There was certainly a lot to digest in today’s hearing. I agree with most of the points made by my colleagues with one quibble about Kevin’s take, much to my chagrin. I really can’t stand it when Kevin’s cynical misanthropy outshines my own, but I thought the hearings were considerably better than the typical fare. Yes, they were partisan, but nowhere near as bad as the near show-trial nonsense we’ve seen in the recent past (particularly from the House). My memory of the various Fast and Furious, IRS, and Benghazi hearings is a bit of a mish-mash, but the bad taste they left is still worse, years later, than what I’m experiencing today.
And that, in a sense, is damning. During many of the Obama-era hearings, the questioning was often infuriating. The Democrats would salute the heroism and valor of IRS hacks and other miscreants while asking how they persevere during these witch-hunts. Of course, they’d throw in the occasional query about whether President Obama could create a boulder so heavy that even he couldn’t lift it. Meanwhile, the Republicans tended to make interminable speeches about their outrage but forget to hold a line of questioning long enough to make a difference. In today’s hearing, several of the Republican senators did a very fine job asking probing questions that poked holes in Comey’s testimony. It leaves me wondering, “Where were these guys during the Obama years?”
In the broad scheme of things, I think Comey’s account still holds water. Of course, Trump’s lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, doesn’t agree. But Kasowitz effort to insinuate that Comey’s testimony is simultaneously full of lies but also utterly vindicating simply cannot withstand two seconds of logical contemplation. And I agree with Kevin, that if you think there’s more reason to believe Comey is a liar than Trump, you may want to cut back on the Kool-Aid.
But I agree that the case for obstruction will be hard to make for the reasons Rich lays out over at Politico:
When Trump asked Comey in the Oval Office to lay off his just-fired national security adviser Michael Flynn, Comey says he understood this request to be only about Flynn, not about Russia. In a later conversation, as Comey puts it, “The President went on to say that if there were some ‘satellite’ associates of his who did something wrong, it would be good to find that out.”
In other words: Have at it with Manafort, Page, and Stone, et. al. Democrats will have to labor mightily to try build this into an obstruction case.
While this seems right to me, it elides a bit over the fact that Trump did (allegedly) ask Comey to drop the investigation into Flynn. It seems to me there are two possible explanations for this. The Democratic interpretation is surely going to be that Flynn is the key to the whole conspiracy and that’s why Trump wanted him off the hook. I wouldn’t be shocked to see “Flip Flynn!” T-shirts at the next march on Washington.
Meanwhile, the White House interpretation is that Trump likes Flynn and is loyal to him. Trump just thinks he’s a “good guy!” — and the president felt bad that he had just fired him. Flynn has suffered enough. Etc.
That’s certainly plausible, though as Kevin intimates, why you would expect anyone but the faithful to take Trump’s word for it is beyond me. Moreover, you have to think Manafort, Page, and Stone wish the president’s loyalty were more widely distributed. And who knows what those guys are apt to do if they feel they’ve been thrown under the bus?