According to Nielsen data, 19.5 million Americans watched former FBI Director James Comey’s highly anticipated testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. This figure does not include those who watched the testimony at viewing parties at bars and restaurants nor through online streaming on computers and digital devices. I was glued to my television set for what many were touting in the nation’s capital as “Washington’s Political Super Bowl.”
The hearing, at which he called the president of the United States a liar on national television, was political theater at its best. I can only recall of two other occasions in my lifetime when the nation has been riveted by such nationally televised political drama. The first was in October 1991, when Anita Hill testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about inappropriate and unwanted sexual advances in the workplace directed at her by then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.
The second was in June 1973, when the recently fired White Counsel, John Dean, testified before the Senate Select Campaign Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities.
In his testimony, Dean explained how White House officials — including President Richard M. Nixon — had obstructed justice in order to mask their participation in the events following the break-in at the Watergate headquarters of the DNC. The testimony of Dean, who would serve four months in prison, was critical to articles of impeachment being drafted against Nixon. The president resigned in disgrace on Aug. 9, 1974.
It is too early to say whether Comey’s testimony against President Trump will play a similarly critical role in either a resignation or impeachment. There are currently not enough votes to impeach the president. That, however, may change depending on the findings of independent counsel Robert Mueller.
Regardless of political party, under no circumstances is the appointment of independent special counsel ever good news to a president. Just ask President Bill Clinton. Kenneth Star was named to investigate the Vince Foster suicide and Whitewater investments. An independent counsel’s mandate and budget is unlimited.
Hence, had Starr’s appointment not been made, Monica Lewinsky would not be a part of the American lexicon, and Bill Clinton would not have been impeached. Similarly, whatever the President is hiding by not releasing his taxes may finally come to light.
What appears from Comey’s testimony is that the president grossly abused his executive authority. He felt that President Trump pressured him to declare his loyalty, drop an investigation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and then fired Comey in order to alter the course of the FBI’s ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, as well as possible collusion by the Trump campaign.
When Comey was fired, the White House said his dismissal was a result of the FBI’s handling of the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails. Who can forget then-candidate Trump encouraging Russia — one of America’s geopolitical adversaries — to hack Clinton’s emails and release them to the public? Whatever you think of Hillary, she is a fellow American.
Incredulously, the American public is to believe that the president, who five months into his presidency continues to trash Clinton as a “dishonorable and corrupt human being” and “crooked Hillary,” was suddenly so offended by how she was treated by the FBI under Comey’s leadership that he had to fire him. Really?! Such thinking and reasoning defies all common sense and even remedial logic.
We have the president himself to thank for why he fired Comey. In the transcript of a meeting with Russian officials in the Oval Office, he said, “I just fired the head of the FBI He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure from Russia. That’s taken off.”
If that is not obstruction of justice, then what is? Needless to say, Bill Clinton was unhappy with Starr’s appointment. Clinton, however, had the good sense not to fire his attorney general.
What Comey did not say is perhaps more important than what he actually said. Topics he scrupulously avoided in open session included a question about the relationship between a Russian development bank linked to President Vladimir Putin and meetings last year of bank officials with White House advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner. This could be one hint of where the Mueller investigation is going. Kushner will be meeting with Senate investigators shortly.
“This is about America,” Mr. Comey kept saying. Russia “tried to shape the way we think, we vote, we act. They’re coming after America. They want to undermine our credibility in the world.”
Why are you not concerned, Mr. President?
Cooper is president of Cooper Strategic Affairs, Inc.