POLITICS

What A Shock: Comey Says, 'I Have No Information To Support Those Tweets.'

21/03/2017 10:41 SAST | Updated 21/03/2017 11:05 SAST

Monday morning on Capitol Hill brought us House Intelligence Committee hearing day, as FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers were brought in to answer questions on the alleged links between Russian officials and the inner circle of President Donald Trump's campaign, as well as some of the more outlandish claims that have recently been made by Trump concerning "wiretaps" that were allegedly dropped on Trump Tower by President Barack Obama.

It was the latest moment in a strange and ongoing saga that has necessitated the involvement of government officials who all probably have much more important things to tend right now. At one point, the committee's ranking member, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif) was just reading Trump's tweets to Comey and Rogers, hoping that they would, perhaps, explain whether or not they were, you know, true. Tweets like this:

It was really quite a spectacle, hearing Trump's early-morning anger-tweets, intoned aloud by a member of Congress, as if something more important than crazy rumors on the internet were being discussed. But Comey, offering the straight-facedness that remains a requirement despite the surreal comedy of the situation, offered up a fairly blunt assessment: "I have no information to support those tweets."

Well, who would've thought it?

America does not have a long history of coming to grips with a president who uses Twitter. It's a fairly recent development in our lives, and to my reckoning, it's a very bad development. A prudent statesman would do two things with a presidential twitter account: 1) never tweet and 2) delete their account. That's probably what everyone should do, with their twitter account, to be honest.

But if we're to have presidents using twitter, then Comey has offered us a useful rubric to apply to any president's 140-character offerings. Is there information to support that tweet?

Now, Trump is actually not a wholesale disaster on Twitter. Just mostly. Still, there are times when his tweets essentially pass the "there is information to support this" test.

These are some good tweets. You can maybe tinker on the margins, or bring in some additional context that maybe offers a more nuanced view, but these tweets basically succeed in having information that supports them. Nice!

But many of Trump's more famous tweets are famous precisely because there is no information to support them. Not good!

Ha, no. Not only was 2016's Electoral College result a lot closer than many in recent memory, there is no evidence at hand to suggest that "millions of people" voted illegally.

I mean, it's literally the people doing the infighting that keep providing the media with the stories that there is all this infighting going on. One of my favorite stories was this Reuters piece that began, "President Donald Trump's Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin used his first senior staff meeting last month to tell his new aides he would not tolerate leaks to the news media, three sources familiar with the matter said." (By the way, if you want to leak to The Huffington Post, scroll down and click the link below for how to do that.)

Here's one that actually went out on the official "@POTUS" account. But it's a bad and sad tweet: Only nine of the aforementioned GITMO detainees were released during "the Obama administration."

Senate Democrats did occasionally give Trump's Cabinet appointees static, and there were occasional delays in confirmation. But on March 3, the only Cabinet appointees who were awaiting confirmation were Trump's pick to run the Department of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, and his Labor secretary nominee, Alexander Acosta. In both cases, the foot-dragging was entirely the White House's fault.

No one really knows where Trump got this idea that "bad dudes" could "rush" into the country, given everything we know about the long and torturous process by which refugees and immigrants are admitted into the country. This claim was somewhat undercut by the president himself, who delayed his second attempt at a Muslim travel ban because he wanted to bask in the brief good-news cycle that followed his joint address to Congress.

Speaking of...

More than 1,000 legal permanent residents of the United States were caught up in the chaotic implementation of his first travel ban.

Yikes! Well, look, Judge James Robart, who overturned the first travel ban, is definitely a bona-fide judge, appointed by President George W. Bush at that.

Ehhhh, let's just say your mileage may vary?

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) did, famously, misrepresent his military service. But he did not misrepresent Gorsuch's remarks. In fact, Gorsuch's remarks were corroborated by multiple sources.

Well, this one is just a stone classic.

And back to the present, on Monday, the inevitable happened: Trump took to twitter to tweet about the House Intelligence Committee hearing.

In the above video, Admiral Rogers responds to a series of questions from Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) about whether "Russian actors" managed to change the actual vote tallies in a number of states. In all cases, Rogers said that the answer was "no." But Trump has now tweeted (again, using the official @POTUS account) that the consensus view of "the NSA and FBI" is that "Russia did not influence [the] electoral process." There is actually a lot more to the "electoral process" than mere vote tallies, and in fact, the big news made during this hearing was that Comey was, in fact pursuing an investigation into just such an investigation:

James Comey's formal confirmation of the probe on Monday follows months of news reports quoting anonymous government officials discussing the FBI-led, multi-agency probe into communications between Trump allies and Moscow in the lead-up to the 2016 election. Comey is the first to publicly confirm those reports.

"I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election," Comey told the House Intelligence Committee. "That includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts."

So, another Trump tweet falls short of the mark.

Naturally, in the end, the FBI might determine that there was not any "coordination between the [Trump] campaign and Russia's efforts." That would probably be the best possible outcome for the country, to be honest. But regardless of what Comey does from here, today he's given us something useful ― a mantra with which the press can greet every single one of Trump's twitter utterances: "Do you have any information that would support that tweet." Headlines and ledes can thus be written with that context in mind.

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Jason Linkins edits "Eat The Press" for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost Politics podcast "So, That Happened." Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.