Did The President Strong-Arm Comey Over His Job? [Opinion]

When James Comey testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Thursday, the questions were shot at the former FBI director from all angles. It was easy to tell who was plugging for who when each individual started with their own line of questioning. The Trump supporters vs. non-supporters were fairly easy to read. One senator, in particular, was quick to use just a single word when describing Trump’s timing regarding firing Comey, he said it “stinks.”

That was Senator Wyden, who told Comey that while he doesn’t always agree with Comey, he does believe the timing of his firing “stinks.” He goes on to say this has an “odor” of someone using their powers in a way they shouldn’t. He was apparently referring to Donald Trump when saying this. Ron Wyden, who is a senator from Oregon, alluded to the possibility that Comey felt his job was on the line. He asked Comey if he felt his job was contingent on this loyalty that Comey had just reported Trump wanted from him.

Although Comey did say Trump never threatened his job by saying it was contingent upon something Comey needed to do, he elaborated on this answer later on in the questioning. He did say that he felt Trump was “looking to get something in exchange for granting my request to stay in the job,” reports the Washington Post.

What Comey was feeling and what was actually said sound as if they may be two different things, or at least it can be taken two different ways. It was easy to see among these top brass questioning Comey who was a supporter of the president and who wasn’t.

Comey testified that he had several conversations with Trump, both in person and on the phone. He also said he never initiated any of these contacts. Much of the conversation that Comey reported on happened when Comey went to the White House for dinner with Trump, where he was shocked to find he was the only one sitting down to dinner with Trump.

The FBI director’s position is for a term of 10 years. A full decade in this job was a deliberate safeguard to avoid any influence of politics, something that Comey testified was worrisome for him. According to the Washington Post, Comey testified that he was “skeptical of Trump” from the get-go. This concern prompted Comey to document his conversations with Trump.

He took written notes when he encountered Trump, something he said he never felt the need to do when meeting with Trump’s predecessor, Obama. One of the more important scenarios to come out of today’s testimony by Comey was his report that Trump asked him to shut down the investigation of Michael Flynn, who was the former national security advisor, according to the Washington Post.

The scene was set by Comey, who said that Trump had asked everyone but Comey to leave the room, which left Trump and Comey alone. Comey didn’t offer any judgments on whether or not he felt Trump attempted to obstruct justice. He did say that while Trump didn’t tell him to shut down the investigation, he took it as a directive from the president when Trump said “I hope” this Flynn investigation would end. The other thing that Comey had to admit today was that Donald Trump was never under investigation by the FBI. Why he wouldn’t come out and say this from the beginning when the rumors around Trump suggested he was under investigation is confusing to folks.

Senator Richard Blumenthal called Comey’s testimony “chilling.” Paul Ryan defended Trump’s actions, according to Business Insider. Ryan said that Donald Trump is “new at the government, so, therefore, I think he’s learning as he goes. And you now know why he’s frustrated because he was told [by Comey] ‘nothing is wrong here’ and he wants to get things done for the American people.”

Marco Rubio also suggested that Trump was new to politics, so there should have been more seasoned members from his team on hand to inform Trump what is appropriate and not appropriate to say when meeting with Comey. What Donald Trump reportedly said to Comey can be twisted either way. Comey told the panel assembled before him that he was the one who leaked his notes on Trump’s meeting to the press. He asked a friend of his, who is a college professor, to get his notes on Trump’s meeting to the press. A few questions after Comey’s reveal suggested that this action on Comey’s behalf didn’t sit right with some of the members of this committee.

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Defending his actions, he said that he did this as a civilian after Trump fired him. When asked if he was able to use those notes to prepare that statement he put together as a prelude to the committee questioning him, he said no, he had turned it over to the proper officials. When asked if his friend, the one he asked to leak these notes to the press, still had a copy. Comey said he wasn’t sure, but then seemed to change his answer to there was a good possibility he did have the notes. The committee would like those notes, the ones Comey documented after his meetings with Trump. Comey has agreed to pursue this.

Senator Roy Blunt appeared on Fox News Thursday afternoon and wanted to know why Comey didn’t deliver those documented notes himself, but instead, he had a surrogate do it for him. Some of the members of this committee thought this was an odd chain of events for a former FBI director to let someone else do this deed. Others thought it was an odd deed to do at all, as this meeting was not meant for the public’s ears.

Comey said he did this because at the time the press was camped out at the end of his driveway. If he had done this himself it would have been “like feeding seagulls at the beach.” You have to keep in mind while watching Comey that he is a man fired from a prestigious job that he loved, and it was Donald Trump who did the firing. He also mentioned several times that Trump praised his work. He told the committee that he heard Trump say several times that he hears from his colleagues what a good job Comey is doing and how respected among his peers he is. That was a little bit like tooting your own horn.

Senator Roy Blunt appeared on Fox News Thursday afternoon, and much like others, he wanted to know why Comey gave those notes to a friend to leak to the press. Again, many of the pro-Trump folks didn’t find Comey convincing, and people who aren’t supporters of the president seemed to hang on Comey’s every word.

[Featured Image by Alex Brandon/AP Images]