Credibility Contest

We now face a very direct credibility contest. In his recent testimony to the U.S. Senate, newly fired director of the FBI James Comey made at least two claims that the so called president has disputed. He asserted that the president demanded “loyalty” from Comey, and that he had asked Comey to quash the investigation into potentially unlawful contacts between Michael Flynn, who worked in the Trump campaign, then served as national security adviser briefly, and Russian agents during the election last year. The Trump administration pushed back strongly and quickly against both claims.

Credibility determinations are commonplace in trials. For example, in the fascinating case of Kitzmiller v. Dover, a 2005 trial involving a dispute over attempts by Christian conservatives to introduce “intelligent design” into the curriculum of the town’s public school, the judges opinion is laced with statements about the credibility, or lack of it, especially in the case of the Christian conservatives, of various witnesses. This was a bench trial, meaning that the judge decided issues both of law and of fact, as opposed to a jury trial, in which the judge decides matters of law and gives legal instructions to a jury, which then decides all questions of fact. This opinion is useful for present purposes because it is a very methodical opinion in which the judge lays out very clearly how he arrived at his decision that “intelligent design” is in fact just Christianity in disguise and that using it in a public school curriculum does constitute an establishment of religion in violation of the U.S. Constitution. He also, again, repeatedly states clearly when he finds witness testimony either credible or incredible.

In terms of what we might call Comey v. Trump, apologists for the so called president have been quick, to no one’s surprise, to seize on the bits of Comey’s testimony that they claim exonerate the Donald, and on Comey’s admission that he asked a good friend to deliver the content of his notes from his meetings with the so called President to a reporter in order to get the information into the public domain and prompt the appointment of special counsel, calling this act a “leak.”

In terms of credibility, the chief defender of the so called president, his personal attorney, Marc Kasowitz, may have done the Donald more harm that good, rushing out a written statement with an obvious spelling error in the first line, and “refuting” various claims that no one had made to begin with.

More directly, we have, on one hand, a man with zero experience in government, about whom numerous sources have identified lies about several topics, including Comey himself, who stated flatly that the so called president had lied about him. On the other hand, we have a man who has served as assistant U.S. attorney and U.S. attorney, as well as deputy U.S. attorney general, and who won confirmation as director of the FBI in the Senate by a vote of 93 to one, whose career had seen very little in the way of controversy until he found himself in the middle of the highly partisan dispute over presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her term as Secretary of State.

Each person is free to make her/his own determination in the matter, but the preponderance of the evidence strongly favors Comey as the more credible of these two persons.

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