As Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller digs deeper into Donald Trump’s collusion with Russia in the 2016 presidential election – and the subsequent cover-up including firing FBI Director James Comey – the White House is ramping up its war of words to discredit Comey, charging that he needs to be investigated and possibly punished.
Responding to a question about former White House Chief Strategist Steven Bannon’s insistence on 60 Minutes that Trump’s firing of Comey was a huge mistake, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said today that in light of new revelations, the President stands firmly behind his decision to fire the FBI Director.
“Since the director’s firing,” said Sanders, according to Fox News, “we’ve learned new information about his conduct that only provided further justification for that firing.”
Sanders charged Comey gave “false testimony” to Congress, which is perjury, but said it is not the president’s role or her job to investigate whether he broke the law by leaking classified information and giving false testimony before Congress while under oath.
“That’s the job of the Department of Justice,” said Sanders, “and something they should certainly look at.”
Sanders was asked if the White House wanted to see Comey investigated.
“I think if there’s ever a moment where we feel someone’s broken the law,” answered Sanders, “particularly if they’re the head of the FBI, I think that’s something that certainly should be looked at.”
In an obvious effort to discredit Comey and justify his firing, the White House has previously charged that the former FBI Director acted illegally when he had a friend share memos about conversations with Trump with the New York Times, as he acknowledged in July in testimony before Congress.
Comey has said the memos and material he shared was not classified so he did not violate any laws.
Sanders also raised other issues, including a report that Comey began drafting a statement exonerating Hillary Clinton in the email probe before interviewing her or her close aides to justify the firing.
“He is very happy with the decision he made,” said Sanders. “I think he has been fully vindicated by a lot of those new things and knowing that it was the right one.”
This is all part of an ongoing White House campaign to justify the firing of Comey and discredit him in advance of any actions by Mueller to claim the firing was really an obstruction of justice by the president out of fear of the Russia investigation.
This drumbeat of suspicion which Trump wants to plant that Comey is the real criminal is going to continue, but the reality is that like the investigation into Secretary Clinton’s private email server, it is just a distraction.
The real story remains how Russia interfered and hacked into he 2016 election, and how Trump at best went along with it, and at worst colluded with the Russians on where to target the attacks (into swing states and key voting districts) in return for unspecified favors from Moscow.
That may have included the big real estate deal The Trump Organization was secretly negotiating even during the election, despite Trump’s repeated denials that he was doing anything wrong.
No amount of Comey bashing can change that.
It is up to Mueller to lay it out and ultimately to Congress to provide the punishment for a president who won his office in ways that perverted the American election process and fixed the game for him.