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Jeff Sessions' Defense of James Comey Contradicts His Justification for Firing Him

Actions by the FBI director that the attorney general recently described as unavoidable are suddenly grounds for dismissal.

C-SPANC-SPANOne reason it's so hard to believe the official justification for firing James Comey as head of the FBI: Even Attorney General Jeff Sessions does not believe it. Sessions, whose recommendation supposedly prompted President Trump to give Comey the boot, has publicly and repeatedly defended the actions he now cites as reasons for replacing the FBI director.

The memo in which Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein lays out the case for firing Comey makes some familiar points about the way he handled the investigation of Hillary Clinton's email practices as secretary of state. Rosenstein criticizes Comey for calling a press conference on July 5 to explain why he was not recommending criminal charges against the Democratic presidential nominee. He also faults Comey for announcing, in a letter to members of Congress just 11 days before the election, that the FBI had come across another email trove that might include evidence relevant to the Clinton investigation.

Rosenstein's arguments are compelling, but they are no stronger now than they were last July or last October, when Sessions rejected them. Yet Sessions now claims to believe Comey's behavior was so egregious that "a fresh start is needed at the leadership of the FBI" so that the Justice Department can "reaffirm its commitment to longstanding principles that ensure the integrity and fairness of federal investigations and prosecutions."

Two days after Comey's press conference, where he harshly criticized Clinton's "extremely careless" handing of classified material even as he insisted that "no reasonable prosecutor" would bring a case against her, Sessions, then an Alabama senator and a leading Trump supporter, appeared on Greta Van Susteren's Fox News show. "This was a difficult case," he said, according to the Nexis transcript. "I think it clearly could have gone the other way." Sessions, a former U.S. attorney, said there seemed to be enough evidence for at least a misdemeanor charge against Clinton. But he conceded that "I haven't studied the facts" and described Comey as "a skilled former prosecutor" whom "I have respected over...the years."

Sessions gave no hint that he disapproved of Comey's press conference, which (as Rosenstein notes) broke with the FBI's usual practice of leaving prosecution decisions to the Justice Department and avoiding the release of derogatory information about people who have been investigated but do not face charges. To the contrary, when Van Susteren said she "really appreciated [Comey's] transparency," since "the American people wanted to know...what his opinion was and how he arrived at it," Sessions replied, "It's not him that has the problem. It's Hillary Clinton."

Comey has argued that he needed to announce the outcome of the investigation because Attorney General Loretta Lynch had been compromised by her chumminess with the Clintons, as evidenced by a 20-minute conversation with Bill Clinton aboard her plane at a Phoenix airport on June 27. The criticism provoked by that "regettable" meeting with the former president had prompted Lynch to announce that she would automatically follow the FBI's recommendations concerning charges against Clinton to avoid any appearance of bias. But as Rosenstein notes, Comey could have asked Lynch to recuse herself from the case and let another Justice Department official announce the outcome rather than take on that task himself.

Sessions nevertheless endorsed Comey's defense of the press conference in an October 28 interview with Lou Dobbs on the Fox Business Network. "I didn't like the meeting that you mentioned on the airplane that put Comey in a position that he had to make this announcement," Sessions said. In the same interview, Sessions emphatically defended the other decision cited in Rosenstein's memo: "He had an absolute duty, in my opinion, 11 days or not, to come forward with the new information that he has and let the American people know that."

Last fall Sessions said Comey "had to make this announcement" and "had an absolute duty" to follow up with his letter about newly discovered evidence shortly before the election. Now Sessions says those are firing offenses. "Almost everyone agrees that the Director made serious mistakes," Rosenstein writes. But not Rosenstein's boss, at least not when those mistakes were helping the Trump campaign.

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  • Shirley Knott||

    In a tradition that stretches back *at least* to Nixon.

    At least we have the small mercy that he's not Hillary. That's really all that was wanted or needed.
    It's merely a bonus that we now have a president that everyone can hate. There are no down sides to that.

  • colorblindkid||

    Does anybody honestly think Hillary wouldn't have also fired Comey while still under investigation? Also, Bill Clinton fired his FBI director in July of his first term in 1993 for "serious deficiencies in judgment", only 5 1/2 years into his 10 year term. I don't think he was under investigation, but its not like this is unprecedented.

  • Liberty, Truth and Honor||

    I honestly believe Hillary would not have fired Comey in part because the republicans control the senate and thus could determine the replacement. Had she though I believe the republicans would have demanded her impeachment.

  • colorblindkid||

    So we were screwed either way and I have no qualms about voting for Gary, even with all his flaws.

  • Quixote||

    In appearance both daring and unpresidented, firing Comey was actually an astute political move that furthered one of the key goals of Trump's presidency — to distract the public from developments in America's leading criminal "satire" case. See the documentation at: http://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/.

  • Mark D||

    If there was a crime that Russia committed why are there no charges? Suppose I grant the facts,what should I read to make me care if Russia hacked and released emails from Podesta/DNC? How is it different than wikileaks?

  • Stephen54321||

    colorblindkid: "I don't think he was under investigation..."

    Actually, he was. From the Wikipedia page on Williams Sessions:

    Just before Bill Clinton was inaugurated as the 42nd President of the United States on January 20, 1993, allegations of ethical improprieties were made against Sessions. A report by outgoing Attorney General William P. Barr presented to the Justice Department that month by the Office of Professional Responsibility included criticisms that he had used an FBI plane to travel to visit his daughter on several occasions, and had a security system installed in his home at government expense. Janet Reno, the 78th Attorney General of the United States, announced that Sessions had exhibited "serious deficiencies in judgment."

    That account implies that Office of Professional Responsibility was looking into Sessions' conduct.

    I would also note that there is apparently an Inspector-General investigation into Comey's conduct currently underway, but Trump seems to have decided to jump the gun.

  • Liberty, Truth and Honor||

    I think we can all learn to hate Pence so let's put this sordid crook to bed shall we?

  • mortiscrum||

    I've wondered about this too: House and Senate Republicans are extremely reluctant to dig in to anything Trump related, even as it runs directly counter to their stated jobs as congresspeople. Why don't they do their jobs, dig in to these investigations the way they're supposed to, and if it leads anywhere, well they get Pence. Seems like a win.

    However, I think this vastly discounts the political blow back they'd suffer from voters if a Republican House and Senate were to impeach a "Republican" Trump. Members of congress aren't supposed to carry water for the president like they do, but it has become the political reality in the last 15 years. Breaking with that would rock the boat, super hard, and I'm guessing that it'd be mostly Republicans who fell off.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Yep. The Dems could've detected the data faking, ditched their econazi plank to ban electricity and instead copied a repeal plank from the LP like they copied from the Liberal Party in 1932. But noooooooooooooo...
    It's a good thing their tears are delicious!

  • ||

    Sorry - just about everybody wanted Comey gone.
    Schumer was trashing him - until he was defending him.
    I do not think that Sessions has the slightest problem being "used".

    And I do not think that anyone thinks that Trump's firing of Comey was reluctant.

    But the arguments are actually valid.
    As I note elsewhere the abdication of responsibility by the Obama DOJ made Comey into a combination US AG and FBI director. That continued into the Trump administration - and it had to end.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Slurping up is what lefties and the media are good at. Disgusting.

  • Fascist loofa-faced shitgibbon||

    Typical Trump, does the right thing in a ham-fisted way. He doesn't need to give any reason except that he doesn't have confidence in Comey's judgement, objectivity, or leadership. End of story. The Dir. of the FBI serves at the President's pleasure.

  • geo1113||

    A better approach might have been for Comey to say who needs this shit and resign.

  • Fascist loofa-faced shitgibbon||

    Comey was hunkered in for his full 10 years. None of that "shit" fazed him in the least. He was immune to everyone but one person, and that person kicked his ass to the curb.

  • Liberty, Truth and Honor||

    But that's not the truth. Our President has sworn he was only following the independent and unsolicited recommendation of two Justice Department professionals.

  • Fascist loofa-faced shitgibbon||

    As I said in my first post, "ham-fisted" explanation and completely unneeded.

  • Liberty, Truth and Honor||

    It's wasn't clumsy or inept it was a calculated and conniving pack of lies. What type of person lies for no purpose? Normally lies are told for a purpose. It begs the question.

  • geo1113||

    People used to ask my father to get more involved in local politics. I asked my father why he didn't and he said "who needs all that nonsense". But I get where you are coming from.

  • Shirley Knott||

    It's really quite a stretch to get from "loath just slightly less than the alternatives" do "admire".
    But you're good at that sort of thing.
    After the last half-dozen administrations, there's nothing left to vomit up.

  • Mark D||

    Is there something special about Trump's thuggery?

  • Hank Phillips||

    I hope he fires every last bastard in both the Gestapo AND Waffen SS!

  • ||

    Honestly does ANYONE have confidence in Comey's judgement.

    Either you beleive Comey should have recomended indicting Clinton,
    or you beleive that his interferance cost her the election.

    No one is saying that his handling of things has been proper ?
    Everyone would fire him - just for different reasons.

  • colorblindkid||

    What does this accomplish for Trump, other than pissing off the people who have the power to take Trump down? It's not like Comey hasn't already seen all the evidence and won't still testify before Congress. People are once again confusing incompetence and idiocy with intelligent scheming.

  • Fascist loofa-faced shitgibbon||

    Good, maybe Comey will finally answer a question with something other than "I can't comment on anything conceivable under the sun".

  • ||

    Absolutely - if there is evidence, it will eventually get out.
    But we have been promised evidence for a long long time.
    We have nothing more on Trump than we did before the election.
    But as time goes by it is increasingly evident that ALOT of malfeasance and abuse of power was going on with Clinton and within the Obama administration.

    The leaks that have occured thus far are serious felonies.
    The ONLY way that the leakers get away with them if caught - is if Trump actually goes down.

    "If you strike the king, you must kill the king".

    What I see as time progresses - is NOTHING being added to the Trump Russia story.
    But more and more and more evidence that lots of abuse of power was going on elsewhere.

    Maybe next week that will change.
    But given the first 4 months - I doubt it.

  • WakaWaka||

    The timing of this firing is unseemly, though not without precedent. Nonetheless, I don't understand how this effects the Russia investigation. Was Comey the only agent investigating that case?

    And Sessions is making no sense

  • colorblindkid||

    That's the thing. How could this possibly affect the Russian investigation, other than to piss everybody off who has the power to leak everything about it?

  • damikesc||

    But he conceded that "I haven't studied the facts" and described Comey as "a skilled former prosecutor" whom "I have respected over...the years."

    Sessions gave no hint that he disapproved of Comey's press conference, which (as Rosenstein notes) broke with the FBI's usual practice of leaving prosecution decisions to the Justice Department and avoiding the release of derogatory information about people who have been investigated but do not face charges.

    How, precisely, would he "disapprove" if he hadn't "studied the facts" at the time of the question?

    When one does study facts, their original assessments are not permitted to change?

    He realized that the justification Comey used to not prosecute (no criminal intent) is an irrelevant defense for the charge.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Facts? We don' need no steenkin' facts! We gots FAITH!

  • commentguy||

    Are you saying that Comey was fired because he incorrectly failed to prosecute Hillary Clinton? I would love to know your sources because that's not what the White House said, and also is contradicted by Trump stating that he wasn't going to have Hillary prosecuted.

  • colorblindkid||

    His statement was this: "I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign." He was a senior member on the Armed Services Committee and met with ambassadors all the time to discuss a lot of things. I hate Jeff Sessions for many many reasons, but I don't even think he should have recused himself on that one. It was a non-scandal. If that was a criminal lie that should have led to his resigning, then nearly every government official to ever testify before Congress should have resigned.

  • Brian||

    I, for one, look forward to a never-ending series of political witch hunts.

  • ||

    Thank you. I am 100% with you.
    I think that Sessions is an incredibly poor choice for AG.
    He is completely at odds with everything any libertarian stands for.
    He is a big asset forfeiture guy.
    He is a big drug warrior.
    He is a fan of tougher sentencing.

    Frankly he seems at odds with nearly everything Trump campaigned on regarding law enforcement - except possibly being "tough on crime".

    All that said. He is NOT a racist, He is not a liar, and though I disagree very strongly with him on issues, he still seems to have a great deal of integrity. Something desparately lacking in washington.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Well fancy that! A pulpit-thumping prohibitionist mystical bigot trained to believe only SOME men are mortal is caught in a logical contradiction! What is this world coming to?

  • Neolith80||

    Love or hate Trump, his administration is a fucking circus.

  • WakaWaka||

    I thought that was their one redeeming quality?

  • tyedyed||

    Comey should have been the First one let go in Jan. He disgraced the FBI and our Justice System when he told us all of the things clinton did wrong for 15 mins and then said no prosecution. Not his job but he was to forward investigation evidence to DOJ. We all know Loretta Lynch would have squashed it from her tarmac meeting but Comey would done his job and probably still have his. Comey has nobody to blame but himself for his firing. He went Political to aid clinton.

  • damikesc||

    Comey should have been the First one let go in Jan. He disgraced the FBI and our Justice System when he told us all of the things clinton did wrong for 15 mins and then said no prosecution.

    I'd have turfed Koskinen personally, but yeah, he shat the bed last year.

    Criminal intent is not even remotely required for prosecution of Hillary's crimes. Gross negligence is sufficient and he, in exacting detail, demonstrated that she was grossly negligent.

  • Mark D||

    Not a fan of secrecy but yes he failed.

  • ||

    Further, he had criminal intent.
    I think he could have gotten a conviction on 18cfr793(e).

    Clinton INTENDED (and said so in emails) to protect her communications for FOIA requests.

    When you intentionally do something wrong - and in the process unintentionally commit a crime - that actually is criminal intent.

  • Jerryskids||

    So the question is: why didn't Trump fire him (and Koskinen) first thing when Trump himself said Comey was covering Hillary's ass? Dumb, lazy, or 8th-level Wizard shit? (My own theory is that from his friendship with Bill, Trump was under the impression that the Oval Office was just a way to get all the pussy you could grab and he didn't know there was work involved.)

  • Mark D||

    I keep having the dream that he will never fill all those open offices and government will be smaller by a few hundred bureaucats

  • Mark D||

    Why did he stop with Comey? Arent there more people to fire and departments to close?

  • ||

    Sorry, but Comey actually had to be fired.

    The arguments are lame when viewed through the lens of the fact that they benefited Trump.

    But the Truth is that the Obama administrations choices turned Comey into essentially a loose cannon.
    Most everything that Sessions is saying that Comey did - was because the Obama DOJ had so compromised itself that it had no ability to do its Job and it abdicated responsibility to Comey.
    I do not think that Comey inherently acted evilly.
    But ultimately he should have said NO to some things. Or at the least he should have done his job as FBI director - not that of federal Prosecutor that DOJ abdicated to him.
    Comey should have made his recomendation regarding Clinton to DOJ - the normal non-public way - though it certainly would have leaked. And it should have been a recomendation to prosecute - because that is what law enforcement officers do when presented the evidence Comey had.
    The arguments Comey mad for not prosecuting - if they were to be made at all should have been made by DOJ - not FBI. Comey ended up wearing two hats. When he should not have.
    And he continued wearing both hats into the Trump administration.
    The only means to restore the FBI to its role as an invesgative and law enforcement body rather than a coequal suragate for DOJ was to replace Comey.

  • ||

    There were hints of this since the start of the Trump administration.

    I would further note that Trump is a brand. And a part of the Trump Brand is "You're Fired".
    This sends a message throughout the federal government - an important one.
    That Trump has an axe and is willing to use it.
    That has to do with more than just investigations.

    The federal government needs to toe the line. Trump is president.
    Every federal employee is answerable to Him.
    He is answerable to the american people and congress - Not acting Attorney Generals.

    Follow directions - if you can not resign. If you want to be part of the opposition - great. But you must resign first.
    The courts are there to reign Trump in. Congress is there to reign Trump in.
    Federal employees unhappy they are not working for Hillary the anointed are not.
    If they want a job with Clinton - they must resign first.

  • CZmacure||

    Yep. The Dems could've detected the data faking, ditched their econazi plank to ban electricity and instead copied a repeal plank from the LP like they copied from the Liberal Party in 1932. But noooooooooooooo...
    It's a good thing their tears are delicious!

    Sent from Flipside Profits Review

  • CZmacure||

    Typical Trump, does the right thing in a ham-fisted way. He doesn't need to give any reason except that he doesn't have confidence in Comey's judgement, objectivity, or leadership. End of story. The Dir. of the FBI serves at the President's pleasure.
    Sent from Email Marketing 2.0 Biz in a Box Review

  • seahorsedan||

    Comey's relevance was terminated when President Obama announced "There will be no charges filed".
    "The rule of law, the separation of powers, and the strength and hallmarks of American democracy are at stake" Chuck must have missed Comey's relevance being terminated when President Obama announced on national television, "There will be no charges filed" mid investigation of Crooked Hillary. Since President Obama's pronunciamento the FBI Director has been an empty suit yearning to be free. Why else would he continue to make irrelevant and occasionally inaccurate public statements before congress? Maybe Chuck doesn't understand the concept of the president's cabinet serves "at the pleasure of the president. Comey had to go now. (Chuck in '18)

  • ||

    Gosh, where all these probing issues when Eric Holder held the AG position? He perpetrated a program that ended up providing weapons to cartel members...In fact, one of those weapons resulted in the death of one of our border officers. This "REASONing" is way out of line for the current AG. He is determined to enforce laws that the Obama administration as much told officers, don't do your duty, don't enforce the law. Of course, you were O.K. with that scenario....

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