Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America react to disgraced ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner pleading guilty to sending obscene material to a minor and discuss how his character might have played a key role in the final days of the 2016 campaign. They also discuss the ugly beating of Kurdish protesters by the security for Turkish President Erdogan this week in Washington. And they scratch their heads over why Joe Lieberman is at the top of any list to lead the FBI.
Democrats, media figures, and even some Republicans suggest President Trump’s alleged request for former FBI Director James Comey to end an investigation into fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn amounts to obstruction of justice, but a former federal prosecutor says what we know thus far does not rise to that level and is no different than Barack Obama’s efforts to exonerate Hillary Clinton.
Andrew C. McCarthy led the prosecution of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and others for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and plots to blow up other New York City landmarks. In his latest column for National Review, McCarthy says those purporting outrage now said virtually nothing when President Obama arguably took more egregious actions with respect to Clinton.
“In a few ways, the Obama situation with Hillary Clinton is worse than what we’ve heard about here. What Obama did was make a very public statement, which is obviously a statement to his subordinates as well as everyone else, that he didn’t want Mrs. Clinton prosecuted and didn’t think she should be prosecuted,” said McCarthy in an interview discussing his column.
“He articulated a legal theory for why she shouldn’t be prosecuted, this claim that she wasn’t trying to harm the United States and that her classified emails, while they exhibited carelessness on her part, were really a small part of a much larger overall picture and had been exaggerated out of proportion,” said McCarthy.
He says that same logic was used again a few months later.
“Lo and behold three months later, when Director Comey announced his view that Mrs. Clinton shouldn’t be prosecuted, he adopted precisely the legal reasoning Obama had announced three months before,” said McCarthy.
McCarthy’s analysis follows the breathless reporting of an alleged Comey memo following a February 14 meeting with Trump at the White House. According to the memo, Trump cleared the room before engaging Comey on the Flynn investigation.
Trump reportedly told Comey, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” M
McCarthy says that tidbit alone is a far cry from constituting obstruction of justice.
“I don’t think we’re close to being there yet because even though I am sure that then-Director Comey must have found the conversation with President Trump to be awkward and inappropriate, I don’t think there’s anything corrupt about it,” said McCarthy.
First of all, McCarthy says it’s hard to draw any sweeping conclusions from a few scraps of a conversation.
“The most important thing about obstruction of justice is context. We don’t really have context here. We have one statement that’s mined out of what must be a larger memo,” said McCarthy.
He says there needs to be concrete evidence of corruption to pursue obstruction of justice allegations.
“Corruption is the heart of obstruction of justice. The person has to act intentionally, knowing that what he’s doing is wrong, and intend to subvert the truth-seeking process,” said McCarthy.
Trump critics suggest the subsequent firing of Comey after the director refused to back off the Flynn case is evidence of obstruction. McCarthy says you need a lot more than that.
“I think the corruption that would be involved would be if you were to pressure the FBI to drop an investigation, rig that result and then use it to suggest the person had been exonerated when you knew that you had actually rigged the result and not allowed the FBI to do an investigation,” said McCarthy.
Furthermore, McCarthy says Comey’s actions over the subsequent three months shows he did not consider Trump’s comments as an attempt to obstruct justice.
“Obviously, Comey, who is a highly-decorated and highly-experienced former prosecutor and FBI director and who well knows what obstruction of justice is, he clearly didn’t feel like he’d been obstructed. If he had, I’m certain he would have resigned and then gone up and down the chain of command and perhaps to Congress to report why he was resigning,” said McCarthy.
“Instead, he ended the conversation. He did write the memo. The investigation of Flynn continues. In fact, we now here that there’s a grand jury in Virginia, so he must not have perceived that he’d been obstructed. Obviously they weren’t obstructed because they’re proceeding with the investigation,” said McCarthy.
For the same reason, McCarthy says the wringing of hands and panting for impeachment inside the beltway is greatly overblown.
“Democrats will say that Trump fired Flynn because of the Flynn investigation and because of the fact that it hadn’t been closed down and that he did it as a signal to the FBI and the Justice Department that he doesn’t want Flynn proceeded against. That’ll be their interpretation of it,” said McCarthy.
“The reason I think that’s a loser, even though I understand why they’re making the argument, is that the investigation is continuing,” said McCarthy.
“There’s a lot more to the relationship between the president and the FBI director than a single criminal case, even against a one-time aide of Trump’s in the administration. There could be a million reasons why the president might want to fire the FBI director,” said McCarthy.
McCarthy says Democrats have been trying to bring down Trump since the day after the election, and perpetual outrage is often an effective way of preventing much from getting accomplished.
“In the long term, what they’re looking at is trying to make it impossible for him to govern so the parts of his agenda, to the extent that they object to them, can’t be implemented and also make it look like his government – and he’s helping them with this by the way – is so chaotic and so in over its head that it helps their electoral prospects in 2018 and 2020,” said McCarthy.
While McCarthy notes that Republicans have a long history of not defending their party’s president during times of controversy, at least compared to Democrats, he sees no actual traction for impeachment despite the growing demands from the left.
“I see the fervor (among Democrats) to want to get a president impeached, but I don’t see any grounds for doing it. Given what Republican numbers are at the moment, I don’t see any prospect of it,” said McCarthy.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America examine the logic behind a surprising tweet from Utah Sen. Mike Lee suggesting Obama Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland should be Trump’s choice to head the FBI. They also react to dozens of anonymous government sources suggesting the firing of James Comey was about Russia and that the deputy attorney general allegedly threatened to resign because the administration claimed the firing was his idea. And they discuss reports that Trump has repeatedly asked White House lawyers if he can communicate with former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
While the media and politicians from both parties look for deeper reasons for President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James B. Comey, a former Justice Department official says the decision was long overdue and needed for obvious reasons.
Former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Victoria Toensing says she and others in the the justice and law enforcement community urged Trump to dismiss Comey from day one.
“It just came too late, 109 days too late. Those of us in the swamp knew who the alligators were in the swamp, and we all tried to warn the White House and they didn’t listen to us,” said Toensing, who also served as a federal prosecutor.
And why did they implore Trump to fire him?
“Comey was a narcissist. It was all about Comey and he delighted in wanting to bring down powerful people if they were Republicans,” said Comey.
Toensing also points to how Comey, during his days as deputy attorney general in the George W. Bush administration, tapped his close friend, Patrick Fitzgerald to investigate the alleged exposing of a covert CIA operative.
That probe resulted in a criminal conviction for Lewis “Scooter” Libby, former chief of staff to former Vice President Dick Cheney. But that’s not who Fitzgerald really wanted.
“Throughout that investigation, Scooter’s lawyer was told consistently by the Fitzgerald people, ‘If you give up Dick Cheney, this will all go away.’ They were trying to bring down Dick Cheney, and you can bet your bottom dollar that Comey was talking with Fitzgerald while he was doing this,” said Toensing, who represents Libby in his quest for a presidential pardon.
On Tuesday, the Trump administration released its rationale for the Comey firing, focusing on his public announcement that no charges should be filed against Hillary Clinton in the wake of the FBI probe into her use of a private, unsecured server through which she sent and received classified information while she served as Secretary of State.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein accused Comey of usurping the authority of the attorney general in making such a pronouncement and for exposing Clinton’s misdeeds when he was effectively closing the investigation.
But Toensing says Comey made far more mistakes, starting with his repeated misstating of the statute in question. Comey insisted that intent to break the law was required to bring charges, while gross negligence is the standard laid out in federal law. She also savaged Comey for refusing to impanel a grand jury to probe Clinton and for allowing the same attorney to represent multiple witnesses in the case.
“That’s called a conflict of interest, because that lawyer can get all of her clients together and they can all read from the same music. You never do that,” said Toensing.
Toensing is also dismissing the intense reaction from Democrats, who she says are now appalled after calling for Comey’s head for months. She says the idea that Trump fired Comey because of the ongoing Russia investigation is ridiculous and so are any comparisons to Richard Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre.”
“In Watergate, there was a crime. There was a burglary. There was a break-in. What’s the crime here? What’s the crime? Do we have a crime? No, there’s no crime,” said Toensing, noting that Russian involvement in U.S. elections is nothing new.
“That’s been going on since Richard Nixon. Why is it all of a sudden an issue this time, just because Hillary lost? If Hillary had won, there would not be any inquiry into whatever the Russians did regarding this election process,” said Toensing.
Toensing is also upset with congressional Republicans, both for not doing more at recent hearings to point out that Russian interference in elections is not the same as collusion with the Trump campaign. She also says the past 24 hours show Democrats are far better at messaging than the GOP.
Finally, Toensing believes former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly would be an ideal successor to Comey at the FBI and is someone who has worked for Republicans and Democrats.
“He is a lifetime career cop. That’s what we need at the FBI now to gain confidence,” said Toensing.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America go over the Trump administration’s case for firing FBI Director James Comey, especially his handling of the Hillary Clinton case. They also discuss Comey learning about his firing from television reports, many White House staffers also being caught off guard, and concerns over the timing of the announcement. And they get a kick out of Democrats being outraged at Trump’s firing of Comey after many of them had been calling for Comey’s ouster since October.
Ian Tuttle of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America cheer Attorney General Jeff Sessions for announcing he plans to vigorously enforce immigration law and recommend felony charges for anyone entering the U.S. illegally after already being deported. They also react to reports that the FBI conducted surveillance on Trump campaign aide Carter Page in 2016. And they respond to Sean Spicer’s comments suggesting Adolf Hitler did not use chemical weapons in World War II and the media’s massive overreaction to it.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America begin by discussing the interesting circumstances surrounding the discovery of Tom Brady’s stolen Superbowl jersey, but then get to the real news. They are excited to see Neil Gorsuch begin his Supreme Court confirmation hearings. They also react to the heads of the FBI and NSA say they have no evidence suggesting Pres. Obama ordered surveillance on Trump Tower. And they shake their heads as only 43 percent of Americans can name one Supreme Court justice.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America applaud the FBI for arresting a man in connection to threats made against Jewish Community Centers and other institutions, and the suspect might surprise you. They also get a kick out of Colin Kaepernick suddenly ending his national protests now that he needs a job. And they unload on Rep. Cedric Richmond for his horrible comments about KellyAnne Conway and for stating that Trump is not his president.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America applaud Mark Hemingway of “The Weekly Standard” for shredding the ridiculous notion that the Obama administration has been scandal-free. They also unload on the FBI for doing nothing after the man who later became the Ft. Lauderdale airport terrorist came to them and said his mind was being controlled by U.S. intelligence agencies. And they highlight the FBI revelation that the Democratic National Committee refused to allow agents to inspect their servers after they suspected they had been hacked.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America discuss three crazy aspects of the FBI announcing it is investigating new emails in connection with the Hillary Clinton case. They marvel at the Democrats demonizing James Comey just three months after extolling him as the paragon of virtue. They shake their heads as Huma Abedin insists she has no idea what is in her 650,000 emails. And they react to longtime Clinton ally Doug Schoen saying as of now he can no longer support Hillary Clinton.