Following countdown clocks on cable outlets and dramatic claims in the media about what devastating testimony to expect, James Comey sat down before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week. The hearing ended up being a bit of a let-down for critics of President Trump who hoped to get him impeached (or removed via the 25th amendment!) as soon as possible. Comey admitted that Donald Trump had told the truth when he wrote that the former FBI director had thrice told him he was not under investigation in the Russia meddling probe. Comey admitted that Trump had twice encouraged him to get to the bottom of the Russian meddling issue.
But the media chose to run with a dramatically different narrative. That narrative was if James Comey had not proven obstruction, he came pretty darn close.
“Is Trump Guilty Of Obstruction Of Justice? Comey Laid Out The Case,” was the big takeaway from NPR’s Domenico Montanaro.
“Comey Bluntly Raises Possibility of Trump Obstruction and Condemns His ‘Lies’,” exulted the New York Times, describing his testimony as “a blunt, plain-spoken assessment” by a man who was “humble, folksy and matter-of-fact.”
The New Yorker was even more breathless. “Comey’s Revenge: Measuring Obstruction,” wrote Evan Osnos. “[T]his was not a political partisan tossing off a criticism of a rival; this was a career prosecutor, who served Republican and Democratic Presidents, presenting a time line of specific statements from the President that he described as either untrue or potentially criminal.”
MSNBC agreed. And I watched an hour of CNN the night of the hearing with the sober legal analysis of Jeffrey Toobin, who declared repeatedly that he’d never seen such obstruction of justice in the history of the world. I’m only slightly exaggerating.
Most liberal, mainstream media have flipped and flopped on their view of James Comey, in direct relationship to whether his actions hurt Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. They’re currently huge fans, needless to say.
Comey is a man of rectitude, they’re currently saying. A boy scout who is very honest, and good at laying out obstruction of justice cases.
It’s worth looking at a few of these cases, and whether they say anything about his current judgment.
One of the few media outlets that has consistently expressed skepticism about Comey is the Wall Street Journal. When he was nominated by President Barack Obama to be FBI director in 2013, they presciently wrote a piece headlined, “The Political Mr. Comey: Obama’s FBI nominee has a record of prosecutorial excess and bad judgment.” The article described even then Comey’s “media admirers” and a “media fan base” that refused to ask him tough questions. But the Journal had concerns:
Any potential FBI director deserves scrutiny, since the position has so much power and is susceptible to ruinous misjudgments and abuse. That goes double with Mr. Comey, a nominee who seems to think the job of the federal bureaucracy is to oversee elected officials, not the other way around, and who had his own hand in some of the worst prosecutorial excesses of the last decade.
Let’s begin with the case of one Frank Quattrone, a banker who Comey pursued relentlessly on banking related charges without fruition. But while he couldn’t find any wrong-doing on criminal conduct, he went after him for supposed “obstruction of justice” because of a single ambiguous email. Sound familiar?
Before he was indicted, Comey made false statements about Quattrone and his intent. The first trial ended in a hung jury but the second one got a conviction.
That conviction was overturned in 2006. Quattrone was so scarred by the harassment, he began funding projects designed to help innocent people who are victims of prosecutorial overreach or other problems. He said his motivation for supporting such projects was that at the very moment he was found guilty in the second trial, he realized there must be innocent people in prisons who lacked the financial resources to fight for justice. He also started the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
Quattrone has noted with interest the disparities in how he was treated by Comey for a single email compared to his handling of the Hillary Clinton email server scandal.
You might remember Martha Stewart being sent to jail. You might not remember that James Comey was the man who put her there, and not because he was able to charge her for anything he began investigating her for. The original investigation was into whether Stewart had engaged in insider trading. They didn’t even try to get her on that charge. Gene Healy wrote about it in 2004, warning about federal prosecutorial overreach:
comey and griffin are the new poster children for the liberal left. On has to place the liberal left now in perspective. 9/11 moved the world from old terrorist to new terrorism such as this past election moved the liberal violence to street, and destructive violence. the violence of the left is no different than isis-destruction at all and any cost to everyone who does not believe in the liberal mind set. does this sound very familiar?