Editorial: Trust suffers in Comey testimony


President Donald Trump may have heard what he wanted when fired FBI Director James Comey told a congressional committee the president was not a target of the Justice Department investigation into Russian election meddling. But he should hardly feel vindicated.

A portrait of Trump emerged from the testimony of a strongman who tolerates no dissent from his subordinates, is clueless about presidential propriety and struggles with the truth.

Others also came out smelling poorly from Comey’s testimony, including the former director himself.

The White House disputes much of what Comey told Congress, including that he asked him to assert his loyalty to the president and requested he let go of an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Comey repeatedly accused Trump of lying about their encounters. But unless the former director’s hopes for the existence of Oval Office tapes bear out, it’s one man’s word against another’s.

Still, it’s not a stretch to believe Comey’s assertion that he was fired to sidetrack the Russia probe, as Trump reportedly boasted during private conversations, or that the president asked for the Flynn examination be set aside.

It fits into what we already know about Trump as a president who hasn’t bothered to read the rule book — or the Constitution — and is running the White House as if it were just another bare-knuckled corporate enterprise.

But Comey did his own credibility no favors in testifying that after a meeting with the president, he typed out a recounting of the session and gave it to a friend with the intent that it would be leaked to the press, as it was.

Comey says his motive was to build momentum for the appointment of a special counsel.

That’s an underhanded bit of business that borders on subversion. It’s inappropriate by any measure for the director of the FBI to leak the details of a private meeting with the president with the hopes of influencing policy decisions.

Comey revealed himself as someone with his own agenda, and who can’t be fully trusted.

And what about Loretta Lynch, the former Obama administration attorney general? Comey says after Lynch met with former President Bill Clinton on the tarmac of the Phoenix airport, she instructed the FBI director to downgrade the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

As long as obstruction of justice allegations are being kicked around, Lynch should answer for her actions.

The media didn’t escape tarnishing, either. Comey labeled “not true” an extremely damaging New York Times story that claimed up to 16 Trump associates had contacts with the Russians during and after the campaign.

The piece was based entirely on anonymous sources.

The public discrediting should serve as a wake-up call to a press that has been too willing to erode journalistic standards in its anti-Trump frenzy. A return to fact-based reporting that uses anonymous sources only with great caution would better serve readers.

Trust is the thing that was most harmed by Comey’s testimony.

Americans got a close-up look at how easily and often the rules are bent by people and institutions from whom we expect more.