As the dust settles following James Comey’s highly-anticipated Senate hearing, many commentators are trying to decipher the content of Comey’s testimony and what it foretells about the investigation into the Trump campaign’s links to Russia. Here is what some prominent Jewish writers have said so far.
Andrew Rosenthal, New York Times: “‘Lordy, I Hope There Are Tapes’”
“The abiding image from this hearing will be the spectacle of the nation’s top law enforcement officer comparing the president’s attempts to interfere with the F.B.I. investigations to Henry II’s famous plea. ‘Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest.’”
New York Times columnist Andrew Rosenthal expressed even further alarm after Comey’s testimony. Rosenthal is now convinced that that Trump “abused his power,” framing Trump’s efforts as solely motivated by self-interest and absent of decorum and respect for institutional norms.
Jonathan Turley, The Hill: “Sorry Dems, Comey’s Words Too Weak To Impeach Trump”
“If Watergate was a cancer growing on the presidency, this is still little more than a canker sore — not great to look at but hardly life threatening. It could get worse but what Comey described in his testimony was boorish and even brutish but not necessarily an impeachable offense.”
Law professor Jonathan Turley views Comey’s testimony as surely damning of Trump’s character, but supportive of the president’s case against being impeached. Trump allowed the Russia investigation as a whole to move forward, he points out, and simply “hoping” Comey would let Flynn go is not grounds for obstruction of justice.
Julian Zelizer, CNN: “Comey Hearing’s Bottom Line: WE Can’t Trust Trump”
“While lying is not an impeachable offense, it is a huge problem when it comes to governance, and it weakens his ability to persuade the public that the accusations being launched against him are not true. The public record of lying is too robust to take Trump at face value.”
Princeton historian Julian Zelizer puts Comey’s accusations of Trump lying in context, noting the multiple instances presidents have been accused of lying. However, Zelizer sees Trump’s problem with the truth as “qualitatively different in scale and scope.” Trump’s behavior doesn’t suggest a problem contained within the given situation, says the scholar, but a much larger issue of the lack of character within the Oval Office.
Alan Dershowitz, Fox News: “Comey Confirms That I’m Right — And All The Democratic Commentators Are Wrong”
“I think it is important to put to rest the notion that there was anything criminal about the president exercising his constitutional power to fire Comey and to request — “hope” — that he let go the investigation of General Flynn. Just as the president would have had the constitutional power to pardon Flynn and thus end the criminal investigation of him, he certainly had the authority to request the director of the FBI to end his investigation of Flynn.”
The Harvard professor and commentator believes that Comey’s hearing validated his long-standing belief that Trump’s actions regarding the Flynn investigation are compliant with the norms and limits of the presidency. The Democrats’ argument that Trump’s actions were obstruction of justice remains a political ploy, Dershowitz maintains, and should be set aside unless the ongoing Russia investigation uncovers tangible evidence of collusion or obstruction.
Steven Davidson is an editorial fellow at The Forward.