James Comey’s testimony right now may change how all of this plays, but I think his statement of fact yesterday suggests that the Democrats aren’t going to get what they want from him. I wrote about this today for Politico:
James Comey has an expectations problem.
By any reasonable standard, his testimony about his service under President Donald Trump and his cashiering would be damaging perhaps to the point of debilitating. But his account has been billed as Watergate and the Clinton impeachment rolled into one, another step toward Trump getting permanently helicoptered out of the White House in a Nixonian tableau, and by this unreasonable standard, Comey looks to be a fizzle.
Judging only by his statement for the record provided to the Senate Intelligence Committee (perhaps the live testimony will play differently), Comey doesn’t have Trump nailed for high crimes and misdemeanors. Rather, he has him dead to rights for amateurish and ham-handed scheming, which is not an impeachable offense.
The document has considerable entertainment value in its dead-pan account of a profound mismatch, a Washington buddy movie gone bad. It’s a tale of a bureaucratically agile and self-serving careerist matched against an institutionally ignorant and self-serving outsider. One is careful, memorializing every conversation and calculating his every more; the other is blundering around in the dark — and eventually blows the whole thing up.
The narrative that Democrats want to believe is that Trump is in so deep with the Russians that he took the incredible risk of firing his FBI director to cover his tracks. The picture in the Comey memo is instead of a president driven mad by the investigation, in particular by his inability to get the FBI director to say publicly that he isn’t under investigation — when, in fact, he isn’t under investigation.