Editorials

Comey paints Trump as a ‘pants on fire’ president

Miami Herald Editorial Board

Photographers snap away as former FBI Director James Comey testifies Thursday in Congress.
Photographers snap away as former FBI Director James Comey testifies Thursday in Congress. AP

It’s official, it seems: President Trump is a liar. The testimony of former FBI Director James Comey, delivered under oath, is the most damning revelation he made in his highly anticipated appearance in front of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee.

Comey’s testimony did not land a true knockout punch to the Trump presidency, and it verified one thing the president desperately wanted Comey to make public when he led the FBI. With Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio’s line of questioning doing the president’s bidding, Comey testified that the president was not personally under investigation for colluding with Russia during the presidential elections.

But not since Richard Nixon has a president’s veracity been so blatantly and publicly questioned: At least three times, Comey implied that he feared the president would lie, and he told the committee in no uncertain terms.

“The president is not a liar,” the White House spokeswoman said in defense of the man who claimed that Hillary Clinton started the Obama birther movement, that voter fraud is running rampant and that the unemployment rate was 42 percent when, at the time, it stood at just over 5 percent.

Comey said Trump implied that life would be better for all concerned if he dropped the FBI’s probe into then National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, using words like “I hope you can let this go.” Mercifully, Comey couldn’t do that, so Trump let Comey go, with ever-changing reasons as to why.

Now, it’s imperative that Trump’s new pick to lead the FBI — announced by tweet on the eve of Comey’s testimony — like his predecessor resolutely reject any presidential request for “loyalty.”

Christopher A. Wray is a former federal prosecutor who, in private practice defended New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in the Bridgegate scandal. Give the president credit: Wray is considered an experienced, mainstream straight-shooter, not a partisan politician in the Jeff Sessions mode. However, Americans must be assured that his law firm’s ties to Russia — via its clients — will cast no shadow whatsoever on the FBI’s investigation. If confirmed, Wray’s loyalty must be unerringly to the law.

In his testimony, Comey also took aim at former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, whose meeting with Bill Clinton on a plane waiting on the tarmac in the final weeks of his wife’s presidential campaign fueled Republicans’ speculation that Lynch would keep her job in a Hillary Clinton administration if she dropped the email investigation.

Comey said that Lynch asked him to refer to the probe as a “matter” not an investigation. Comey added that “matter” was the same word that the Clinton camp used.

Comey also said that current Attorney General Sessions bailed when Trump asked everyone, except Comey, to leave a Feb.14 meeting. That’s where Trump asked him to drop the Flynn probe, Comey said. He thinks Sessions knew what was up. When he told Sessions that Trump had to stop contacting him, Sessions responded with silence. It’s right to question where the attorney general’s loyalty lies.

It falls, ultimately, to Robert Mueller, the special counsel overseeing Justice’s investigation into Russian meddling in the elections, to ferret out how and if Trump’s aides, and the president himself, are complicit. Comey might not have landed a fatal blow, but he offered a troubling look at one president’s extremely flawed character.

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