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The Comey testimony was this Thursday, and while most of it was spoiled by Comey releasing his opening statement ahead of time, it was still an entertaining watch. While I don’t have exact numbers, judging from Twitter’s response, plenty of people tuned in.
Among those who did not tune in, evidently, were Donald’s Trump’s legal team. A statement by Trump’s attorney, Marc Kasowitz, was released Thursday afternoon, and it’s almost bizarre in the way it attempts to paint the testimony. The full statement can be found below, but in short, it describes the hearing as a victory for Trump — when it was anything but.
Like a good scatologist, let’s pick apart this shit piece by piece and analyze.
This a largely inconsequential typo, but if anything, it exemplifies the level of thought and care (or lack thereof) that went into this memo. It’s in the first line. Any social media intern would have caught this.
“[Comey]… admitted that there is no evidence that a single vote changed as a result of any Russian interference”
Not so fast. Here is what Comey said exactly, from the NYTimes transcript of his hearing:
The question posed is related to election fraud. Senator Richard Burr (R, NC), asked Comey if the votes that were cast in the 2016 election were altered.
Comey did not say that no votes were changed, period — only that those which were cast were not interfered with. While there had been doubts of voter fraud by the Russians, there was a far bigger question of the Russians using social media to influence voters.
Kasowitz’s statement makes it seem like Comey’s testimony refutes that — which it does not. This is a poor attempt to deflect blame, and anyone who was watching the testimony knew what Comey meant.
There is still a wealth of evidence that the Russians did use social media engineering to attempt to change the results of the election. Why bother with trying to change the votes, when you can instead change minds with fake news?
“… the President never…directed or suggested that Mr. Comey stop investigating anyone”
Comey’s opening statement directly refutes what Kasowitz says here. Comey stated, while under oath, that Trump had said to him:
I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.
The statement overall attempts to paint Comey as telling the “truth” — a truth that vindicates Trump — but actively contradicts Comey’s testimony on numerous occasions. Kasowitz wants to have his cake and eat it too, but he cannot portray Comey’s testimony as truthful while directly contradicting it.
Kasowitz’s statement also directly contradicts Comey’s testimony further:
“The President also never told Mr. Comey, ‘I need loyalty, I expect loyalty’… Of course, the President is entitled to expect loyalty from those serving…”
In addition to directly contradicting Comey’s testimony again, the statement defends Trump, then says that such a thing needed no defense in the first place — completely nonsensical.
If Trump had asked Comey for “loyalty,” he should have been fine in doing so according to the statement’s logic — and yet, it denies him doing such a thing, as if it were not permissible in some sense.
And on the subject of loyalty, government officials are not supposed to be “loyal” to a president, as a knight is to a king. Government officials are to be loyal to the government, which is by the people and for the people.
To imply that the president should expect his administrators to follow him personally is creeping fascism.
“Comey admitted that he…. made unauthorized disclosures to the press of privileged communications with the President”
Ah, the good ol’ ambiguity of executive privilege. Nixon tried to hide behind it, and it’s not surprising that Trump is attempting to use the same tactic in the face of impending impeachment.
The issue with Kasowitz attempting to accuse Comey of violating the privilege by disclosing his contacts with Trump is that Trump had already essentially given up his executive privilege by allowing the testimony to go through. Trump could have attempted to stop the testimony by claiming executive privilege, but a court would have likely struck Trump’s claim down (owing to the fact that no judge would let a president try to use executive privilege to cover his own ass). Trump waived his privilege, so to claim that Comey violated some aspect of executive privilege with the testimony or with the leaks is silly.
If the contents of the conversation were actually privileged information, by allowing the testimony to go through Trump can’t really claim executive privilege on documents that have already been released publicly. Never mind the fact that Trump discussed these exact conversations himself publicly on several occasions. If the conversations were truly covered under executive privilege, Trump shouldn’t have discussed them publicly.
“Mr. Comey admitted that he leaked… his purported memos…one of which he testified was classified”
There’s plenty wrong here — not with Comey, but with Kasowitz’s statement. First, I can’t find anywhere in the testimony where Comey says that the leaked memos were classified. Comey admits that some of his memos were classified — but not necessarily the one that was leaked.
Comey is not by any means so incredibly incompetent as to leak classified information to the press as director of the FBI. The contents of his classified memo were likely discussed behind closed doors during the classified hearing held later that afternoon, as appropriate.
Second, Comey should be fine to leak unclassified information to the press. According to CNN legal analyst Stephen Vladeck:
“It’s not generally illegal for former government employees — or their friends — to disclose internal government memos without appropriate authorization,” Vladeck said. “There is no legal blowback here.”
Third, Kasowitz is again attempting to cast Comey in the light of being a liar — at the same time claiming his statements vindicate the president. It’s the textbook gaslighting and hypocrisy we’ve come to expect from the Trump Administration.
Comey did nothing legally wrong in leaking his memos to the press. If anything, he revealed possible obstruction of justice by the president — a fact that Kasowitz and Trump are desperate to hide.
The Whole Perjury Thing
Perhaps the biggest, most underlying issue for Kasowitz’s statement is that it essentially accuses Comey of committing perjury — by directly contradicting what Comey said, Kasowitz is saying that Comey lied under oath. As the head of the executive office, it would be up to Trump and his administration to prosecute Comey for such a crime, if Kasowitz is being serious about Comey being a liar.
Trump appears poised to do no such thing, however, and instead rely on pushing the one thing that Trump said that Comey actually confirmed — that Comey had told Trump that he wasn’t under investigation, yet.
Trump and his legal team want to cherry-pick Comey’s testimony and accuse him of lying, except for when it supports them. It’s yet another blatant manipulation of the facts by an administration which supports whatever “truth” is most convenient for them. This statement is just another heaping pile of bull.