By Arnold Ahlert
“Where did Comey get the idea to investigate the Trump campaign?” —George Neumayr, American Spectator
In testimony best described as a series of obfuscations, FBI Director James Comey never directly answered that essential question. But he confirmed to the House Select Intelligence Committee that his agency has been investigating Russian interference in the election since last July, including “the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts,” Wired reported.
What kind of interference? “Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee Monday morning, NSA Director Admiral Michael Rogers and FBI Director James Comey stated unequivocally that there was no evidence the Russians manipulated election machines to rig the vote,” stated the Conservative Review.
Yet if the vote itself wasn’t rigged, then what — exactly — does such “coordination” consist of? If it amounts to some sort of quid pro quo, why didn’t former President Obama’s open-mic promise to former Russian President Dmitri Medvedev he would “have more flexibility” following his re-election merit similar inquiries?
Moreover, what quid pro quo? The sanctions remain in place, the U.S. troops Obama sent to Poland are still there, and U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has strongly condemned the Russians for the occupation of Crimea that occurred on Obama’s watch.
Freshman Rep. Elise M. Stefanik (R-NY) managed to cut through some of Comey’s orchestrated fog, making him visibly uncomfortable in the process. She asked Comey what the typical protocols are for notifying the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the White House and senior congressional leaders that an FBI investigation is taking place. “There is a practice of a quarterly briefing on sensitive cases,” Comey replied, adding that his agency was making an effort to shorten it. Yet when Stefanik asked, “When did you notify the White House, the DNI and congressional leadership”? Comey revealed that timeline was an utter sham, stating the DOJ knew about the investigation “all along,” and congressional leadership was notified “sometime recently.”
The DNI? “I don’t know what the DNI’s knowledge of it was because we did not have a DNI until Mr. Coates took office, and I briefed him his first morning,” Comey insisted.
Former Indiana legislator Dan Coates was confirmed by the Senate on March 15.
What about former DNI James Clapper? As Reuters reported on Jan. 5, Clapper “publicly defended his analysts against attacks by Donald Trump following their conclusion that Russia interfered in the November election.” If we believe Comey, he and Clapper were pursuing what amounted to parallel investigations without ever communicating with each other, even as “current and former American officials” were feloniously outing former national Security Director Michael Flynn, as the New York Times reported Feb. 9.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) was the other Republican willing to focus the inquiry where it deserved to be focused. He wanted to know the status of the investigation into those actual crimes committed, including the number of people capable of doing so. Comey refused to confirm the FBI has even begun an investigation into the leaking of Flynn’s name. And while he assured Gowdy he could provide the number, he insisted the “culture” of the FBI and NSA is a far more important consideration.
Gowdy wasn’t buying it. “NSA, FBI — what other government agencies have the authority to unmask a U.S. citizen’s name?” he asked. Comey replied that “all agencies that collect information pursuant to FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) have what are called standard minimization procedures which are approved by the FISA court that govern how they will treat U.S person information. So I know the NSA does, the CIA does, obviously the FBI does. I don’t know for sure beyond that.”
With Comey’s agreement, Gowdy added “Main Justice” to the list. When asked about the White House and other entities, Comey called them “consumers” of such intel who were not allowed to legally disseminate it. Yet Gowdy forced Comey to admit that White House appointees such as Clapper, former CIA Director John Brennan, former National Security Advisor Susan Rice, former AG Loretta Lynch and former acting AG Sally Yates would all have access to an unmasked U.S. citizen’s name.
Gowdy then posed the critical question. “Did you brief President Obama on any calls involving Michael Flynn?” Comey refused to answer. “I’m not going to get into either that particular case, that matter, or any conversations I had with the president.”
Why not? The Times and other media sources are excoriating Trump for tweets accusing Obama of “wiretapping” him. But the same paper’s Jan. 20 headline was, “Wiretapped Data Used in Inquiry of Trump Aides,” and the article included the following sentence: “One official said intelligence reports based on some of the wiretapped communications had been provided to the White House.”
To the delight of Democrats, Comey testified there was no evidence of such wiretapping. Yet once again the question arises: Who ordered the investigation into Trump and his associates?
Moreover, what about other types of surveillance, Mr. Comey? On Feb. 2, CNN reported they received a transcript of the private phone call between Trump and Mexican President Peña Nieto. Published transcripts infuriated Gowdy, who asked Comey if he could assure the public such felonies would be investigated. “I can’t,” Comey replied, “but I hope people watching know how seriously we take leaks of classified information. But I don’t want to confirm it by saying we’re investigating.”
Again, why not?
“Comey is adept at using innuendo and leaks to remind the powerful that he cannot be ignored,” NY Post columnist Michael Goodwin asserts. “The prerogative to investigate, and the willingness to feed a scandal-hungry media, is close to being God in politics, and Comey plays the role with relish.”
With an ample assist from the Obama administration, it’s a role Comey will likely play for a long time. “In its final days, the Obama administration has expanded the power of the National Security Agency to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections,” the Times reported on Jan 12. On March 1, the Times reported that White House officials “scrambled” to spread information about the possible Russian/Trump collusion “across the government.”
Who ordered the exponential increase in the number of people privy to such intel — which had the incredibly coincidental byproduct of exponentially increasing the number of suspects that need to be investigated, and the time it takes to investigate them — thereby keeping a cloud hanging over a Trump administration for as long as possible?
This week it got even worse. House Intelligence Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) revealed that intelligence community members “incidentally collected” information on Trump transition team members that engendered “dozens” of reports that ultimately unmasked many individuals’ identities. Moreover, those reports were “widely disseminated.”
None of this was mentioned by Comey at the hearings.
There’s a noxious odor arising from this investigation — and FBI Director James Comey is in the middle of the stench. As a result we are fast approaching the most perilous question of all for a democratic republic that cannot survive without a certain level of faith in those imbued with the power to protect the Rule of Law:
Who investigates the investigators?
First published at The Patriot Post