Former FBI Director Comey sat before the Senate Intelligence Committee today to discuss his firing, Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election, whether the President may have been under investigation, and whether the President might have attempted to influence open investigations. The full text is available from Politico, and his written remarks were widely circulated yesterday. So what did we learn from this hearing?
Comey was clear that the Russians were involved in numerous cyber-attacks and other influence operations from as far back as late 2015. This wasn’t really news. He further clarified that he was unaware of any evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives to impact the outcome of the election as of his firing, which was also not new information. He did clarify that the president was not personally being investigated, which is one item that perhaps had not been made clear publicly prior to his written statement yesterday. Comey provided that the President engaged in some one-on-one communications with the former director that gave the impression of possible attempts to obstruct, but this has been discussed since his firing as well. There was little new data, but there was at least the record under oath. So, now, many things we had heard or read have been clarified in testimony before the senate, which perhaps lends them additional weight.
Or not… It depends on which side of the argument you were on prior to the testimony.
Nothing discussed today was of the nature to change your perspective on any of the salient matters related to Trump, Comey, Flynn, or Russia if you already had an opinion. What most people seemed to be hoping for was a definitive closing of the door on the topic of obstruction, and possibly on whether the President or certain key advisors are under investigation. Neither point is any more definitively addressed. While the one-on-one conversations documented by former Director Comey imply a coercive effort to impact investigations, Comey did not allege that Trump directly ordered any sort of action. And while Comey made clear that Trump was not and had not been under investigation at the time of his firing, he also provided that a significant reason for not making that statement publicly in the past was the creation of a “duty to correct” the record if the situation changed. Since investigations are ongoing, the situation could still change, so a statement that Trump hasn’t been under direct investigation up to this point does not inj any way guarantee that he won’t be at some point.
Both major political parties are hailing this testimony as a victory, at least in part, and validation of their support or opposition of the President and his key staff. As entertaining as this was, don’t expect a lot of action on the strength of the testimony provided today. (But watch the tweets…)