President Donald Trump’s denials about collusion with Russia are evidence he may actually have colluded.
That’s at least according to the logic of numerous Trump opponents, including former FBI Director James Comey.
“It’s always struck me as strange whenever someone continually denies something; it makes me interested. So his continual denial of something that’s being investigated by some of the best people in the country is strange,” Comey said at a Washington Post Live event on Tuesday.
Comey has made similar comments about Trump during a tour to promote his new book, “A Higher Loyalty.”
Trump’s repeated pushback on the Steele dossier raises the possibility that the salacious document is accurate, the former FBI chief has said.
The Kremlin is blackmailing Trump with video footage of him engaged with prostitutes during a 2013 stay at a Moscow hotel, the dossier claims. Comey says in his book Trump denied the allegation during several meetings they had in 2017. Comey found it peculiar Trump seemed so fixated on the dossier, which Democrats funded and former British spy Christopher Steele wrote, he said.
But Trump had reason to be “obsessed” with the dossier’s allegations, Washington Examiner columnist Eddie Scarry wrote.
“Yes, Trump was ‘obsessed’ because he was preoccupied with thoughts about prostitutes in his conversations with Comey, a man who on their first encounter — immediately brought up prostitutes!“ Scarry wrote in an April 21 column.
The backstory is it was Comey who broached the topic of Russian prostitutes with Trump. During a Jan. 6, 2017, briefing at Trump Tower, Comey told the then-president-elect about the existence of the dossier and its salacious allegations.
It is “unlikely” the Kremlin has compromising material on Trump, Comey has said in interviews for his book tour. But at the same time, he has harped on Trump’s denials about the dossier and collusion, suggesting they could be indicators of deception.
Comey is not the only Trump critic to use the same line of reasoning.
News outlets like CNN and MSNBC have run numerous segments making hay out of what they say is Trump’s overly emphatic denials about collusion and the dossier.
“Particularly, I’m fascinated with how Trump is fixated on this salacious deals, the salacious details in the dossier,” CNN’s Kate Bolduin said during an April 20 segment about Trump.
“Really a fixation on some of the more salacious details,” CNN reporter Shimon Prokupecz replied.
As the Examiner’s Scarry noted, Daily Beast politics editor Sam Stein tweeted: “Sometimes it’s worth stepping back and just noting how remarkable it is that weeks into becoming president — with immense world challenges now suddenly at his feet — Donald Trump seemed obsessed about the idea he’d been caught with hookers.”
But is Trump’s “fixation” on the allegations against him an indicator he is guilty? Or are his denials instead indicative that he believes he is being falsely accused of behavior that could and has already cast a cloud over his presidency?
The flipside to Comey & Co.’s logic is total silence from Trump regarding collusion and the dossier would suggest he is telling the truth. But it’s not hard to imagine an absence of a denial would also invite scrutiny from Trump’s critics.
Whatever the scenario, Comey’s speculation about Trump’s denials is “highly inappropriate,” one 30-year FBI veteran said.
“There’s a presumption of innocence that we give to everyone. And in this instance, because somebody denies something, you’re going to cast a shadow because he’s denied it a million times?” James Gagliano, a retired FBI agent and CNN analyst, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“I think that is highly inappropriate for America’s former top lawman to say because he knows better,” Gagliano added.
Asked whether FBI agents are taught to interpret denials as evidence of guilt, Gagliano said, “Absolutely not.”
“That is absolutely nothing that we are trained on,” he said.
“To say that somebody that denies something that that’s an automatic presumption of guilt, that’s nothing that you’re taught at Quantico,” added Gagliano, who has been an outspoken critic of Comey’s book tour.