Just days after penning an op-ed in The New York Times that included his personal wish that President Trump not be “impeached and removed from office before the end of his term,” former FBI Director — and a frequent target of Trump’s Twitter rants — James Comey has responded to Attorney General William Barr’s summary of the report submitted on Friday by Special Counsel Robert Mueller with an enigmatic tweet that suggests perhaps that someone isn’t seeing the forest for the trees.
So many questions. pic.twitter.com/66KaR52Kk8
— James Comey (@Comey) March 24, 2019
Comey, whose firing many people saw as prima facie evidence of the president’s obstruction of justice once he admitted to NBC New‘s Lester Holt that he dismissed him because of his probe into Trump’s relationship with Russia, may have as many questions as the rest of us as he walks among those towering trees, but at least he had access to the evidence gathered at the very beginning of the FBI’s investigations into the counterintelligence issues that the case involves from before the probe was handed off to the Special Counsel’s office.
Comey is not the only one with questions at this point. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) questioned the veracity of Barr’s conclusion after reading the Attorney General’s summary today.
“Given the fact that the special counsel found ample evidence of obstruction so as not to be able to say they’re not guilty of obstruction, so he said, we’re not exonerating the president, after 22 months for the attorney general reviewing that record in 22 hours is a bit much. I would, in fact, wonder if the attorney general pressured the special counsel into not making that finding so he could make the finding. I’m not aware of any case where an attorney general made the decision on a prosecution or non-prosecution for obstruction of justice.”
Given that Barr was specifically chosen by the president to become Attorney General because of his firm convictions about the extent of Executive Branch power and the inability of a sitting president to be indicted, his decision to not pursue obstruction of justice charges against a president who did little to hide his attempts to discredit Mueller’s investigation is not surprising.
With the bare bones outline of the principle conclusions of Mueller’s report being the only indication of what the full report actually details, it’s also no surprise that Democrats are screaming into the rafters to get access to the full report and the evidence that led to it…because as James Comey so rightfully points out, there are still “so many questions” that are unanswered.
Most importantly, is the question raised by one of the few actual quotes from the report that Barr included in his summary, even though this quote, like all but one of the cited sentences, is an out of context sentence fragment. In a statement as enigmatic and inconclusive as Comey’s tweet above, Barr quotes Mueller’s report as saying that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
While Trump will simply ignore the second half of that statement and declare that he has indeed been exonerated, without the full report, no one truly understands the implications of that lack of exoneration or the reasons that there was a failure to conclude that Trump engaged in criminal actions.
Was it because the available evidence did not rise to the standard of the 90% probability of conviction that the Justice Department needed to prosecute any criminal charges? Or was it because of the Justice Department’s extra-constitutional ruling that a sitting president cannot be indicted?
So, like Comey, we sit here pondering so many questions in the wake of Barr’s summary of the Mueller report. If only we were in that beautiful grove of trees.
Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.