The Comey Coverup Unravels
The FBI, the CIA and the press all have much to be embarrassed about.
By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.
Jan. 17, 2020 6:37 pm ET
In a curious report on Thursday evening, the New York Times carefully averts its eyes from everything that’s interesting. Even Adam Schiff has acknowledged that James Comey’s actions in 2016 may represent the most important and significant Russian influence on the election. (Hoist your shot glass. This will be the umpteenth time I’ve quoted Mr. Schiff on this matter in this column.)
Surely one of the most consequential pieces of intelligence ever received by U.S. agencies was, as we now learn, received in early 2016 from a Dutch counterpart. This is the dubious Russian intelligence that set off Mr. Comey’s multiple interventions in the last presidential race, culminating in an improper act that may have inadvertently elected Donald Trump. Even at the time Mr. Comey’s FBI colleagues considered the intelligence, which indicated questionable actions by the Justice Department to fix the Hillary email investigation, to be false, possibly a Russian plant.
The Times adds the unsurprising revelation that Mr. Comey himself is suspected in the illegal leak that, in early 2017, alerted the media to this untold aspect of his 2016 actions, before the matter disappeared again behind a veil of official secrecy. Yet bizarrely, the paper plays down its scoop, suggesting that any inquiry into a “years-old” leak now can only be a political hit job by an “ambitious” Justice Department attorney seeking to please President Trump.
First of all, I doubt this subject pleases Mr. Trump—it re-raises the question of whether his election was an accident caused by Mr. Comey. Second, the information is obviously important. The scandal hiding in plain sight is our intelligence establishment’s misuse of its authority to muck around in the 2016 election.
As a bonus, I’m going to suggest the FBI’s own pursuit of the collusion will-o’-the-wisp may have been occasioned by its hope of finding that the same fabricated Russian intelligence was in the hands of the Trump campaign, providing an ex post justification for Mr. Comey’s actions that he desperately would have wanted once fingers began pointing at him for Mrs. Clinton’s defeat. (I guess we can at least be glad he didn’t plant the information on Carter Page. )
Let’s call a spade a spade. The media is a big part of the coverup. When the Justice Department inspector general issued his damning report on Mr. Comey, not one media outlet in the Factiva database told its readers about the existence of its classified appendix except this column and Britain’s Daily Mail tabloid.
Mr. Comey himself, after allegedly leaking the secret information to the press, penned a sententious memoir suggesting the same info should remain hidden from the American people “decades from now.”
And while flogging fake revelations from the nonexistent Trump-Russia conspiracy, the mainstream press ignored a public plea, uttered before Congress, by the Justice Department’s own inspector general that the secret Comey information be declassified so the people and their representatives can know the truth about 2016.
On Thursday night, former Rep. Trey Gowdy reported that the information Mr. Comey is suspected of leaking to the media he refused to share even with Congress in a classified briefing, saying it was too top secret.
The mainstream media has been uncharacteristically silent about all this for too long—and you’re about to find out why. Whether from design or myopia, it allowed itself to be instrumental in suppressing real news in favor of a fairy tale about Mr. Trump and the Russians. That’s the deeper message of the Times’s weirdly conflicted handling of its scoop about Mr. Comey.
Leaking secret intelligence, if that’s what Mr. Comey did, is a crime. But even more palpable is something else: The information remains officially classified not to protect national security but to protect the national-security establishment from embarrassment.
The story here truly contains something for everybody. If you think Mr. Trump never should have been president, blame Mr. Comey. If you think the “deep state” is running amok, here’s your evidence. If you think the intelligence establishment is incompetent and needs a Trumpian kick in the derrière, even more so.
Alas, every revelation about this matter turns out to be a revelation also about the deviousness and expediency of Mr. Comey, the nation’s former FBI director. What should happen now? More than ever, Attorney General William Barr should act on the authority Mr. Trump has given him and declassify the inspector general’s report as well any material describing the role of other agencies (e.g., the CIA) in Mr. Comey’s election-meddling escapades.