Reactions to former FBI director James B. Comey’s testimony Thursday mostly seemed to follow predictable, partisan lines. To many Democrats, Comey appeared to be describing a clear case of obstruction of justice by President Trump. To Republicans who support the White House, Comey’s recounting of “leaking” his memos about conversations with Trump showed that he deserved to be fired. But as a former FBI counterintelligence agent, what I saw as the most explosive aspect of the testimony didn’t involve any legal violation of the U.S. code or questions about whether Comey had broken established Department of Justice protocols. Instead, it was the prima facie evidence that Comey presented that Trump appears unwilling to uphold his oath “to preserve, protect, and defend” the country — which puts the security of our nation and its democracy at stake. In the nine times Trump met with or called Comey, it was always to discuss how the investigation into Russia’s election interference was affecting him personally, rather than the security of the country. He apparently cared little about understanding either the magnitude of the Russian intelligence threat, or how the FBI might be able to prevent another attack in future elections.
When Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) asked Comey whether Trump had ever appeared concerned about Russian interference or how to stop it in the future, Comey’s answer was blunt: “No.” After a moment of reflection, he added, without prompting, that he had “attended a fair number of meetings on that with President Obama.” This contrast alone underscores Trump’s disregard for his fundamental duty, which is to ensure the security of the nation, its government and its citizens from foreign enemies.
It’s worth noting that there is unanimity among senior intelligence officials that the Russian interference in our election not only happened, but that it was extraordinary and unprecedented. In previous testimony, Comey described Russia as the “greatest threat of any country on earth,” and he warned Thursday that Russia is “coming after America,” regardless of party, “to undermine our credibility in the rest of the world.”