By his disgraceful conduct, fired FBI Director James Comey has managed to catapult himself to the top of the list of the most notorious schemers in modern American history. Move over Bernie Madoff.
The recently released inspector general’s report is a damning denunciation of Comey’s Machiavellian machinations to damage President Trump, leak sensitive government documents, and trigger the appointment of a special counsel. But that is only part of the sordid story.
The report also outlines Comey’s insipid plan to deceive the president-elect during a January 6, 2017 meeting at Trump Tower in New York in order to ensnare him into saying something incriminating about the phony Christopher Steele “dossier.” Washington Examiner Columnist Byron York aptly described it as an “ambush.”
Comey’s plot is described in detail on pages 17 through 19 of the report. In its entirety, it goes like this: the FBI director would meet privately with Trump, mislead him with the canard that he was not being investigated by the FBI, advise him of only the salacious portion of the “dossier,” gauge his reaction to it, then leave the building and race to his waiting SUV where a laptop computer was set-up for him to transcribe what Comey hoped would be damning evidence that the soon-to-be president was acting as a secret Russian agent who was blackmailed into “colluding” with the Kremlin to steal the 2016 election.
Meanwhile, Comey’s team of confederates was standing by “via a secure video teleconference” at bureau headquarters in Washington to receive the “holy grail” of evidence that would surely drive Trump from office and undo the election results.
The plot unraveled, of course, when the president-elect categorically denied the ludicrous allegation by Steele that Trump had once watched prostitutes urinating on a bed in Moscow in 2013 – the infamous so-called “pee tape” that seemed to have been nothing more than a figment of the ex-British spy’s bizarre imagination or the product of Russian disinformation fed to him. It didn’t matter to Comey that Steele’s chimera was commissioned by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
However, this illicit scheme by Comey was only part of a broader plot hatched with his collaborators, CIA Director John Brennan and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. News of the Trump debriefing on the “dossier” was immediately leaked to the media. This gave journalists the pretext or excuse they needed to air and publish stories, reasoning that since the incoming president had been made aware of the “dossier” they were free to run with the story even though the “collusion” accusations composed by Steele were unverified and might well be false.
The overarching stratagem was clever and insidious. And it worked perfectly. Within days, CNN and BuzzFeed were running full tilt with the narrative that Trump had “colluded” with Russia. These news organizations and others that repeated the story had corroborated none of the accusations against the president-elect. Neither had the FBI.
It is revealing that Comey did not tell the president-elect about the rest of the “dossier” that totaled 35 pages in 17 separately dated memos. Trump was not advised that the document accused him of “colluding” with the Kremlin to win the election. He wasn’t informed that Clinton’s campaign and Democrats had paid for it. Nor did Comey divulge that the FBI had been spying on former campaign adviser Carter Page for nearly three months, eavesdropping on his conversations and accessing all of his electronic communications forward and backward. Trump was not told that the FBI had erroneously declared in court papers that Page was a Russian spy.
The director deliberately hid all of this information from the incoming president. These were lies by omission. Remember, the purpose of a counterintelligence investigation is to collect intelligence involving a foreign threat to be provided to the president. Instead, Comey was using unsubstantiated information under the guise of a counterintelligence operation to investigate Trump and his campaign, all the while actively concealing it from the president-elect.
Comey later claimed that he only decided to brief Trump on the “dossier” because journalists were poised to publicly report the information contained therein. This is untrue, according to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which determined that “the media generally had found the dossier’s unverified allegations unreportable, and CNN only broke the story on the dossier because Mr. Comey briefed the President-Elect about it.” Given how the media tied their stories to the Comey-Trump meeting, the FBI director’s account seems remarkably similar to many of the other deceptions that have severely blemished his reputation as a fair broker of the truth.
Comey’s mendacity also extended to the false representations he appears to have made to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. He signed the first three warrant applications to wiretap Carter Page.
It is a crime to lie to a judge. Depending on the case and circumstances, it could constitute numerous felonies. They include perjury, false and misleading statements, obstruction of justice, fraud, conspiracy to defraud, deprivation of rights under color of law, electronic surveillance under color of law, and contempt of court. Four judges signed off on four successive warrants approving the surveillance. But, under the law, if the government deceived those judges, this means that lawful warrants were obtained by unlawful means. To put it simply, the judges committed no crimes, but any person who lied to them did. The evidence is compelling that this is what happened.
The FISC was deceived in six material ways:
- Judges were not told that Clinton’s campaign and the DNC paid for information used in the warrant application.
- Judges were not told that the FBI’s source, Steele, had lied.
- Judges were not told that Steele had a known bias against Trump.
- Judges were not told that the FBI’s evidence was unverified.
- Judges were not told of exculpatory evidence suggesting the innocence of Page.
- Judges were not told that the wife of a senior a DOJ official cultivated some of the Clinton funded opposition research used by the FBI.
Comey vouched for the veracity of his representations to the court, the authenticity of the documents cited, and the credibility of his sources. Comey swore under penalty of perjury that his information was “true and correct” and that he was adhering strictly to the requirements of the FISA law and FBI regulations. Yet, when he sought the warrant, Comey’s FBI was still desperate to confirm the “collusion” allegations in Steele’s “dossier” upon which the FISA warrant relied. Confirmation or corroboration was required before the warrant was sought, not after. This, the FBI did not do, rendering their warrant application defective and lawless.
The FBI’s stringent set of internal rules called the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide (DIOG), which every FBI agent and official must rigorously follow, reads as follows:
“The accuracy of information contained within FISA applications is of utmost importance. Only documented and verified information may be used to support FBI applications to the court.”
The operative phrase is, “only documented and verified information may be used…” Nonetheless, the politically motivated opposition research financed by the Clinton campaign and the DNC that the FBI relied on for the Page surveillance was not verified when Comey signed the three applications insisting that it was verified. Nowhere in the warrant materials is there an indication that the FBI vetted or confirmed anything. Comey all but admitted to this when he testified publicly in June of 2017. When he testified privately, he was even more candid, confessing “that the FBI had not corroborated much of the Steele dossier before it was submitted as evidence,” according to John Solomon of The Hill.
James Comey is nothing if not pompous and pretentious. Although the inspector general referred him for potential criminal prosecution for the leaking of presidential memos, Justice Department lawyers took a pass on seeking an indictment. Comey got lucky. Instead of offering some semblance of contrition and humility over the acts of misconduct identified by the IG, Comey responded with a smug demand for the equivalent of an apology from his many critics.
Comey’s unconscionable standard is that it’s perfectly fine to violate FBI rules and commit egregious acts of wrongdoing that set a “dangerous example” for other agents, as long as you manage to evade criminal charges.
His gloating was premature. If the remainder of the inspector general’s investigation and forthcoming report on FISA abuse reflects any of the dishonest acts described above, Comey may yet be held accountable in our system of justice.