CNN reported that the GOP will promote its own website, LyinComey.com, in an effort to brand the nation’s former top law enforcement officer as a liar. In their first wave of action against the former FBI director, they plan to use Democratic leaders’ words to show Comey lacks credibility.
“Comey is a liar and a leaker and his misconduct led both Republicans and Democrats to call for his firing,” Republican chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said. “If Comey wants the spotlight back on him, we'll make sure the American people understand why he has no one but himself to blame for his complete lack of credibility.”
Indeed, the campaign’s first video features several Democrats stating that Comey lacks credibility and should resign from office. But there’s important context missing.
Many of those comments were in response to Comey’s handling of an inquiry involving former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton — including publicly stating just two weeks before Election Day in 2016 that he was renewing interest in the previously-closed investigation.
Part of Democrats’ criticism of Comey was that he was too ambiguous about why he was reopening the investigation at all.
“It is pretty strange to put something like that out with such little information right before an election,” Clinton said.
Fast forward to about six months later to when Trump fired Comey. Despite their grievances with the FBI director, Democrats were able to recognize the timing of Trump firing him in May 2017 was troubling. They were also able to separate their personal misgivings with Comey from the questionable decision to remove him from his post.
“I have long disagreed with Comey about surveillance, about encryption, about secret legal interpretations,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) said during a hearing last June. “But I continue to believe the timing of the decision to fire James Comey just stinks."
Comey’s book will likely focus on disturbing statements that Trump made before he fired the FBI director. Comey indeed kept meticulous notes about his interactions with the president, including the president asking him to shut down an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Such revelations, if they’re in Comey’s book, would be embarrassing for this president and his Republican supporters. So rather than tackle those issues head on, they have conjured up a smear effort, attempting to brand the former FBI director as “Lyin’ Comey” in order to win over public opinion.
Comey was hardly a perfect FBI director, and Democrats rightly pointed that out. But the decision by Trump to fire Comey likely had more to do with the president’s concerns over an investigation getting closer to him than anything else. Disliking Comey’s actions and questioning the president’s firing of him are not mutually exclusive choices to make.
Comey may have made mistakes, but that does not mean the president did no wrong in firing him. The smear campaign disregards important context about Comey’s termination, and hopefully the American people will see through it.