Editor’s Note: this article is the second half (and conclusion) of a in-depth look at the historically unprecedented testimony of former FBI Director James Comey before the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 8th, 2017; you can find the first half of the article here and if you haven’t already read it, I strongly encourage you to do so now because I will probably have to reference it several times in this piece.
In the first part of Dead Man Talking, we focused exclusively on Comey’s testimony and the resulting fallout as it pertained specifically to president Trump’s possible (likely) obstruction of justice in the FBI investigation into former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn.
While the former FBI Director’s statements about Trump’s largely transparent attempts to quash the FBI investigation into Flynn was certainly the most important part of Comey’s testimony, surprisingly enough he did actually discuss two additional issues that have also been aggressively spun in the media for political purposes – Russian “cyber attacks” on the US electoral system and his feelings about the curiously unethical behavior of former Attorney General Loretta Lynch during the Clinton private email server investigation:
2. Russian to Conclusions
A couple of months ago, I wrote a lengthy piece about attempts by mainstream liberal media and the Democratic Party to subtly shift the narrative surrounding the scandal we now call “Russiagate” away from objectively false conspiracy theories and towards something that would line up a little better with reality as investigations into the Trump campaign moved forward. If you recall way back to immediately after the election but before Herr Donald’s inauguration (when some surprisingly mainstream liberal figures were trying to organize an electoral college-based coup against the swine emperor) the two core, shocking accusations that formed what we now know as “Russiagate” or “Kremlingate” were:
- that Donald Trump was Vladimir Putin’s Manchurian candidate or a compromised Russian intelligence asset (see: the pee tape/Steele dossier)
Unfortunately for mainstream liberals addicted to absurd Cold War era spy stories straight out of a Tom Clancy novel (and desperate for a way to distract an outraged base after blowing a winnable election to a fascist reality TV show host) however, a significant amount of evidence emerged almost immediately that neither principle accusation was true in any reasonable sense.
Please bear with me for a moment here because if you want to understand the problems with James Comey’s testimony about Russian cyber attacks, you have to remember where we started as well as how the story has now shifted and that isn’t going to be easy because the people pushing the “Russiagate” conspiracy theory have a vested interest in keeping you from realizing just how much the accusations that comprise the core of the conspiracy theory have now changed:
- The accusation Russia “hacked” the election has now become Russia “influenced” the election with chat bots, Facebook posts and negative (but largely unread) stories about Hillary Clinton based on “hacked” emails released by Wikileaks; emails that were themselves completely authentic. In other words, credible members of the United States government are now arguing that Russia influenced the election in favor of Donald Trump by exposing American voters to the truth; I couldn’t make this shit up if I tried folks.
- Keeping in mind that literally nobody has been able to successfully question the veracity of the leaks, there are also a number of serious problems with the assertion that Russia was definitely behind a “hack” that might not even have occurred in the first place ; not the least of which is that all of the technical data used to prove Russia was to blame has come from a single firm (Crowdstrike) the DNC itself hired with the intention of blaming the hack on Russia – incredibly the FBI has never been allowed to examine the “hacked” servers or made any additional efforts to verify Crowdstrike’s claim.
- There is also a separate story about “Russian hackers” infiltrating voter registration systems in twenty-one states, but even this is a tempest in a teapot being used to keep a dead conspiracy theory alive as virtually every single person involved (including Comey) has admitted that absolutely no votes were changed in the election and it still remains unclear how the DHS is certain the source was the Russian government.
- The idea that Donald Trump was knowingly Putin’s puppet has become “people associated with the Trump government have potentially talked about money with people who might have ties to the Russian government” with a note that Trump himself might not be aware of this and was never actually under investigation for it. Indeed, what little evidence that has emerged actively seems to suggest that Trump isn’t working for Russia; why would Putin need to “influence” Trump through Mike Flynn if the swine emperor was already an asset and how exactly do you explain Trump’s openly hostile actions towards the government of Syria, a Russian ally?
It is important to remember that despite all of these obvious problems with the constantly-shifting “Kremlingate” narrative and the former FBI Director’s testimony that just meeting with Russians wasn’t all that abnormal, there remains little if any truth to Liar In Chief Donald Trump’s claim that Comey’s testimony exonerates the swine emperor. After all, Trump himself is definitely under investigation for obstruction of justice, his son-in-law (Jared Kushner) is almost certainly under investigation for money laundering, his former National Security Advisor (Michael Flynn) sure seems to have lied to the FBI and there’s a pretty good chance his Attorney General (Jeff Sessions) also lied while testifying under oath before the US Senate – the Trump administration is undeniably in serious trouble; but it’s almost entirely the result of self-inflicted wounds and not because Trump is a fucking Russian intelligence asset.
It is absolutely vital to keep all of these things in the forefront of your mind when you consider the former FBI Director’s testimony about Russian interference in the 2016 election if you want to understand what he’s really saying. For example, when Comey states emphatically that he has no doubt Russia was trying to interfere in the election and was also behind the DNC “hack” he is admittedly basing that entirely on evidence from Crowdstrike that we already know isn’t particularly conclusive. Furthermore, proponents of the “Russiagate” conspiracy theory are pointedly ignoring the fact that Comey testified that the cyber attacks were part of an attempt to compromise up to 1,000 government or near government agencies and that these attacks weren’t exactly a new thing, so much as an escalation of longstanding Russian attempts to compromise US systems; statements that call into question how anyone can be certain the “hackers” were trying to rig the election for Donald Trump, especially in light of the fact that everyone keeps admitting that there’s no evidence anyone actually did successfully rig the election. Even Comey’s sly implication that there might be some truth to accusations contained within the Steele dossier is being overplayed by the media because one would naturally expect a document that began it’s life as Republican opposition research would have some truth to it; just not necessarily the parts about Russian intelligence blackmailing Trump with a piss tape.
In short, despite making for very dramatic television, Comey’s testimony on the Russia parts of “Russiagate” really didn’t tell us anything new; we already knew Mike Flynn (and not Donald Trump) was under investigation, we already knew that the FBI took Crowdstrike’s word for it when blaming Russia and we already knew that the investigation itself had moved on to more important matters like Trump’s attempt to quash the FBI investigation into Mike Flynn and possible shady financial arrangements by Trump’s family. Overall, most of the former FBI Director’s testimony lined up fairly well with what we know about the most recent (largely defanged) iteration of “Russiagate” and at no point in time did anything Jim Comey said actually prove or even attempt to prove the two (ridiculous) core accusations that originally made up the Trump-Russia conspiracy theory; even if pro-Kremlingate media are now purposely attempting to suggest otherwise.
3. Pinning Lynch & Ghosts of the Clinton Private Sever Scandal
Finally, there was one more shocking aspect of James Comey’s June 8th testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee and while it has perhaps unsurprisingly failed to move the needle in corporate liberal media, Comey’s statements about former Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s unethical behavior during the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server generated no shortage of attention in reactionary right wing media circles.
Now before we go any further down this rabbit hole, I want to be absolutely clear up front that I am well aware that sleazy Republican propagandists have seized on the fired FBI Director’s statements about former AG Lynch’s actions during the Clinton email investigation as a means of creating a distraction to protect the (rightfully) embattled president. As regular readers of this website will recall, I have already predicted that Trump would try to drag the Clinton investigation back into the spotlight once he started feeling the heat and the fervent GOP response to Comey’s testimony about Lynch absolutely lines up with that prediction. In light of this, I would like to emphatically remind readers that nothing Comey said about Lynch changes his damning testimony about Trump’s active attempts to impede the FBI investigation into former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn. Furthermore, it’s definitely worth noting that because Lynch is the former Attorney General and Herr Donald is the current POTUS the ongoing special counsel investigation of Trump and his inner circle is far, far more important than getting to the bottom of Loretta Lynch’s directions to Comey during an investigation the Department of Justice officially closed last July.
With that having been stated however, it is still important that the American people know precisely how far the Department of Justice (under longtime Clinton ally Lynch) was willing to go to protect not only Hillary Clinton, but also the Obama administration itself; even as we remind ourselves that Lynch’s crooked doesn’t make Trump or his Department of Justice straight by any measure. The good news for Clinton apologists and Obama hagiographers is that James Comey is still pretty sure that no reasonable prosecutor would have brought a case against the former Secretary of State; a position that longtime readers of this website will know I disagree with vehemently. The bad news is that without outright accusing his previous boss of functioning as an active arm of the Clinton campaign when Lynch was supposed to be in charge of investigating the Democratic candidate, Comey essentially admitted that he felt that President Obama’s Attorney General was compromised and that in turn heavily influenced his actions at the tail end of the FBI’s investigation. Furthermore, as we discussed in Part One of this article, Comey’s extensive experience as a federal prosecutor lends considerable legal weight to his feelings about Lynch’s ethically questionable actions; if anyone would know about improper attempts to break the barrier between the White House and the Department of Justice, it would be Jim Comey.
Just how incriminating was Comey’s testimony? Well, the situation is serious enough that the recently fired FBI director refused to testify about one “significant” part of it in open session and at least one powerful Democrat Senator is now admitting the entire mess warrants a Congressional investigation. Is it possible that the Senate Intelligence Committee has had an opportunity to ask Comey why there was never an obstruction of justice investigation into Hillary Clinton despite evidence that she improperly burned (potentially incriminating) schedules and smashed computing devices? Certainly and I’d also wager that some of the Republican Senators would like to revisit the topic of precisely why virtually everyone in Clinton’s personal orbit during this whole ordeal was granted immunity – especially in light of Comey’s September 2016 testimony that it was Lynch’s decision to grant those immunity deals and not the FBI’s.
In the final analysis, it’s safe to say that swine emperor Trump is the biggest loser here and his actions since Comey testified on June 8th certainly suggest that he knows it; floating the idea of firing Mueller in the middle of yet another investigation into your administration and openly admitting you lied about taping conversations in order to intimidate a witness are not exactly the actions of a carefree soul in the White House. For now, Herr Donald can hide behind the former FBI director’s decorum and incoherent statements made by his lawyer but Comey’s testimony clearly lays out more than enough breadcrumbs for special counsel Robert Mueller to put together a solid obstruction of justice case against the president; a case that will undoubtedly bear a strong (and incriminating) similarity to testimony by other former federal prosecutors Trump has dismissed under disturbing circumstances.
Despite these facts however, attempts to declare Comey’s testimony a complete and total victory for “Russiagate” conspiracy proponents seem largely unfounded; at best the former FBI Director left the matter where it stood before his testimony and in some ways, he clearly implied that Trump was not a Russian intelligence asset. Furthermore, his statements about former Obama administration Attorney General Loretta Lynch will likely form the centerpiece of Trump’s inevitable, desperate counter attack once he runs out of ways to lie to the American people and/or stall the investigation.
In other words; there are sharks from both sides of the American tribal divide circling and James Comey’s testimony has lined the waters with chum; expect carnage sooner rather than later my friends.
- Nina Illingworth
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