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Comey's Q&A

Jun 7, 2017 - By Steven R. Peck, Publisher

He'll be tempted to offer opinions, but he'll probably try to stick to facts

Thursdayis probably going to be a good day for C-SPAN. That's the cable TV channel which shows live, full-day proceedings from the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives.

Dry as dust? A lot of the time, yes, butThursdayis the day when former FBI director James Comey will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. There will be a lot of questions, and he promises to have lots of answers.

Comey has emerged as one of the riveting public figures of the year.He is something of pariah on both sides of the political aisle, with each simultaneously criticizing him and hoping that the next big thing he says might help them as well.

Many Democrats blame him outright for casting enough doubt 10 days before the election over Hillary Clinton's handling of official government e-mails to permit Donald Trump to squeak into the presidency - all the while ignoring such public comment about the very thing about which he is going to testifyon Thursday, namely, the deepening investigation into the new administration's alleged improper dealings with the Russian government at the precise time Russia was trying to hack the presidential election.

Republicans have their own gripes about Comey. Last October they loved him, when Trump gleefully shouted to a campaign audience that Comey "really did a number on her," meaning Clinton. Now they aren't so thrilled, however. Comey refused to pledge his undying loyalty to Trump, he refused to take his foot off the gas pedal of the Russia investigation, and he specifically refused to ease up on the part of the Russia probe that included Trump's national security adviser. The NSA quit, and Trump fired Comey, giving contradictory explanations as to why.

Now Comey appears to have documentation about some meetings with Trump that could show the president veering awfully close to official obstruction of justice.

That sets the stage for a high-charged day of testimonyon Thursday. But here's a prediction: Comey will play it straight.

He'll be given the chance to offer up a conclusion, a sentiment, an opinion or some other form of judgment on what the president did or said, but he won't do it. He built his reputation as a straight arrow, and his earlier experiment in offering up a point of view - when he said Hillary Clinton was "extremely careless, but not criminal" in her e-mail conduct - didn't play out the way he probably wanted it to.

Better for him to take the highest road he can, or claim to. The senators, both during testimony and after it, will be given any and all opportunity to draw conclusions from what Comey says, regardless of how he says it. Ditto the cable TV squabblers, who have 24 hours a day to fill and will, undoubtedly, fill it with rock-solid pronouncements about Comey's testimony, only to change them later on. It's said the president himself will use social media to comment live during Comey's Q&A with the senators.

If you're in a hurricane, it's better to be in the eye than on the fringes. That's what James Comey probably is going to doon Thursday- not necessarily because he's the Boy Scout he portrays himself to be, but because it's his best move. He'll answer questionsThursday, but he'll probably leave the opinion-making to others who are only too happy to do that job.

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