James Comey came to congress with bombshell after bombshell and even though most of it was extensively reported on in the run up to the testimony, coming from the mouth of a former FBI director speaking under oath, changed the landscape significantly. Comey confirmed what was previously only found in anonymously sourced articles from news outlets that significant parts of the country openly disdain, and doing so significantly shifted the discussion surrounding Donald Trump and the investigation surrounding his administration. What was presumed is now fact, but that might not necessarily be a fact to everyone.
Particularly those who get their news from Fox News or live in a particularly conservative Twitter bubble. Fox News, Donald Trump Jr. and various GOP linked social media accounts took to the twittersphere in a vain attempt to recapture the narrative and shift focus away from President Trump.
Donald Trump Jr. specifically was particularly vocal and rebuked almost every comment the FBI Director made and ensured there was a Trump friendly talking point for every allegation.
During the testimony Comey made it abundantly clear that Donald Trump’s repeated contacts with him while he served as FBI director were completely inappropriate. Comey believed Donald Trump intentionally attempted to place him in compromising positions which prompted Comey to take extensive records of their encounters. A practice he never maintained in the two previous White Houses Comey worked for. Many of these records were leaked and appeared in press reports prior to the testimony and Comey himself backed them up with a copy of his written remarks the day before he testified.
Donald Trump Jr. seemingly glossed over all of that and instead focused on the few semantic victories he could stretch out of an otherwise devastating day for the Trump administration.
Repeatedly Trump Jr. attempted to bring the discussion back to the fact that James Comey claimed Donald Trump never asked him to end the investigation of the Trump campaign regarding possible collusion with Russia. That doesn’t mean much though because Comey was not there to testify regarding that investigation and stated repeatedly he felt Donald Trump was in fact asking him to drop potential further investigation into General Michael Flynn. Who according to Comey was in “legal jeopardy” at the time. Comey did state Trump was not personally under investigation for colluding with Russia, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t guilty of something else, namely obstruction of justice. So Trump Jr’s tweet might be technically correct, but it’s also irrelevant.
It’s important to remember that every single statement made during Comey’s testimony has to be viewed through the lens of the broader investigation into Michael Flynn and whether or not Donald Trump tried to stifle the FBI’s work. James Comey wasn’t there to talk about collusion, he was there to talk about Donald Trump’s misconduct and the many lines he crossed as he repeatedly reached out to Comey. Donald Trump Jr. didn’t seem too interested in that though.
Yet he was very interested in discussing how Comey’s testimony “destroyed” the New York Times anonymously sourced article, Loretta Lynch’s misconduct in the previous administration, and how Comey “leaked” to the press much like the leakers who helped the Times compile said article.
And while some of those accusations may be legitimate, they are also a pretty clear attempt to obfuscate and shift the controversy away from Trump.
Trump Jr’s tweets were a small part of a broader communications strategy that is focused on discrediting James Comey, deny any wrongdoing on the president’s part, and try to paint the continued leaks as the real issue. Tying Comey up in the leaks blurs the lines between the legitimate issue of leaks and Comey’s leak that appears to be completely legal as “privileged communications” are not the same as classified information. More importantly though Comey intentionally crafted the leaked memos in such a way that leaking them would not place him in legal jeopardy.
That did not stop Donald Trump Jr. from creating an alternate twitter universe that allowed his father’s rabid supporters to ignore reality completely. Playing loose with the facts on twitter is a longstanding strategy of the Trump team that doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.
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