Thursday, May 11, 2017

The James Comey Show

He becomes the latest to disappear into the Clintons’ personal Bermuda Triangle.


By Daniel Henninger
The Wall Street Journal
May 11, 2017

If you read nothing else while fighting through the maelstrom around President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, read the full text of Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein’s memorandum titled “Restoring Public Confidence in the FBI.”

Mr. Rosenstein’s memo makes meticulously clear the short version of this grandiose episode: Director Comey’s behavior violated numerous standards of federal prosecutorial procedure and lines of authority inside the Department of Justice.

Specifically, writes Mr. Rosenstein, “The Director was wrong to usurp the Attorney General’s authority on July 5, 2016, and announce his conclusion that the case should be closed without prosecution.”

Mr. Rosenstein cites a useful analysis of the Comey saga, published in the Washington Post, by former deputy attorneys general Jamie Gorelick and Larry Thompson. Mr. Comey’s conduct, they wrote, was “real-time, raw-take transparency taken to its illogical limit, a kind of reality TV of federal criminal investigation.”

That is an apt metaphor—a kind of reality TV—for everything the dazed public is reading and hearing now about James Comey, the federal investigation into a Russian connection with the Trump campaign, and reveries about Watergate.

But I know where to begin: with the news in March 2015 that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton created a private email server in 2009.

Hillary’s email server is the reason for James Comey’s rise, and why he has fallen. One could populate a political graveyard with figures who by choice or chance have sailed into the Clintons’ personal Bermuda Triangle.

Add to that graveyard former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, whose tarmac tête-à-tête with Bill Clinton about “grandchildren” amid the server scandal caused Mr. Comey to misbelieve, fatally, that he was thereby made independent of any authority.

Again, quoting Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein: “The FBI director is never empowered to supplant federal prosecutors and assume command of the Justice Department. There is a well-established process for other officials to step in when a conflict requires the recusal of the Attorney General.”

But what about the infinity of words produced Wednesday by the press, quoting Democrats and even themselves, that Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey to subvert the FBI’s investigation of the president’s Russia entanglements? We say “entanglements” because nowhere has it been made remotely clear what the Trump-Russia connection may have been. What we read, endlessly, is that some strand or crumb “suggests that . . .”

As with Hillary’s server, there is a Rosetta Stone for the Russia story. It is the Barack Obama/Loretta Lynch decision in January to sign rules permitting the National Security Agency to disseminate “raw signals intelligence” to 16 other intelligence agencies without privacy protections for individuals.

Two months later, it was reported by the New York Times that Obama administration officials had done this to dispense information across the intelligence bureaucracies “about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump and Russians.”

Of course, those “contacts” leaked into the water-collection barrels of the entire Washington press—either from officials inside 17 U.S. intelligence agencies or from Obama officials themselves, such as it-wasn’t-me Susan Rice.

The predictable tumult from the Obama-originated mass leaks then intimidated Congress into sending the House and Senate intelligence committees chasing after these “suggestions” of collusion.

Beyond Mike Flynn and Carter Page, why haven’t we seen more leaks pushing past the original stories? Why have the leakers gone silent, unless they leaked everything they had? Indeed why hasn’t there been a mega-dump into the press by now of all the original NSA “raw signals intelligence” à la the Pentagon Papers?

Instead, calls are now bubbling up from this swamp—what else can you call it?—to appoint a special prosecutor, presumably to get to the bottom of the Russian collusion swamp, though without subpoena powers in Moscow.

No one outside Washington should be misled by the choruses calling for an “independent” prosecutor. This is special pleading.

For the political class it relieves them of responsibility for policing their own neighborhood. The media likes these prosecutors because they become Inspector Javerts, melodramatically chasing their targets for years, more often than not destroying reputations. The Justice Department’s guidelines make clear these special prosecutors are accountable to virtually no one. They don’t produce justice; they endanger it.

The “Trump is Nixon” narrative will rattle on, but it is a sideshow. The Trump White House can take care of itself (maybe). The serious issue revealed in all this—the server, the leaks, the investigations—is about institutional accountability, not just at the FBI, but across the intelligence bureaucracies, their masters in government, Congress and the media.

The American public deserves better than this endless Beltway spectacle. Rod Rosenstein deserves credit for saying that the road back to public seriousness had to start with firing James Comey.


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