There are times when I near the point of total despair. This week’s Congressional hearings into alleged Russian interference in the American presidential election are such a moment.
Answering questions about Russia, FBI Director James Comey said the following:
He [Putin] hated Secretary Clinton so much that the flip side of that coin was that he had a clear preference for the person running against the person he hated so much.
They engaged in a multifaceted campaign to undermine our democracy.
They were unusually loud in their intervention. It’s almost as if they didn’t care that we knew, that they wanted us to see what they were doing.
Their number one mission is to undermine the credibility of our entire democracy enterprise of this nation.
They’ll be back. They’ll be back, in 2020. They may be back in 2018.
Also, in response to the question ‘Would they like to see more Brexits?’, Comey said ‘Yes.’
These statements were described by the BBC as ‘things the FBI knows about Russia’. Note the use of the word ‘knows’. In a previous post, I pointed out the need to differentiate between fact and opinion. In his evidence to Congress, Comey didn’t say that these things were his opinion. He stated them as facts, as things he ‘knows’. Putin ‘hated’ Clinton; Russians’ mission ‘is’ to undermine American democracy; ‘Yes’, they do want more Brexits, etc.
But what evidence did Comey produce to support what he was saying? None. These were opinions, masquerading as facts, not actual facts. So the question which then arises is whether Comey’s opinions on Russia are ones we should trust.
The organization he heads – the FBI – is an internal policy agency. It isn’t its job to analyze Russia, Russian politics, or Russian politicians, nor does it have the expertise to do so. It doesn’t know what’s going on inside Vladimir Putin’s head; it doesn’t have an inside line to what Russians are thinking about their ‘mission’ and whether they want to undermine American democracy; it doesn’t have any particular knowledge about what Russia’s leaders think about Brexit.
Simply put, unless he has been spending the last few years learning Russian, speaking to Russians, interrogating Putin and his ministers, reading Putin’s speeches, analyzing what well-researched publications have to say on the subject, and the like (which of course he hasn’t), Comey isn’t qualified to make judgments of these sorts. And he certainly isn’t entitled to present them as definite facts.
Nor are his Congressional interrogators any better.
Take this exchange between Comey and Representative Jackie Speier (who had previously called Igor Sechin ‘CEO of the Russian gas giant, Rosneft’):
Speier: Do you know anything about Gazprom, Director?
Comey: I don’t.
Speier: Well, it’s a – it’s an oil company.
It’s RosNEFT stupid! It’s GAZprom!
And what about Comey? One minute he’s telling us with 100% confidence that he knows exactly what they’re thinking in the Kremlin, something which even the most seasoned Kremlinologists would have to admit they don’t have the faintest clue about, and the next he’s admitting that he doesn’t even know what Gazprom is.
#$@&%*! – He doesn’t know what Gazprom is!!! But yet, he ‘knows’ Moscow’s innermost secret plans!
These guys are clowns. They are beyond ignorant, because they are ignorant even of their own ignorance.
Nobody should take these hearings in the slightest bit seriously.