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Former FBI Director James Comey reacts after bumping something under the table, during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Thursday, June 8, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
While James Comey is asking for an apology after the DOJ failed to prosecute him for mishandling classified information, the actual facts within the new IG report on the former FBI Director’s behavior paint a damning picture.
One specific revelation involves Comey’s “defensive” briefing to Trump about the Steele dossier, including the infamous Moscow sex allegations and “pee tape.” As Byron York shares over at the Washington Examiner, there’s far more to the story than we’ve been previously told and it essentially confirms that it was a setup.
Let’s dive in.
On Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, Comey, along with CIA head John Brennan, national intelligence chief James Clapper, and NSA Director Mike Rogers, met with Trump in Trump Tower in New York. Together, they briefed the president-elect on the findings of the intelligence community investigation into Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election.
But the group, and especially Comey, had bigger plans than that. Before the meeting, they agreed that after briefing Trump on Russian efforts, the others would leave and Comey would stay to brief Trump alone about the Steele Moscow sex allegation.
Comey and top FBI officials prepared meticulously for the moment. The IG report says Comey had a planning meeting with FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, chief of staff James Rybicki, general counsel James Baker, and “the supervisors of the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election.” (It is unclear who was in that last group, although the now-famous FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page played large roles in the investigation.)
Everything that happened that day ran through the Obama cabal of Brennan, Clapper, Rogers, and Comey. McCabe and FBI counsel were also involved. If that sounds unusual for what is supposed to be a simple briefing, that’s because it was. Trump had already been elected, but instead of just treating him normally, the FBI were planning everything with the hope of Trump providing them evidence for their Trump-Russia investigation, otherwise known as Crossfire Hurricane.
The IG report says the group “agreed that the briefing needed to be one-on-one, so that Comey could present the ‘salacious’ information in the most discreet and least embarrassing way.” But however it was presented, the FBI leaders worried that Trump might “perceive the one-on-one briefing as an effort to hold information over him like a ‘Hoover-esque type of plot.’” That was a reference to the FBI’s notorious founding director J. Edgar Hoover, who relished keeping (and using) embarrassing secrets on top political leaders.
The group discussed how Trump might react. In particular, they considered whether he would “make statements about or provide information of value to the pending Russia interference investigation” known as “Crossfire Hurricane.”
Perhaps Trump would say something incriminating. The FBI officials made plans for Comey, immediately after leaving the meeting, to write down everything he could remember about whatever Trump said. Comey also wanted to discuss Trump’s reactions with top aides immediately. Comey told the inspector general it was “important for FBI executive managers to be ‘able to share in [Comey’s] recall of the salient details of those conversations.’” Bureau officials also wanted to be able to respond if Trump publicly “misrepresent[ed] what happened in the encounter.”
So, preparations were made. “Comey said he had a secure FBI laptop waiting for him in his FBI vehicle and that when he got into the vehicle, he was handed the laptop and ‘began typing as the vehicle moved,’” the report says. He worked on his account as the FBI car took him to the New York field office, where aides had set up a secure video teleconference with Rybicki, McCabe, Baker, and the “Crossfire Hurricane” supervisors. Comey continued to work on his memo after that and sent the group a final version the next day, Saturday, Jan. 7.
In other words, this was a setup.
The intention was not to simply brief Trump as they would a normal president. Rather, they were looking to seed information his way and hoped that he’d then incriminate himself in some manner. Comey was ready and waiting to memorialize the conversation on official channels, another completely unheard of aspect of all this, if Trump said anything they could use against him. The entire thing was an exercise in entrapment that ultimately failed.
Shortly after the meeting took place, it was leaked to CNN, most likely by James Clapper. None of this was a coincidence.
With the hook provided to the news media, the narrative that Trump was a Russian agent who liked his bed peed on by prostitutes was set into motion. For the next two years we dealt with completely ridiculous conspiracy theories, not just daily, but sometimes hourly from the mainstream press.
Comey would try to defend himself to the IG, insisting that there was no leak. As York spells out, that simply makes no sense at all.
Comey tried to talk Trump out of his suspicions. “Comey said that, among other things, he remembered telling Trump that the source of the information was ‘not a government document, and it’s not classified,’” the report said. “Comey also remembered telling Trump that to ‘speak of it as a leak doesn’t make sense’ because ‘a lot of people in Washington had [the information],’ and Comey said he told Trump that he had previously warned Trump that it might soon be published by the media.”
Comey’s explanation was disingenuous at best. Leaked information could be terribly damaging whether or not it was classified. And yes, some media figures had the dossier — Steele had been desperately trying to get them to report it for months. But the media did not know that Comey had briefed Trump on the Moscow sex story. That was the leak that gave the media the go-ahead to report on the existence of the dossier and then for BuzzFeed to publish the whole thing. If it was important enough for the nation’s top intel chiefs to brief the president-elect, wasn’t it important enough for the public to know? It was the leak of the meeting that set off the chain of events surrounding the dossier and the Trump Tower briefing.
This new report is really bad for James Comey. Don’t be gaslit by the fact that the IG found he didn’t give classified information to the media. He was still found to have mishandled it. Worse, his behavior was found to be extremely subversive and corrupt. He was acting as a political actor in all his interactions with Trump from the moment he was elected. The now infamous briefing was clearly just a pretense to try to gather incriminating information on Trump and to provide a hook to the media so the dossier could be spread far and wide.
While much of this stuff has fallen out the limelight since Robert Mueller so thoroughly crashed and burned, it can’t be forgotten. This kind of corruption must be punished. Further, the actions of the media were incredibly abhorrent, with their conspiracy mongering and constant slander. Perhaps all these actors hope people just forget what happened? Time certainly dims outrage, but I have a feeling this is going to linger, as it should.
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