Littwin: We may have known the truth, but it was still shocking to see Comey call Trump a liar

Because we live in the age of Donald Trump, in which truth is not exactly the coin of the realm, it may be tempting to understate the extraordinary nature of James Comey’s Senate testimony.

I can’t remember anything quite like it, and that includes the Watergate hearings. Under oath, Comey, the former head of the FBI, called the president a liar. Not just once, but repeatedly. Most damningly, Comey felt the need to write memos after each Trump meeting because, he said, “I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting.”

He confirmed the reporting that Trump had asked him repeatedly to pledge his personal “loyalty,” as if America were some kind of fiefdom, that Trump said he “hoped” he would drop the FBI’s investigation of Michael Flynn, that Comey regarded Trump’s Oval Office “hope” as a direct order, and that Trump, in any honest rendering of Comey’s testimony, was clearly trying to interfere with the FBI investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.

Comey wouldn’t say whether he considered Trump’s actions obstruction but that he expected the special counsel would be looking into it. And in any case, he didn’t have to say it directly. He spent most of a morning making the case.

Comey did say he was stunned that Trump would invite an FBI director over for dinner. He was stunned that Trump cleared the Oval Office so he could talk to Comey alone. He was even more stunned that Trump would ask for what Comey described as a “patronage relationship,” and more stunned still by what he considered to be a not very subtle attempt by Trump at a quid pro quo — you leave Flynn alone; you keep your job.

And nearly as extraordinary as Comey’s testimony was the fact that the Republican senators on the Intelligence Committee, who mostly tried to diminish the seriousness of Comey’s narrative, did not once challenge Comey on the facts.

As far as the committee was concerned, this is the official record of Trump’s unusual set of meetings with the supposedly independent FBI chief. As Comey pointed out, he had had two meetings with Obama — one of them to say good-bye — and nine phone calls or meetings with Trump.

So we’re left with this: Comey repeatedly calling Trump an untrustworthy liar and, in Trump’s defense, Republican committee members offering none. This was, in fact, a metaphorical group nod — yeah, tell us something we don’t already know.

Marc Kasowitz, who is Trump’s lawyer, read aloud a written statement that did offer a defense and did say that Comey lied. He said Trump never asked for loyalty and never asked Comey to drop the Flynn investigation. He also jumped on Comey’s admission that he had arranged for his memos to be leaked to the press in order to force the nomination of a special prosecutor. Kasowitz called Comey a “leaker,” and that much is apparently true, and also blockbuster news. FBI directors admit to leaks nearly as often as FBI directors call their bosses liars. It’s also true that after the leak, Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel.

In any case, I don’t want to suggest that this is a watershed. Paul Ryan, true to his nature, tried to pass this off as Trump being new to the job, a novice who just didn’t understand the protocols, the boundaries, the, you know, rules. John McCain — now, officially, poor John McCain — stumbled while trying to pin a double-standard rap on Comey for still investigating the Russia connection while having let Clinton off the hook. It was bizarre and embarrassing. Marco Rubio, once again Lil Marco, weakly tried to defend his former rival, but afterwards said he wasn’t prepared to say whether or not Trump had tried to obstruct justice.

The sad truth, though, is that everyone knew Trump was a liar during the campaign and he was still elected. Don’t expect Republicans to abandon him now.

But what you can expect is the Russia “cloud” Trump said is hovering over his administration to grow into a full-blown storm, if we’re not there already. The practical lesson to be drawn here is that if you have anything to hide — and what president doesn’t? — you don’t fire your FBI director. These guys know too much.

And one thing Comey knew, because Trump admitted as much in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, is that he was fired because of the Russia probe. Once you have that fact in hand, the rest of the Comey story falls into place. Trump asked Comey to lay off Flynn, and when he didn’t, he fired him.

There was other news from Comey’s testimony. It turns out Jeff Sessions may be in this thing more deeply than we knew. Comey said Loretta Lynch intruded on the Clinton investigation and that it made the weak-stomached Comey “queasy.” This revelation also gave Comey room to make him look bipartisan in his queasiness.

But the explosive news was all about Comey and Trump. Angus King, the independent senator from Maine who is becoming the star of these hearings, asked Comey if his firing by Trump reminded him of the story of Henry II and Thomas Becket.

Comey immediately picked up on the prompt.

“It kind of rings in my ears as, ‘Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?’ ” he said.

That’s supposedly what Henry said to his aides back in the 12th century about Becket, the meddlesome archbishop of Canterbury. If you know your medieval history or just take a quick look through Wikipedia, you know that a group of knights, picking up on Henry’s suggestion, killed Becket, who would be canonized for his troubles.

It’s unlikely that Comey has any reasonable shot at sainthood (just ask Hillary Clinton). But, for the greater part of three hours, as millions watched from home and work and even from bars, the meddlesome Comey made clear his thoughts on how history might ultimately judge Trump, who, shockingly, failed to even tweet a response.


Photo via Ben Sutherland, Fickr: Creative Commons 


He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.


  1. When I see Trump on TV I can only remember the famous line from ‘National Lampoon Vacation’ where the two Native Americans are sitting on there horses looking down on the station wagon in the desert. “What an asshole”.

  2. Clown car fears driving across London Bridge.

    “Hiding news that doesn’t fit an ideological or a partisan agenda is perhaps the worst form of media bias. And it’s one more reason the public holds the press is such low esteem.” – Investor’s Business Daily

    “(Mr. Trump) won’t be president. He was sliding in the polls before the video, and the video now means that he has no way to climb back. Which independent voter, which suburban woman, which Main Street Republican on the fence is going to vote for Trump now?” – Mike Littwin


    It’s important to remember Mr. Littwin’s on-again, off-again, up-again, down-again, flipping and flopping again, love/hate relationship with former FBI Director James Comey because Mr. Littwin’s opinion of the former director changes from day to day and issue to issue. For example, Mr. Littwin’s big takeaway from former Director Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee appears to be that he called President Trump a liar so, at least for today, Comey is the man Mr. Littwin once described as a “truth-teller”. Gone, at least for today, is the man Mr. Littwin accused of “misfeasance and malfeasance”.

    To provide a little context on Mr. Littwin’s rather mercurial opinions of former Director Comey, here is a little recap:

    – Last July when FBI Director James Comey announced that Hillary Clinton would not be indicted for her handling of highly sensitive information Mr. Littwin lauded Director Comey as a man “whose reputation as a truth-teller was forever sealed when he served as deputy attorney general in the Bush administration, was the clear winner in the Hillary Clinton email story/scandal. In fact, he was pretty much the only winner.” .

    – Flip-Flop #1. But in October when Director Comey warned Congress in a letter Mr. Littwin described as “strangely vague” that there were more of Mrs. Clinton’s emails to investigate, Mr. Littwin accused him of “misfeasance and malfeasance” and characterized him as being extremely careless, blundering and that his reputation was forever ruined.

    – Flip-Flop #2. However, Mr. Littwin then forgave (pardoned?) Director Comey after he called President Trump a liar in a March Congressional hearing and again when he denied telling President Trump he was not under investigation. Mr. Littwin justified his resurrected faith, hope and trust in Director Comey this way, “Whatever else you think of Comey and whatever possible missteps he might have made, you tend to trust the FBI sources”.

    You can’t make this stuff up! It’s enough to make your head spin and your stomach, well, queasy.

    Mr. Littwin appears to suggest President Trump was guilty of obstructing justice saying “in any honest rendering of Comey’s testimony, (President Trump) was clearly trying to interfere with the FBI investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election”.

    I’m assuming Mr. Littwin will determine what qualifies as an “honest rendering”. However, his layman’s opinion puts him in direct conflict with the professional opinion of Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz who said this.

    “Now that even former Director Comey has acknowledged that the Constitution would permit the president to direct the Justice Department and the FBI in this matter, let us put the issue of obstruction of justice behind us once and for all and focus on the political, moral, and other non-criminal aspects of President Trump’s conduct.”

    Do not expect Mr. Littwin to either challenge or even mention Professor Dershowitz’ legal opinion.

    And as far as Mr. Littwin’s belief (hope?) that “the Russia “cloud” (President) Trump said is hovering over his administration (will) grow into a full-blown storm, “ well, there’s this:

    “Liberal MSNBC host Chris Matthews said Thursday the accusation that President Trump directly colluded with Russia to interfere in the U.S. election “came apart” following former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony in front of Congress.

    In his written and spoken testimony on Thursday, Comey said that he never felt that Trump had tried to impede the FBI’s investigation into Russia, even that the president had encouraged it and he suggested that former national security adviser Mike Flynn wasn’t at the heart of the investigation.

    “The assumption of the critics of the president, of his pursuers, you might say, is that somewhere along the line in the last year is the president had something to do with colluding with the Russians … to affect the election in some way,” Matthews said on MSNBC, following the testimony.

    “And yet what came apart this morning was that theory,” Matthews said, listing two reasons why. First, he said Comey revealed that “Flynn wasn’t central to the Russian investigation,” and secondly, he said that kills the idea that Flynn might have been in a position to testify against Trump.

    “And if that’s not the case, where’s the there-there?” Matthews said.”

    Last Tuesday Mr. Littwin cynically and purposely turned an article written ostensibly about the London tragedy into another unhinged, hyperventilating attack on President Trump.

    Did he mention that 7 people died in the radical Islamic attack? Did he mention that 48 were wounded? Did he mention that British police have named Khuram Shazad Butt, Rachid Redouane and Youssef Zaghba as the Islamic men responsible for the attack? Did he mention ISIS claimed responsibility? Did he mention the UK has suffered three Islamic terrorist attacks in seventy-three days?

    No, no, no, no and no. But there’s a reason: None of those facts support Mr. Littwin’s grotesquely twisted narrative that “(President) Trump’s is a danger to the country and to the world and that to pretend otherwise is to be a part of that danger.“

    The purpose of Tuesday’s column was to attempt to convince readers that the utter horror of the London attack was less important than President Trump tweeting an out of context quote. He characterized President Trump’s tweet as “unforgivable” and yet strangely, but predictably, fails to characterize the deadly radical Islamic terrorism that killed 7 and wounded 48.

    A column that started out with discussing an Islamic terrorist attack quickly devolved into a review of President Trump’s tweets. Mr. Littwin criticizes President Trump for twisting words for his own purpose and yet in his Tuesday column he does the…very…same…thing. Pot meet kettle.

    And then there’s this: In October Mr. Littwin squeamishly reported that “we have (President) Trump on tape boasting about grabbing women’s crotches, only using a word that I’m not comfortable writing.” Well, since then he appears to have gotten over his squeamishness and now reports the quote this way “And if not that, it would have to be his grab-’em-by-the-pussy audio.”

    There are only two words Mr. Littwin is not comfortable writing: Laquan McDonald.

    November 08, 2016

    “’Cause I don’t have no use
    For what you loosely call the truth” – Tina Turner

    Greenlight a Vet
    Folds of Honor
    Special Operations Warriors Foundation

    Veterans Day – November 11, 2017

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