The Corner

Law & the Courts

The Comey Hearing Was as Partisan and Shallow as One Would Expect

Two quick thoughts: Much of the significance of James Comey’s testimony depends upon his evaluation of President Donald Trump: He says Trump lied — “lies, pure and simple” — in his statements about why he fired the FBI director. He also says that he took such detailed notes after his conversation with the presidency because he does not think the president can be trusted to give an honest account of the matter; if Comey is telling the truth, the president has been dishonest in his public statements about Comey’s firing, at least in some non-trivial details.

Question: Does anybody believe Donald Trump to be a man of unimpeachable honesty? One of the problems with having Trump as president is he makes it difficult to extend to him the benefit of the doubt.

Second, the description of Russian “interference” in the election strikes me as slightly screwy. Of course it should be investigated and responded to, of course hacking should be treated as a serious crime — all that can be taken as understood. Whoever was behind those shenanigans did not go in and change vote tallies or anything of that nature: The result of the hacking was to make public certain information relating to misconduct (arguably petty misconduct) at the DNC and elsewhere that cast Hillary Rodham Clinton in a poor light. The released documents were stolen, but they were not fake, and the information contained in them is, by all accounts offered so far, true. The Russian hacking heightened concern about Mrs. Clinton’s e-mail antics, in which she pretty plainly created a national-security vulnerability in order to avoid ordinary oversight of her official duties. Mrs. Clinton has acknowledged her own misconduct in the usual weaselly Clinton fashion. Hacking is illegal; so is leaking a classified memo to the Washington Post. If a DNC staffer upset over the party’s favoring Mrs. Clinton over Bernie Sanders had simply leaked all that information to the New York Times, would we be talking about the legitimacy of the election?

The president probably is not going to come out of this with his reputation enhanced. Neither is James Comey, despite his very specific combination of political shrewdness and moral grandstanding. The hearing was about as partisan and shallow as one would expect, though the most uncomfortable moment was watching a confused Senator John McCain try to figure out what he thinks he is talking about.

And try as the Republicans might to turn the discussion to Mrs. Clinton, she is not president. Donald Trump is.