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The most chilling line of Comey’s testimony

5 38 1979
09.06.2017

There will be much for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to unpack after this week’s momentous testimony of James B. Comey: Did President Trump’s actions amount to obstruction of justice? Did Attorney General Jeff Sessions violate his recusal from the Russia probe? Should Comey have acted sooner?

But such legal considerations, though important, miss the real significance of Comey’s testimony heard-’round-the-world. In the three hours I sat transfixed in Room 216 of the Hart Building, 15 feet behind the fired FBI director, the line that chilled me more than any other was Comey’s account of why he wrote extensive, real-time notes of his conversations with Trump. “The nature of the person,” Comey explained in part. “I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting, and so I thought it really important to document.”

The nature of the person.

This was the essence of Comey’s testimony: that the president of the United States is at his core a dishonest and untrustworthy man. It was judgment on character, not a legal opinion, and even Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee made no real attempt to dispel it.

By itself, it’s neither a high crime nor a misdemeanor for a president to be dishonorable. But it’s a stain on the country, and it defines this moment. This is why Trump can’t get legislation through the Congress or get allies to cooperate, and why so many worry that he will disregard constitutional restraints. The president is not to be trusted.

The founders did not anticipate this, a defect not just of private misconduct (which we’ve seen before) but of public character. “The process of election affords a moral........

© Washington Post