An Honest Comey Interview
Kimberley A Strassel April 19, 2018
Questions nobody is asking the former FBI director—but somebody should.
James Comey and his memoir are tripping the media light fantastic, though what’s defined that trip so far is its lack of news. Mr. Comey explains the many and varied ways that he does not like President Trump. Mr. Comey explains the many and varied ways that he does like himself. Tell us something we don’t know.
People forget that directors of the Federal Bureau of Investigation—by necessity—are among Washington’s most skilled operators, experts in appearing to answer questions even as they provide pablum. Yet the publicity tour rolls on, which means that upcoming interviewers still have an opportunity to do the country—and our profession—a favor. Here are a few basic questions Mr. Comey should be expected to answer:
• You admit the Christopher Steele dossier was still “unverified” when the FBI used it as the basis of a surveillance warrant against Carter Page. Please explain. Also explain the decision to withhold from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that the dossier was financed by the Hillary Clinton campaign.
• You refer to Mr. Steele as a “credible” source. Does the FBI routinely view as “credible” sources who work for political operatives? Did the FBI do any due diligence on his employer, Fusion GPS? Were you aware it is an opposition-research firm? If not, why not?
• Mr. Steele by his own admission briefed the press on the dossier in the fall of 2016, to harm the Trump campaign, although the FBI ordered him not to. Are these the actions of a “credible” source? The sourcing in these articles—particularly one that ran in Yahoo News—was hard to mistake. Yet the FBI soon after assured the FISA court that its “credible” source had not spoken to the media. Either the FBI failed to follow up on the stories, or it did and Mr. Steele lied to your agents. Which is it?
• You say you knew the dossier was funded by a “Democrat-aligned” group but that you “never knew” which one. Why not? Didn’t the FBI have a duty to find out?
• Please explain the extraordinary accommodations the FBI provided Team Clinton during the email investigation. Why was Cheryl Mills —whose emails suggest she had early knowledge of the irregular server as Mrs. Clinton’s chief of staff—allowed to claim attorney-client privilege and represent Mrs. Clinton at her interview? Why did that interview happen only at the end? Especially since you say any case hung entirely on her “intent”?
• You’ve surely now read the texts between the FBI’s Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. That happened on your watch. Is this appropriate FBI behavior? Should we believe such behavior is limited to them? In addition to overt political bias, the texts prove the FBI took politics into account—worrying, for instance, about how much manpower to put into investigating the woman who could be our “next president.” Why should the public have any faith in the integrity of the Clinton or Trump investigation?
• The texts ridicule former Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s decision to step aside from the Clinton probe, “since she knows no charges will be brought.” This was before the FBI even interviewed Mrs. Clinton. And it contradicts your claim at the start of your July 2016 press conference that no one at the Justice Department knew what you were about to say. Please explain.
• Former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s leak and “lack of candor” also happened on your watch. Should he be prosecuted for lying? Should Mr. Steele be prosecuted for lying to the FBI about his leaks to the press? If the answer to either is no, please explain why the FBI holds one standard for the public, and one for its own.
• You dismiss Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s memo as nothing but a “pretext” to fire you. Yet you don’t address its claims. Please point to the internal policies or regulations that gave you the authority to announce that Mrs. Clinton was being cleared and why. Please provide any examples of similar announcements by FBI directors. Please address the criticisms of the prior attorneys general and deputy attorneys general from both parties cited in the Rosenstein memo.
• You justify your decisions to divulge FBI investigation details on the grounds it served “the public interest.” Would it not have been in the public interest to make clear last year that the president was not under investigation?
• Sometimes, making everybody mad is a sign of doing things right. More often, it’s a sign you screwed up. Mr. Comey, is it possible, just maybe, that you made a mess of things?