The Senate committee leadership deserves kudos for maintaining some sense of professionalism, comity, and civility at the recent hearing with James Comey. Chairman Burr and vice chairman Warner demonstrated an effective working relationship in a highly partisan environment. This is the one positive take away from the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing with former FBI Director Comey.
The rest of the day, however, went downhill. Those who watched didn’t see much that would instill confidence or pride into Washington. The star and only witness, James Comey, was anything but a star witness. He did not make America proud. The mainstream media talked about his credibility and integrity. But was it really? James Comey continuously threw people under the bus, Exposing the Washington that the American people have grown to distrust. He proved that Washington is a swamp that needs draining.
The first group of people Mr. Comey threw under the bus was former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the Obama administration. He recounted the directive that he received from Ms. Lynch describing the investigative work surrounding the Clinton email scandal as a matter rather than an investigation. Surprisingly, Mr. Comey followed her political directive even though he felt uncomfortable and queasy about the order. His actions were wrong when he failed to stand up against her political bias. She was wrong to direct it.
The second person Mr. Comey threw under the bus was President Trump. He repeatedly called the President a liar. This is an opinion, not a fact. Mr. Comey also claimed he took notes of their meetings because he assumed the President would lie. Yet he never used this standard with Loretta Lynch or others in the Obama Administration. He characterized the President’s description of the FBI at the time of his firing as nothing but falsehoods. In reality the President was articulating his own opinions, as well as those of individuals like Minority Leaders Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and others. They all agreed Mr. Comey had failed in his leadership of the FBI.
Furthermore, Mr. Comey threw the media under the bus. He characterized the media as frequently erring in its reporting. He called much of the coverage dead wrong. He didn’t call it “fake news”, but he clearly implied that much of their reporting is just sloppy journalism at best.
Lastly, Mr. Comey threw himself under the bus. Not only was he unable to stand up to Loretta Lynch and President Trump when he thought it was required, he also decided to leak personal notes to the media. He leaked information through a third party and remained an anonymous source.
Comey should have taken his notes to the Justice Department or to the appropriate committees in the House and Senate. He chose to take it to the press because his clear intention was to achieve a political objective and damage the President. There are further indications that this may not have been his only leak. This is an issue that should be examined in depth.
The former chief law enforcement officer of the United States will now forever be known as a leaker and a political-manipulator-in-chief. It makes you wonder how our FBI agents feel today.
Other than the performance by the Senate Intelligence Committee, the rest of the day looked very much like the swamp the American people need drained. The former Director of the FBI showed himself to be anything but a fair enforcer of the law. Under political pressure, he succumbed to the wishes of an Attorney General, he continually name-called the President, he exposed the media as guilty of producing sloppy journalism, and he engaged in the unethical leaking of sensitive information. Yes, Mr. Comey uncovered the seamy underside of the Washington swamp. He also very much confirmed himself to be a part of it. James Comey poured salt into the open wounds of America’s distrust of the swamp that is Washington.
Pete Hoekstra is the Shillman senior fellow at the Investigative Project on Terrorism. He is the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and is author of "Architects of Disaster: The Destruction of Libya."