The dishonesty of Anderson Cooper and James Clapper

Regarding James Comey's testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, the following exchange  (edited) between CNN's Anderson Cooper and former director of National Intelligence James Clapper took place:

ANDERSON COOPER: General Clapper ... you said that Watergate pales to what we're confronting now.  I wonder from what you saw today and heard today, did it disabuse you of that notion at all now?

JAMES CLAPPER: No, on the contrary it reinforced it.  And just so to understand the context of my comment, what the big – the big difference in my mind between Watergate, which I lived through, and this is the back drop of the Russian interference in our political process as opposed to a burglary, a break-in.  To me, that is hugely different[.] ...

COOPER: In what way does it reinforce the seriousness of what the U.S.  is confronting right now?

CLAPPER: Well, I think the director – former director Comey's testimony about his interactions with the president and what the president appeared to be trying to get him to do, I thought was quite damning and very disturbing.

COOPER: What was the president trying to get Comey to do?

Actually, though surprisingly enough, that is not what Cooper asked.  We will get to that.  But, for the moment, let's assume that he did ask such an appropriate question.  What would Clapper's answer have been?  In connection with Russia, what did Trump, as Comey's boss, ask Comey to do?  He tacitly asked him to drop the investigation against Gen. Michael Flynn.  As Alan Dershowitz and others have held – and in his testimony, Comey himself confirmed – Trump was entirely within his authority to make such a request – indeed, not simply to request, but to order Comey to drop the investigation.  (Prof.  Laurence Tribe argues that Dershowitz [and, implicitly, Comey] is wrong but is ably rebutted by Prof.  Elizabeth Foley.  But even if, for the sake of argument, we judge this to be unsettled law, it still does not justify the exchange between Cooper and Clapper, who speak as if Trump's unnamed actions are beyond the pale.)

So, apparently, Cooper really doesn't want to go there, because, as a news anchor, he presumably knows that what Trump was trying to do is, as many argue, clearly within his authority as president.  So, instead, Cooper asked Clapper this:

COOPER: Have you ever seen or experienced a president acting in this way, talking in this way, interacting with the director of the FBI or the other intelligence officials this way?

In what way?  While we have specified it here, Cooper didn't.  He didn't establish what it was the president was "trying to get" Comey to do – let alone whether there was anything wrong with it.

CLAPPER: No, I have not.  Not in my experience of 50-plus years in the intelligence community.

Really?  In your 50-plus years, you never heard any president say anything like Trump's statement?  "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting [Gen. Michael] Flynn go.  He is a good guy.  I hope you can let this go."  Conservative groups were targeted by the IRS, and the FBI nor any other law enforcement agency has brought anyone to account, but Trump's statement to Comey (conditional to Flynn's being a "good guy," to which Comey had previously agreed) is beyond the pale?

COOPER [transitioning to another subject]: There have been some defenders of the president who have sort of given the explanation – well, the president doesn't have experience in these matters, doesn't have, you know – hasn't served before, may not know about the separations or to the degree that a more experienced practiced government figure would or politician would.  Is that – essentially that he is sort of naive to the ways of the separations that are supposed to exist[?]

How kind and fair-minded of Mr. Cooper to make note and elaborate on a defense for Trump's outrageous or naïve behavior.  It is not clear exactly who believes that such behavior – that is, the statement Cooper appears to be referring to – requires such defense; Cooper cites no such specific individual.

Moreover, Cooper does not explain why the defense for such inexperience and naïveté should be limited to Trump.  Profs. Alan Dershowitz and Elizabeth Foley, and former FBI director James Comey himself, after all, seem to be operating under the same understanding – that is, the same inexperience and naïveté.

Regarding James Comey's testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, the following exchange  (edited) between CNN's Anderson Cooper and former director of National Intelligence James Clapper took place:

ANDERSON COOPER: General Clapper ... you said that Watergate pales to what we're confronting now.  I wonder from what you saw today and heard today, did it disabuse you of that notion at all now?

JAMES CLAPPER: No, on the contrary it reinforced it.  And just so to understand the context of my comment, what the big – the big difference in my mind between Watergate, which I lived through, and this is the back drop of the Russian interference in our political process as opposed to a burglary, a break-in.  To me, that is hugely different[.] ...

COOPER: In what way does it reinforce the seriousness of what the U.S.  is confronting right now?

CLAPPER: Well, I think the director – former director Comey's testimony about his interactions with the president and what the president appeared to be trying to get him to do, I thought was quite damning and very disturbing.

COOPER: What was the president trying to get Comey to do?

Actually, though surprisingly enough, that is not what Cooper asked.  We will get to that.  But, for the moment, let's assume that he did ask such an appropriate question.  What would Clapper's answer have been?  In connection with Russia, what did Trump, as Comey's boss, ask Comey to do?  He tacitly asked him to drop the investigation against Gen. Michael Flynn.  As Alan Dershowitz and others have held – and in his testimony, Comey himself confirmed – Trump was entirely within his authority to make such a request – indeed, not simply to request, but to order Comey to drop the investigation.  (Prof.  Laurence Tribe argues that Dershowitz [and, implicitly, Comey] is wrong but is ably rebutted by Prof.  Elizabeth Foley.  But even if, for the sake of argument, we judge this to be unsettled law, it still does not justify the exchange between Cooper and Clapper, who speak as if Trump's unnamed actions are beyond the pale.)

So, apparently, Cooper really doesn't want to go there, because, as a news anchor, he presumably knows that what Trump was trying to do is, as many argue, clearly within his authority as president.  So, instead, Cooper asked Clapper this:

COOPER: Have you ever seen or experienced a president acting in this way, talking in this way, interacting with the director of the FBI or the other intelligence officials this way?

In what way?  While we have specified it here, Cooper didn't.  He didn't establish what it was the president was "trying to get" Comey to do – let alone whether there was anything wrong with it.

CLAPPER: No, I have not.  Not in my experience of 50-plus years in the intelligence community.

Really?  In your 50-plus years, you never heard any president say anything like Trump's statement?  "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting [Gen. Michael] Flynn go.  He is a good guy.  I hope you can let this go."  Conservative groups were targeted by the IRS, and the FBI nor any other law enforcement agency has brought anyone to account, but Trump's statement to Comey (conditional to Flynn's being a "good guy," to which Comey had previously agreed) is beyond the pale?

COOPER [transitioning to another subject]: There have been some defenders of the president who have sort of given the explanation – well, the president doesn't have experience in these matters, doesn't have, you know – hasn't served before, may not know about the separations or to the degree that a more experienced practiced government figure would or politician would.  Is that – essentially that he is sort of naive to the ways of the separations that are supposed to exist[?]

How kind and fair-minded of Mr. Cooper to make note and elaborate on a defense for Trump's outrageous or naïve behavior.  It is not clear exactly who believes that such behavior – that is, the statement Cooper appears to be referring to – requires such defense; Cooper cites no such specific individual.

Moreover, Cooper does not explain why the defense for such inexperience and naïveté should be limited to Trump.  Profs. Alan Dershowitz and Elizabeth Foley, and former FBI director James Comey himself, after all, seem to be operating under the same understanding – that is, the same inexperience and naïveté.

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