited breath after it was announced last June that he’d testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. They waited in expectation, even hope, that Comey would drop the bombshell, smoking gun revelation that could provide grounds for bringing obstruction and/or impeachment charges against Trump.
That would have required more than just the memo from Comey in which he asserted that Trump demanded that he stand down from investigations into then National Security Advisor Mike Flynn and the Russia meddling/election connection. It would require that Comey produce a tape or some memo with Trump’s signature on it in which he actually ordered him to back off from the probe. He didn’t produce either. Trump predictably gloated and counter-attacked that Comey had nothing, because there was nothing, and that he had never ordered him to not pursue the probe out of fear that he’d find something incriminating against him. There was even some speculation that Trump had his own tapes of the meeting with Comey. Supposedly, if such tapes actually did exist they could confirm that Trump said or did nothing to impede Comey’s investigation.
In the meantime, Trump has giddily ripped him every chance he’s gotten as a leaker, liar, and a publicity seeking hound. GOP leaders quickly took their cue and piled in on Comey. The Republican National Committee went shrill with it by creating a website, lyincomey.com, to drive home Trump’s tar of him as a serial liar.
Comey notwithstanding, the bar has always been astronomically high to produce anything that could make the case against Trump for obstruction of justice. The Comey memo obviously wasn’t enough. The only real drama then in the months since his firing has been the war of words between him and Trump. This has gotten tons of print ink and hour after hour of cable news chatter. Trump upped the ante in his verbal joust with him by claiming that he “illegally leaked” classified memos about his probe that got Congress to appoint Special Counsel Mueller. So, this made Comey, according to Trump, not only a liar, but also a criminal who should be indicted and jailed. This in turn ignited another big debate over whether the documents were really “classified” and what Comey’s motives were in leaking them to the press. It was just more going around and round the media mill circus between the two.
The ones, though, who have beat the drums loudest for something, anything from Comey, to nail Trump on have been congressional Democrats. The few Republican senators who have raised eyebrows about Trump’s conduct have given absolutely no indication that they see anything in Comey’s dealings with Trump that rise to the level of criminal misconduct. The worst that can happen is that GOP leaders will continue to try and figure out ways to further distance themselves from Trump and figure out more ways to get around his antics to ram through their retrograde agenda.
Does anything he says about Trump, then, really mean anything for the Mueller probe? Yes and no. Trump has been battered so long by the allegations of playing footsie with the Russians to steal the election, engage in sordid business deals, and jeopardize national security in the process that he’s developed effective duck and dodge countermeasures. They include pointed denials, blame and finger pointing at his political enemies, mostly Democrats, and at a “fake news media” that’s out to smear him to bump up ratings. He’s added to that a relentless assault on Comey
However, the “yes” part to Comey versus Trump is that Comey will remain the nemesis who had the dubious distinction of being a key player for a crucial moment in the Russia probe. The one telling revelation about his meetings with Trump that has had some resonance, and possible legal implications, is when Trump allegedly told him at one of the meetings, “I hope you can let this go.” The “this” meaning the investigation. This doesn’t come anywhere near a direct order to drop the investigation. If it was, it could help make the case for obstruction.
For now, Comey will remain a hot ticket item on the talk show circuit. He’ll rack up more book sales, especially if Trump unleashes another tweet barrage against him. However, none of this is enough to sink Trump.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book is, Why Black Lives Do Matter (Middle Passage Press). He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.