Before and after James Comey served as FBI director, he made a career of crafting allegations of wrongdoing that would sound plausible to judges and juries.
Before and after Donald Trump became president, he made a habit of hurling accusations too sloppy to withstand the scrutiny of an impartial observer, let alone a court process.
This sums up one psychic advantage held by Comey. But it only matters if his clash with the man who fired him is to be decided on the playing field of information and facts.
Which might not be the relevant political standard. Antagonists who tried to play Joseph Welch to Trump’s Joe McCarthy have so far failed before a jury of Trump’s supporters.
The simple fact is that Trump was elected and Comey was appointed. This could tilt the field back in favor of the agitated president in an intangible but powerful way.
In Comey’s realm, the case against a “morally unfit” Trump begins in part with the real estate heir giving contradictory accounts of why he canned the FBI director.
First, Trump pointed to the Hillary Clinton email debacle, but then he cited the Russia probe. Both explanations stink of political expediency, but more importantly, undermine his own credibility on this subject as he has on several others.
Comey’s book, “A Higher Loyalty,” drives the publicity. In interviews, he expounds on its pages by comparing Trump’s administration to a mob family, calling his presence a forest fire and pointing to possible obstruction of justice.
All that’s plausible. But notice what Comey told George Stephanopoulos on ABC News on Sunday — that he would not favor impeaching Trump because it “would let the American people off the hook and have something happen indirectly that I believe they’re duty-bound to do directly” through elections.
Comey recognizes who holds popular power in America.
That said, Comey’s coherent broadside drives the Trump camp to play games of political Twister. Kellyanne Conway accused Comey of diverting the spotlight to himself, which is, of course, what her patron often does.
“This guy swung an election,” Conway said. “He thought the wrong person would win.”
Republican Comey’s reopening of the Clinton email case shortly before the election won him no friends among Democrats. At the same time, it also makes Trump’s claims of a partisan Comey bias against him less convincing.
One could say Trump did his part to sell Comey’s book on Monday by resuming his Twitter tirade without answering crucial questions or accounting for his own previous pro-Comey statements.
“Comey drafted the Crooked Hillary exoneration long before he talked to her (lied in Congress to Senator G), then based his decisions on her poll numbers,” he tweeted. “Disgruntled, he, (former Deputy FBI Director Andrew) McCabe, and the others, committed many crimes!”
Trump did not bother to show the “many crimes” they supposedly committed. Truth and cogency aren’t exactly the president’s strong suit. Any benefit of the doubt in the realm of factual debate is long since squandered.
Criminal charges are the territory not of the turbulent Oval Office but of the FBI and prosecutors — that is, the part of the playing field that may end up tilted against Trump, which is why he carries on so much.