Tag Archives: obstruction of justice

The Comey Testimony, Part II

[Part I is here]

Now let’s look at some direct quotes from James Comey’s testimony: 

1. “Even though I was appointed to a ten-year term, which congress created in order to underscore the importance of the FBI being outside of politics and independent, I understood that I could be fired by a president for any reason or for no reason at all. And on May 9th, when I learned I had been fired for that reason, I immediately came home as a private citizen. But then the explanations, the shifting explanations, confused me and increasingly concerned me. They confused me because the president that I had had multiple conversations about my job, both before and after he took office, and he had repeatedly told me I was doing a great job and he hoped I would stay. And I had repeatedly assured him that I did intend to stay and serve out the remaining six years of my term. He told me repeatedly that he had talked to lots of people about me. Including our current attorney general. And had learned I was doing a great job. And that I was extremely well-liked by the FBI work force. So it confused me when I saw on television the president saying that he actually fired me because of the Russia investigation. And learned, again, from the media that he was telling privately other parties that my firing had relieved great pressure on the Russian investigation. I was also confused by the initial explanation that was offered publicly, that I was fired because of the decisions I had made during the election year. That didn’t make sense to me for a whole bunch of reasons, including the time and all the water that had gone under the bridge since those hard decisions had to be made. That didn’t make any sense to me. And although the law required no reason at all to fire an FBI director, the administration then chose to defame me and more importantly the FBI by saying that the organization was in disarray. That it was poorly led. That the workforce had lost confidence In its leader. Those were lies, plain and simple. And I am so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them and I’m so sorry the American people were told them. I worked every day at the FBI to help make that great organization better. As a help, because I did nothing alone at the FBI. There are no indispensable people at the FBI. The organization’s great strength is that its value and abilities run deep and wide. The FBI will be fine without me. The FBI’s mission will be relentlessly pursued by its people and that mission is to protect the American people and uphold the constitution of the United States. I will deeply miss being part of that mission, but this organization and its mission will go on long beyond me and long beyond any particular administration. I have a message before I close for the — for my former colleagues of the FBI. First I want the American people to know this truth. The FBI is honest. The FBI is strong. And the FBI is and always will be independent. And now to my former colleagues, If I may, I am so sorry I didn’t get the chance to say good bye to you properly. It was the honor of my life to serve beside you, to be part of the FBI family and I will miss it for the rest of my life. Thank you for standing watch, thank you for doing so much good for this country. Do that good as long as ever you can. And senators, I look forward to your questions.”

Observations: This entire statement is unworthy of the emphasis that has been placed on it by the wildly spinning news media, The key piece of information to frame the entire episode is  “I understood that I could be fired by a president for any reason or for no reason at all.” Comey also presumably understood that a sub-fact within that understanding is that he could be told some of the reasons he was fired, no reasons, or the reasons the President felt like talking about. He was told he was doing a great job and then fired? Welcome to the work force. Telling an employee that he is doing a great job when he isn’t may be good management, usually isn’t, but is still well within the range of management discretion, and certainly not illegal.

Comey said that he also concerned that the President was saying that firing “had relieved great pressure on the Russian investigation.” As we learn later, the President was not being targeted in that investigation, and we know that he regards it as a politically motivated effort to distract and derail his administration and its agenda. There was nothing sinister about the President’s desire that the investigation go away as quickly as possible. I would argue that he has an obligation to do whatever he can to speed it along. If he didn’t trust Comey’s judgment—and who would?—seeing his exit as a plus is reasonable. Naturally, Comey wouldn’t see it that way.

It is amazing to me that a fired employee saying that his superior’s assessment that his organization was in disarray, that he was a poor leader and that his staff had “lost confidence In its leader” is given any weight at all. What fired employee doesn’t think his firing is unjust and the criticism of him is unfair? Comey calls it a lie: how does he know what Trump had been told or heard? How does Comey know what his agents say behind his back?

Your opinion that someone’s negative opinion about you is wrong and based on erroneous information does not make that opinion a lie. As a lawyer, Comey should know that, and should not have thrown the word “lie” around to be misunderstood by people who don’t know what a lie is—that is, most of the public. Continue reading

27 Comments

Filed under Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Workplace

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/11/17

1.  Mainstream media bias has been such a frequent topic on Ethics Alarms that I hesitate to focus on it even when, against all odds, what passes for American journalism has another rotting chunk fall off.  The reaction of most of the media to the Comey testimony was a huge chunk, once again shocking me when I didn’t think my regard for this unprofessional profession could sink lower. Some commentators yesterday (they were conservative, but there is no reason a fair and objective liberal wouldn’t and shouldn’t come to the same conclusion) said that we are witnessing the birth of a mainstream media-progressive fusion political party. This is not a hysterical analysis. The New York Times coverage of the Comey hearing, for example, was so misleading and dishonest as to eliminate that paper from ever being regarded as a reliable political analyst again, at least until it cleans house and issues an abject apology to the nation. Ethics Alarms reader Greg did an excellent job detailing the Times’ disgraceful anti-Trump/pro-resistance spin in the thread on the Comey testimony post, as did journalist commenter Tippy Scales.

The Times knows its first take was untenable; you can tell by its editorial today, in which it already is changing the subject. If Comey had laid a glove on Trump (and he didn’t) regarding  impeachable conduct and a route to removing him—which was the Left’s fervent hope and the resistance’s confirmation bias-driven fantasy—the Times would have been  shaking its fist and demanding action in it Sunday pronouncement. Instead, it offered an extended whine about how Paul Ryan excused Trump’s clumsy handling of his communications with Comey by citing Trump’s inexperience, but that he had condemned President Obama for his inexperience, as if the two positions are inconsistent. First, they are not: Ryan did not support Trump’s nomination, though political inexperience was the least of his disqualifications. Second, the President’s cluelessness is directly relevant to the weaker than weak argument that he was obstructing justice by having the kinds of conversations with a subordinate that is commonplace in a business setting. The Times, as it has been doing a lot lately, simply assumes away an insuperable obstruction to its “resistance” position, , saying that “The president obviously knows that it’s wrong to interfere in an investigation.”

Like Hillary Clinton, apparent cyber-dolt,  “obviously” knew that using a private server for State Department business violated classified communications law?

The same logic that Comey himself used to give Clinton a Stay Out Of Jail pass applies to Trump’s statements to Comey, but far more reasonably. Not only was he not, as Ryan said, “steeped in the long-running protocols that establish the relationships between D.O.J., F.B.I. and White Houses,” the President  wasn’t interfering in the Flynn  investigation by telling Comey he hoped it would end, and he couldn’t interfere in the Russian investigation by firing the FBI director. The Times editorial reveals the real impetus behind the paper’s determination to bring down the President who dared to be elected by “deplorables” who don’t march to the Times’ ideological lock-step: Trump “[struts] about at the head of the party, insulting everyone and everything in sight: staff members, allies, laws, diplomatic decorum and common sense.”

Yes, for once the Times is reporting accurately, but that’s not grounds for removing an elected President, and it does not justify misrepresenting facts to create a public groundswell based on bias, hate, fear and ignorance.

2. And when it is clear that the news media and the Democrats are coordinating in an “Anti-Trump” party, what is a responsible stance for the Trump Administration regarding news organizations who wave the anti-Trump banner at the expense of fair reporting? Continue reading

7 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Character, Education, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Professions, Quotes

Public Servant Ethics, Employment Ethics, Baseball Fan Ethics, And Senator John McCain

A sub-plot of yesterday’s fizzled firecracker of a “bombshell testimony” by James Comey was Senator John McCain’s bizarre questioning. When I saw how many of my “resistance” member Facebook friends were talking about it, I knew how disappointed they were that Comey produced no smoking guns or even a soggy water pistol. Poor John picked the wrong day to stop taking Ginkgo Biloba. Still, Democrats and Republicans alike were bothered by a senior senator and former Presidential candidate sounding confused and semi-coherent.

Here was the whole exchange: Continue reading

12 Comments

Filed under U.S. Society

The Comey Testimony, Part I.

I have finally read the transcript, which you should do as well. By now I have also seen a lot of video clips. (James Comey really says, “Lordy!” Wow.)

First, some general observations, with more detailed comments to come in a subsequent post.

1. My earlier expressed opinion of James Comey when I defended him against conservative accusations that he was giving Hillary Clinton an undeserved break by not indicting her were revealed as too generous yesterday. I still believe he is honest and non-partisan. More than ever, I believe that he is untrustworthy. He was obviously in a difficult position—many, in fact—that he was not able to successfully manage, if anyone could have. However, his oft-repeated insistence that he (and his FBI) did not play politics was exposed as false, if not dishonest (a gracious interpretation of the sort that Comey denied the President in his bitter testimony.)

2. The fake Russia collusion narrative pushed by Hillary, Democrats and the news media to simultaneously excuse her loss and undermine the Trump Presidency was killed yesterday, but will wander around like a zombie for months if not years because Trump-haters will not have the integrity to admit they were wrong. Chris Matthews, a once astute and courageous liberal Democrat reporter who morphed into a partisan, knee-jerk progressive shill and anti-Republican scold as soon as he started getting paid by MSNBC, had a sudden flashback to his days of integrity when he pronounced yesterday,

“But the big story has always beenthe assumption of the critics of the president, of his pursuers, you might say, is that somewhere along the line in the last year, the president had something to do with colluding with the Russians. Something to do, a helping hand, encouraging them,feeding their desire, to affect the election in some way, some role they played, some conversation he had with Michael Flynn, or Paul Manafort, or somewhere. And yet what came apart this morning, was that theory, because in two regards the president said according to the written testimony of Mr. Comey, ‘go ahead and get anybody satellite to my operation and nail them, I’m with you on that,’ so that would mean Manafort, Carter Page, someone like that. And then he also came across today what was fascinating, Comey said that basically Flynn wasn’t central to the Russian investigation, that he was touching on it. That there was, of course, Flynn had an honest, we assume, wasn’t honest in his answer on the official forms that he had to fill out to become a national security head.”

But it only touched on that, it wasn’t really related to that. But he could be flipped for that, but in other words, they could flip him because they had him caught on something he dishonestly answered but he wasn’t central to the Russian thing, and I always assumed that Trump was afraid of was that he had said something to Flynn, and Flynn could be flipped on that. And Flynn would testify against the president that he had had some conversation with Flynn in terms of dealing with the Russians affirmatively. And if that’s the case, where’s the there there?”

There is no there there, and never has been. Thus the anti-Trump hysterics are left with what they have always believed was proof enough: Hillary lost, leaked hacks of e-mails that led the public to realize how sleazy the Democrats were should have never been seen by voters, Trump was the beneficiary of the leaks, he had said nice things about Putin, he’s an unethical creep, and a lot of his associates had business contacts with Russia, and besides, they just know Trump is guilty.

That’s not enough; in fact, it’s nothing at all. Matthews as both a lifetime Democrat and a romantic regarding the Presidency and democracy detests Trump to his Irish-American Boston liberal core, but he knows when to get off a bandwagon that will embarrass him if he stays on board, or make it impossible for Chris to look in the mirror.

3. For a lawyer, Comey’s loose use of the term “liar” and his stated belief that he assumed that Trump was a liar early on in their relationship shows a troubling inattentiveness to his own biases, as well as a classic misunderstanding of what it means to lie. Comey said Trump lied about why Comey was fired, for example. Comey has no way of knowing which of the many legitimate reasons for firing him played the biggest role in his firing. He does not know what Trump was thinking, so he cannot assert that Trump lied. He can say that he believes Trump lied, but that is only his opinion: it does not make Trump a liar, and it is not evidence. Last ditch bitter-enders among the Impeach Trump Lynch Mob will be arguing that Comey’s various opinions and reactions prove misconduct by Trump. But lying and obstruction of justice are not like sexual harassment, where a second party, by his or her reactions, determines whether misconduct has taken place. Comey stated that he took Trump’s words that he “hoped” that the FBI would drop the Flynn investigation as a “direction.” He also could have taken it as a marmoset, but that wouldn’t mean that the President meant it as one.

Any time a supervisor says “I hope you do this,” it is a statement of what will make that supervisor happy. (Did Obama ever say to his Treasury Secretary, “I hope the IRS is tough on those tea party groups: they are about as non-partisan as I am!”?) Nevertheless, it leaves the decision in the hands of the subordinate.

4. Comey came off like a classic disgruntled former employee, and I’ve interviewed many of them, angry that he was fired and determined to do as much damage to his former supervisor as possible on the way out the door.

I thought he was better than that.  Guess not. Continue reading

72 Comments

Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Workplace

Comment Of The Day: “Reluctant Additional Ethics Notes On A Manufactured Crisis: The Comey Firing Freakout”

With so much loose talk about impeachment going around (and by “loose” I mean “inexcusably ignorant”), texagg04’s review of the Constitutional standard for the removal of a President is a gift to readers of Ethics Alarms, and one of the most interesting and informative comments ever to appear here.

He was reacting to a New York Times op-ed, cited by another commenter,  by political scientist Greg Weiner (no relation) titled, “Impeachment’s Political Heart,” in which the author concluded,

“The question is by what standards they should conduct this work, and that question provides an opportunity to correct the mistaken assumption according to which presidents can forfeit the public trust only by committing what the law recognizes as a crime. That is a poor bar for a mature republic to set. It is not the one a newborn republic established. And that is why the idea that the conversation about impeachment is simply a political persecution of a man who is technically innocent of a literal crime not only jumps the investigatory gun. It misses the constitutional point.”

Having studied the issue myself, I immediately rejected Weiner’s analysis (which still is worth reading in its entirety) on the ground that a constantly evolving standard of what is a “high crime and misdemeanor” simply means that Presidents can be impeached for behaving, or governing, in ways that enough members of Congress, the news media and the public don’t like. That is what is being advocated now, and that approach would undermine our democracy, the power of elections, and the office of the President.

My gut response, however, is wan and insubstantial compared to tex’s masterful historical review and astute analysis, which (whew!) reaches a similar conclusion.

Here is texagg04’s fascinating Comment of the Day on the post, “Reluctant Additional Ethics Notes On A Manufactured “Crisis”: The Comey Firing Freakout”…I’ll have one brief comment afterwards:

[Weiner] is making an argument from the same source material I mentioned, chiefly the Federalist papers. I still haven’t found Madison’s own specific arguments regarding it, but I think the source is irrelevant as the body of work published by the Founders (“Federalist” and “Antifederalist” alike) should be read as a single work documenting an internal dialogue, to be used as clarification when and where the final adopted documents possibly contain ambiguity. This could very well be one of those cases. That being said, the body of work by the Founders which may aid in revealing their intent or at least how they believed their philosophy of our political system out to be enshrined in the constitution, isn’t the only body of work used to interpret their intent. There is precedence and tradition, which the author of this article disregards when he says “Our tendency to read the impeachment power in an overly legalistic way, which is ratified by 230 years of excessive timidity about its use, obscures the political rather than juridical nature of the device.”

He’s right in nothing but that many of the earliest drafts and proposed language of the impeachment standards were very vague, such as (not an exhaustive list):

Continue reading

35 Comments

Filed under Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, History, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Research and Scholarship

Ethical Quote Of The Month: Former Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz

“If it was a polite request saying, ‘Oh, you know, he’s a good guy, Flynn, I wish you’d back off this thing,’ that’s not an obstruction of justice. If it was a command, it would raise stronger problems.”

—Retired Harvard law professor , Constitutional scholar, lawyer, liberal and CNN commentator Alan Dershowitz, trying to explain to MSNBC what “obstruction of justice” means.

I’ve never been a Dershowitz fan, but when the List of Shame is complied after the Post 2016 Election Ethics Train Wreck has finally ground to a halt, he’ll be on another list: the one containing those who maintained their integrity.

He needn’t have bothered: the news media/Democratic Party/ “resistance'” collective has already labelled James Comey’s so far only rumored “memo” recounting that the President asked the then-FBI Director, in a private meeting in February, to close the FBI investigation of Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, proof of criminal motives and acts.

The New York Times learned of the memo from two people who claim they had read it. One of them read part of the memo to a Times journalist.  According to these unnamed sources’ description of the memo, Trump told Comey, “I hope you can let this go” in a meeting that took place the day after Flynn was forced to resign.

“I hope you can let this go” would be consistent with what Dershowitz, no Trump supporter but apparently yet to be infected with the integrity- and logic-destoying anti-Trump virus, accurately described as “not an obstruction of justice.”

The Times, however, a card-carrying member of the “overturn the election” cabal—we know this because it stated last August that defeating Trump justified tossing journalism ethics into the trash, and because since the election, its pages have from the book reviews to the op-ed pages have been filled anti-Trump propaganda—called Trump’s reported request “the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and FBI investigation” into links between Trump associates and Russia. This must mean that there is no evidence, at all, since saying “I hope you can let this go” is barely influence at all.

The news of the alleged memo was breathlessly hailed by the “Can we impeach him now?” fanatics, including some readers of this blog who should know better and once did, as a “bombshell.” As Alan Dershowitz dispassionately points out, and as I have in the comment threads, it’s no bombshell. This is not  remarkable observation; a New York Times contributor was even allowed to agree with Dershowitz. (The Times can’t completely commit to the lynch mob, for then its efforts to aid and abet would be less valuable. It’s quite a tightrope these people are walking….). Constitutional law prof Elizabeth Price Foley wrote, Continue reading

81 Comments

Filed under Ethics Quotes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Literature, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, U.S. Society

Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Massachusetts State Rep Michelle DuBois (D-Plymouth)

What is the thinking of people like Massachusetts state rep Michelle DuBois, who authored the above Facebook post? Do they think? Can they think? Aiding an illegal immigrant in evading authorities is obstruction of justice. Do the Duboises of the world really and truly regard facilitating illegal immigration as the equivalent of participating in the Underground Railroad? How did they reach such a fdoolish, counter-factual and warped opinion? Yes, the ACLU comes very close to crossing the line with its published advice to illegals, but it doesn’t actively try to foil legal government action. Even sanctuary cities that pledge not to cooperate with ICE are not actively interfering with the agency, or so they can argue with varying persuasiveness.  Not DuBois, though. As a an elected legislator, she can pass laws, but she can’t declare those she doesn’t like null and void, and defy the rule of law in so doing.

This is obstructing justice. DuBois’s argument to the contrary was beyond disingenuous:

“Passing information along that is already all over the community not only lets the people I represent know what is happening. It lets ICE know that everyone in Brockton is aware of their intended raid if there was one.”

Oh, I see. She made everyone in Brockton aware of the ICE raid so ICE would know that all of Brockton was aware  of it!

Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson referred to DuBois while testifying before lawmakers on Capitol Hill, saying, “This is the most outrageous, outrageous example of what’s going on across the United States that’s undermining my job and every other law enforcement officer in the United States.”

Dubois belongs right along side Oregon judge Monica Herranz, who allegedly allowed an illegal immigrant to slip out a back door to avoid ICE officials waiting for him, in a jail, awaiting trial. Continue reading

31 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Facebook, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Leadership, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President