Outgoing FBI director Robert Mueller (R) delivers remarks alongside Presdient Obama's nominee to replace him James Comey, during a ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House on June 21, 2013. (UPI/Kevin Dietsch)
Most Americans are unaware of the long history of comradeship and chicanery between Special Counsel Robert Mueller and former FBI Director James Comey. For nearly two decades, the pair have held the same jobs, earned the same foes, and swaggered in the same rarified sphere of political prestige and privilege.
This week, the country has been treated to another reminder of how often the twosome operates in tandem.
In fact, their prior relationship should have disqualified Mueller from overseeing an investigation into one of Comey’s fiercest critics and the man who fired him, President Donald Trump. Without Comey helping to fabricate the Trump-Russia collusion narrative in 2016, there wouldn’t have been a Mueller investigation into fabricated Trump-Russia election collusion.
Further, Comey admitted he leaked his internal “memos” to the New York Times after his dismissal in May 2017 in an attempt to prompt the appointment of a special counsel. Comey also would be a witness in Mueller’s investigation; his extemporaneous memos that documented alleged conversations with the president in early 2017 are cited as evidence throughout the obstruction of justice section of Mueller’s report. The conflicts are rife and overshadow the legitimacy of the entire Mueller probe.
Peas in a Pod
Comey and Mueller share similar traits: The lofty rhetoric about the rule of law; the self-aggrandizement disguised as adulation of the government institutions they run; the lust for power; the superiority complex; the petty thirst for vengeance. They are New York natives who once claimed to be Republican. Both served as deputy attorney general for President George W. Bush and director of the FBI for President Barack Obama.
In his 2013 confirmation hearing, Comey was effusive in his praise of the man he would succeed at the FBI. “His legacy of candor and straightforwardness and integrity is one that I pledge to continue,” he told the Senate Judiciary Committee. After Mueller was appointed special counsel in May 2017, Comey referred to Mueller as “one of this country’s great, great pros.”
In 2004, when Mueller was FBI director and Comey was deputy attorney general, the twosome famously ambushed ailing Attorney General John Ashcroft in an intensive care unit to stop him from signing a reauthorization of a surveillance program they viewed as illegal. Mueller lauded Ashcroft for refusing to sign the reauthorization over objections by Bush’s top White House aides, and quietly commended Ashcroft at his bedside.
“The moment had taken a toll on me,” Comey wrote in his 2018 book, A Higher Loyalty. “My heart was racing. I was feeling slightly dizzy. But when I heard Bob Mueller’s tender words, I felt like crying. The law had held.”
Strategic Ambiguity, No Surprises
On March 21, the New York Times posted a lengthy column by Comey headlined, ‘What I Want from the Mueller Report.” Like a soothsayer, Comey wrote, “even though I believe Trump is morally unfit to be president of the United States, I’m not rooting for Mueller to demonstrate that he is a criminal. I’m also not rooting for Mueller to ‘clear’ the president.”
Magically, the very next day, without previous notice to the public, Mueller submitted his report to Attorney General William Barr; coincidentally, it neither charged nor “exonerated” (Mueller’s term) the president.
The Mueller-Comey one-two punch again is evident this week; the pair clearly organized a coordinated hit job against both President Trump and Barr, who currently is investigating possible misconduct by Comey and his FBI.
On Tuesday night, the Washington Post published yet another rant by the increasingly unhinged Comey wherein he basically called everyone a big fat dumb-dumb for not buying into his tales of collusion and his laughable justification for taking the unprecedented step of spying on a rival presidential candidate.
He can’t even keep his own story straight. In the column, Comey misrepresented the details of the George Papadopoulos exchange with a Clinton-tied Australian diplomat in the spring of 2016, among other fibs.
Comey begged for attaboys for not leaking the details of his sham investigation to the press before the election. All the talk in the “fringe media” about a covert attempt to infiltrate Trump’s campaign then carry off a soft coup against the president after he won, according to Comey, is nothing more than the work of conspiracy theorists.
Comey took another shot at Barr by scoffing at the notion that his agency “spied” on the Trump campaign, but then immediately explained how he asked “a federal judge for permission to surveil [Trump campaign aide Carter Page].”
And he referred to cheating spouses and criminal leakers who once worked for him as “good people.”
Comey’s backup would arrive Wednesday morning in the form of a surprise announcement by Mueller. (It is probably safe to assume it did not come as a surprise to Comey.) In a short but wide-ranging statement by the 74-year-old prosecutor, Mueller essentially gave Congress the green light to impeach Donald Trump. Mueller delivered his remarks from the Justice Department while Barr is on business in Alaska; it was the first time in more than two years Mueller has made any kind of public statement.
After announcing his resignation from the department, Mueller reiterated his report’s finding that there was no conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians. He then pivoted to the juicier volume of the report that addresses potential obstruction of justice by the president.
Here, much like Comey, Mueller displayed his politically-expedient grasp of how the legal system is supposed to work: “If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” Mueller told the silent press corps. “We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.”
The reason, Mueller rather incoherently explained, is that Justice Department rules—last codified by the Office of Legal Counsel in 2000 based on both the Constitution and case law—prevented him from indicting the sitting president of the United States.
“Charging the president with a crime therefore was not an option we could consider,” Mueller emphasized. Then he served up the chum that the press and House Democrats were circling the water for: “The [OLC] opinion says that the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.”
That obviously would be impeachment. “A sitting President is immune from indictment as well as from further criminal process,” the OLC opinion states. “Where the President is concerned, only the House of Representatives has the authority to bring charges of criminal misconduct through the constitutionally sanctioned process of impeachment.”
Now thanks to another grudge-seeking joint stunt by Mueller and Comey, the Democrats and the media are recharged and ready to chase the folly of impeachment in time for the 2020 election.
And this week’s Mueller-Comey one-two punch serves another purpose: to obfuscate the real scandal, which is the pending investigation into how Comey’s FBI weaponized his agency against the Trump campaign and, ultimately, against the president himself.
Even though Mueller has stepped down as special counsel, it’s a fair bet to assume his days of double-teaming with Comey to settle scores are far from over.