Local Residents Weigh In On Comey Hearing | WGLT

Local Residents Weigh In On Comey Hearing

Jun 9, 2017

Former FBI director James Comey speaks during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Thursday, June 8, 2017, in Washington.
Credit Andrew Harnik / AP Photo

Like Americans across the country, Twin Cities residents were glued to their televisions, radios, computers and smart phones watching the live broadcast of the historic Senate testimony of fired FBI director James Comey. 

Not surprisingly, opinions about the significance of the information that came to light broke down on largely partisan lines.

Community activist Mary Campbell listened to the testimony on her car radio. She said she wished more new information had come out at the hearing about whether President Trump tried to derail the FBI's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

"I think it is really embarrassing that we have arrived at a point where we have to gather information on our president in this way," Campbell said of the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.

"On the other hand I'm glad our country has the ability to do that because we have separate branches of government."

Campbell said she was particularly concerned that Trump appeared to suggest to Comey that he "let go" of an investigation into former National Security advisor Michael Flynn's ties to Russia, and that he seemed to seek a loyalty oath from the former FBI director in order to remove a "cloud" over his presidency. 

"It is sad that there seems to be no limits on controls that this individual as president thinks he can establish. The whole thing is worrisome. I don't know where we are going ... The whole thing just seems like a bad dream," Campbell said.

Campbell said she hoped further clarification would emerge in closed session testimony with Congressional investigators. 

McLean County Republicans, meanwhile, were hoping no new damaging revelations would emerge about the Trump administration.

 Chuck Erickson, a member of the McLean County Board and chair of the county Republican Party, said Comey's testimony failed to build a case for obstruction of justice.

 He said Trump may have shown poor judgment in the comments he made to Comey, but that his actions don't appear to be illegal.

 "When is it obstruction of justice and when is it an ill-advised conversation by a politician with an investigator?" Erickson, an attorney, asked. 

 "I will agree with anyone who says probably President Trump should not have had those conversations. On the other hand that doesn't make it a violation of law," he added.

 Erickson said he believes Comey's testimony "pretty much cleared the president" of direct wrong-doing.

 He said Trump was expressing an opinion on the FBI investigation, as Democrats had done in the past about the FBI inquiry into Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server.

"This holier than thou attitude on part of some Democrats is sickening," Erickson said.

 He called the investigation into whether Trump colluded with the Russians in the last presidential election  "a big to-do about nothing."

 "I haven't seen any evidence that (Trump) did," Erickson said.

 He said that allegation seemed largely fueled by a "temper tantrum by one party that can't get over the fact they lost an election."

 He said Russia's apparent attempts to meddle in an American election is another, more serious matter.

Still, Erickson said it's time for Democrats and Republicans to "come together, to work together."

Sara Quah, co-founder of the progressive grass roots political group Voices of Reason, said she felt Comey came across as a "reasonable, down-to-earth, trying-to-do right guy."

She said she had previously been "confused" about why Comey publicly announced a new development in the Clinton email case just before the 2016 vote, only to say a few days before the election that no new incriminating evidence was found. Democrats, and Clinton herself, have cited Comey's action as one of the causes that led to her defeat.

"Now I see that he was totally focused on his role according to the law, as opposed to what would really be best for circumstances, and I am able to reconcile these two versions of the man (the political and the apolitical) without being confused," Quah said.

Her takeaway from the Senate Intelligence hearing: "If we do not impeach this president based on this unethical behavior, then we have no ethics. If we do not impeach this president based on his abuse of power, then we have no other power. If we do not impeach this president based on his inability to govern, then we have no government. If this congress votes to abide by this behavior, then hope for many souls is lost."

Campbell likened the historic significance of the Comey hearing to both the Watergate hearings in the 1970s and President Clinton's impeachment trial in the nineties. 

 Editor's Note: This post has been updated to include additional comments by Chuck Erickson. 

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