Alternative Title: Rat in a Corner — Who You Gonna Believe?
It didn’t take long for President Trump to dispute the stunning facts set out in James Comey’s testimony on Thursday. Trump’s apparently strong conviction in his assertion that Comey lied under oath (and also has misled Special Prosecutor Mueller by providing him with false information about Trump’s conduct) may give some people pause. Trump even says he will speak under oath about the critical meetings with Comey but stops short of saying that he will stand cross-examination as Comey did.
Is Trump’s assertion another version of “I will definitely release my tax returns?”
I suggest that Trump has flatly disputed Comey’s narrative because he had no choice. Could he conceivably have remained silent in the face of the allegations that he pressured Comey to end investigation of Michael Flynn and lighten up on the Trump-Russia investigation? I suggest that the answer can only be ‘no.’ Trump’s silence would have been construed as acquiescence and that is one thing he cannot afford to do now that the suspicions about his conduct have become fixed.
Still, the question remains: who is to be believed? The answer is Comey and there are multiple compelling reasons for that conclusion.
First, it is not disputed that Trump directed other persons present to leave the room before speaking to Comey. Is there a plausible reason for this other than “I know what I am about to do is wrong and I don’t want witnesses to it?”
Second, Comey says he immediately wrote down detailed notes of what had transpired. This was done on a “classified computer” and thus can be verified as to date and time of creation. Comey obviously knows that. Is it plausible then to believe that he created a contemporaneous false narrative to destroy the President? Bear in mind that Comey’s written testimony before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee was based on those notes and that Comey gave the notes to Special Prosecutor Mueller before testifying?
Third, weeks ago Trump implied in a tweet that he might have “tapes” of the meeting(s) with Comey. Subsequently, he has refused to confirm that such “tapes” exist and his White House staff claims either not to know. After Comey’s testimony, in which he said he would welcome release of the tapes if they exist, Trump has continued to refuse to confirm the existence of the tapes. I suggest that this is a classic Trump negotiating tactic and that he has to be bluffing. Why? Because Trump had to know what actually happened during the Comey meetings and if he had “tapes” that would completely destroy Comey’s credibility and serve as major pushback against the Trump-Russia investigation, he would have released them by now.
Finally, there is the matter of general credibility. Comey has a distinguished career in law enforcement and is highly respected by anyone with a shred of objectivity and, reluctantly, by some who have sacrificed their credibility in support of Trump. Contrast that history with Trump’s history of lies before, during and after his election. There are lists of these all over the Internet, so I will not repeat them here. This comparison is “no contest” – Trump loses.
In the interest of balance, I do acknowledge, as I have in another post, that Comey made some mistakes in handling the Hillary Clinton email investigation, but these are not mistakes of credibility. They were mistakes of judgment. And, of course, there is the fact that the Clinton investigation mistakes worked to Trump’s advantage and may well have pushed Trump over the finish line in 2016. No joy for Trump in this.
Thus far, then, Trump is putting his credibility squarely on the line against Comey. Someone is lying, bigly. This looks like a losing proposition for Trump. Notwithstanding the weakness of Trump’s position, his political base, and the Republican Party co-conspirators and sycophants in Congress, continue to support him. They appear ready to do down with the ship.
From here on, the key for the country is for the Democrats in Congress and the Democratic base, regardless of preferences in 2016 (get over it), must engage in a relentless, all-hands-on-deck resistance to Trump’s agenda. Republicans will not move against Trump unless and until he is both failing as the chief executive of the country and conclusively humiliated as having engaged in obstruction of justice and lied about it.