It isn’t everyday that one pities a man whose job is to head the FBI, but surely nobody could envy the political tightrope James Comey has walked these past 18 months and counting. In an ever more partisan environment where both sides seem intent on nothing less than the total destruction of their opponents, pleasing both conservatives and liberals is literally impossible. Especially when one side hopes, even expects, you to bring criminal charges about the opposition. Depending on the time of day, Comey shifts from hero to villain with either side.
Having first been elevated into global consciousness by the Clinton e-mail saga – and a late intervention that will be forever blamed for her defeat, Comey is now confronted with an even bigger scandal that could potentially destroy Donald Trump’s presidency. His and NSA Director Admiral Rogers’ testimony to the House Intelligence Committee on Monday was a classic piece of political theatre, from which there are inevitable ramifications.
The main takeaway headline was confirmation of an ongoing investigation into links between Russia and the Trump campaign, which begun last July. Another was a firm rejection of the current president’s claim that Trump Tower had been wiretapped on the orders of his predecessor. Perhaps most dramatically, the tweets Trump sent out whilst the hearing was in progress were almost immediately debunked by Rogers and Comey.
Regarding the bigger picture, while there is no clarification yet of any wrongdoing on Trump’s side, Comey confirmed what has felt obvious to many close observers of that remarkable campaign. That Russia sought to influence the result, to the detriment of Clinton, via state-sponsored propaganda, hacking the DNC and a sophisticated online smear campaign.
A bipartisan investigation or media coverage seems unimaginable
For Democrats, a stack of coincidences and circumstantial evidence point firmly to a conspiracy. For Republicans, the focus should be finding which federal employees are responsible for leaks. Inevitably, Comey was repeatedly forced to avoid commenting on precise, named allegations.
The coverage on CNN and Fox typically reflected those irreconcilable differences. A liberal watching the former will probably fancy taking odds around even money that Trump will fail to complete a full-term – due to impeachment, resignation or death. A conservative Fox viewer probably considers such punters to be clueless, just like the mugs that dismissed Trump’s chances last year.