When the subject is spilling beans

There’s another likely explanation for why Comey didn’t tell Trump he was being inappropriate:

During the hearing, several senators pressed Comey about why he didn’t ask obvious follow-up questions, as when Trump allegedly said to the director, “We had that thing.” What thing? Comey also might have queried, “Mr. President, what do you mean when you say you ‘hope’?” Or, as various commentators have suggested, why didn’t Comey say, “I’m sorry, Mr. President, but this is highly inappropriate and I’m going to have to excuse myself”?

Ask any reporter, whose skills are essentially investigative, and the answer is: You don’t ever interrupt when the subject is spilling beans.

Ohhhh. Of course. Comey’s the head of the FBI and there’s Trump at least approaching criminal behavior. Explaining the rules to Trump would have been one option, but a competing one would have been to wait to see how far he would go.

Remember that Flynn was under investigation at the time, as was Trump’s campaign, though apparently not Trump himself. All of this was surely in Comey’s mind when Trump allegedly expressed his hope.

So he would have been thinking not just “this is all wrong and I shouldn’t be here,” but also “damn he’s incriminating himself right this minute, listen carefully and remember.”

For Comey, what was the higher moral position? To stop the president of the United States from talking — or keep the conversation going while you gather your wits and see what else might be forthcoming but could aid in an ongoing investigation? Most likely, Comey’s mind was frantically trying to assess the situation and wondering, Lordy, why didn’t I wear a wire?

I have repeatedly wished he’d had a little recording device in his pocket he could have surreptitiously switched on.

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