Political Telenovela Playing Out in Washington
June 9, 2017
By Arturo Castañares / Publisher and CEO
The drama that played out this week in the nation’s Capital seems right out of a work of fiction, pitting the most powerful man in the world against an opponent that is, literally and figuratively, casting a shadow on the presidency of the United States.
James Comey, the former Director of the FBI, testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday. His testimony was carried live on the major news networks because they all expected fireworks, and Comey didn’t disappoint. The six-foot, eight-inch-tall former FBI Director is a towering man, and his testimony this week captivated the country.
The live coverage of the hearing gave the public an opportunity to watch and hear from the man that is calling the President of the United States a liar. Comey served for nearly four years as the head of the FBI, after having previously served as US Attorney in New York, Acting US Attorney General, and as a lawyer.
Comey has maintained an impressive professional record of prosecutions and investigations, including having been involved in Governor Chris Christie’s “Bridgegate” scandal, prosecuting Martha Stewart, and investigating Bill Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich, to name a few.
Last year, Comey was criticized for having informed Congress that the FBI was reopening its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email scandal just days before the November election. In the end, nothing changed. Although Comey stands by his decision, some believe his public statements about the investigation led to Clinton’s election loss.
At the time, Comey was hated by Democrats, but hailed by Republicans as a patriot. Even then-candidate Donald Trump said he respected Comey’s decision to pursue the email investigation. In the end, Comey decided there was not enough evidence to prosecute Clinton, and his popularity suddenly reversed among Democrats and Republicans. Comey ended up disliked by both parties.
Comey stayed on as Director of the FBI until he was suddenly and unceremoniously fired by President Donald Trump in May. In fact, Comey found out he was fired when he saw it announced on TV while he was at an event in Los Angeles. Trump didn’t even call him to tell him, nor did he bring him into the boardroom and fire Comey as he had done to so many people on The Apprentice.
Thursday was payback. Comey sat before the Senate Intelligence Committee and gave sworn testimony on his interactions with Donald Trump before and after Inauguration Day in January, and what Comey believes led to his firing. The details were dramatic.
Comey testified that, at a private dinner with Trump just one week after he became President, Trump asked him to pledge his loyalty, making the FBI director uncomfortable. Comey says he was stunned and did not answer.
Just three weeks later, Comey testified, he met with Trump and administration officials in the Oval Office. At the end of the meeting, Comey says Trump asked all the others to leave the room before Trump told Comey he hoped the FBI Director would let the investigation into Michael Flynn go. Flynn, Trump’s ill-fated National Security Advisor, was under investigation for meetings he had with the Russian Ambassador which he failed to disclose, exposing Flynn to possible prosecution.
Comey didn’t commit to it, nor did he comply. Just three months later, Trump fired him.
This week, Comey filled in the details of what happened. He testified that he wrote memos detailing the meetings with Trump immediately after each intersection with the President because he feared Trump would later lie about the meetings.
In his memos, Comey details that he believed Trump’s request to let the investigation into Michael Flynn go was a directive. The only person in the world that can fire the Director of the FBI is the President. The President tells the FBI Director he hoped the FBI would let an investigation go. What else could Comey think Trump meant?
Comey also testified that, as soon as he heard Trump threatened that secret recordings of their conversation might exist, Comey released a copy of his meetings motes to a reporter.
This could be the most compelling piece of Comey’s testimony, yet many Democrats, and just about every Republicans, missed it.
Comey is a career lawyer, prosecutor, and investigator. He took copious notes after meetings with the President to preserve a record of his recollection of what took place in those private meetings.
Now, when faced with the President challenging his version of the story, and threatening to release tapes of the meeting, Comey doubled-down on his notes and testimony.
He is betting his reputation, his career, and, if convicted of perjury, risking his freedom that any tapes Trump may have would not contradict his story.
He called the President a liar, while under oath, on national television. And, he’s not backing down.
Short of actual tapes being played, it seems the drama will come down to which of these two figures the public, the Congress, and maybe even a court, will believe.
The career lawman or the reality star turned politician? Most people have already made up their minds one way or another. But, for some, they know that telenovelas sometimes have surprising endings.
Scandal, House of Cards, and the bad hombres of Reina del Sur have nothing on the Comey-Trump saga.