Right-wing media and fake news purveyors that routinely defend President Donald Trump are falsely claiming that in testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 3, former FBI Director James Comey contradicted his memo that Trump had asked him to stop investigating former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s ties to Russian officials.
NY Times Reports That Trump Asked Comey To Stop The Investigation Into Former Trump Aide Michael Flynn
NY Times: Trump Asked Comey To End FBI Investigation Into Flynn’s Ties To Russia, According To Memo. On May 16, The New York Times reported that Comey wrote a memo shortly after a February meeting with President Donald Trump explaining that the president asked him to end the federal investigation into Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and his ties to Russia. The Times noted that “the documentation of Mr. Trump’s request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and F.B.I. investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia.” From the report:
President Trump asked the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting.
“I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo.
The documentation of Mr. Trump’s request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and F.B.I. investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia. Late Tuesday, Representative Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, demanded that the F.B.I. turn over all “memoranda, notes, summaries and recordings” of discussions between Mr. Trump and Mr. Comey.
Mr. Comey wrote the memo detailing his conversation with the president immediately after the meeting, which took place the day after Mr. Flynn resigned, according to two people who read the memo. It was part of a paper trail Mr. Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president’s improper efforts to influence a continuing investigation. An F.B.I. agent’s contemporaneous notes are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations. [The New York Times, 5/16/17]
“Alt-Right” Internet Trolls Jack Posobiec And Nick Short Distort Comey’s Testimony To Falsely Claim He Contradicted The Memo
Jack Posobiec Is An “Alt-Right” Internet Troll And Conspiracy Theorist. Jack Posobiec is the Washington bureau chief for Rebel Media, an “alt-right”outlet that indoctrinates its audience with extreme ideas by sowing distrust in reliable media outlets and verifiable news. Posobiec has also contributed to a number of other alternative media outlets. He is best known for promoting emails and forged documents related to French President-elect Emmanuel Macron in order to boost far-right candidate Marine LePen. Posobiec has also pushed the baseless “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory, led smear campaigns against Trump detractors, and helped produce a bogus documentary alleging that Sweden has become the “rape capital of the West” because of its refugee policy. [Media Matters, 5/11/17, 4/26/17]
Posobiec: Comey Said Under Oath That Trump Did Not Ask Him To Halt Any Investigation.
Conservative Internet Troll Nick Short Uses His Twitter Account To Push Conspiracy Theories. Conservative internet troll Nick Short uses his Twitter platform to promote far-right figures and conspiracy theories. [Media Matters, 11/16/16; Twitter, 5/17/17, 5/17/17, 5/17/17, 5/5/17, 7/23/15]
Nick Short Tweeted Transcript From Comey’s Testimony, Saying “If Trump Told Comey To ‘Stop Investigating’ ... Then Why Did Comey Say This On May 3 Under Oath?” Short extracted part of Comey’s testimony from the May 3 Senate hearing to imply that Comey’s response rendered the memo moot.
Comey Testified That Justice Department Never Asked FBI To Halt An Investigation; He Was Not Asked About President
Comey Said Neither Justice Department Nor Attorney General Has Halted Any FBI Investigations But Was Not Asked About The President. On May 3, Comey testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on FBI oversight. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) said that she would like him “to clarify the FBI's independence from the DOJ apparatus” and asked, “If the Attorney General or senior officials at the Department of Justice opposes a specific investigation, can they halt that FBI investigation?” Comey responded that “a situation where we were told to stop something for a political reason” “would be a very big deal. It's not happened in my experience.” From The Washington Post's transcript of the testimony:
SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): Yes. And so speaking of the independence of not just the judiciary but I'd like you to clarify the FBI's independence from the DOJ apparatus. Can the FBI conduct an investigation independent from the department of Justice. Or does the FBI have to disclose all it's (sic) investigations to the DOJ? And does it have to get the Attorney General's consent?
COMEY: Well we work with the Department of Justice, whether that's main justice or U.S. attorney's offices on all of our investigations.
And so we work with them and so in a legal sense we're not independent of the department of justice. We are spiritually, culturally pretty independent group and that's the way you would want it. But yes, we work with the Department of Justice on all of our investigations.
HIRONO: So if the Attorney General or senior officials at the Department of Justice opposes a specific investigation, can they halt that FBI investigation?
COMEY: In theory yes.
HIRONO: Has it happened?
COMEY: Not in my experience. Because it would be a big deal to tell the FBI to stop doing something that -- without an appropriate purpose. I mean where oftentimes they give us opinions that we don't see a case there and so you ought to stop investing resources in it. But I'm talking about a situation where we were told to stop something for a political reason, that would be a very big deal. It's not happened in my experience. [The Washington Post, 5/3/17]
Fake News Purveyors And Right-Wing Media Broadcast The Blatant Lie
Breitbart: “Reporter” Posobiec “Tweeted That Comey Denied Any Interference In The Agency’s Investigations While Under Oath At A Senate Hearing.” Breitbart advertised Posobiec’s tweet, writing that “a reporter tweeted that Comey denied any interference in the agency’s investigations while under oath at a Senate hearing earlier this month.” The article distorted the question posed to Comey at the hearing, writing, “Although Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) didn’t specifically ask about Trump in the question she posed to Comey, the inquiry was about whether or not he had experienced having a higher authority stop an FBI investigation.” [Breitbart, 5/17/17]
Fox & Friends Cherry-Picked Comey’s Words To Claim That Nobody Has Ever Asked Him To Stop An Investigation For A Political Reason. Fox & Friends played a clip of Comey saying that “a situation where [the FBI was] told to stop something for a political reason” has “not happened in my experience,” downplaying the fact that he was specifically asked whether the Department of Justice had ever asked him to end an investigation. From the May 18 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): On May 3rd, unbelievably, in an unprecedented move, James Comey was asked, do you ever feel political pressure and if you did to do something to drop a case or get a case, and if you did, how would you act. Listen.
MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): If the attorney general or senior officials at the Department of Justice opposes a specific investigation, can they halt that FBI investigation?
JAMES COMEY: In theory, yes.
HIRONO: Has it happened?
COMEY: Not in my experience because it would be a big deal to tell the FBI to stop doing something without appropriate purpose. We’re oftentimes -- they give us opinions that we don’t see a case there, so you ought to stop investing resources in it. But I’m talking about a situation where we were told to stop something for a political reason. That would be a very big deal. It’s not happened in my experience.
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): OK so even though the question was about the attorney general or assistant attorney general, nonetheless --
AMY HOLMES (GUEST): He said, “That would be a very big deal, and it hasn’t happened in my experience.”
AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): And he just said that few weeks ago.
HOLMES: And he said that May 3rd, which is many months after this Comey memo. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/18/17]
Infowars: Comey’s Testimony “Contradicts His New Claim That Trump Pressured Him To Stop The Flynn Investigation." In a post headlined “Breaking: Comey Caught Committing Perjury To Congress?” Infowars claimed that Comey “said he was never told to stop an investigation due to political reasons ... which contradicts his new claim that Trump pressured him to stop the Flynn investigation.” From the May 18 post:
Former FBI Director James Comey said he was never told to stop an investigation due to political reasons during testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 3, 2017, which contradicts his new claim that Trump pressured him to stop the Flynn investigation in February.
Comey now claims President Trump asked him to to shut down the federal investigation into former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a reported memo Mr. Comey says he wrote after the meeting.
The New York Times claims this February memo is the “smoking gun,” but in fact it contradicts Comey’s sworn testimony on May 3.
During the Senate testimony, Comey confirmed to Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) that in theory, the Attorney General or senior officials at the Department of Justice could stop a FBI investigation. [Infowars, 5/18/17]
GotNews: Comey’s Testimony “Blows Apart The Phony Narrative New York Times Reporter Michael Schmidt Wove On Tuesday.” Fake news purveyor GotNews picked up Nick Short’s tweet and distorted Comey’s words, writing, “Comey testified under Senate oath May 3rd that the Trump administration had not pressured his agency to halt any investigation for political purposes,” which “[flies] in the face of Democrats’ paranoid delusions about Russia and President Donald J. Trump.” From the May 17 article:
Former FBI Director James Comey testified under Senate oath May 3rd that the Trump administration had not pressured his agency to halt any investigation for political purposes. Comey admitted that the FBI has always been free to operate without political interference—flying in the face of Democrats’ paranoid delusions about Russia and President Donald J. Trump, and exposing for what it is a new political witch hunt Wednesday by enemies within the president’s own Justice Department.
Videotaped testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee blows apart the phony narrative New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt wove on Tuesday, which resulted in Mueller’s appointment. Schmidt’s only sources were anonymous. They claimed that on Feb. 14th, the day after National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigned, Trump had asked Comey to end an investigation into Flynn’s connections to Russia. [GotNews, 5/17/17]
Gateway Pundit Called Comey’s Testimony A “SMOKING GUN.” Gateway Pundit cited GotNews to claim that “Comey testified under oath May 3rd that the Trump administration had not pressured his agency to halt any investigation for political purposes.” From the May 17 article (emphasis original):
Former FBI Director James Comey testified under oath May 3rd that the Trump administration had not pressured his agency to halt any investigation for political purposes.
Lying during sworn congressional testimony is committing perjury, a federal offense punishable by up to five years in prison. [The Gateway Pundit, 5/17/17]
TruthFeed: Comey’s Testimony “Debunks The Comey Memo.” Fake news purveyor TruthFeed cited part of Comey’s testimony to claim that “Comey testified that he has never been asked to stop investing (sic) someone for a political reason” and arguing that “this piece of new evidence debunks the Comey memo.” From the May 18 article:
This piece of new evidence debunks the Comey memo even further.
Under oath, on May 3rd, James Comey testified that he has never been asked to stop investing (sic) someone for a political reason.
He said very clearly “It’s not happened in my experience.”
If the Comey memo were to be true, Comey would have thus lied under oath. [TruthFeed, 5/18/17]
Rush Limbaugh Misrepresented Comey’s Testimony, Falsely Claiming He “Said That Trump Doesn’t Obstruct Investigations And Had Not Ever Tried To Do So.” Right-wing talk radio host Rush Limbaugh characterized reporting on Comey’s memo as a “web of deceit,” insisting that his testimony contradicted the memo and that “oath the Trump administration had not pressured his agency to halt any investigation for political purposes.” From the May 18 edition of Premiere Radio Networks’ The Rush Limbaugh Show:
RUSH LIMBAUGH: Yeah it was on the third of May that James Comey, then the FBI director, testified under oath the Trump administration had not pressured his agency to halt any investigation for political purposes. Yet Comey has got this memo out there that The New York Times just accepts and has made an entire narrative and news cycle out of. And the premise of the memo is that Trump asked Comey to shut it down, to shut it down, there’s nothing there, let it go or whatever. And yet Comey himself had testified that there had never been any pressure on him or the FBI from anybody in the administration. And that’s all the way back on May 3, said that Trump doesn’t obstruct investigations and had not ever tried to do so. It’s amazing the web of deceit that has been woven here. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 5/18/17]