What Rings Comey’s Bell: The Former FBI Director’s Casual Testimony Confirms the Worst About His Tenure

In his long-awaited testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony proved as casual as his appearance in an open shirt from his home office. Comey was hammered with embarrassing findings of errors under his watch in the handling of the Russian investigation, including the reliance on information that FBI agents warned might be Russian disinformation supplied by a Russian agent. After years of investigation, the FBI was unable to show that a single Trump official conspired or colluded with the Russians. Instead, investigations found extensive errors, irregular and criminal conduct, and statements of intense bias by key FBI figures. Yet, Comey proceeded to give what amounted to a series of shrugs in either denying any recollection of such information or deflecting responsibility to others.

Comey was asked about an intelligence report suggesting that Hillary Clinton personally approved an effort “to stir up a scandal against U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump by tying him to Putin and the Russians’ hacking of the Democratic National Committee.” The report was reportedly sufficiently serious to be included in a briefing of President Barack Obama. However, when asked about his knowledge, Comey again shrugged and said it “didn’t ring a bell.” That’s it.

The fact is that the allegation against Clinton (like the one against Trump that launched the Russian investigation) was unverified and could be legitimately questioned. There is a fair question on why the FBI went all in on one allegation and not the other. When asked “did you have a duty to look at any allegations regarding Clinton in Russia?” Comey simply replied “I don’t know what you mean.”

Yet, the more interesting question is what exactly does “ring the bell” of James Comey. Recent disclosures have added to the very serious allegations of misconduct in the handling of the Russian investigation. Highly critical reports by the Inspector General and the secret FISA court detailed critical omissions and outright false information used as the basis for the investigation. This includes conduct leading to the firing of the top FBI officials and agents involved in the investigation and a recent criminal plea by the key FBI agent in charge of the FISA applications. Comey however seemed locked in some Kübler-Ross loop, stuck between denial and transference.

Comey did finally admit that, knowing what he knows today, he would not have signed off on the key secret surveillance targeting Carter Page. That makes it unanimous. Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and now Comey himself have all said that the application was invalid. Everyone agrees but no one is taking real responsibility.

Yet, Comey bizarrely said, while he would not have approved such surveillance today, he still did not think that he should have been informed (while considering the application containing Steele dossier information) that the source for the information was believed to be an actual Russian agent. Comey said that that was something that he did not really need to know: “I’m not investigating the case…They’d want to wrestle with that [on the team] and decide what to do with it.”

So Comey was questioning the relevancy of his knowing that FBI agents believed that the Steele dossier (which was part of his briefing) was Russian disinformation and supplied by a Russian agent. That apparently would not “ring his bell” before signing a highly unusual application, including the Steele material, targeting a person close to the Republican presidential candidate in an investigation on Russian influence in the election.

It is part of Comey’s deeply conflicted self-image. Comey previously in his book on “ethical leadership” criticized Trump and said “a leader needs the truth, but an emperor does not consistently hear it from his underlings.” That apparently does not apply to being informed that secret surveillance might be based on false information, including Russian intelligence disinformation.

Comey also made a series of false statements. He repeated, for example, the long-standing denial that there was any surveillance of the Trump campaign. New information shows that the FBI used a briefing in August 2016 of then candidate Trump to gather information for “Crossfire Hurricane,” the Russia investigation. While Comey is still denying this fact, other Democrats have already moved on from the denial of any surveillance of the campaign. After the disclosure, Rep. Eric Swalwell declared that “they were right to do it.”

We now know that the FBI was warned early in the process that American intelligence believed that the Steele dossier, funded by the Clinton campaign, contained possible Russian disinformation. It also warned that the actual source for the most damaging allegations had told American intelligence that Steele misrepresented both his statements and his sources – treating effectively bar room gossip as hard intelligence. None of that seemed relevant to Comey in carrying out his duty to review the evidence in approving the investigation and secret surveillance. When confronted with the evidence that a shadowy professor named Joseph Mifsud was actually a Russian agent, Comey again just shrugged at the notion that the FBI had been used as chumps by Russian intelligence: “I think the Intelligence Committee found that he was representing Russian interests in communicating with [Trump adviser George] Papadopoulos.”

After running through the long list of violations and errors in the Russian investigation, Comey was asked about his past public statements and writings dismissing all of these problems. He was specifically asked about a 2019 column in which he assured the public that they were all “lies.” Comey said that he stood by what he said in 2019. Yet, Comey declared in that column: “But go ahead, investigate the investigators, if you must. When those investigations are over, you will find the work was done appropriately and focused only on discerning the truth of very serious allegations…Those are lies, and dumb lies at that.” We did investigate and it didn’t find it was done appropriately. Comey himself admitted that he would now not signed the Page secret surveillance application and acknowledged all of the findings of errors by the various investigations. Figures like Rosenstein have called for continuing the investigation into the wrongdoing by the FBI. Few people, beyond Comey, are seriously arguing that the investigation were “done appropriately” and the allegations were not “lies,” let alone “dumb lies.”

Some things however clearly did ring Comey’s bell like the recent allegations against Trump or former National Security adviser Michael Flynn. While declining to comment on some of the new information on the Russian investigation or offering curt replies, Comey did not hesitate in holding forth on how reports of Trump’s taxes may show that he is under the control of Russia. It was precisely the concern of his critics that Comey’s interest in intelligence or evidence tended to tract his personal interest in the targets.

What Comey clearly wanted to talk about with Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.) was what he called the racist “radioactive stew” unleashed in recent years. Yet, Comey’s comments had a certain familiar ring. He explained how a failure of leadership or reckless public statements can encourage wrongdoing because “it gives [wrongdoers] license, and it makes them cool in the eyes of the people who make up that radioactive stew… it is a free pass to people that nobody wants in their communities.” It may not ring any bells with Comey but that is precisely what he is accused of doing as director in the Russian investigation.

95 thoughts on “What Rings Comey’s Bell: The Former FBI Director’s Casual Testimony Confirms the Worst About His Tenure”

  1. Was Comets time in office ten years. The word in the title to the article is spelled wrong. Maybe Turley meant ten your.

  2. Does any of this disprove that Trump’s campaign provided insider polling information to Russians who used social media in certain key precincts to spread lies about Hillary Clinton? That did happen, and is cheating, pure and simple. Does of this exonerate the multiple guilty verdicts and guilty pleas of Trump’s campaign personnel? No. They remain crooks. All of this “investigate the investigators” crap by the Republicans is nothing more than abuse of power— an attempt to provide fodder for Fox to serve up to Trump disciples. Trump is and will always be, a crook, liar, cheater, and deadbeat.

    1. “All of this “investigate the investigators”

      is being handled by John Durham.

      You are really not going to like it when he cuts lose, Natacha.

      It would be a good idea if you actually read the IG Horowitz report. He made quite a few referrals to Durham that are extremely serious.

  3. The Obama Coup D’etat in America is the most egregious abuse of power and the most prodigious crime in American political history.

    The co-conspirators are:

    Kevin Clinesmith, Bill Taylor, Eric Ciaramella, Rosenstein, Mueller/Team, Andrew Weissmann,

    James Comey, Christopher Wray, McCabe, Strozk, Page, Laycock, Kadzic,

    Sally Yates, James Baker, Bruce Ohr, Nellie Ohr, Priestap, Kortan, Campbell,

    Sir Richard Dearlove, Christopher Steele, Simpson, Joseph Mifsud,

    Alexander Downer, Stefan “The Walrus” Halper, Azra Turk, Kerry, Hillary,

    Huma, Mills, Brennan, Gina Haspel, Clapper, Lerner, Farkas, Power, Lynch,

    Rice, Jarrett, Holder, Brazile, Sessions (patsy), Nadler, Schiff, Pelosi, Obama,

    Joe Biden, James E. Boasberg et al.

  4. Other then Clinedink (Clinesmith) everyone of the conspirators will run out the clock and walk free. Barr, Durham, Wray just theater. I guess the economist Jonathan Gruber’s statement “the stupidity of the American voter” holds true? The MSM after reporting day after day for three years of Russia Russia Russia has yet to come out and tell us how they were snookered. Now it’s “the President hasn’t called the Proud Boys a terrorist group” but the real problem is just an “idea”. Very sad for we the American people.

  5. Turley insists on cherry picking Mueller’s report and never fails to mention that no evidence was found that proved any member of the Trump group colluded with Russia during the election process. Turley never fails to omit that the Mueller report goes into great detail regarding the facts that members of the Trump family and other operatives were aware of Russia’s meddling and did nothing about it. Mueller closes his report by stating the fact that ‘Trump was not innocent.’ You don’t get that part in a shill’s observation.

    1. ” Turley never fails to omit that the Mueller report goes into great detail regarding the facts that members of the Trump family and other operatives were aware of Russia’s meddling and did nothing about it. ”

      Huh??? The same is true of Obama and Comey,, and they were actually in office. Geeesh, you are superficial.

      Squeeky Fromm
      Girl Reporter

    2. Turley never fails to omit that the Mueller report goes into great detail regarding the facts that members of the Trump family and other operatives were aware of Russia’s meddling and did nothing about it.

      Of course they were aware of it. They were the target of it and they knew from the very beginning it was BS. Did nothing about it? They were put in a classic no win situation of having to prove a negative. Just like with Kavanaugh or Ukrainegate, false allegations are made and the victims have to prove their innocence.

      There is a pattern here that describes the Democrat strategy: influence a negative perception of Republicans in the eyes of the public, with an overwhelming amount of allegations that have no evidence to support them. This puts the Republicans immediately on the defensive and in a deficit of public trust and confidence. It’s like an emotional bank account. Once the evidence starts to roll in proving the allegations false, the deficit doesn’t flip to a surplus. While Republicans chip away with facts and evidence, Democrats keep adding to the deficit with more baseless allegations.

      For a nation that is rooted in the bedrock principle of innocent until proven guilty, we certainly have lost our way due to political ideology.

  6. The alphabet agencies leading the election campaign for Biden know how to leak and how far to go with information negative to Trump. Comey was no different. What he did was wrong, but will never go any further where he is concerned.

    1. Ron P, you write:

      “The alphabet agencies leading the election campaign for Biden know how to leak and how far to go with information negative to Trump.”

      Maybe then you can explain how this supposed Depp State conspiracy did not leak the information that Trump’s campaign was being investigated at the same time Comey announced that Clinton’s was, 2 weeks before the election. In fact, they protected him while exposing Hillary and costing her the election. according to analysis by Nate Silver of 538.

      PS As per Isaac above, we have heard JT’s BS about collusion before and many times. The Mueller report – and many other sources – have clearly laid out the numerous instances of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, which is of course why they all – including the President – lie about it.

  7. Whaddya know. James Comey, Justice Department lifer who made a curiously lucrative 2d career for himself in business pursuits for which he at age 45 had no training, is an adept at off-loading responsibility for things. Ya think Rod Rosenstein, another Justice Department lifer, is any less adept at this? Part of our problem as a society is that institutional processes tend to elevate weasels to positions of authority.

  8. Given what we now understand about the russiagate debacle, it was an easy prediction that Comey would say “I don’t remember”. The only other options were taking the fifth or admit to the wrongdoing. Moreover, it looks like its probable that the whole affair was a deliberate hoax rather than a rush to judgment or a case of carelessness.

  9. Turley states “the more interesting question is what exactly does “ring the bell” of James Comey.” It’s anything that can sell a false narrative in a book and can make money for Showtime in a fictional film. All while Comey presents himself as high and mighty, towering over those who are forced to deal with the aftermath of his hubris.

  10. I am reminded about what Hannah Arendt said about Adolph Eichmann – the banality of evil. I think there are some other similarities between Comey and Eichmann, personality-wise:

    Arendt’s book introduced the expression and concept of the banality of evil.[7] Her thesis is that Eichmann was actually not a fanatic or a sociopath, but instead an extremely average and mundane person who relied on cliché defenses rather than thinking for himself, was motivated by professional promotion rather than ideology, and believed in success which he considered the chief standard of “good society”.[8] Banality, in this sense, does not mean that Eichmann’s actions were in any way ordinary, or even that there is a potential Eichmann in all of us, but that his actions were motivated by a sort of complacency which was wholly unexceptional.[9] Many mid-20th century pundits were favorable to the concept.[10][11]

    [and some other similarities:]

    On Eichmann’s personality, Arendt concludes:

    Despite all the efforts of the prosecution, everybody could see that this man was not a “monster,” but it was difficult indeed not to suspect that he was a clown. And since this suspicion would have been fatal to the entire enterprise [his trial], and was also rather hard to sustain in view of the sufferings he and his like had caused to millions of people, his worst clowneries were hardly noticed and almost never reported (p. 55).

    Eichmann’s inability to think for himself was exemplified by his consistent use of “stock phrases and self-invented clichés”. The man demonstrated his unrealistic worldview and crippling lack of communication skills through reliance on “officialese” (Amtssprache) and the euphemistic Sprachregelung (convention of speech) that made implementation of Hitler’s policies “somehow palatable.”


    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  11. Hillary Clinton, Whitewater grand jury testimony 1996, “I don’t recall, I can’t remember.”
    James Comey Judiciary committee hearing testimony 2020, “I don’t recall, I can’t remember.”
    America suffers and the deep state dog and pony show continues……

  12. Comey was not the worst FBI Director, Louis Freeh was. Political corruption disgusts citizens, but child rape sickens the soul.

    Penn State, the ‘Sanctuary City for Pedophiles’, has for decades operated a child sex trafficking enterprise, grooming tens of thousands of innocent children for the sexual depravity of well connected politicians, wealthy donors, and high ranking university administrators. Penn State bribed former FBI Director Louis Freeh to whitewash the scandal, and then delivered several young boys to former Democratic Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell for his hideous depravity in exchange for the early release of Pedophile State from NCAA sanctions. Newly unsealed documents revealed George Mitchell’s connection to Jeffrey Epstein https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2019/08/new-details-in-unsealed-jeffrey-epstein-documents. Will the media exhibit the journalistic integrity to investigate the George Mitchell-Louis Freeh-Pedophile State international child sex trade operation?

  13. “Comey did finally admit that, knowing what he knows today, he would not have signed off on the key secret surveillance targeting Carter Page.”
    He likely means if he knew he would be caught. Any criminal would say the same.

    1. The “Hillary Defense” you see I was right, Flynn should use it. Oh, I take that back he didn’t do anything it only works if you don’t hear a bell ring but I think JT might consider teaching the “Hillary Defense” to lawyers in training. Wait a minute the Comey Defense “It doesn’t ring a bell with me”.

  14. Do you have a duty to investigate any allegations regarding Clinton and Russia?
    He said he didn’t know what you mean.

    I don’t either. Which Clinton? Bill or the witch?

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