F.B.I. director James B. Comey has asked the U.S. Justice Department to issue a public refutation of Donald Trump’s wiretapping accusations. Comey made this request on Saturday, not long after Trump tweeted a baseless claim that Barack Obama had called for this tapping.
According to the New York Times, Comey has stated, on the record, that Trump’s claim is false, and he is anxious for the Justice Department’s corroboration. After all, Trump’s conspiracy-informed tweets imply that the F.B.I. broke the law.
No doubt you are familiar with the tweets in question: they greeted us on Saturday morning before most of us had made our coffee or proceeded to nurse hangovers.
Trump concluded his tweeted temper tantrum as any reasonable grown man would: by misspelling a three-letter word and heckling Arnold Schwarzenegger. Life comes at you fast, etc.
It seems our tinfoil-hat-wearing president extrapolated these conclusions—at least partially—from a conspiracy theory nurtured by Breitbart News and conservative talkshow hosts. Some on the far right do, apparently, believe that Obama secretly orchestrated a thorough wiretapping of Trump Tower. But this theory lacks any evidence whatsoever and now, in an peculiar turn of events, the director of the F.B.I. has publicly questioned the President’s honesty.
So far, the Justice Department has not affirmed the Bureau’s innocence, but this is not especially surprising. The Attorney General is one of the few Justice Department appointees authorized to release statements, and Jeff Sessions, this administration’s AG, recently recused himself from any activity connected to the investigation into Trump’s dealings with Russia. Last week we learned that the executive branch’s resident racist Keebler elf conversed with the Russian ambassador during the presidential campaign — and thus may also be guilty of perjury. But we only have space for one political debacle in this post, so we’ll pause on Sessions the Gnome-Bigot for now.
In the meantime, Trump’s administration has tossed this rattling husk of a case to Congress. Via the Times:
“On Sunday, the president demanded a congressional inquiry into whether Mr. Obama had abused the power of the federal law enforcement agencies before the 2016 presidential election. In a statement from his spokesman, Mr. Trump called ‘reports’ about the wiretapping ‘very troubling’ and said that Congress should examine them as part of its investigations into Russia’s meddling in the election.”
Press Secretary Sean Spicer released a statement regarding this “investigation” today. He writes, “President Donald J. Trump is requesting that as part of their investigation into Russian activity, the congressional intelligence committee exercise their oversight authority to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016.”
Then, clearly forgetting the Commander-in-Chief’s fondness for live-tweeting his own presidency, Spicer concludes, “neither the White House nor the president will comment further until such oversight is conducted.” The press secretary also tweeted the message but, apparently baffled at the concept of a Twitter thread, did not link them. Should you care to see for yourself, start here.
So where does this leave Comey and the Bureau? As the Times observes, it’s curious that Comey does not simply compose his own statement asserting the falseness of Trump’s claims. He is, after all, the government’s top law enforcement official and, for that matter, served under the Obama administration too. Furthermore, the F.B.I. maintains its own records and so possesses both the information and authority to refute this wiretapping accusation. It’s unusual for intelligence officials to discuss surveillance warrants, the Times notes, but it’s perfectly legal.
In the midst of the bedlam, one wonders if Comey has remarked upon the contrast between this predicament and his involvement in the Hillary Clinton email scandal during the election. In November 2016 the F.B.I. director spoke publicly about the reopened investigation (which, of course, came to nothing) despite the Justice Department’s pleas that he keep mum. Now he seems to regard himself—however bafflingly—at the Justice Department’s mercy.
Sleep well, pals, and steady yourselves. This week promises to be yet another ride through President Trump’s Demented Playhouse.