During an appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this week, James Comey was asked whether the FBI was investigating Donald Trump’s ties to the Russian government.
“I would never comment on investigations — whether we have one or not — in an open forum like this,” Comey said. “So I really can’t answer one way or another.”
Which led every Democrat in hearing distance to think, “Ah, that’s right, James. You would never do that. If there’s one thing I know about James Comey, it’s that he never comments on the existence of investigations in open forums. Even kids know that. In fact, I often ask my many small children, ‘Hey, sweet babies, what’s the one thing James Comey never does?’ And they all immediately shout in unison, ‘Comment on da existins of investigasions in open fowums!’ — BECAUSE MY ENTIRE FAMILY CAUGHT MEMENTO DISEASE IN MID-OCTOBER AND HAVE NO RECOLLECTION OF THAT TIME YOU SWUNG AN ELECTION TO AN AUTHORITARIAN INSULT COMIC. ”
But Democrats bit their tongues, took several deep breaths, and contented themselves with the thought that Comey would at least open up at a confidential briefing on Russian hacking this Friday.
And then, per the Guardian, this happened:
Embattled FBI director James Comey has refused to clarify whether his organization is investigating Donald Trump’s ties to Russia in a closed briefing on Friday for members of Congress, angering legislators who recall his high-profile interjections about Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign
… Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat who had pressed Comey during a September hearing about his criteria for acknowledging an investigation, sharply asked Comey if the director was applying a double standard to Trump.
Comey had said in September testimony that his standard was a “a need for public to be reassured, [and] when it’s obvious, it’s apparent, given our activities, public activities that the investigation is ongoing.”
Nadler, according to a different source, then asked Comey in the Friday meeting: “Do you believe that standard has been met with reference to the possible investigation of the Trump campaign’s possible connections to the Russian government? And if not, why not?”
Comey dodged the question, sparking anger among attendees.
The Guardian reports that Comey was asked “over and over” to clarify his standards for acknowledging the existence of an FBI investigation, and that the FBI director repeatedly refused.
Democrats left the meeting spitting with rage.
“I was nonjudgmental until the last 15 minutes. I no longer have that confidence in him,” Minnesota Democrat Tim Walz told the Hill.
“I’m extremely concerned — extremely,” Maryland’s Elijah Cummings told the outlet.
“I’ll just — I’m very angry,” added Mark Takano of California.
Georgia congressman John Lewis went several steps further in an interview with NBC News, saying, “ I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president … I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.”
Earlier this week, the inspector general of the Justice Department announced an investigation into the FBI’s handling of its inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s private email server — including Comey’s infamous, late-October letter about all the irrelevant emails he found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop.
But one major lesson of that whole fiasco is already clear: Democratic presidents should not nominate Republicans to run the FBI.