Revolted Colonies

U.S. Politics and Culture

Category: Law Enforcement

Breathlessly Awaiting Comey’s Final Chapter

For those of you whose TV viewing will not be disrupted by work today, you will now be treated to a preview of the Soap Opera cum Congressional Hearing known as the Comey Memos.  For former FBI Director James Comey, a pillar of rectitude, a man of unshakable integrity, it’s surprising that his memos read a little like a Harlequin romance.  

Comey writes breathlessly of the first time he met the man he would one day call “President.”

During our one-on-one meeting at Trump Tower, based on President-Elect Trump’s reaction to the briefing and without him directly asking the question, I offered that assurance.

He gushed about how the President-Elect was like no one he had ever met before.

I felt compelled to document my first conversation with the President-Elect in a memo. To ensure accuracy, I began to type it on a laptop in an FBI vehicle outside Trump Tower the moment I walked out of the meeting. Creating written records immediately after one-on-one conversations with Mr. Trump was my practice from that point forward. This had not been my practice in the past.

This hardened professional, a survivor of the George Bush administration, who stood up to Alberto Gonzalez, Bush’s personal attorney, who was trying to compromise bedridden Attorney General John Ashcroft, felt his knees buckle when he realized that the President was trying to get him alone.

He had called me at lunchtime that day and invited me to dinner that night, saying he was going to invite my whole family, but decided to have just me this time… It turned out to be just the two of us….seated at a small oval table in the center of the Green Room. Two Navy stewards waited on us, only entering the room to serve food and drinks.

The besotted Director felt powerless, having been cast under the spell of Don Giovanni Trump. Nevertheless, he resisted. Oh, how he resisted the enticements of his pursuer!

My instincts told me that the one-on-one setting, and the pretense that this was our first discussion about my position, meant the dinner was, at least in part, an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship.

 Comey is not like all the rest. He is the product of a strong and supportive home, a disciplined and religious background. He would not cave in like Trump’s earlier prizes. He’s the kind of guy who always keeps at least one foot on the floor.

I replied that I loved my work and intended to stay and serve out my ten-year term as Director. And then, because the set-up made me uneasy, I added that I was not “reliable” in the way politicians use that word….

Trump pressed Comey. 

The President said, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.” I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence.

Later, Trump again pressed Comey.

Near the end of our dinner, the President returned to the subject of my job, saying he was very glad I wanted to stay, adding that he had heard great things about me from Jim Mattis, Jeff Sessions, and many others. He then said, “I need loyalty.” I replied, “You will always get honesty from me.” He paused and then said, “That’s what I want, honest loyalty.” I paused, and then said, “You will get that from me.”

Normally, at this point, Comey might have stifled a sob or felt a clutching in his throat. 

It is possible we understood the phrase “honest loyalty” differently, but I decided it wouldn’t be productive to push it further.

Instead, he departed, his virtue intact. He retreated to his car, and before driving off, he wrote the entire discussion down, word for word, so as not to lose a single innuendo to the mercy of faulty memory.  Returning to his office, he logged his recollections in and then told his BFFs  about his trying evening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Comey decided that he could never let himself to be left alone with the President.  Yet weeks later he found himself face-to-face with his tempter in the Oval Office, the President having excused all the other meeting participants. Trump moved in, invading Comey’s personal space. He asked Comey if he could see his way clear to let it go – the “Flynn” thing.  

When the door by the grandfather clock closed, and we were alone, the President began by saying, “I want to talk about Mike Flynn.” Flynn had resigned the previous day. The President began by saying Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong in speaking with the Russians, but he had to let him go because he had misled the Vice President. He added that he had other concerns about Flynn, which he did not then specify.

“He’s a good guy,” said Trump.

Comey pulled himself up to his full 6’8″ height, put on his stern face and, mildly nauseous, vomited a little in his mouth. After this meeting, Comey would not face Trump again. The President would not relent. He called, beseeching him to lift the cloud of inquiry over his head, to tell the world that he Donald John Trump, was not being investigated. Comey was wracked, pulled in opposite directions by honesty and loyalty.  He could not say anything because he thought it was possible that he would have to retract it.

In a final phone call,  suitor became tormentor.   Trump asked Comey why did he testify before Congress the week before that there was an open investigation, and why didn’t Comey say Trump was not under investigation.  Then Trump added:

“Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.” I did not reply or ask him what he meant by “that thing.” I said only that the way to handle it was to have the White House Counsel call the Acting Deputy Attorney General. He said that was what he would do and the call ended.

 Less than a week later, while meeting with federal agents in  Los Angeles, Comey heard that he’d been fired, but he did not believe it until he saw the TV news news crawl.  A great deal of confusion ensured about who prompted the firing and the reasons for it. It was Trump, all along, who jilted his FBI director.

Today,  James Comey will come before Congress to tell the rest of his tragic tale. If you decide to watch have a box of Kleenex at the ready.

  © Revolted Colonies 2017

Immigration Ban Losing Its Appeal


 This past Friday, Hon. James Robart, a Republican-appointed federal district court judge, declared unconstitutional the presidential immigration ban, allowing immigration travel to resume without delay.

Stay Denied

The Justice Department filed an appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and asked the court to stay the Judge Robart’s decision striking the executive order until the appeal is heard, meaning that the ban should stay in effect until there has been a final decision on the appeal. The Court of Appeals turned down the Justice Department plea, permitting flights into the United States to resume for the time being.  At the same time, the Court of Appeals set a very rapid schedule for the parties to file their briefs, signifying that a decision would be made rapidly.

 What It Means

The Circuit Court decision represents a minor victory for the anti-administration position. It suggests, at most,  that the court expects to uphold Judge Robart’s decision. At the least, it means that, given the short briefing schedule, no real harm will be done by allowing flights to be rescheduled.  Judges frequently it will overcome a request for temporary relief by shortening the time involved.

In part, it is a reflection that the court expects to rule against the executive order. It doesn’t represent an in qualified victory for the anti-administration position. Only after the case is briefed, argued and decided will we know what this appellate court thinks about the executive order.

Constitutional Problems

 The administration has several problems with its position. The first is that it is well known now that it was conceived as a means to stop entry of Muslims into the United States.  It was so declared by its conceiver, Rudolph Giuliani, the former mayor of New York and currently the reincarnation of Heath Ledger’s Joker. Giuliani proudly admits taking the idea of a Muslim ban and couching it in terms of banning entry by nationals of certain  Muslim-majority countries.

However, those countries do not account for an imminent threat or a single act of terrorism on United States soil. Moreover, the executive order also exempted religious minorities from those countries. It reads like a ban against all people of Islam. Oops!

 National Security 

The administration’s second problem is that it relies entirely on the President’s motivation on the need of national security, which in turn is based on his belief, as opposed to evidence. No doubt, there is an underlying national security need to exclude potential terrorists. By declaring everyone (except Christians) from certain Muslim-majority countries to be excluded, the administration painted with a broad and religiously discriminatory brush.

Second, the administration has offered no proof of a national security risk if the immigration ban is not enforced.  There is no publicly available information suggesting a threat of terrorism by one or more individuals emigrating from the targeted countries. Addition, there is no explanation why other Muslim-majority countries are not included in the executive order-such as Saudi Arabia. If there is information and it’s confidential, the Justice Department could offer to show the courts the information on a confidential basis, so that the classified nature is not destroyed. The Justice Department has not offered to do that.

Cyber-Based Terrorism

There is a third factor, and it is important. The attacks within the United States and in Western Europe over the last couple of years were thought to be Lone-wolf actions or the act of ISIS  sympathizers. The people carrying out the attacks were lawfully in the countries where the attacks took place. Most recently, investigation suggests that these were not Lone-wolf attacks but in fact were directed by ISIS through instant messaging via the Internet. The domestic terrorism issue is as much an issue of cyber security as it is about admitting potential terrorists into the country.

In addition to being unconstitutional for a variety of reasons, the executive order may be ineffectual in stopping domestic terrorism.

  What else can the Justice Department say? It will probably argue that the executive order is an exercise of the presidential prerogative to maintain national security.  This argument is not persuasive.  It is too easy for the administration to assert a national security pretext to cover otherwise unjustifiable actions.  

If the administration is able to present some tangible evidence of an imminent risk, no doubt the court would take such evidence very seriously and would uphold the ban in some modified form that would address the potential danger. But the court cannot grant blanket use of a national security exception without creating an opportunity for abuse by the administration.

© 2017 The Revolted Colonies

 

 

 

Politics as Unusual: The FBI, The Bundy Verdict and The Comey Letter

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FBI director James Comey had a lousy week, and next week is not looking any better.  A trial jury in Oregon told him that his G-Men were off-base thinking that armed seizure of a federal bird sanctuary constituted a crime when the panel acquitted the Bundy Gang of conspiracy, gun and other charges. Comey took refuge in Anthony Weiner’s underwear, but they’re not fitting as planned.

Bad Day at the Bird Bath

img_1441The Bundy Gang didn’t walk away. There are other charges against them still pending.  The acquittal was not a blanket exoneration. Still, it will force the Bureau to reconsider its policy in dealing with armed anti-government resistance.  J. Edgar Hoover must be spinning in his grave. 

img_1443The shooting at Ruby Ridge, Idaho in 1992 and the siege and shootout in Waco, Texas in 1993 had previously put the FBI under scrutiny in its encounters with the Militia Movement, of which the Bundys are a part. The verdict handcuffs the Bureau in protecting federal land from armed opposition.  The next step, unfortunately, would be to call up the National Guard. which may be precisely what the Bundys want.

Rifling Through the Underwear Drawer

img_1448The day after the Bundy acquittal and without any apparent connection to it, Comey sent Congress a letter stating that the FBI was reading newly discovered Hillary Clinton emails from a cache recovered a month ago from a laptop it seized from Weiner.  The laptop was shared by the former Congressman and his soon-to-be ex-wife, Huma Abedin, a top aide to the President-in-Waiting. Weiner is under investigation for conducting an online sexual relationship with a minor.

Even though the FBI has had Weiner’s laptop for a month and presumably has known about the emails for as long, allegedly it hasn’t gotten around to reading them.  So, the FBI hasn’t determined if these emails are new discoveries or copies of emails previously recovered.

Nevertheless, Comey thought it necessary to inform Congress of the find. In July, Comey announced that the FBI had found no basis to recommend criminal charges against former Secretary of State Clinton, arising out of her use of a private email server. He then scolded her publicly for mishandling classified material.   Comey came under fire for this ex-officio comment.

Crossing The Boss

img_1447Now, Comey is on the hot seat again. He went against Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s direction not to issue the inflammatory letter adding nothing of substance to the case against Clinton, eleven days before Election Day. The FBI reports to Lynch’s Justice Department. Yet, Comey said that he felt obligated to inform Congress of this newish discovery. Comey’s action may well be grounds for dismissal. Given Lynch’s own political problem over her June  airport meeting with Bill Clinton, creating an appearance of impropriety in connection with the email server issue, she was in no position to block Comey and is in no position to fire him.  

Comey Unchained

Nevertheless, Comey’s feeling of obligation is badly misguided. The emails have not been examined. Right now, they are not evidence—they are data. It is against law enforcement policy to discuss on open investigation of any kind.If Clinton was not running for President in an upcoming election, you can bet that Comey would not even have thought about it. The FBI would continue its investigation and report its findings to DOJ, which then would make a decision as to prosecution.

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Even if he had an obligation to update Congress, his action was premature and knowingly prejudicial. It would be understandable if the FBI had determined that the emails were newly discovered material, containing a “Classified” marking and being sent to or from Clinton’s private server.  Then the Bureau could report something meaningful had been found and that further classification review by other agencies would be required. Until then, it should have remained an internal matter for the Bureau; especially because classified material might involve matters of national security.  

Comey has painted himself into a corner. If the emails are innocuous, he should not have raised it at all. If they involved  classified material, he can’t disclose them but clearly has opened that door. He’s prejudiced the election as well as a potential prosecution.  Clinton along with others accuses Comey of a political hatchet job.  Try as one might, the political aspect is impossible to dismiss.

© 2016 The Revolted Colonies

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