Yesterday, I said that I'd spend Comey Day watching an old western. The surprisingly appropriate choice was Cattle Drive
(1951), in which a 14 year-old Dean Stockwell plays (sweartagod) a 19th century version of Donald Trump, young and snotty and just begging to be slapped. Stranded out west, Dean/Donnie is rescued by no-nonsense ramrod Joel McCrea, who knocks all of the arrogance out of the kid and then teaches him the Cowboy Way.
Basically, it's Kipling's Captains Courageous
on the trail. Damned good movie. If only life had imitated art.
At one point, curiosity got the better of me and I tuned into That Comey Show. The former FBI Director was being questioned by John McCain, who could not comprehend that the investigation of Hillary Clinton's emails had reached a conclusion while the investigation of Trump's Russian adventures had not. What a cringe-inducing sight! I could not bear to watch for very long. I've always respected McCain, even though I often disagree with him -- but on this occasion, he just seemed...lost. Can you blame me for switching back to my cowboy movie?
(Seriously, it was very satisfying to see Joel McCrae teach Young Trump how to be a non-asshole. Although McCrae's real-life politics veered right, I don't think he would have had much use for Dorito Mussolini.)
By now I've heard several dozen pundits offer their Comey Day reactions, and I've heard much of the testimony itself. The most jaw-dropping right-wing response originated with Marc Kasowitz
, Trump's "default lawyer." (I use that term because nobody else wants to represent that deadbeat). He focused on Comey's admission that he had leaked a memo to the NYT via a friend of his, a law professor at Columbia
Calling Comey's action "retaliatory," Kasowitz said that "we will leave it the appropriate authorities to determine whether this leaks should be investigated along with all those others being investigated."
However, there is no evidence that the Times quoted from Comey memos before Trump tweeted about possible "tapes" of their conversations in a post dated May 12. The first Times story on the memos appeared May 16.
Naturally, the right-wing media took these words as their cue to go crazy. Jonathan Turley
made the closest thing to a rational argument...
Besides being subject to Nondisclosure Agreements, Comey falls under federal laws governing the disclosure of classified and nonclassified information. Assuming that the memos were not classified (though it seems odd that it would not be classified even on the confidential level), there is 18 U.S.C. § 641 which makes it a crime to steal, sell, or convey “any record, voucher, money, or thing of value of the United States or of any department or agency thereof.”
There are also ethical and departmental rules against the use of material to damage a former represented person or individual or firm related to prior representation.
Oh, come off it.
Comey was a private citizen when that memo went public. The memo contained no classified information. His words were his own, just as Trump's tweets are his own or this blog post is my own. Comey was not Trump's lawyer, priest or shrink. His dialogue with Trump -- a meeting which the FBI chief neither sought nor desired -- was not covered by executive privilege.
Are we really supposed to believe that everyone who talks to a president about anything is automatically sworn to secrecy forevermore, even after leaving government service?
Trump felt free to offer the public false and defamatory versions of his interactions with Comey. Are we supposed to believe that Comey has no right to respond? The right seems to think that Trump may shit on whomever he pleases, and that those shat upon must never be allowed to shit back.
Dick Morris has spent untold hours on teevee recounting private conversations he supposedly had with Bill Clinton. (Some of Morris' tales seem downright fanciful, but that's a matter for another time.) Why didn't Turley or Kasowitz complain about that
When I glance to my left, I see a bookcase double-stacked with political works. From A Thousand Days
(1965) to Confront and Conceal
(2012), all of these volumes include scenes in which the president speaks behind closed doors. Some of these books were written by people who worked in the White House. Other books quote interviews with former White House staffers, or memos and other documents written by former staffers. Is Jonathan Turley really going to argue that these books should not exist?
The other really insane right-wing defense comes to us via Alan Dershowitz
, who seems to think that the president stands above all charges of obstruction of justice. Did Dershowitz sing that song when Ken Starr was running his inquisition? I don't think so.
The Tweetstorm that wasn't.
We heard not one word from Trump during the Comey testimony. Uncanny! My mind flashed on the Book of Revelation: And there was silence in heaven for the space of half an hour
. I suspect that the Default Lawyer gave his client an ultimatum: One tweet out of you and you can find yourself another attorney
Kasowitz claims that Trump never asked Comey for loyalty. If left to his own devices, Blurtmaster Trump might have sent out a tweet undercutting that defense. As I said a couple of posts ago, the man is the God of Blurters.
(BTW: That bit from Revelation always bothered me. It implies the presence of clocks in heaven -- clocks which divide time into 24 hour cycles, just like Earth clocks. But...why?
What's being hidden?
Comey clearly indicated that something massive and shadowy lurks within this scandal. The obstruction of justice issue is important, but Trump would not have tried to manipulate the FBI Director if Russiagate were a mere delusion.
When asked about the Orbis dossier, Comey asked for a closed session. When asked if Trump had colluded, Comey asked for a closed session. Comey indicated that he knew from the start (well before word had reached the publication) that Jeff Sessions had discomforting Russian ties, ties that went well beyond the known meetings with Kislyak; when pressed for more information about that angle, Comey asked for a closed session. When asked for more information about VneshEconomBank, the spooked-up Russian bank linked to Jared Kushner, Comey asked for a closed session. When asked about ties between "Trump people" and the Russian government, Comey asked for a closed session.
And yet the right is pretending that Comey cleared the president
"The Russia story is now dead and any Democrat who continues to push it will look foolish and insane to the American people."
From Legal Insurrection
This testimony should spell the death of the Russia collusion claims, as even Chris Matthews acknowledged today. But it’s more than a death of conspiracy theories, it’s an indictment of the attempts to undo the 2016 election results and to undermine the Trump administration’s ability to govern. The “resistance” has been and is based on lies, and represents the true threat to our electoral and representative system.
(Did Chris Matthews say that? He was singing a different tune during Hardball
I don't know what these screwball Trumpsters are smoking, but it sure as hell ain't tobacco or barbecue. Again: The former FBI Director, when asked if Trump has colluded with the Kremlin, demanded a closed session
. That is not
a good sign. That one exchange, by itself, has no precedent in American history. In normal times, that exchange would have made headlines around the world.
You didn't resoundingly kick out Theresa May, who may be able to hold onto her gig. (Things are still up in the air as of this writing.) But you did upset her plans.
And guess what? The election relied on HAND-COUNTED PAPER BALLOTS
My fellow Americans: Go thou and do likewise
Back to Cattle Drive.
About 40 minutes in, McCrae wins a horserace, only to discover that young Dean Stockwell, using underhanded means, had placed the other horse at a disadvantage. McCrae returns all of the money he won, making sure that the kid feels every bit of the shame he has earned.
"No satisfaction in winning unless you win fair and square," explains McCrae. "Nobody wants a game rigged in favor of him any more than he wants a game rigged against him."
Don't you think that the world would be a better place if Donald Trump had learned that lesson at the age of 14?