If Republicans had any remaining excuses for not investigating the relationship between the Trump presidential campaign and Russian officials, Tuesday night’s news obliterated them. “Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials,” reported the New York Times. “Among several senior Trump advisers regularly communicating with Russian nationals were then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and then-adviser Michael Flynn,” said CNN.
Then again, as Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said Tuesday, it’s not “useful to be doing investigation after investigation, particularly of your own party.” So perhaps the country will have to wait while the GOP decides which matters more -- the party or the truth. In the meantime though, Tuesday also destroyed any excuse for FBI Director James B. Comey’s conduct during the election.
To recap: Less than two weeks before Election Day 2016, Comey announced that the FBI was again investigating whether there were previously unreleased emails from Hillary Clinton on a laptop that she did not own. Comey felt voters needed to know this even though the search warrant showed that the FBI had “no new evidence” that Clinton had done anything wrong. Now we know that when Comey spoke up about Clinton while remaining silent about allegations of contact between Trump’s team and the Russian government, not only were there mere allegations but also concrete evidence that such contact was frequent and ongoing.
It gets worse for the FBI director. The Post reported Tuesday that near the end of the transition from the Obama administration to the Trump administration, outgoing CIA Director John Brennan and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. wanted to tell the Trump team that Michael Flynn had misled incoming Vice President Mike Pence and others on his contacts with Russian officials. Comey disagreed:
The FBI director pushed back primarily on the grounds that notifying the new administration could complicate the agency’s investigation. The bureau, Comey also insisted, shouldn’t be “the truth police,” according to an official familiar with his thinking at the time. “In other words, if there’s not a violation of law here, it’s not our job to go and tell the vice president that he’s been lied to.”
This is, to put it politely, utter garbage. Comey believed that the entire country needed to know that a presidential candidate might be connected to information on a laptop that she didn’t own, but the vice president did not need to be told privately that a key presidential adviser was definitely lying about his relationship with a foreign government. The inconsistency leaves one speechless.
To be clear, Comey’s disgraceful intervention was not the sole cause of Clinton’s loss. But every way of looking at the numbers show that it was the most decisive factor. Without Comey intervening, the Oval Office would be likely be occupied by a different person right now. And with every new revelation, the interference appears less and less justified. The sooner he faces the consequences for his colossal mistake the better.
Readers can find Downie on Twitter @jamescdownie