By Patrick Brogan
While some of the media in the States make light of former FBI Director James Comey’s evidence in front of Capitol Hill starting shortly, it is serious. Some commentators have said this is just a minor inconvenience to Trump’s plans to change tax regulation and implement policies more favourable to business, but Comey’s written statement before he attends Congress is damning and some say it could lead to impeachment proceedings.
What did Comey Say?
In the seven-page document, Comey outlines what he and Trump spoke about. These are unofficial memos taken after the discussions and were not recorded directly at the time.
6th January, Trump Towers
Comey attended the meeting with then President-Elect Trump and a number of other Intelligence Community (IC) personnel. Comey stayed while the others left and told Trump they were investigating any possible Russian interference in the election, but they weren’t focusing on himself at that time. The FBI‘s understanding is that people may influence or benefit from Russian actions unbeknownst to themselves.
27th January, Green Room of the White House
In this meeting, Comey felt like he was being forced to ask for his job by the President, even though he wasn’t half way through his 10-year-term as director. This would mean he had a reliance on Trump and would compromise the independent nature of the FBI.
After some probing by the President, Comey informed him that he was not reliable in the political sense, but he could always rely on him to tell the truth. Trump responded by saying “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.” They then sat there in silence. Before leaving, the commander-in-chief reiterated by saying “I need loyalty.” Comey retorted by saying he would give him honesty. Trump then said; “That’s what I want, honest loyalty.” Comey then left, unsure of what was meant by that term.
14th February, The Oval Office
Again, this was another meeting of the IC and the Attorney General was also in attendance. And again, they left, leaving Trump and Comey behind. Trump said; “I want to talk about Mike Flynn.” Trump made it known that he felt Flynn did nothing wrong in relation to the Russians, but he had lied to the Vice-President. He went on to say he had other concerns about Flynn, but did not go into the specifics.
They changed the subject and the President conveyed his worries about leaks, something Comey shared. Donald Trump then went back to the Flynn issue. “I hope you see your way clear to letting this go, letting Flynn go. He is a good guy.” He understood this as a request to drop any investigation about Flynn in relation to the Russain investigations. Comey never agreed to this. He felt Trump was not trying to prevent any investigation into himself.
Comey had no way of corroborating anything in these private meetings. He no longer wanted any direct contact with the President and felt disturbed that the AG had to leave this meeting even tough the FBI reports to the AG.
30th March, Phone Call
During this phone call, Comey was told that he wanted things done about the “cloud”, the Russian investigation, over him and said it was very difficult to get anything done while this was still hanging over him. Comey assured him that they were doing everything they could and that Trump still wasn’t under investigation. Trump asked Comey to put it out in the public domain. Comey felt this was not the job of the FBI, especially as their position on Trump could change, i.e. they might investigative him depending on what happened.
In this conversation, Trump wanted to know why the Feds had not made it clear he wasn’t being investigated. Comey said he left it with the Acting Deputy Attorney General and that the DOJ was the proper channel to go through with such actions. Trump said he wanted it all ended and then added; “Because I have been loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.” Comey didn’t understand this, nor did he ask him to clarify.
Rumblings of a Trump impeachment have been voiced since he decided to run for office. Some cited his numerous impending court cases as a place to start, but it has to be added, this was all voiced by Trump opponents. For impeachment proceedings to begin, it must be proven to be not politically motivated and in the best interests of the country.
Any impeachment case must be based on “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanours” and just have to be shown to be an abuse of power rather than a criminal act. Asking the FBI Director to drop an investigation that may in some way infer Trump is an abuse of power, but what the President’s motivation was can only be guessed at, if it ever happened. The major problem is corroboration. Comey himself admitted this is hearsay and one man’s word against another. And impeachments cannot start just on hearsay.
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