On Comey's Non-Testimony

FBI Director Comey might be the single most irritating figure for both parties. With some officials that might be evidence of integrity, but with the FBI Director it's instead an erratic sort of careerism in which he tries and fails to navigate a hostile partisan environment by alternately pandering to one side and then the other. While trying to avoid the appearance of doing so.

And you never entirely know which Comey will show up. The Comey that showed up to the hearings gave Democrats almost everything they wanted with lawyerly non-answers that could have been scripted by Hillary Clinton. Comey said enough for the media to draw all sorts of implications without being precise enough to be nailed down on anything factual.

And when it came to questions from Republicans, Comey stonewalled and stonewalled hard. This was a typical exchange.

Trump's Twitter account tweeted it because the non-response undermines Comey's denials about Obama. (The denials were predictably phrased in a meaningless lawyerese way that could have a thousand and one loopholes.) But what's more significant in a way is how Comey wants to talk about certain things, but not others. He has no interest in discussing how Flynn's phone call got out. Except that it was a bad thing. But he's happy to pour partisan fuel on the rigged election fires. And yet next time around, Comey might go entirely the other way and explain how Susan Rice might have leaked Flynn's call.

Comey is navigating his own agency and the partisan agendas within it. And within the imperial city. But he's doing so in a way that makes him untrustworthy. What he offers isn't transparency, but selective answers and disclosures that feeds the conviction of both sides that he is serving a partisan agenda. And that does serious damage to the reputation of the FBI.