Comey and Flynn

James Comey, The former FBI Director, took a very aggressive stance against Lt. General and National Security Advisor Michael  Flynn. The question is Why.
All Bureaucracies are political institutions. That is they need support from The Executive Branch, The Congress, Interest Groups and public opinion! They desire funding, authority and independence. Comey’s actions appear to be very risky even bordering on reckless. While the Flynn case is part of a larger case study involving the Russian Collusion narrative, it allows us to look at the political environment from his perspective. The FBI has been one of the most successful bureaucracies! Let’s review his actions. He orders two agents to interview Flynn without going through the Department’s protocols of contacting the White House Counsel! He has Deputy Director Andrew McCabe call Flynn suggesting he does not need a lawyer. During the interview. The questions revolve around whether Flynn had violated the Logan Act(1799) an act that outlaws citizens from negotiating with foreign governments. No one has ever been successfully prosecuted on this Act and many believe it violates the 1st Amendment. As the incoming National Security Advisor, it would definitely not apply to Flynn. This was suggested and approved by interim Attorney General Sally Yates who was a holdover of the Obama Administration. The agents attempted to deemphasize  the Miranda warning as to not alert Flynn of the intent of the interview. Flynn was not allowed to refresh his memory by having the transcript read back to him. This is the customary practice during FBI interviews. The transcript was then released to the Washington Post to damage Flynn’s reputation. The FBI’s 302 form, which is the record of the interview had indicated that the agents did not believe he was lying. Comey testified to the Congress that was the case. The 302 was subsequently rewritten, and Flynn was charged with perjury and not registering as a Foreign Agent of Turkey. Flynn  Jr. who worked with his father was also threatened to be  prosecuted. Flynn, pleads guilty to one count of perjury with the understanding that his son would be spared prosecution.  In addition, Flynn agreed to be cooperative with Special Counsel Muller’s probe into the Russian interference probe It all commenced under Comey.

James Comey, The former FBI Director, took actions that risked his own interest and that of the FBI. All Bureaucracies are political institutions. That is they need support from The Executive Branch, The Congress, Interest Groups and public opinion! They desire funding, authority and independence. Comey’s actions appear to be very risky even bordering on reckless for political reasons.

Comey was already aware that the Steele Dossier was not verified and that Steele’s sources were suggesting that it was Russian disinformation. In addition, The FISA warrant on Carter Page had yielded nothing. It should be noted that the FISA application had used the Steele dossier as the bulk of the evidence. It also did not include exculpatory information on Page. It is very clear that at this time Comey was aware that the Russian Collusion narrative was inaccurate. Muller ultimately came to the same conclusion two years later.

Why would Comey risk his own position, risk prosecution and jeopardize the FBI?
Comey could have followed his instinct and believed that Trump and Flynn were foreign agents. The facts very early suggest that had to be a very long shot.
Comey could have believed that Trump and Flynn were unqualified and the Administration would be a disaster! This however would be an extraordinary step best led by Congress with the FBI playing a supportive rather than the lead role!

Comey could have received pressure from the other Intelligence agencies that believed the Trump and Flynn would have interfered with their operations. Flynn and Defense Intelligence Chief was highly critical of the Obama administration policies on Syria, Bengasi, the significance of the killing of Osama Ben Laden. Flynn was also critical of how the intelligence agencies functioned and was planning on re organizing the Intelligence establishment. Obama fired Flynn and actually warned Trump about hiring Flynn. This can be perceived as a legitimate threat, These intelligence agencies were part of the FBI’s interest group network and if they could be attacked it could suggest that the FBI’s intelligence functions would also be in jeopardy. Mistakes would be aired and the FBI could suffer with its image. This seems like a reasonable motivation. It should be noted that Attorney General Sessions was confirmed late and had essentially recused himself with all things Russia. Rod Rosenstein, The Deputy Attorney General was in charge of these matters! It would appear that there would be not hostile supervisors would to interfere. It would appear that this could be seen as a high reward low risk option. That would explain taking Flynn out but not the larger attempt to investigate Trump. The FISA warrants continued on Carter Page and leaks of Trump conversations  to the media never ended.

The fourth explanation was that  the Obama Administration initially put pressure on Comey. This was continued by the remnants of the former administration.We already mentioned Sally Yates pushing the Logan Act. Obama distrusts of Flynn was manifest. In addition, American politics has become so polarized especially on issues of abortion, Immigration, Health Care, Judiciary, etc. it becomes difficult to engage in the transfer of power. Comey, although a Republican at the time of his nomination was appointed by Obama shared more positions with Hilary Clinton than Donald Trump. Comey would have felt pressure from these forces.

While it is always hard to speculate on motivation, I suspect it is a combination of the last two explanations. Comey obviously gambled and lost. The newly Attorney General Bill Barr has changed the political environment. He declared that it appeared that the Trump Campagin and Administration was spied on without an adequate predicate. He appointed John Durham to investigate the matter He also appointed another Federal prosecutor to investigate the Flynn Case. The later resulted in the release of materials that suggest FBI malfeasance. It is clear that Comey engaged in risky material that jeopardize his reputation and perhaps expose him to criminal liability while the FBI has suffered in its reputation and political standing! Comey clearly did not anticipate the Barr appointment and its impact!

Comey was already aware that the Steele Dossier was not verified and that Steele’s sources were suggesting that it was Russian disinformation. In addition, The FISA warrants  on Carter Page had yielded nothing. It should be noted that the FISA application had used the Steele dossier as the bulk of the evidence. It also did not include exculpatory information on Page. It is very clear that at this time Comey was aware that the Russian Collusion narrative was false. Muller ultimately came to the same conclusion two years later.

Why would Comey jeopardize his own position, risk prosecution and damage the FBI?
Comey could have followed his instinct and believed that Trump and Flynn were foreign agents. The facts very early suggest that this was  a very long shot.

Comey could have believed that Trump and Flynn would have been unqualified and the Administration would be a disaster! This however would be an extraordinary step best led by Congress.

Comey could have received pressure from the other Intelligence agencies that believed the Trump and Flynn would have interfered with their operations. Flynn as Defense Intelligence Chief was highly critical of the Obama administration policies on Syria, Benghasi, the significance of the killing of Osama Ben Laden. Flynn was also critical of how the intelligence agencies functioned and was planning on re organizing the Intelligence establishment. Obama fired Flynn and actually warned Trump about hiring Flynn. This can be perceived as a legitimate threat, These intelligence agencies were part of the FBI’s interest group network and if they could be attacked it could suggest that the FBI’s intelligence functions would also be in jeopardy.  FBI mistakes would be aired and the Bureau could suffer with its image. This seems like a reasonable motivation. It should be noted that Attorney General Sessions was confirmed late and had essentially recused himself with all things Russia. Rod Rosenstein, The Deputy Attorney General was in charge of these matters! It would appear that there would be no hostile supervisors  to interfere. That would explain taking Flynn out but not the larger attempt to investigate Trump. However, FISA warrants continued on Carter Page and leaks of Trump conversations along with feeding the media never ended.

The fourth explanation was that  of the Obama Administration and holdovers were putting pressure on Comey. We already mentioned Sally Yates pushing the Logan Act and Obama obvious distrusts of Flynn. In addition, American politics has become so polarized especially on issues of Abortion, Immigration, Health Care, Judiciary, etc. it becomes difficult to engage in the transfer of power. Comey, although a Republican when appointed by Obama shared more positions with Hilary Clinton than Donald Trump. Comey would have felt pressure from these forces.

While it is always hard to speculate on motivation, I suspect it is a combination of the last two explanations. Comey obviously gambled and lost. Attorney General Bill Barr has changed the political environment. He declared that it appeared that the Trump Administration was spied on without an adequate predicate. He appointed John Durham to investigate the matter He also appointed another Federal prosecutor to investigate the Flynn Case. The later resulted in the release of materials that suggest FBI malfeasance. It is clear that Comey engaged in risky material that jeopardize his reputation and perhaps expose him to criminal liability while the FBI has suffered in its reputation and political standing! Comey was not superior bureaucratic politician he touted himself to be.

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