There’s an interesting interview with ex-FBI director James Comey this week. He states that he now believes the infamous alleged “pee tape” may be real and makes other surprising statements as he poses his new book. One statement, however, caught the eye: “The Republican Party must be burned down … It’s just not a healthy political organization.” Since the Republican National Committee was hit with a pipe bomb in the recent riots, some might argue that this is incitement to arson or violence. I would not. I would call it free speech and exaggeration. The question is where the line is drawn, given Donald Trump’s impeachment over his speech and claims that others who used such hyperbolic language were actually guilty of incitement.
As I said earlier, I condemned Trump’s speech in a series of tweets as it was being delivered, calling for a non-partisan vote of no confidence on his responsibility in the riot. However, I opposed the House’s use of impeachment and expressed concern about the drafting of the impeachment article as “incitement to insurrection.” Despite the chorus of legal experts insisting that the speech is a strong argument for criminal incitement (and the DC Attorney General said he could blame Trump), I believe such law enforcement would ultimately crumble on free speech if it is based solely on that speech and these reasons Trump’s other public statements.
Comey is not alone in using such rhetoric in today’s overheated political environment. We previously talked about how Conservatives pointed out Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., Calling on people to confront Republican leaders in restaurants. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) Insisted “there must be rioting in the streets” during the violent protests in 2020, while then Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) Said, “Protesters shouldn’t slack off let “, even if many protests turned violent. You can all rightly argue that their rhetoric was not intended to be a call to violence, but that is a subjectivity-laden standard.
The question is whether Comey would be charged using the same logic if the RNC building were attacked again and indeed burned down. That would of course be ridiculous. But where is the line drawn? Freedom of speech requires light lines that are erased in our demolition culture from universities to media to Congress.
The interview also had this remarkable statement about the claim in the Christopher Steele dossier that the Russian government had a video of Trump showing sex workers urinating on each other in a Moscow hotel room in 2013:
“It came to us at the end of September. We’d had information it matched since the summer and I didn’t know what to do with it, but since it came from a source that had a track record with the FBI, our team popped in to see if they got it could replicate it. I still don’t know. I actually think that the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report along with [former Trump lawyer] Michael Cohen’s account in his book makes the ‘pee tape’ stuff probably more likely than it did when I was fired. “
This is an extraordinary claim based on a widely discredited dossier and the equally discredited Michael Cohen. Comey does not quote what the Senate Intelligence Report believes in the allegation.
Comey makes a point that I agree with. He doesn’t understand how the rioters got access to the Capitol and he wants an investigation. I voiced the same suspicion on the day of the uprising. All of these questions should be answered completely and transparently.
The request for a commission is far more constructive than Comey’s version of the “Burn Baby Burn” mantra.