White House Clearly Wants the Justice Department to Investigate Comey, but to What End?

by Kerry Eleveld –

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders won’t say it outright, but the West Wing is pushing the Department of Justice to investigate former FBI Director James Comey. After Sanders defended Donald Trump’s decision to fire Comey with a litany of accusations on Tuesday, she followed up during Wednesday’s press briefing by outlining the makings of a legal rationale, however thin, for prosecuting him.

“The memos that Comey leaked were created on an FBI computer while he was the director,” she began, referring to a memo Comey shared with a personal friend that was later leaked to the New York Times. “He claims they were private property, but they clearly followed the protocol of an official FBI document, leaking FBI memos on a sensitive case regardless of classification violates federal laws including the privacy act, standard FBI employment agreement and nondisclosure agreement all personnel must sign. I think that’s pretty clean and clear that that would be a violation.”

Asked what she wanted to see happen, Sanders demurred, saying she wasn’t an attorney but again added, “I think the facts of the case are very clear.”

Sanders may not be an attorney, but the notes she read from the podium while delivering that answer were clearly written by one. And while the question of whether Comey violated any laws by leaking the personal notes he took isn’t new, the White House is now accusing Comey of a different infraction than it originally did.

“WOW, Comey is a leaker!” Trump tweeted on June 9, following Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Trump’s lawyer Marc Kasowitz phrased it differently, accusing Comey of “unilaterally and surreptitiously” making “unauthorised disclosures to the press of privileged communications with the president”.

Despite that opening salvo, the legal consensus generally came down on the side of Comey since the information he leaked wasn’t classified or sensitive, though Comey certainly had his detractors.

Now the White House appears to be moving away from an executive privilege argument toward a broader charge that Comey violated his employment agreement with the FBI and the law dictating the handling of government documents. Let’s leave that debate to the lawyers for now—surely, they’ll take it up.

But the White House’s smear campaign points to one thing: Robert Mueller’s investigation is making the Trump administration very, very nervous.

That said, is pushing his own Justice Department to open an inquiry into James Comey a smart legal move? No, it’s not.

Stupid is as stupid does: WH mischief over  just adds to  coverup narrative. https://twitter.com/matthewamiller/status/908034812128227328 

Trump doesn’t want his base to trust Robert Mueller’s investigation, the witness (James Comey) who provided a key basis for it, or the media that will ultimately report it. Trump began his campaign to cast doubt on the coming news at his Phoenix rally last month—unleashing a blistering attack on the media. Now the White House is delivering a calculated pre-emptive strike on the foundation and source of that news.

Axios reported [Wednesday] that Sanders’s words are part of a larger campaign to not only discredit Comey. “Trump allies” also plan to “vilify” special counsel Robert Mueller, just as President Bill Clinton’s administration attacked special prosecutor Kenneth Starr in the 1990s.

It’s unclear whether Trump fully grasps the legal bind he’s in but, amid the chaos, one constant remains for him: It’s all about the base.

 

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos