Posted tagged ‘Comey memos’

DeSantis: House Intel Committee Has Brought in Some ‘Big Names’ to Answer Questions About Leaks

July 16, 2017

DeSantis: House Intel Committee Has Brought in Some ‘Big Names’ to Answer Questions About Leaks, PJ Media, Debra Heine, July 16, 2617

House Judiciary Committee member Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) said that the House Intelligence Committee has already brought in some “big names” — “more than the press knows” — to answer questions about leaks of classified information to reporters.

When asked by Hugh Hewitt on MSNBC Saturday morning whether the committee was planning to call up Obama’s former “foreign policy guru,” Ben Rhodes, DeSantis said that he’s spoken to the committee’s chairman, Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, about Rhodes but that he would defer to Gowdy to identify people of interest in the leak investigation.

DeSantis, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the House Judiciary Committee, and the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said in an interview with the Washington Free Beacon last week that President Trump needs to purge Obama holdovers still working in the federal government.

DeSantis told the Beacon that “the holdovers and their allies outside the White House are responsible for an unprecedented series of national security leaks aimed at damaging the Trump administration’s national security apparatus.”

He singled out Obama’s chief propagandist, Ben Rhodes, as the person responsible for most of the leaks and called on Congress to press Attorney General Jeff Sessions and others to make sure they are looking into the situation.

DeSantis told Hewitt that he has drafted a letter to send to Sessions, asking that he investigate the leaks.

So I’ve prepared a letter. We’re going to be sending that next week, I imagine I’ll have a number of my colleagues joining it, asking the Justice Department to look into all these things, but then report back to us whether they are doing it or not, because, Hugh, you know, you’re very knowledgeable in national security.

We have certain intelligence authorities that are coming up for review this year. And if you don’t have anyone, say, being prosecuted for the Michael Flynn leaks, that was FISA material, then you’re not going to be able to do things like reauthorize 702 of the FISA statute, which is due by the end of the year. So I think if there’s no action being taken, I think it actually has a big effect on what we’re able to do in Congress.

And I’m somebody, I want to empower our intelligence agencies. I think it’s very important. But it’s very difficult to make that case to the American people if that information is then being used for domestic political warfare.

Asked if he would call Rhodes in to testify, DeSantis replied:

I’ve talked to Chairman Gowdy about it, and remember, they are doing things on the Intelligence Committee, and they’re doing a lot more than what the press knows in terms of some of the people that they have brought in. And they’ve brought in some pretty big names that I’m not authorized to say. So I want to defer to his judgment about whether that would be more appropriate in terms of the leak investigation that they’re doing on the Intelligence Committee. But I would like to bring him in to talk to him about it, because I want to figure out how all this information was getting out from the FISA intercept on…

DeSantis differentiated between the leaks that are coming from Obama holdovers in the Trump administration and standard “whistleblower” leaks.  These leaks, he argued, are an attack on the president.

“It’s not just people are leaking because they think something was wrong with the government and they want some sunlight,” DeSantis explained. “But this is concerted leaks designed to attack the sitting president. So I think the character of the leaks are different, and I think Comey’s leaks are part of that bushel.”

He cited as an example how conversations Trump has had with a foreign leaders have gone through the National Security Council and somehow ended up on the front page of the newspaper.

“And so we’ve gotten lot of information saying look, there’s only so many places that would come from,” the congressman said. “And the Obama holdover working with Rhodes, that’s a place we’ve been encouraged to look. So I want to look at that, because I think that it’s distorted the president’s ability to simply conduct foreign relations if there’s going to be selective leaking of his conversations with foreign leaders in ways that are damaging to him or at least purporting to damage him. That’s not the way we want our government to function.”

To answer his final question, Hewitt called on DeSantis to use his “prosecutorial chops”:

“If you had to guess who was going to get indicted, if anyone – Donald Trump Jr., James Comey or Ben Rhodes — what would your guess be?” he asked.

DeSantis answered: “I want to know what are in those Comey memos and see whether there’s classified information. I mean, I don’t think Donald Trump Jr. is going to get indicted. I think he had a meeting. I don’t think a criminal offense was committed. In terms of the political judgment, I think that’s fair to criticize. But I don’t think that there was a crime committed there.”

He forgot to mention Rhodes.

 

Printing The Legend: The Growing Gap Between Comey’s Image and Actions

July 12, 2017

Printing The Legend: The Growing Gap Between Comey’s Image and Actions, Jonathan Turley’s Blog, Jonathan Turley, July 12, 2017

(The media created the false Comey legend. Having created it, the media continued to rely on it, along with the false legend it created about Trump. — DM) 

In one of my favorite Westerns, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” Jimmy Stewart reveals to a reporter that he was not the man who killed villain Liberty Valance — a legend that transformed him from a perceived coward to an inspiration hero and resulted in his being elected U.S. senator and ambassador to Great Britain. The seasoned reporter listens to the whole story, but in the end says that he will not print it.

He states the rule simply as “[w]hen the legend becomes fact…print the legend.” In many ways, James Comey is the Jimmy Stewart of the media production of “The Man Who Shot Lying Trump.” From the outset, reporters and Democrats (who had been calling for Comey’s firing or questioning his judgment) declared him to be the man who fearlessly stood up to a president demanding loyalty pledges and discarding legal and ethical standards.

It seems that in both Westerns and politics, you print the legend.

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Below is my column in the Hill Newspaper on the curious coverage surrounding James Comey and his leaking of his memos on meetings with President Donald Trump.  With the confirmation hearings of Comey’s replacement, Chris Wray, today, the status of the memos may come up in the Senate.

Here is the column:

In one of my favorite Westerns, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” Jimmy Stewart reveals to a reporter that he was not the man who killed villain Liberty Valance — a legend that transformed him from a perceived coward to an inspiration hero and resulted in his being elected U.S. senator and ambassador to Great Britain. The seasoned reporter listens to the whole story, but in the end says that he will not print it.

He states the rule simply as “[w]hen the legend becomes fact…print the legend.” In many ways, James Comey is the Jimmy Stewart of the media production of “The Man Who Shot Lying Trump.” From the outset, reporters and Democrats (who had been calling for Comey’s firing or questioning his judgment) declared him to be the man who fearlessly stood up to a president demanding loyalty pledges and discarding legal and ethical standards.

The problem with that narrative is not the criticism of the actions of President Trump, but the consistent efforts to ignore the equally troubling actions of former FBI Director Comey. Yet, if Trump was to be the irredeemable villain, Comey had to be the immaculate hero. The script glitch centered on three allegations — all of which were actively denied by legal experts. First, Comey leaked memos of his meetings with Trump. Second, those memos constituted government material. Third, the memos were likely classified on some level.

Yes, the memos were leaked.

As I previously wrote, various legal experts went on the air on CNN and other cable news programs to dismiss the allegation (that a few of us printed) that Comey “leaked” his now famous memos detailing meetings with the president. Experts declared that leaks by definition only involve classified information — a facially ridiculous position that was widely stated with complete authority. Whether someone is prosecuted for a leak is a different question but a leak is the release of nonpublic information, not just classified information. University of Pennsylvania Law Professor Claire Finkelstein, CNN Legal Analyst Michael Zeldin, Fordham Law Professor Jed Shugerman, and others dismissed the notion that such memos could be deemed “leaks.”

Comey was a leaker, and he leaked for the oldest of motivations in Washington: to protect himself and hurt his opponents. Comey knew he would be called before the Congress and that these memos would be demanded by both his own former investigators as well as congressional investigators. That could have happened in a matter of days but Comey decided to use a friend to leak the content of the memos to the media (after giving the memos to his friend). In doing so, Comey took control of the media narrative and was lionized by the media.

Recently, the Senate Homeland Security Committee released a majority report that correctly referenced the Comey “leaks.” The report detailed a massive increase in leaks against the Trump administration but highlighted the leak by Comey. What makes that reference most troubling is that Comey was the person with the responsibility to find the leakers in the Trump administration. Yet, after the president expressly asked him to find leakers, Comey became a leaker himself. Moreover, as FBI director, Comey showed no particular sympathy to leakers and his department advanced the most extreme definitions of what constituted FBI information.

Yes, the memos were government property.

When some of us noted that these memos clearly fell within the definition of FBI information and thus they were ostensibly government (not private) property, there was again a chorus of experts dismissing such allegations against Comey. Asha Rangappa, a former FBI special agent assured CNN that these constitute merely “personal recollections” and would not fall into the definition of government material. Others joined in on the theme that these were like a “personal diary” and thus entirely his private property. Obviously, removing FBI material would not be a reaffirming moment for the Beltway’s lone, lanky hero. But that is what he did.

All FBI agents sign a statement affirming that “all information acquired by me in connection with my official duties with the FBI and all official material to which I have access remain the property of the United States of America” and that an agent “will not reveal, by any means, any information or material from or related to FBI files or any other information acquired by virtue of my official employment to any unauthorized recipient without prior official written authorization by the FBI.”

These were memos prepared on an FBI computer about a meeting on an FBI investigation with the president of the United States in the Oval Office and other locations. The contents were important enough that Comey immediately shared them with his highest management team and consulted on how to deal with the information.

The FBI has now reportedly confirmed that the memos were indeed government property. The Hill, quoting “officials familiar with the documents,” has reported that the FBI has told the Congress that these memos are indeed government documents.

Yes, the memos were classified.

If Comey did leak government property, a third issue was whether the information was considered classified. Once again, the classified status does not determine if this was a leak (it was) or if it was government information (it was). However, many experts insisted that the material was clearly unclassified.

Comey’s representation of the unclassified status struck me as highly questionable at the time. I noted that the information would have likely been classified on some level, including “confidential” under governing standards. Moreover, FBI employees are not given free license (or sole authority) to write things in an “unclassified fashion.” That is why there are classification reviews. Information coming out of meetings with the president are routinely classified, let alone information deemed material to pending investigations.

As I noted earlier, the standards that Comey enforced as director belied his own account. The FBI restricts material generated in relation to investigations as “FBI information.” FBI rules cover any “documents reflecting advisory opinions, recommendations and deliberations comprising part of a process by which governmental decisions and policies are formulated.” Under the Freedom of Information Act, the FBI routinely claims this type of information as either classified or privileged or both.

Comey however repeatedly assured the Senate that there was nothing classified or privileged in the memos. In an exchange with Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Comey said, “Well, I remember thinking, this is a very disturbing development, really important to our work. I need to document it and preserve it in a way — and — and this committee gets this, but sometimes when things are classified, it tangles them up. It’s hard…” Then Warner interrupted to say, “Amen.”

However, the issue was not the writing of the memos but their removal from the FBI and their leaking to the media. There is a reason why “sometimes when things are classified, it tangles them up.” It is called classification review. That does not give you license to transfer the information into a separate document and declare it a “Dear Diary” entry. That is a loose interpretation that Comey as FBI director never afforded to his subordinates and it would effectively gut the rules governing privileged and classified information.

Not surprisingly, The Hill reported that indeed the memos have been declared classified by the FBI. The newspaper maintains that four of the memos had markings indicating they contained classified material at the “secret” or “confidential” level. It is not clear whether the memos leaked to Comey’s friend and then the media included these memos or contained classified or privileged information.  However, the finding shows that Comey was wrong in claiming that he wrote the memos to avoid any classified information and the removal of the classified memos constitutes a violation of federal rules and FBI protocols.

None of this takes away from the seriousness of Comey’s allegation or the need to investigate possible obstruction of justice. However, it does raise serious questions about own Comey’s judgment and the legality of his actions. Yet, the coverage on these findings has largely been crickets.

It is much like that final scene in “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”? After Jimmy Stewart unburdened himself that he was a fraudulent hero, he boarded the train back to Washington and thanked the conductor for his kindness. The conductor simply responded, “Nothing’s too good for the man who shot Liberty Valance!”

It seems that in both Westerns and politics, you print the legend.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. He was cited in the Senate Homeland Security Committee report on media leaks during the Trump administration.

The views expressed by contributors are their own ad are not the views of The Hill.

Congressional Hearings and Witch-Hunts

June 13, 2017

Congressional Hearings and Witch-Hunts, Front Page MagazineBruce Thornton, June 13, 2017

America’s longest running soap opera is not General Hospital. It’s the Congressional Hearing, usually a venue for pontificating, show-boating, histrionics, preening for the cameras, insulting political enemies, and accomplishing little of value. Meanwhile the real work of the Republic either gets neglected or proceeds in silence at a glacial pace.

James Comey was the star of last week’s latest episode of the eternal DC soap. The one-time FBI director stayed true to his character, preening morally, striking Boy Scout poses, indulging faux-folksy interjections like “Lordy,” pretending to be sober and judicious, but all the while revealing the instincts of a bureaucratic cartel sicaria. He was obviously thirsting for revenge against the hated DC outsider and “liar” who unceremoniously fired him, so much so that he admitted to cowardice on multiple occasions, from failing to immediately confront Trump over his supposed sinister “direction” (Comey’s translation of Trump’s “hope”) that Mike Flynn get let off the hook; to his groveling obedience to AG Loretta Lynch’s politicized, justice-obstructing order to call the investigation into Hillary Clinton a “matter.” He displayed a brazen arrogance in admitting to leaking a memo, written in his professional capacity, to the New York Times through a cut-out, perhaps one of numerous other leaks emanating from this self-proclaimed pillar of professional rectitude even before he was fired.

So we got a few more details about a man we already knew was a publicity hound and power -hungry operator. But that portrait was painted back in July of last year, when Comey publicly laid out the predicates for an indictment of Hillary Clinton, then usurped the authority of the AG to let Hillary (and Loretta “Tarmac” Lynch) off the hook based on a legally irrelevant consideration of “intent.” The only thing interesting last week was watching how far Comey would debase himself to square the many duplicitous circles he had spun over the last few years.

Great fun for political junkies, but what useful purpose will be served by that spectacle? The media are happy, since they get free programming and more chum for their talking heads. They’re celebrating the 19 million viewers who supposedly tuned in, though that sum represents a little more than 10% of registered voters. Normal citizens were working their jobs and tending to their lives. From their perspective, the drama inside the Beltway cocoon is bureaucratic white noise. If they think about it at all, it’s to wonder whether the guilty leakers will be hunted down and punished, or just be “investigated” for months and months and then, like Hillary, given a pass. And Hillary is just one of numerous miscreants that need exposing and punishing for their corruption of the public trust in order to serve their political preferences or careerist ambitions.

Don’t hold your breath. More likely we’ll see a repeat of the 2003 Valery Plame inquisition, that ginned-up crisis about the illegal “exposure” of an alleged “covert” CIA agent. By the time it was all finished, Comey’s buddy Patrick Fitzgerald who, despite knowing the true identity of the leaker, like some low-rent Javert for three years hounded White House staffers until Lewis “Scooter” Libby was questionably convicted of four crimes. So fat chance the biggest offender of all, Hillary Clinton, will ever answer for putting national security at risk and treating the State Department like an ATM. Some small-fry staffers might get caught in the net, but the whales will just swim right through.

What’s really maddening, though, is that we’re into the second year of Trump’s critics still being infuriated by his style, even as they ignore or downplay the much grosser offenses of numerous Democrats. Much of the whole “Russia collusion” fantasy has been generated by Trump’s refusal to abide by the media and establishment-created protocols presidents are supposed to follow. Republican Trump critics are just as bad, still not figuring out that their fealty to exalted “protocols” and good taste are just what energized ordinary citizens, those folks grown sick of bipartisan elites who seemed to have more in common with each other than with the people they’re supposed to represent.

So, for example, we hear once again from the Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan––who seems bent on spending the rest of her career playing Margaret Dumont to Trump’s Groucho Marx––whining about Trump’s asking Comey for “loyalty.” “Presidents don’t lean on FBI chiefs in this way,” Noonan sniffed. “It is at odds with traditional boundaries, understandings and protocols.” Really? Sez who? LBJ probably applied worse pressure than that before lunch every day. And few presidents “leaned on” J. Edgar Hoover only because the G-man had some pretty thick files on them.

As for “traditional boundaries, understandings and protocols,” where do they come from? Andrew Jackson? Political decorum and comity are good things, but in democratic politics they usually serve as gate-keepers separating the elites from their clients. They also are camouflage for disguising collusion or incompetence or inaction. They’re just the air-freshener for the political sausage factory. What matters is getting the sausage made.

But the only rule-book that matters is the Constitution. And it says a president can fire any executive employee, including the head of the FBI, any way he wants and for any reason he sees fit. The FBI is a federal agency, not a separate arm of the government, answerable to the Chief Executive, who, unlike Comey or Lynch, is directly answerable to the sovereign people. If they’re unhappy with the president’s tweets or brashness or actions, they’ll let him and his party know at the ballot box.

And that’s what’s objectionable about these opera-buffa “hearings.” The media and politicians are obsessing over superficial issues of presidential style, progressive fake news, and he-said-he-said squabbles, while the real work that needs to get done is being neglected. And Obama left behind some huge messes that Trump promised to clean up. We don’t need “hearings” about Russian interference in the election. That’s a dog-bites-man story. Just shoot the dog by increasing cyber-security, and stop talking about it. We don’t need hearings about alleged “Russian collusion” with the Trump campaign. Just shut up, investigate, and if necessary charge, prosecute, and convict the guilty. Ditto with the federal agencies leaking like a colander, the only substantive story in the Trump-and-Comey puppet show.

All of us need to get focused and hold the politicians’ feet to the fire and to make them deliver the changes necessary for restoring economic growth, reforming our broken health-care system, and straightening out our Kafkaesque tax code. These are hard problems with harder solutions, but they won’t get fixed if Congress is off mugging for television cameras or taking the whole month of August off.

Many Congressmen assure us that they are hard at work below the media’s radar. I hope that’s true, because if the Republicans and Trump fail to deliver on his promises with substantial change, we might see in our country a reprise of what just happened in England’s snap election, where a hard-left buffoon perhaps fatally wounded the Tories’ government. Trump promised to win so much the people will get sick of winning. He’d better make it happen, or else the people who put him in office will get sick of him. And our own country has plenty of hard-left buffoons itching to take his place.

Gohmert: Obama DOJ, Not the Russians, Tried to Influence Presidential Election

June 12, 2017

Gohmert: Obama DOJ, Not the Russians, Tried to Influence Presidential Election, Breitbart, Penny Starr, June 11, 2017

 

In an appearance on Fox News Channel’s “America’s News HQ” on Sunday, Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-TX) said that if anyone interfered with the 2016 presidential election, it wasn’t the Russians but the Department of Justice.

He specifically named former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former FBI Director James Comey.

Gohmert referred to Comey’s testimony last week before the Senate Intelligence Committee where he said Lynch had told him to refer to the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information as a “matter,” rather than an “investigation,” even though Clinton was under investigation.

Comey said that led him to publicly announce the end of the Clinton investigation in July 2016.

“At best, it was an attempt to manipulate the election, not by the Russians in this case, but by the Department of Justice – the Attorney General herself – because that came from Comey,”  Gohmert said.

“[Comey] totally ruined his own credibility – or what was left of it,” Gohmert said. “He did vast damage and raised big red flags and questions over Loretta Lynch’s job as head of the Justice Department.

“[Lynch] was using her official position to help the campaign of Hillary Clinton and that didn’t seem to bother him enough to do a memo,” Gohmert said.

Gohmert said this should be the subject of a congressional investigation.

“We need to round up all those people [Comey] talked to – because we have a conspiracy remaining afoot in the Department of Justice that is going to be out to destroy this president and they’ve got to be fired if not worse.”

Corruption and Collusion: Obama, Comey, and the Press

June 11, 2017

Corruption and Collusion: Obama, Comey, and the Press, PJ Media, Andrew Klacan, June 11, 2017

Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

My point is simply this: when you are listening to Comey, and when you are listening to the news media sanctifying Comey or indeed demonizing Trump, just remember who it is you are listening to: unindicted co-conspirators in an administration that was rotten to the core.

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It now seems clear that Barack Obama was a corrupt machine politician in the worst Chicago mold. He used the IRS to silence his enemies, and the Justice Department to protect his friends. His two major “achievements” — a health care law that doesn’t work and a deal that increased the power and prestige of the terrorist state of Iran — were built on lies to the public and manipulation of the press. And that’s according to his own allies! Only the leftist bias and racial pathology of the media kept his administration from being destroyed by scandal, as it surely would have been had he been a white Republican.

I don’t mention this to bring up old grudges, but for what it says about the current moment and the week just passed. Here’s some of what we recently learned:

Former FBI Director James Comey’s Senate testimony concerning former Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s corruption confirmed our worst suspicions about the Obama DOJ. In an apparent attempt to help Hillary Clinton’s campaign, Lynch told Comey to refer to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s abuse of classified material as “a matter” rather than an investigation. And, as we already knew but Comey confirmed, Lynch’s secret tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton so underscored Comey’s sense of her crookedness that the self-serving drama queen Comey actually went around her to publicly declare Hillary guilty-but-not-guilty.

“It won’t get much attention, but that was pretty damning,” said CNN’s John King of Comey’s testimony about Lynch. You can translate “it won’t get much attention” into “we won’t give it much attention.”

But all that was nothing compared to the brutal, nearly 300-page report released last week by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, a report absolutely blasting the previous Obama AG, Eric Holder. The report details how Holder and the Obama administration labored to cover up the details of the Fast and Furious gun-running scandal — a scandal which, unlike the non-collusion-with-Russia non-scandal, was implicated in the murder of an American law officer. Even the mom of the slain officer couldn’t get the truth out of Holder and his cronies. The report says Holder considered the officer’s family a “nuisance” because they were trying to get him to tell them how exactly the lawman died at the hands of gangsters who were wielding guns Obama’s DOJ had allowed them to buy.

We’ve heard a lot from Comey and the press this week about the precious independence of the Justice Department. And yet Attorney General Holder once said, “I’m still the president’s wing-man, so I’m there with my boy.” Holder was also the first attorney general ever to be held in contempt of Congress for not turning over documents relating to Fast and Furious. And, speaking of obstruction of justice — we were speaking of obstruction of justice, weren’t we? — President Obama asserted executive privilege to make it easier for Holder to keep those docs in the dark. Hey, nothing’s too good for the president’s wingman!

What a sleazy bunch they were! Hiding their corruption behind the color of their skin. Criticized for Fast and Furious in 2011, Holder said: “This is a way to get at the president because of the way I can be identified with him, both due to the nature of our relationship and, you know, the fact that we’re both African-American.” What a sleazy bunch.

So let’s remember. Obama is the nefarious machine pol who appointed James Comey to head the FBI in the first place. This is the Comey who took no notes when he spoke with Obama, no notes when he questioned Hillary about her emails, no notes, apparently, during the cover-up conversation with Lynch that left him with “a queasy feeling,” but who suddenly began documenting his exchanges with Trump — exchanges that Trump says never happened. This is the Comey who let Hillary off the hook because he somehow knew she didn’t intend to share classified information (a matter that doesn’t exist in the relevant law), but who cannot comment on whether Donald Trump intended to obstruct justice when Trump expressed his hopes about an investigation.

And the Obama administration — this crooked gang of liars and colluders — this is the gang that was deemed “scandal free” by virtually every “mainstream” news outlet. Indeed, investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson had to leave CBS News in large part because CBS would not run her work on Fast and Furious.

My point is not to excuse Trump for any of his inappropriate and sometimes boorish behavior. I hope he learns better. My point is simply this: when you are listening to Comey, and when you are listening to the news media sanctifying Comey or indeed demonizing Trump, just remember who it is you are listening to: unindicted co-conspirators in an administration that was rotten to the core.

Loretta Lynch, Swamp Thing

June 10, 2017

Loretta Lynch, Swamp Thing, American ThinkerDaniel John Sobieski, June 10, 2016

(Please see also OPINION: The damaging case against James Comey. — DM)

Arguably, the most interesting part of the testimony of James Comey, the cowardly lion of the criminal justice system, before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday is not that President Trump was cleared of even a scintilla of corruption and obstruction of justice but that President Obama’s Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, is up to her eyeballs in both. As the Daily Caller reports:

Loretta Lynch, the former attorney general under Barack Obama, pressured former FBI Director James Comey to downplay the Clinton email server investigation and only refer to it as a “matter,” Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday.

Comey said that when he asked Lynch if she was going to authorize him to confirm the existence of the Clinton email investigation, her answer was, “Yes, but don’t call it that. Call it a matter.” When Comey asked why, he said, Lynch wouldn’t give him an explanation. “Just call it a matter,” she said….

Earlier in his testimony, Comey said Lynch instructed Comey not to call the criminal investigation into the Clinton server a criminal investigation. Instead, Lynch told Comey to call it a “matter,” Comey said, “which confused me.”

Comey cited that pressure from Lynch to downplay the investigation as one of the reasons he held a press conference to recommend the Department of Justice not seek to indict Clinton.

Comey also cited Lynch’s secret tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton as a reason he chose to hold the press conference, he said, as he was concerned about preserving the independence of the FBI.

This is far worse than President Trump asking Comey in a private conversation to wrap up the Flynn investigation after Flynn was dismissed as National Security Adviser. This was a direct order by Comey’s immediate superior to align his rhetoric with the Clinton campaign spin. This is what Comey did, calling it a “matter” and not a criminal investigation, which is the only thing the FBI does. Couple this submissive compliance to an order to help the Clinton campaign with their spin with the meeting on the tarmac between Lunch and Bill Clinton, the husband of the target of that criminal investigation, and you have an obvious case for charging Lynch with obstruction of justice.

If Comey was concerned about preserving the integrity of the FBI, he wouldn’t have leaked the memo of his private conversation with President Trump to the New York Times through a third party. That memo, prepared on a government computer by a government employee on government time, is the property of the U.S. government and the U.S. taxpayer. Its unauthorized dissemination is a clear violation of the Federal Records Act and executive privilege. Comey was charged to find leakers, not be the leaker-in-chief.

Just as he didn’t have the authority to leak the memo, he didn’t have the authority to go before the American people and declare that the multiple felonies committed by Hilary Clinton while she was Secretary of State were not prosecutable due to lack of intent. Not only was he wrong on the law, which does not require intent, but his job is to gather evidence not to recommend prosecution or not. If Comey wanted to preserve the independence of the FBI, he wouldn’t have held the press conference giving Hillary Clinton a pass. He would have thrown the evidence on Lynch’s desk and told her to do her job. He bailed both Clinton and Lynch out and gave the Clinton campaign a boost.

Lynch ordered Comey to drop the word “investigation.” Did she also order him to drop the investigation itself and take the hit for doing so? Questions still remain as to why Comey did not attend the final Clinton interview, why the interview was not recorded, why Clinton was not under oath, and why obvious follow-up questions were not asked. It would seem that Comey, perhaps at the order of Lynch, was doing everything that would benefit the Clinton campaign.

Let us not forget another example of the tangled web woven between the FBI and the Clinton campaign — the relationship between Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe. As Caherine Herridge of Fox News reported:

A top FBI official who came under scrutiny last year over his wife’s campaign contributions from a Hillary Clinton ally did not list those 2015 donations or his wife’s salary in financial disclosure forms, according to records reviewed by Fox News.

The records, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, show FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe left the box blank for wife Dr. Jill McCabe’s salary, as a doctor with Commonwealth Emergency Physicians. And there is no documentation of the hundreds of thousands of campaign funds she received in her unsuccessful 2015 Virginia state Senate race.

As first reported by The Wall Street Journal, Clinton confidant and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe urged McCabe’s wife to run for statewide office shortly after news reports were published that Hillary Clinton used a private email server and address for all her government business while serving as secretary of State.

For the reporting period of October through November 2015, McCabe’s campaign filings show she received $467,500 from Common Good VA, a political action committee controlled by McAuliffe, as well as an additional $292,500 from a second Democratic PAC.

Well, isn’t that special? This is the swamp President Trump wants to drain. Let us also deal with Swamp Thing — Loretta Lynch.

Remember that Comey’s exoneration of Hillary came just days after Lynch met with Bill on the tarmac. Can you say “collusion” and “obstruction of justice”? The June 27, 2016 tarmac meeting on Lynch’s plane in Phoenix itself, in the light of Comey’s admission of Lynch’s pressure on him, is worthy of a special prosecutor all unto itself:, a fact not lost on Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton:

Lynch was caught off guard when a local Phoenix reporter asked her about the meeting at a press conference. She claimed at the time the discussion with the former President, which lasted 30 minutes, was simply about golf and grandchildren. After Hillary Clinton lost the White House to Donald Trump in November, Lynch said the meeting was regrettable.

“The infamous tarmac meeting between President Clinton and AG Lynch is a vivid example of why many Americans believe the Obama administration’s criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton was rigged,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement about the new lawsuit. “Now it will be up to Attorney General Sessions at the Trump Justice Department to finally shed some light on this subversion of justice.”

Let’s hope so. Let’s hope this DOJ will focus on real crimes and real obstruction of justice. It may turn out that Loretta Lynch and James Comey interfered in the 2016 election more than Vladimir Putin could even have dreamed of.

OPINION: The damaging case against James Comey

June 10, 2017

OPINION: The damaging case against James Comey, The Hill, Jonathan Turley, June 9, 2017

(Please see also, Did Comey Violate Laws In Leaking The Trump Memo? — DM)

The testimony of James Comey proved long on atmospherics and short on ethics. While many were riveted by Comey’s discussion of his discomfort in meetings with President Trump, most seemed to miss the fact that Comey was describing his own conduct in strikingly unethical terms. The greatest irony is that Trump succeeded in baiting Comey to a degree that even Trump could not have imagined. After calling Comey a “showboat” and poor director, Comey proceeded to commit an unethical and unprofessional act in leaking damaging memos against Trump.

Comey described a series of ethical challenges during his term as FBI director. Yet, he almost uniformly avoided taking a firm stand in support of the professional standards of the FBI. During the Obama administration, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch gave Comey a direct order to mislead the public by calling the ongoing investigation a mere “matter.” Rather than standing firm on the integrity of his department and refusing to adopt such a meaningless and misleading term, Comey yielded to Lynch while now claiming discomfort over carrying out the order.

When Trump allegedly asked for Comey to drop the investigation of Michael Flynn or pledge loyalty, Comey did not tell the president that he was engaging in wildly inappropriate conduct. He instead wrote a memo to file and told close aides. He now says that he wishes he had the courage or foresight to have taken a stand with the president.

However, the clearest violation came in the days following his termination. Comey admits that he gave the damaging memos to a friend at Columbia Law School with the full knowledge that the information would be given to the media. It was a particularly curious moment for a former director who was asked by the president to fight the leakers in the government. He proceeded in becoming one of the most consequential leakers against Trump.

Comey said that he took these actions days after his termination, when he said that he woke up in the middle of the night and realized suddenly that the memos could be used to contradict Trump. It was a bizarrely casual treatment of material that would be viewed by many as clearly FBI information. He did not confer with the FBI or the Justice Department. He did not ask for any classification review despite one of the parties described being the president of the United States. He simply sent the memos to a law professor to serve as a conduit to the media.

As a threshold matter, Comey asked a question with regard to Trump that he should now answer with regard to his own conduct. Comey asked why Trump would ask everyone to leave the Oval Office to speak with Comey unless he was doing something improper. Yet, Trump could ask why Comey would use a third party to leak these memos if they were his property and there was nothing improper in their public release.

In fact, there was a great deal wrong with their release, and Comey likely knew it. These were documents prepared on an FBI computer addressing a highly sensitive investigation on facts that he considered material to that investigation. Indeed, he conveyed that information confidentially to his top aides and later said that he wanted the information to be given to the special counsel because it was important to the investigation.

Many in the media have tried to spin this as not a “leak” because leaks by definition only involve classified information. That is entirely untrue as shown by history. Leaks involve the release of unauthorized information — not only classified information. Many of the most important leaks historically have involved pictures and facts not classified but embarrassing to a government. More importantly, federal regulations refer to unauthorized disclosures not just classified information.

Comey’s position would effectively gut a host of federal rules and regulations. He is suggesting that any federal employee effectively owns documents created during federal employment in relation to an ongoing investigation so long as they address the information to themselves. FBI agents routinely write such memos in investigations. They are called 302s to memorialize field interviews or fact acquisitions. They are treated as FBI information.

The Justice Department routinely claims such memos as privileged and covered by the deliberative process privilege and other privileges. Indeed, if this information were sought under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) it would likely have been denied. Among other things, the Justice Department and FBI routinely claim privilege “inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters which would not be available by law to a party other than an agency in litigation with the agency.”

Of course, Comey did not know if there was a privilege or classification claim by either the Justice Department or the White House because he never asked for review. He just woke up in the middle of night upset about Trump’s name calling and released the damaging information. In doing so, he used these memos not as a shield but a sword.

Besides being subject to nondisclosure agreements, Comey falls under federal laws governing the disclosure of classified and unclassified information. Assuming that the memos were not classified (though it seems odd that it would not be classified even on the confidential level), there is 18 U.S.C. § 641, which makes it a crime to steal, sell, or convey “any record, voucher, money, or thing of value of the United States or of any department or agency thereof.”

There are also ethical and departmental rules against the use of material to damage a former represented person or individual or firm related to prior representation. The FBI website warns employees that “dissemination of FBI information is made strictly in accordance with provisions of the Privacy Act; Title 5, United States Code, Section 552a; FBI policy and procedures regarding discretionary release of information in accordance with the Privacy Act; and other applicable federal orders and directives.”

One such regulation is § 2635.703, on the use of nonpublic information, which states, “An employee shall not engage in a financial transaction using nonpublic information, nor allow the improper use of nonpublic information to further his own private interest or that of another, whether through advice or recommendation, or by knowing unauthorized disclosure.”

The standard FBI employment agreement bars the unauthorized disclosure of information “contained in the files, electronic or paper, of the FBI” that impact the bureau and specifically pledges that “I will not reveal, by any means, any information or material from or related to FBI files or any other information acquired by virtue of my official employment to any unauthorized recipient without prior official written authorization by the FBI.”

Had Comey taken the minimal step of seeking clearance, the department would likely have said that this was FBI information and not personal information. Comey instead decided to ask forgiveness rather than permission.

Comey is also subject to bar rules on releasing information inimical to the interests of his former employer. For example, under professional rule 1.6, lawyers need to secure authority to release information that “(1) reveal a confidence or secret of the lawyer’s client; (2) use a confidence or secret of the lawyer’s client to the disadvantage of the client; [or] (3) use a confidence or secret of the lawyer’s client for the advantage of the lawyer or of a third person.”

Comey actually showed both how to and how not to disclose such information. When Comey released the information, he knew that he was going to be called to Congress where he could disclose this information properly after giving the White House a chance to claim privilege. Instead, he decided to release the information early. Why?

Comey gave two equally implausible explanations. First, he suggested that he wanted to get the information to investigators. However, he knew not only that he was likely to testify but that these memos would inevitably be demanded by both congressional and federal investigators. Second, he said that he wanted to ensure the appointment of a special counsel. However on that Monday, many of us were saying that such an appointment was virtually inevitable. More importantly, he could have given the memos to investigators and properly laid the foundation for a special counsel.

The fact is that the leaking of the memos worked to the advantage of James Comey, not Robert Mueller. Comey was able to take over the narrative and news cycle after Trump had publicly belittled him and his record. Special counsels do not like leaks of this kind. It would have been far better for the special counsel (or Comey’s own former investigatory team and congressional investigators) to have the memos confidentially.

The greatest value of the memos would be to question Trump and other potential targets without their knowing of their existence. The memos could then have been used to establish false statements and pressure cooperation. Instead, Comey told possible targets, including Trump, about the evidence against them in the memos.

Donald Trump continues to show a remarkable ability to bring out the worst in people — supporters and critics alike. In this case, he was able to bait Comey with his tweets and cause Comey to diminish his own credibility. If the comments of Trump were grossly inappropriate, Comey’s response to those comments were equally inappropriate.