Opinion | Morgan Liddick: Comey testimony shows lack of respect for rule of law

Morgan Liddick
On your right
Morgan Liddick lives in Summit County. His column appears in every Tuesday in the Summit Daily News.

On Friday last the walking, talking ego that is James Comey appeared again before a joint session of the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees. Although the ranking Democrat, Adam Schiff, opined afterward that President Trump was endangered by the testimony, that seemed more the product of wishful thinking than anything partaking of reality. On our planet, the former FBI director actually made the extent of the corruption and lawlessness among senior officials of the Obama Justice Department and FBI much clearer. And he apparently did it without realizing what he had done.

His testimony demonstrated both his stubbornness and what several high-ranking FBI officials referred to as his “not being the sharpest tool in the shed” when he insisted that “the FBI and Justice Department didn’t have a prosecutable case against Clinton because they couldn’t prove she willfully violated the law by setting up (her) server.” Perhaps Comey hopes to lend the color of truth to this statement through continued repetition; in fact neither the Espionage Act nor the several other acts and National Security Directives dealing with handling classified information mention anything about volition. They are directed at action, not intent, so Comey seems beyond the reach of reason on this topic. But the obstruction of justice his 2016 decision not to prosecute Hillary Clinton represents remains clear.

His second misstep was to reiterate to lawmakers that it was the 2016 Papadopoulos encounter with a Russian intermediary in London that ignited the Russia investigation, rather than — as some Republicans have maintained — Democratic-funded opposition research compiled by a former British spy. But people who pay attention to these sorts of things know now that the so-called “Russian Intermediary” was actually Joseph Mifsud, a man with far closer ties to MI-6, the British Intelligence agency, than to the Russian government. And that the man who called attention to Papadopoulos’ meeting and the information he was given therein was Australian High Commissioner in London Alexander Downer, who has close ties to both the Clinton Foundation and MI-6.

On July 22, 2016, Downer told his U.S. counterpart about Papadopoulos’ repetition of information supplied by Mifsud; this was immediately passed to U.S. intelligence and an investigation of the Trump campaign began, led by Peter Strzok, who, according to emails at the time, was working on an “insurance policy” against Trump’s possible election. Given the contacts involved, the improbability of the meetings and the speed of events, this series of implausible circumstances smells more of John Brennan than of Vladimir Putin.

The third problem Comey created — both for himself and others — had to do with the “Steele Dossier” created by a British former FBI informant with the help of his Russian contacts, paid for by the Clinton campaign. Originally a piece of campaign doggerel, it was used as a basis for at least one FISA warrant to surveil members of the 2016 Trump campaign, beginning with Carter Page. Problem was, no one bothered to see if anything in it was true.

This is a serious violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court process. Because the court’s proceedings are all “ex parte” — secret from the proposed target of surveillance — all evidence presented must be carefully vetted by those asking for a warrant, who must swear to its accuracy in the application. But in the case of the dossier manufactured by Steele, as well as associated support material that ultimately had the same source, no one verified any of it. According to Comey’s testimony, no one even tried. It was simply presented as fact and the court issued a surveillance warrant as a pro forma result. When questioned later under oath about the veracity of the information in his “dossier” on Trump, the best Christopher Steele could say of it is that the chance it was accurate was “maybe, 50-50.” Even today, as Comey’s testimony admitted, the document has not been verified.

Think about that. A list of unverified accusations ginned up as a dirty trick in a political campaign was used to obtain secret warrants from a secret court, to spy on a candidate for president. And later, used to justify an “investigation” of his campaign. The people behind this effort used American and foreign intelligence services to further their own ends; they recycled negative, and often false, information through agencies of government. They did it because they believe themselves more righteous, more patriotic, more moral than the man they corrupted the government to attack.

Comey’s Friday testimony shows that he either doesn’t know, or doesn’t care that he is one such, but he is. And both he and his partners and enablers in corruption should concern us all: by poisoning the rule of law, they pave the way for tyranny.

Morgan Liddick writes a weekly column for the Summit Daily News.

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