14:05 GMT11 April 2021
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    Former FBI Director James Comey testified on the Trump-Russia probe at the US Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday. It was the first public appearance of Comey since his firing in May.

    Gevorg Mirzayan, associate professor at the Department of Political Sciences of Finance University under the Russian Government, wrote in an analytical piece for RIA Novosti that while the main subject at the testimony was supposed to be whether US President Donald Trump is professional and trustworthy, after the testimony the question emerged whether Comey himself was professional enough.

    Obstruction of Justice?

    Comey confirmed previous media statements saying that Trump wanted the former FBI chief to "pledge loyalty" to him, asked to stop the investigation into former national security advisor Michael Flynn because "he is a good guy" and to confirm his campaign team has no ties with Moscow.

    The decision whether Trump's requests were an "obstruction of justice" will be made by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, while the House could officially make a charge.

    However, are there chances that Trump would really be accused of "obstruction of justice"? His opponents have hoped that Comey would shed light on Trump's pressure concerning the probe into Flynn who is de facto accused of working for Moscow. Comey said Trump hoped the investigation would stop.

    "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go," Comey quoted the US president as saying in his written testimony ahead of Thursday's hearing.

    However, when asked if Trump didn't order him to stop investigating Flynn, Comey said that "in his words no." However, he believed it was an order. "That's the way I took it," Comey said, adding that he "can be wrong."

    Whether Trump's words are enough to be considered an obstruction of justice raises doubts, RIA Novosti contributor Mirgayan believes. He reminded that the law allows the US president to stop an investigation into any person.

    "There were no threats or bribes; it was just a friendly wish to let go of a person who tried to prevent the further deterioration of Washington-Moscow relations after another example of [former US President Barack] Obama's diplomatic hysteria during the last days of his presidency. In this wording, it's difficult to interpret Trump's statement as the 'obstruction of justice,'" Mirzayan wrote.

    US National Security Adviser Michael Flynn announced his decision to resign on February 14 amid the growing controversy surrounding his conversation with Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak before Trump's inauguration. In his resignation letter, Flynn noted that he had not given Vice President Mike Pence complete information about his conversations with Kislyak.

    Flynn's talks with the Russian ambassador took place following Obama's decision to impose a set of punitive measures against Russia, including the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats and the closure of two Russian diplomatic compounds, in response to Moscow's alleged interference in the US presidential election, which has been repeatedly denied by the Russian side.

    "Comey himself declined to interpret this decision, but noted that the issue was rather a matter of creating some kind of discomfort, not an attempt to exert pressure. Moreover, the probe [into Flynn] wasn't affected by Trump's words; he can only be accused of being politically incorrect," the analyst noted.

    When commenting on Trump's conversations with Comey, Gov. Chris Christie said, "What people don’t understand is that they elected an outsider president."

    "They elected someone who had never been inside government and quite frankly never interacting with the government except at the local level. And so, the idea of the way, the tradition of these agencies is not something that he’s ever been steeped in. And so, here I think over the course of time, and we can talk about different examples, what you’re seeing is a president who is now very publicly learning about the way people react to what he considers to be normal New York City conversation," Christie said.

    Comey's Image Damaged

    "Yes, theoretically Comey can present some more evidence. However, during the testimony, Comey didn't only lose from the point of view of the evidence base, but also lost the reputation of a professional and just a decent person — the key elements of his image, on which the anti-Trump forces were betting," the political analyst wrote.

    The formal reason for the dismissal of Comey was his professional incompetence. In the beginning of his testimony, Comey said that the "shifting explanations" of his firing "confused me and increasingly concerned me."

    Comey said that Trump has repeatedly told him that he was "doing a great job." "That didn't make any sense to me," Comey said when commenting on the pretext of his dismissal allegedly over his actions during the US election campaign.

    "The administration then chose to defame me and, more importantly, the FBI, by saying the organization was in disarray… Those were lies, plain and simple," Comey stated.

    Mirzayan believes that there's enough evidence that the FBI was in "disarray."

    "It was enough to follow last year's epic around Hillary [Clinton], when the FBI first launched an investigation into her on charges of violating state secrets, then by the order of Hillary's friend Attorney General Loretta Lynch [the FBI] closed the investigation, then by Comey's decision reopens it, and finally closes it under media pressure."

    Moreover, the FBI director didn't find the source or sources of leaks about the Trump administration.

    The last straw was the inability of the FBI director to identify the source of information leaks about the Trump administration's affairs to the press. 

    The Dems wanted to present Comey as "a victim of Trump's arbitrariness, a fighter for all good and justice," however, it turned out he was a leaker himself.

    Comey confirmed that he gave a memo of his conversations with Trump to "a close friend" of his to leak to the media. Moreover, Comey admitted that he intentionally refused to inform the public that Trump was not under the investigation.

    "Therefore, it turns out that Trump was absolutely right speaking of the incompetence of Comey as director of the FBI and as a member of the team. Moreover, in this light, Trump asking for Comey's 'loyalty,' after which the FBI director promised honesty to the president, seems to be quite justified. There's no honesty here at all," Mirzogyan wrote, suggesting Comey may himself be accused over his actions.

    Trump's lawyer Marc Kasowitz called for finding out whether by leaking sensitive information the ex-FBI head violated the law.

    Flynn — Last Hope

    Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (File)
    © AP Photo / Drew Angerer / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA
    The Democrats seem disappointed but they still are not giving up and will push the Russia probe forward. It will be quite difficult to do it. Of course, Comey admitted there is a grop of intelligence service members within the Russian diplomatic mission, but it's nothing new as it's a common practice around the world.

    It's more important that Comey said that Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak is not a "spy" as the US mainstream media have written. This is important because Kislyak is a former deputy minister of foreign affairs and one of the most respected Russian diplomats. Moreover, Kislyak met US Attorney General Jeff Sessions three times who is also accused over alleged ties with Russia, but it was finally confirmed there was nothing wrong in the meetings.

    "Unless [Special Counsel Robert] Mueller is a complete idiot, which he is not, he's concluded there's no obstruction of justice case because if he had concluded otherwise, Comey wouldn't be testifying," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told CBS. "You wouldn't let his chief and only witness go through this process if you believe you really had a case to prosecute," Graham said. "And Mr. Mueller is a good prosecutor."

    "However, he is not entirely right — the promoters of [Trump's] impeachment have another trump card. Now the whole anti-Trump crusade is based on a very unsteady foundation called Michael Flynn. The retired general really violated the US law (when he did not declare acts of lobbyism against Turkey), but is forced to invent another episode [of violating the law] — work for the Russians, preferably on Trump's orders. And if Flynn does not slander Trump, he risks finding himself behind bars over the Turkish issues. So now General Flynn must prove whether he is a professional and a decent man," the analyst concluded.


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