Jim Comey Explains Himself

F.B.I. Director James Comey testified yesterday on the reasons he chose to publicly speak out just days before the 2016 election about the reopened Clinton email investigation.

FBI Director James Comey

In a marathon hearing yesterday, F.B.I. Director James Comey appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee for what was supposed to be a routine hearing but turned into a day-long session focused on Comey’s decision to announce that the Bureau had reopened its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server just days before the 2016 election and its investigation into alleged Russian interference with the election and contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials:

WASHINGTON — James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, sharply defended his decision to notify Congress about new emails in the Hillary Clinton investigation just before Election Day, reopening on Wednesday the still-raw debate over whether he cost her the presidency.

Mr. Comey’s remarks at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing were his first public explanation for his actions, which roiled the campaign in its final days and cast a harsh spotlight on him. He acknowledged that revealing the renewed inquiry and enduring the torrent of criticism that followed had taken a toll.

“It makes me mildly nauseous to think that we might have had some impact on the election,” he told the senators. “But honestly, it wouldn’t change the decision.”

Mr. Comey’s handling of the Clinton investigation is likely to be as crucial to his legacy as his 2004 standoff at a hospital bedside over the Bush administration’s wiretapping. He was then the acting attorney general, and with his ailing boss, John Ashcroft, nearby, he refused the request of White House aides to reauthorize a program for eavesdropping without warrants.

But while the hospital showdown earned him bipartisan praise, Mr. Comey has been widely criticized for his decisions in the final days of the 2016 campaign.

He displayed unusual emotion Wednesday in explaining his motives. By turns animated and defensive, at one point throwing his arms up to punctuate a point, the typically unflappable Mr. Comey argued that he had been left with no choice when he sent a letter to Congress on Oct. 28 disclosing that his agents had just uncovered emails that might have been relevant to the Clinton investigation.

“Concealment, in my view, would have been catastrophic,” he said, adding later that he knew the decision would be “disastrous for me personally.”

Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking Democrat on the panel, pounced on Mr. Comey, saying he had taken a huge gamble in sending the letter to Congress without knowing how the newly discovered emails might shape the investigation.

“We need to hear how the F.B.I. will regain that faith and trust,” she said. “We need straightforward answers to our questions, and we want to hear how you’re going to lead the F.B.I. going forward. We never, ever want anything like this to happen again.”

She demanded to know why his treatment of the Clinton investigation had been so “dramatically different” from his treatment of an investigation into Russian efforts to meddle in the election.

Mr. Comey rejected her claim.

He said that the F.B.I. had confirmed the existence of the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s emails months after it began, and said nothing more until after it was closed. Similarly, Mr. Comey said, the F.B.I. revealed its Russia investigation months after it was opened in the summer, and only after it had been widely reported in the news media. And, as with the Clinton inquiry while it was still underway, the bureau has refused to talk about what it has found with regard to Russia.

“We’re not going to say another peep about it until we’re done,” Mr. Comey said, acknowledging that the inquiry was continuing. “And I don’t know what will be said when we’re done, but that’s the way we handled the Clinton investigation, as well.”

(…)

Wednesday’s proceeding, unlike a hearing in March in which Mr. Comey took the rare step of confirming the existence of an investigation into Russian election interference, was supposed to be routine congressional oversight. But little has been routine for the F.B.I. over the past 10 months, as the dramatic moment from Mr. Comey showed.

Mr. Comey plunged himself into the campaign when he announced in July that the F.B.I. was closing the Clinton email investigation. Though he said he would not recommend charging Mrs. Clinton or her aides, he also criticized her for how she had handled government information. So when the new messages emerged in October, he felt he had to inform lawmakers.

“Somehow, her emails were being forwarded to Anthony Weiner, including classified information,” Mr. Comey said. Later, he added, “His then-spouse Huma Abedin appears to have had a regular practice of forwarding emails to him for him to print out for her so she could deliver them to the secretary of state.”

But several current and former government officials familiar with the investigation said that while some emails had been forwarded, the vast majority had instead been backed up to Mr. Weiner’s computer.

What Mr. Comey saw as concealing, Justice Department officials saw as following the rules. The F.B.I. does not normally confirm open investigations. Senior departmental officials urged him not to tell Congress.

His decision continues to weigh on the nominees themselves, as they made apparent in comments less than a day before Mr. Comey’s testimony on Capitol Hill. Mrs. Clinton spoke of her efforts to grapple with her loss, heaping blame on the F.B.I. and Russian-backed hackers.

“The reason why, I believe, we lost were the intervening events in the last 10 days,” she said Tuesday at an event in New York.

“If the election had been on Oct. 27,” she said, meaning before Mr. Comey’s revelation, “I’d be your president.”

As we’ve discussed before, where you stand on this issue depends largely on where you sit politically and which candidate you supported in the Presidential election. For Democrats and other Clinton supporters, Clinton’s decision to publicly disclose the fact that the Bureau had uncovered what at least appeared to be additional emails from Clinton’s private email server was an unprecedented and unconscionable interference in the election that may well have taken victory away from Clinton by shifting just enough votes in just enough states to hand Donald Trump a victory. This is especially true they argue because Comey simultaneously failed to disclose the fact that at the same time he sent his now famous October letter to Congress, the Bureau was also investigating the twin and perhaps intertwined issues of Russian interference in the election and contacts between people affiliated with Donald Trump. Comey’s explanation, while it honestly does seem to be sincere, will likely be accepted or rejected based on these pre-existing positions.

My own position is basically sympathetic to Comey on both counts. As James Joyner noted in a post last month, Comey was faced with a dilemma when he was advised of the fact that an unrelated investigation of former Congressman Anthony Weiner revealed the existence of what appeared to be hundreds if not thousands of emails that had originated from Clinton’s private server. Either he reveals the fact that the Bureau had reopened the investigation it had closed back in July of last year and potentially impact the election, or he could have kept that information secret until either the reopened investigation was complete or the election was over. With respect to the Trump/Russia investigation, the dilemma Comey faced was whether to comment on an issue that could have a real impact on the election by implying that one of the candidate’s campaigns may be consorting with an adverse foreign power, or to follow standard procedure and not comment on ongoing investigations, especially those involving counterintelligence as is the case here. With respect to the issues surrounding the letter, and as I said in a comment to James’s post , I’m largely sympathetic to Comey’s decision to reveal the existence of the new emails at the time that he did despite the fact that he knew it could have an impact on the election:

It’s worth noting what happened between the July press conference and the late-October release of the letter regarding the reopened investigation. It was just about a week after the press conference that Comey testified under oath to Congress regarding the investigation and the conclusions he announced at that press conference. Among other things, he had testified under oath that the Bureau had examined all of the emails connected to Clinton’s server it was aware of before reaching the conclusion he announced. Once these additional emails were found — apparently as part of a separate investigation of Huma Abidin’s estranged husband Anthony Weiner — he was under a legal obligation to supplement his sworn testimony. Had he not done so, he would have been potentially subject to legal sanctions. To the Bureau and Comey’s credit, they were able to conclude their investigation in a short period of time and a second letter was sent to Congress indicating that there were no new emails found among those mentioned the week before.

As you say, Comey was put in an impossible situation. If he didn’t inform Congress, he’d have broken a promise and thus endangered his own and the FBI’s credibility with Congress and the public and he would have potentially been subject to legal sanctions. If he did, he’d be accused of trying to influence the election. In the end, I think he made the right choice.

This is essentially the same thing that Comey said in his testimony yesterday, and whether or not one accepts it depends largely on whose political ox is getting gored.

With respect to Comey’s decision not to reveal the existence of the Trump campaign/Russia investigation strikes me as equally difficult but just as easy to understand as his decision regarding the Clinton email investigation. It’s worth noting, of course, that there are significant differences between the Clinton investigation and the Russia investigation. In the first case, we’re talking about an investigation that had been closed for three months and which Comey had previously stated under oath to Congress had been thorough and complete in that the Bureau had investigated all of the emails going to and from Clinton’s server and had which involved the questioning of dozens of witnesses, including Clinton herself. The Trump/Russia investigation, on the other hand, was apparently still only a few months old at the time of the General Election and was far from complete. Even today, we don’t really know what the whole story is, and it’s likely to be some time before we do. Additionally, unlike the Clinton investigation, this investigation is essentially a counterintelligence investigation that involves far more sensitive sources and methods that could have been exposed just by Comey acknowledging that there was an ongoing investigation. This is one reason why he was rather circumspect in answering any questions on that topic yesterday, deferring most of them to what would have to be a closed-door hearing where classified information could be discussed. Furthermore, it’s generally Bureau policy not to comment on ongoing investigations out of concern that to do so could impute criminal conduct to people who end up being entirely innocent. Finally, it’s worth noting that, unlike the Clinton investigation, Comey had not previously testified regarding any investigation regarding Russian election interference and didn’t face the same potential legal liability that he did in connection with the Clinton case. Therefore, it was appropriate for him to refrain from commenting on that investigation until it had concluded.

In the end, Comey had difficult choices to make in both cases, and while it’s clear that his decisions with respect to both investigations had at least a marginal impact on the election, I don’t think it would have been good for him to have acted differently in either case.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Donald Trump, Health Care, Hillary Clinton, Law and the Courts, Politicians, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Moosebreath says:

    ““We’re not going to say another peep about it until we’re done,” Mr. Comey said, acknowledging that the inquiry was continuing. “And I don’t know what will be said when we’re done, but that’s the way we handled the Clinton investigation, as well.””

    The problem is that the pre-election announcements and leaks on the Russian investigation did not suggest links with the Trump campaign. Putting Comey’s October statement on Clinton together with his lack of links to Trump, one would be left with the impression that Clinton is uniquely compromised and Trump is clean. In fact, it is far closer to the opposite.

  2. MarkedMan says:

    Crap. At best, Comey chose to put his own interests above those of the country. Or maybe his party. He basically said that he was more afraid of Republican backlash than doing the right thing. I can’t wait until we have a Democratic house and can rake this guy over the coals, rather than the sycophantic fluffing he gets from the Repubs.

  3. Jay Gischer says:

    I think this is a good example of how there’s no such thing as a neutral party. Attempts to stay out of the politics just end up putting you in therm in a different way.

    I mean, yeah, I can understand his reasoning. And yes, he did have an impact on the election, and that probably should make him feel nauseous.

    As an addendum, I think Comey got gamed by the Field Office in New York. There are some strong ties there to Giuliani and Trump. I think they withheld and spun information that the Director saw to adjust the timing of any announcement. They didn’t have a warrant yet? That seems odd.

  4. al-Alameda says:

    Mr. Comey plunged himself into the campaign when he announced in July that the F.B.I. was closing the Clinton email investigation. Though he said he would not recommend charging Mrs. Clinton or her aides, he also criticized her for how she had handled government information. So when the new messages emerged in October, he felt he had to inform lawmakers.

    Someday someone is going to write a compelling account of the 2016 campaign and Comey’s role (whether he likes it or not) in shaping the final result.

    A few points:

    (1) James Comey has been in Washington for a long time and I believe he is accustomed to and enjoys the limelight.

    (2) I also believe that he made a reasoned and cold political calculation in how and what he was going to disclose when he both exonerated and damned Hillary Clinton. I’m of the opinion that he was convinced, as many others were, that Hillary was going to win the election, so he felt free to gratuitously slam her judgment thus giving the Right something to go with.

    (3) How he handled the Hillary-Huma email ‘situation’ was completely questionable, and announced with great fanfare as the campaign was in the final stages. This was roughly analogous to a referee calling a phantom foul in the final 30 seconds of the game – no evidence of a foul.

    (4) I’m still not sure why the Bureau did not announce publicly that it was undertaking an investigation of the Trump Campaign/Russian Influence situation. Comey felt quite free to comment publicly on any investigation of Hillary Clinton, not so with Trump.

  5. @Jay Gischer:

    It’s worth noting that had they filed for a search warrant without a public comment from Comey, it would have been a matter of public record that likely would have made it into the media in any case.

  6. Paul L. says:

    No mention of James Comey’s FBI helping to fund the Clinton campaign oppo research and is now covering it up.

    Still waiting for the “true” Trump Dossier that will get Trump impeached that progressives promised will be soon released.

  7. Paul L. says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    it would have been a matter of public record

    Not with the DOJ using FISA warrants and NSLs.

  8. Gavrilo says:

    The only reason James Comey ever said anything about the Clinton email investigation is because the Attorney General compromised herself by having a meeting with the husband of the target of the investigation.

    Loretta Lynch didn’t compromise herself regarding the FBI investigation into Russia. It was her decision whether or not to go public with that information.

  9. DrDaveT says:

    For Democrats and other Clinton supporters, ClintonComey’s decision to publicly disclose the fact that the Bureau had uncovered what at least appeared to be additional emails from Clinton’s private email server was […]

    Typo there, in addition to revisionist history. “At least appeared to be additional emails from Clinton’s private email server” was not true at the time, and seems to be your own ex post facto rationalization. At the time, it was “emails to and from someone closely associated with Clinton, which might include some from her private server — but we haven’t looked yet, so we don’t know.”

    That’s the key fact you are skimming past here — that Comey did not yet know whether these emails were even relevant to the Clinton case, much less incriminating. If he had merely waited to confirm whether these new emails had any substantive bearing on the case before making his public insinuation statement, there would be no cause for complaint against him, and no grounds for criticism that he did not report to Congress in a timely fashion. Instead, he chose to make a statement that sounded like it was known that these emails created new cause for alarm about Clinton’s behavior — which was unknown at the time and turned out to be false.

  10. Guarneri says:

    Between the lines Comey: I’m not stupid enough to believe WJC and Lynch just “happened” to meet to talk about grandchildren. So I wasn’t going to get caught holding the bag.

  11. michael reynolds says:

    @Guarneri:
    Between the lines Guarneri: I have stuffed my ears full of cocktail onions to avoid facing the fact that my president was elected by a hostile foreign power. But hey: tax cuts for me and no health insurance for the losers, so OK!

  12. SKI says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    First, DrDaveT is right. Comey didn’t know yet whether emails were there when he alerted the GOP. Neither he nor you or James acknowledge that his defense is based on facts he coudn’t have known because he didn’t get the warrant until AFTER he told the GOP.

    Second, and along those lines, you never did respond to my comment in James’ thread and the timeline issues your, and Comey’s defense has. Let me refresh your recollection: 🙂

    Doug accurately notes that Comey had an affirmative obligation to notify Congress that his testimony needed to be updated. I agree and was on this site defending Comey for doing so at the time. The problem is that we later learned more about the timeline which makes that defense problematic and neither you nor Doug have re-thought your initial conclusion…

    Let’s revisit the timeline.
    – Early October, FBI obtains laptop.
    mid-October, Comey and other senior FBI leaders informed
    – October 27, Comey given follow-up briefing
    – October 28, Comey tells Congress
    – October 29, Abedin’s lawyers announce that the FBI had not notiofied them about the l;aptoip or sought permission to review.
    October 30, FBI files papers seeking warrant, granted same day.
    – Nov 6, FBI announces no new emails.
    – Nov 8, election day

    Other facts we have learned:
    – FBI considered Huma a cooperative witness at all times

    So, Comey waited 2 weeks to tell Congress, during which the FBI did nothing to determine whether the emails were relevant, material or duplicative of emails they already had.

    In fact, they don’t seek to begin to find out whether the emails were material until 2 days after they told Congress.

    Once they started to look, it was less than 1 week to determine that there was nothing there.

    So, perhaps you or Doug can explain why Comey needed to tell Congress on 10/28 but not 2 weeks earlier or one week later? Because I can’t see any basis for this breach of SOP that isn’t bad for Comey…

  13. Paul L. says:

    @michael reynolds:

    fact that my president was elected by a hostile foreign power.

    That fact is proven by the “true” Trump Dossier that has been the basis for all the Trump unmaskings, FISA warrants and NSLs.

  14. gVOR08 says:

    Yes, the Trump investigation was still open.The FBI does not comment on open investigations. And Comey had just reOPENED the Clinton investigation.

    As we’ve discussed before, where you stand on this issue depends largely on where you sit politically and which candidate you supported in the Presidential election.

    Sadly True. Just as how you voted seems to determine where you stand on fwcking Russian interference in our election!

    Comey’s statements make it apparent he was concerned about the reputation of the FBI. He has expressed no great concern for the integrity of the election. He said if he didn’t disclose he might hurt his agency, but if he did disclose he might affect the election. That’s why there is POLICY that you don’t disclose if it might affect an election.

    He was so concerned about his agency he expressed concern his agency might not survive if he didn’t speak out. Which is to say he was afraid of congressional Republicans.

    Feeling mildly nauseous seems a deal short of “disastrous for me personally”.

    He says he had no choice. But he had the choice of doing what Justice advised him to do. He seems awfully punctilious of his duty …when it will hurt Hillary.

    He war gamed out the effect of not disclosing and then discovering evidence against Hillary in the Weiner emails. He did not say he gamed out the effect of not disclosing and then finding nothing. Finding nothing being the scenario any non-partisan war gamer would have scored as 90% probable. And this is what in fact occurred. He disclosed and then he found nothing. A scenario he does not claim to have considered. Throughout there is a smell of an assumption that Hillary was guilty of something.

    It appears, as @Jay Gischer: notes, that Comey was manipulated by agents in NY. It is, as you note, likely the warrant, the application for which he could have delayed, would become public, because the NY office would have leaked it to Rudy Giuliani. Comey has said nothing about this and I’ve heard nothing about cleaning house in his agency.

    Do a little though experiment, assume the FBI Director is a partisan hack, but very much wants to avoid appearing to be a partisan hack. At one point he has an investigative report that says no matter how hard they tried he’ll have to recommend no prosecution. At a later point, a critical time in the election, he finds he has new evidence, almost certainly another load of trivia. What would this hypothetical hack do to wound Hillary without it being obvious that’s his goal? How does that differ from what Comey did?

  15. michael reynolds says:

    @Paul L.:

    Oh? Just like the bullshite about Susan Rice?

    You are sucking at Putin’s teat, regurgitating Russian agitprop with the willing credulity of a 1930’s college kid falling in love with communism.

    Your president and your party are engaged in a cover-up of a hostile power’s attack on this country. The FSB is laughing its ass off at useful idiots like you.

  16. grumpy realist says:

    Good comments from Steve Chapman (Chicago Tribune) on the Mangolini:

    Much of Trump’s cluelessness about issues stems from his refusal to make more than a minimal effort at his job. As his comments about Andrew Jackson and the Civil War confirm, Trump is not merely too lazy to learn; he’s too lazy to notice there is anything others know that he might need to. His is indolence on an epic scale.

    And that, on balance, is good news. The people who fear that Trump is trying to subvert democracy, persecute Muslims and dismantle the rule of law can take heart that he won’t put much effort into it. Inaugurating a reign of terror requires a work ethic he just doesn’t have.

  17. grumpy realist says:

    OT: Fyre Festival Fiasco, Part VIII:

    Third lawsuit (basically along the lines of the first.)

    The Experts on Festivals Weigh in.

    Key line: “Everybody got what they deserved.”

  18. MBunge says:

    Since it still hasn’t quite sunk in for some around here, the problem is not what Comey did or didn’t do, or why he did or didn’t do it.

    The problem is that Democrats nominated someone for President WHILE she was being investigated by the FBI for possible criminal prosecution. The risk of doing that is obvious. Whining about that risk blowing up in your face is more than foolish. It is self-destructive.

    And no, it doesn’t matter if you THOUGHT the investigation was nonsense.

    Mike

  19. grumpy realist says:

    OT: Fyre Festival Fiasco, Part IX:

    The Clowns behind Fyre Festival Are Even Stupider Than You Thought

    Anyone who from here on in puts a penny into any project by Billy McFarland is crazy.

  20. Lit3Bolt says:

    @michael reynolds:

    This.

    I don’t think many people have appreciated how insidious this attack has been. The entire right-wing media infrastructure, and to a large degree the MSM, has been told to regurgitate narratives and talking points or else. In retrospect, it was only a matter of time until some outside entity weaponized that.

    The other thing that no one is talking about is this is the fruits of Citizens United vs. Clinton.

    Russian, Chinese, and Saudi money is now fair game in our elections.

    Remember conservatives. You voted for this.

  21. Paul L. says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?”

    I am backing you up.
    The “true” real Trump Dossier contains the smoking gun proof that not my President Trump and the Rethugs engaged in a cover-up of a hostile power’s attack on this country.
    The “true” Trump Dossier will be released or leaked soon resulting in the removal of Trump.

  22. Moosebreath says:

    @MBunge:

    “The problem is that Democrats nominated someone for President WHILE she was being investigated by the FBI for possible criminal prosecution.”

    So did the Republicans. However, due to Comey, we only heard that about Clinton, not Trump.

  23. gVOR08 says:

    @Moosebreath: I fear is that now the FBI will investigate any Democratic prez candidate, as publicly as they can. The Rs have character assassination down to a science and I fear the FBI may cooperate.

  24. michael reynolds says:

    @Paul L.:

    No, but the real FBI report is coming.

    Mike Flynn: lied about Russia connections.
    Manafort: lied about Russia connections.
    Carter Page: lied about Russia connections.
    Roger Stone: Lied about Russia connections.
    Jeff Sessions: Lied about Russia connections.

    So far that’s five Trumpies all caught lying about the same thing.

    And the Trump people knew about Flynn’s lies and yet made him national security advisor. They chose a man they knew had illegal deals with Russia and was also pimping for Erdogan.

    Meanwhile, cretins like you have done an amazing shift from not liking Russia, to loving Russia. It’s like a 40 point swing. Because the murderer Putin gave you what you wanted and you lap it up like the good little puppy you are. If Putin took a sh-t directly on the US Constitution you’d still love him because your mind is incapable of moving beyond, ‘hate liberals.’ Your hate has made you tolerant of treason.

  25. Mikey says:

    @grumpy realist:

    The people who fear that Trump is trying to subvert democracy, persecute Muslims and dismantle the rule of law can take heart that he won’t put much effort into it. Inaugurating a reign of terror requires a work ethic he just doesn’t have.

    Unfortunately, there are plenty of people in his inner circle who DO have that work ethic, and he’s more than happy to farm it all out to them.

  26. gVOR08 says:

    @michael reynolds: Doubt it’ll be a big deal, or in the FBI reports, but Kushner also failed to disclose Russian contacts.

  27. Mister Bluster says:

    OT: Woodstock Music and Art Fair…Total Fiasco!
    400,000 Hippies Screwing in the Mud! Two Dead!

    Promoters declare it a free concert and lose their shirts!

    Tommy James and the Shondells declined an invitation. Lead singer Tommy James stated later: “We could have just kicked ourselves. We were in Hawaii, and my secretary called and said, ‘Yeah, listen, there’s this pig farmer in upstate New York that wants you to play in his field.’ That’s how it was put to me. So we passed, and we realized what we’d missed a couple of days later.”

    All I did was play it. I’m American so I played it. I’d sing it in school. They made me sing it in school…I thought it was beautiful.

  28. george says:

    @Lit3Bolt:

    The other thing that no one is talking about is this is the fruits of Citizens United vs. Clinton.

    Russian, Chinese, and Saudi money is now fair game in our elections.

    While I think there definitely was Russian interference in the election (which I suppose is pretty much the norm in international politics – we haven’t exactly been strangers to interfering in the elections, or even overthrowing elected gov’ts, meaning don’t blame the Russians, blame Americans who voted for Trump), I don’t think money had much to do with it. Clinton vastly outspent Trump in this election.

    However bad Citizen’s United is (and its downright terrible in my opinion), it had almost nothing to do with the disaster that is Trump winning first the GOP nomination, then the presidency.

  29. george says:

    @Mikey:

    Though he seems to get bored of them pretty quickly … how many have already lost influence after just 100 days? Again part of his lack of discipline and conviction. He really doesn’t seem to have any ideology other than “Trump is all that matters”. Its actually pretty bizarre seeing an elected leader with so little interest in politics. I’m convinced he only ran to get more press for his next reality show, and was shocked when he won.

    I’d much rather have Trump as President than Pence (though of course I’d say there are probably close to 300 millions Americans I’d rather have as President than either of them).

  30. JohnMcC says:

    @gVOR08: Oops, late to the dance.

    @michael reynolds: And (FWIW) – Jared Kushner, lied or refused to disclose connections to Russian bankers.

  31. michael reynolds says:

    Yep, I forgot Jared. And who can forget Jared, Trump’s babysitter?

    Yesterday Comey confirmed in a little-remarked-upon moment that the FBI was ‘co-ordinating’ with the federal prosecutor in eastern Virginia. (Read: DC.) And there are persistent rumors of at least one Grand Jury in that jurisdiction, looking at a RICO case and a Foreign Agents plus RICO case, targeting between 28 and 42 members of the Trump administration.

    I have believed from the start that this did not originate as an election-stealing deal for Trump, but as money-laundering. Recall that Trump’s casino was fined 10 million for failing to enforce anti money-laundering laws. Recall as well that Manafort definitely fits the profile of a money-launderer, washing Russian mob money through Cypriot banks.add the fact that Trump loves him some debt, and had run out the string on major banks.

    My suspicion – and that’s all it is – is that:

    1) Trump used dirty Russian money laundered by Manafort.
    2) Putin found out.
    3) Putin thought, OMG, this is like a totes amazoid opportunity!
    4) Backed Trump, figuring he’d either win and be owned, or lose and Putin would still have done damage to the US.

    To this day Trump has never, not even once, criticized Putin by name. His Syria bombing run was kabuki which did no damage to either Putin or Assad.

  32. george says:

    @michael reynolds:

    To this day Trump has never, not even once, criticized Putin by name.

    Though I tend to agree with your scenario, that’s actually a (minor) point against the case that Trump is being controlled by Putin. Putin is a lot of things, but he’s no dummy; I’d expect him to order a foreign puppet to criticize him on minor things just to muddy the trail.