“I’m not defensive. You’re the one being defensive.”
Nathan Thurm, a fictional character played by Martin Short on “Saturday Night Live” in the 1980s, was a paranoid, chain-smoking lawyer who defended Big Business in make-believe interviews with reporters. Thurm would act defiant, play dumb, or turn the tables when pressed to answer questions. Short’s portrayal of the prototypical slippery lawyer was spot-on.
In his interview with Bret Baier on Fox News last night, former FBI Director James Comey came across as a more polished version of Nathan Thurm. Comey seemed at times confused, purposefully evasive, and disingenuously thoughtful. He struggled to keep his story straight. The one-time top law enforcement official for the nation was perplexed by basic terms such as “grand jury,” “collusion,” and “leak.”
Here are a few of Comey/Thurm’s greatest hits:
Baier: What is the crime or the collusion that launches the investigation?
Comey/Thurm: Yea, collusion’s not a word I’m familiar with. I’ve seen it in the media a lot.
Baier: When did you personally find out about the memos in the dossier?
Comey/Thurm: Sometime in the fall? I don’t remember exactly when.
Baier: Who told you about them?
Comey/Thurm: I don’t remember. Someone on my senior staff. I remember being given a copy of it. [Looks away for dramatic effect.] I don’t know whether it was September, October.
But here’s the most Thurm-ish exchange of all:
Baier: When did you learn that the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign had funded Christopher Steele’s work?
Comey/Thurm: Yea, I still don’t know that for a fact.
Baier: What do you mean?
Comey/Thurm: I’ve only seen it in the media. I never knew exactly which Democrats had funded [it], I knew it was funded first by Republicans…
Baier: But that’s not true.
Comey/Thurm: I’m sorry?
Baier: That’s not true. That the dossier was funded by Republicans.
Comey/Thurm: [Stumbles to explain.]
Baier: Did you tell President Obama who it was funded by?
Comey/Thurm: Not to my recollection.
Baier: Did you want to know who it was funded by?
Comey/Thurm: I wanted to know what I knew, which is it was funded by people politically opposed to Donald Trump. Which particular opponents wasn’t that important to me.
Comey/Thurm gave more obtuse answers when pressured to explain the dossier’s role in securing a FISA warrant on Carter Page: “I don’t know that the FISA application has been released…the dossier was part of that, but not all or a critical part of it to my recollection.” He also said he didn’t remember everything in the FISA application.
Ditto for why he didn’t investigate who leaked information to the media about the January 2017 with Trump about the dossier: “[Find out] who leaked an unclassified, public document? No.” He also uncomfortably laughed off a question about a recent dinner with former CIA Director John Brennan and former DNI Director James Clapper, two of Trump’s most vocal critics, and weirdly giggled when Baier pushed him on leaks to the media. Comey/Thurm said he considered his memos on Trump “like a diary.”
In Comey/Thurm’s next gig, perhaps the interviewer should hand him a cigarette to make the farce complete.