‘Speeding to Put Out a Fire’; MSNBC Panel Defends Comey Breaking DOJ Policy

Listen to the Article!

The stench of the Swamp was on full blast in the A-block of Thursday’s Hardball, thanks to MSNBC host Chris Matthews and assorted guests defending former FBI Director James Comey in the light of a scathing report from the Justice Department’s Inspector General that said he violated DOJ policy. But for these MSNBCers, it was justified because of their hatred for President Donald Trump and that Comey broke rules to help the liberal media.

Matthews boasted of “Trump the avenger” in his opening tag to describe a President who “wants the entire Russia and impeachment drive burnt by its own flames.” To Matthews’s credit, he quoted from the IG report before knocking Trump’s reaction, but that was a low bar.

 

 

After he introduced his panel, Matthews fussed to NBC News correspondent Julia Ainsley:

Julia, give me a sense. Is there anything in this thing? Because I get the sense. I was a speech writer to a President. We were told don't even take copies of the speeches you wrote home with you. Okay. We generally honored that. Is this kind of thing? Is it the — is it that level of seriousness that he took memos from his own conversation home with him? 

Like a true Deep State, liberal journalist, Ainsley downplayed the report under the guise of people she supposedly spoke to and even defended Comey’s actions as akin to someone speeding to put out a fire (click “expand”):

So, the inspector general, Michael Horowitz, definitely slaps Comey on the wrist for taking things home that he shouldn't have, but he also says that he sets a bad precedent for FBI employees who now think they can leak information in order to set in progress some kind of official action, but for people who I’ve been talking to, Justice Department employees and former Justice Department employees today, they say Horowitz completely misses the context here and it's like if he were to charge him and he referred it to the Justice Department who declined to charge him, but it's like punishing someone for speeding on their way to put out a fire. That's the way a lot of people see it here or — and the idea that what the information that he gave was confidential, which is the lowest form of classification. No one's been charged for leaking confidential information in the modern era, the idea that if you were to punish someone for that, that’d be like charging them for going 58 in a 55 on the way to put out that fire. 

MSNBC legal analyst Glenn Kirschner was the one panelist who didn’t entirely fall along those lines, emphasizing how, most importantly, “[Comey’s] supposed to follow FBI procedure, rules and protocol” and “everyone really lost, including the American people” even though “[t]he biggest loser” was the President for lying.

Kirschner also credited Attorney General Bill Barr for not charging Comey, so there was that.

Matthews went next to Obama-era U.S. Attorney and MSNBC legal analyst Joyce Vance by invoking Trump alongside Soviet Commies (click “expand”):

Joyce, with this President is going to do, of course, he already doing today. He’s arguing moral equality. You used to see that with the Soviet Union like we're all people on the hard left would say oh, we're just as bad as they are, blah, blah, blah. He is trying to say now what this guy did is worse than I did therefore what this guy did is criminal. The whole enterprise, the whole Russian impeachment effort, everything that Comey set in work — in the works here is criminal itself. In fact, that proves that I am an innocent man all the way, from the beginning to now.

Vance replied that the situation was “a real mess” and it won’t be fixed “as long as Trump is committed to playing some sort of a game of Presidential one-upmanship”; doing far worse things than Comey because he’s “in the Oval Office sharing classified information with the Russian ambassador,” “at Mar-a-Lago talking about military action in front of guests, and the list of horribles Trump takes the prize.”

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson agreed with Ainsley and Vance that the President was worse and suggested Comey’s behavior was justified because, in his mind, Trump was just that big of a threat to America:

I do understand it is like he was speeding to put out a fire. You — you have the President of the United States committing obstruction of justice, basically and so what are you going to do? You're going to do something. 

Before moving onto other topics, Ainsley chimed in to attack the IG report as discouraging her sources from leaking damaging information to her (click “expand”):

AINSLEY: I just have to say too, as a journalist, I rely on people to give me information that is not top secret or secret, but is confidential, law enforcement sensitive. So what does this do for people going forward? 

ROBINSON: Exactly.

AINSLEY: Does it create a chilling effect for them? 

ROBINSON: Exactly and we're all shocked — shocked that somebody in the FBI, like, leaked information? Like once in history? 

MATTHEWS: You know how we knew Hitler was coming? Because people in the British government leaked stuff to Churchill so he could put it out about the military buildup by the Germans, you know. Sometimes there is a justifiable cause here. 

To see the relevant transcript from MSNBC’s Hardball on August 29, click “expand.”

MSNBC’s Hardball
August 29, 2019
7:00 p.m. Eastern

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Trump the avenger. Let's play hardball. [HARDBALL OPENING CREDITS] Good evening. I'm Chris Matthews in Washington. Donald Trump wants the entire Russia and impeachment drive burnt by its own flames. He wants the world to know the entire probe, which began just months after his inauguration, was a criminal plot, started and carried out by his enemies on an innocent man. Well, the biggest target of the turning of the tables has been former FBI Director James Comey and today President Trump and his allies found their opportunity to attack Comey following the release of a Justice Department inspector general's report on his handling of memos, detailing his interactions with Trump in the first weeks of his presidency. The Justice Department says it will not prosecute Comey, but Inspector General Michael Horowitz criticized Comey for violating FBI policy by releasing the memos to his personal attorneys and giving one to a friend who then leaked to it The New York Times. Harwood states: “Former Director Comey failed to live up to his responsibility by not safeguarding sensitive information obtained during the course of his FBI employment, and by using it to create public pressure for official action. Comey set a dangerous example.” Well, one of those memos concerned a conversation between Comey and Trump when he said the President told him to end a probe into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and since firing Comey in 2017, a move that ultimately set in motion the special counsel investigation, President Trump has repeatedly tried to argue that Comey broke the law in releasing that information. 

[TRUMP CLIPS]

MATTHEWS: Well, the IG report stated definitively that: “We found no evidence that Comey or his attorneys released any of the classified information contained in any of the Memos to members of the media.” Well, today Comey responded to the report, writing on Twitter: “ I don’t need a public apology from those who defamed me, but a quick message with a ‘sorry we lied about you’ would be nice. And to all those who’ve spent two years talking about me “going to jail” or being a “liar and a leaker”—ask yourselves why you still trust people who gave you bad info for so long, including the president.” Well, President Trump ran a victory lap of his own writing today: Perhaps never in the history of our Country has someone been more thoroughly disgraced and excoriated than James Comey in the just released Inspector General's Report.” He should be ashamed of himself.” That's Trump talking. [INTRODUCES PANEL] Julia, give me a sense. Is there anything in this thing? Because I get the sense. I was a speech writer to a President. We were told don't even take copies of the speeches you wrote home with you. Okay. We generally honored that. Is this kind of thing? Is it the — is it that level of seriousness that he took memos from his own conversation home with him? 

JULIA AINSLEY: Well, that's part of it. So, the inspector general, Michael Horowitz, definitely slaps Comey on the wrist for taking things home that he shouldn't have, but he also says that he sets a bad precedent for FBI employees who now think they can leak information in order to set in progress some kind of official action, but for people who I’ve been talking to, Justice Department employees and former Justice Department employees today, they say Horowitz completely misses the context here and it's like if he were to charge him and he referred it to the Justice Department who declined to charge him, but it's like punishing someone for speeding on their way to put out a fire. That's the way a lot of people see it here or — and the idea that what the information that he gave was confidential, which is the lowest form of classification. No one's been charged for leaking confidential information in the modern era, the idea that if you were to punish someone for that, that’d be like charging them for going 58 in a 55 on the way to put out that fire. 

MATTHEWS: I guess one question, Glenn, what’s the head of the FBI supposed to do when he witnesses firsthand the President of the United States committing obstruction of justice by telling him to end the case against his buddy? 

GLENN KIRSCHNER: Chris, he’s supposed to follow FBI procedure, rules and protocol. When I looked at the IG report, I already knew everyone was going to declare victory, even though everyone really lost, including the American people. The biggest loser, President Trump. Why? Because he lied to the American people over and over again. You just played it in your opening. He’s saying Comey is a leaker of classified information. Wrong, lie. He’s a liar. No, he didn't lie to anybody. He’s a criminal. No, he's not a criminal. How do we know he's not a criminal? Bill Barr ain't charging him with a crime. Do you think Bill Barr would have charged with a crime if he committed a crime? Maybe even if he didn't commit a crime? 

MATTHEWS: Go into that. Embroider that. Why do you think Bill Barr is standing there as the President's man on so many other occasions, his lawyer, basically, didn't move here? 

KIRSCHNER: Because even Bill Barr I guess has some kernel of decency and law-abidingness in him such that he’s not going to charge an innocent person, somebody who didn't commit a crime. Comey didn't commit a crime, but here's what he did do. He went with his gut and he violated FBI rules, procedures and protocol and we can all say yeah, but the ends justify the means. It was a really righteous thing he was trying to do, but if that's how we governed ourselves as government officials, we all get to violate procedures and protocols if we think the cause is really righteous, that's a recipe for governmental chaos, so I think everybody loses here. 

MATTHEWS: Joyce, with this President is going to do, of course, he already doing today. He’s arguing moral equality. You used to see that with the Soviet Union like we're all people on the hard left would say oh, we're just as bad as they are, blah, blah, blah. He is trying to say now what this guy did is worse than I did therefore what this guy did is criminal. The whole enterprise, the whole Russian impeachment effort, everything that Comey set in work — in the works here is criminal itself. In fact, that proves that I am an innocent man all the way, from the beginning to now. Joyce? 

JOYCE VANCE: You know, this is a real mess, Chris. It's a real mess and what the American people deserve here is clarity. They're not going to get that as long as Trump is committed to playing some sort of a game of Presidential one-upmanship and the real problem here, I think — 

MATTHEWS: Well, who's right? Playing judge here. 

VANCE: — Glenn just nails it. 

MATTHEWS: But Joyce, who’s right? 

VANCE: — yeah, you know —

MATTHEWS: Is it equally bad or what? 

VANCE:  Well, it's clear that Trump does a lot worse here. I mean, Trump, after all, is in the Oval Office sharing classified information with the Russian ambassador. He's at Mar-a-Lago talking about military action in front of guests, and the list of horribles Trump takes the prize, but Comey does violate DOJ policy. That is highly problematic. At the same time, I'm sympathetic to the context. This was the President of the United States. The one person that no one can say is at fault, the one person that no one can fire and Comey cease him trying to curry favor with law enforcement, trying to end an investigation into someone who's engaged in wrongdoing. He is in a tough position. History can judge him. I'm not going to. 

MATTHEWS: Well, the President’s Republican allies in Congress argues [sic] that the IG report was proof of abuse and bias by the Justice Department. Senator Lindsey Graham, a toadie called a stunning rebuke of the former director of the FBI. “This is the first of what I expect,” this is senator Lindsey graham talking, “[t]his is the first of what I expect will be several more ugly and damning rebukes of senior DOJ and FBI officials regarding their actions and biases toward the Trump campaign of 2016.” And House Oversight Committee ranking member, Ohio Republican Congressman Jim Jordan, a tea partier wrote: “Now we know why Comey didn't want to prosecute Clinton—he didn't see a problem handling sensitive informatio. After clearing her, he did it too. Toomey, [sic] like Clinton, thinks he's above the law.” Gene, I give you all the time in the world. What do you think they’re going to do with this baby?

EUGENE ROBINSON: Well, I was just reading the Lindsey Graham quote, it's like something out of Orwell. It's like precrime. With know what the crimes are going to be, right? 

MATTHEWS: Oh yeah.

ROBINSON: You're going to see this and you're going to see that. You know, Comey is a difficult figure because a lot of people have problems with the way he handled the Hillary Clinton investigation, the — the July 2016 long statement. We’re not going to prosecute.

MATTHEWS: She blames —

ROBINSON: You know, the laundry list of awful things she did, but we're not going to prosecute. The — the — you know, the October surprise, and you know, so he's been going with his gut for a while And he got a slap on the wrist for it. It was probably an appropriate slap on the wrist. I mean, I would have slapped him on the wrist for other things before this and I do understand it is like he was speeding to put out a fire. You — you have the President of the United States committing obstruction of justice, basically and so what are you going to do? You're going to do something. 

AINSLEY: I just have to say too, as a journalist, I rely on people to give me information that is not top secret or secret, but is confidential, law enforcement sensitive. So what does this do for people going forward? 

ROBINSON: Exactly.

AINSLEY: Does it create a chilling effect for them? 

ROBINSON: Exactly and we're all shocked — shocked that somebody in the FBI, like, leaked information? Like once in history? 

MATTHEWS: You know how we knew Hitler was coming? Because people in the British government leaked stuff to Churchill so he could put it out about the military buildup by the Germans, you know. Sometimes there is a justifiable cause here. 

NB Daily FBI Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats Trump-Russia probe MSNBC Hardball Video James Comey Chris Matthews Eugene Robinson Donald Trump
Curtis Houck's picture


Sponsored Links