I just don’t follow U.S. politics close enough to be reasonably sure about many things. Last night I was reading this profile of Preet Bharara, from the May 2016 The New Yorker. The piece was presumably in part anticipating that Bharara would be in the running as Attorney General of a Hilary Clinton administration. It makes you wonder about the demonization of Comey.
In debriefing Comey before his testimony, Bharara heard a more extraordinary tale than he had expected. On the night of March 10, 2004, Comey had learned that Gonzales, then the White House counsel, and Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff, were heading to a Washington hospital, where John Ashcroft, the Attorney General, suffering from gallstone pancreatitis, was in intensive care. Gonzales and Card wanted Ashcroft to reauthorize a government surveillance program that Comey and his staff had concluded was unlawful. Comey and Robert Mueller III, the F.B.I. director, raced, sirens blaring, to beat Gonzales and Card to Ashcroft’s bedside. In a tense confrontation at the hospital, Ashcroft told Gonzales and Card that, since Comey was Acting Attorney General, the decision was his to make.
Moreover, the article’s focus on Bharara’s prosecution of the leaders of the Democratic establishment in Albany, the state capital of New York, makes clear that petty corruption (only in the tens of millions) ruled the day. If you were a Republican, might you not reasonably think that Trump was no worse than Sheldon Silver, Speaker of the Assembly?
Beginning in 2005, after Taub’s referrals began, Silver used a state health-care fund that he controlled to send a total of five hundred thousand dollars to the clinic. Silver’s disbursements to Taub illustrated his power as Speaker. As Bharara put it, “He was parcelling out money to this doctor, Dr. Taub, for his mesothelioma clinic, and nobody had to agree to it. There was no oversight, and nobody had to know about it, and his fingerprints didn’t have to be on it.” The circle was complete: taxpayer money went to Taub’s clinics, the referrals went to Weitz & Luxenberg, and the fees went to Silver.