Despite dragging on for more than five hours, Monday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing on Russian “active measures” to influence the 2016 presidential election produced less than two minutes of real news, and all in the first hour.
Even so, it was a veritable feast for opponents of President Donald Trump and enough to fuel an entire news cycle. And it was more than most in the media expected, given that the two key witnesses, FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers, weren’t likely to reveal any information that hadn’t already been released in an unclassified version of a report by multiple U.S. intelligence agencies in January.
In a rare disclosure, Comey confirmed that the FBI was investigating Russian interference in the election, and that the investigation included questions about links between Trump campaign advisors and the Kremlin. In a separate line of questioning, Comey said that neither the FBI nor the Justice Department had any information to support Trump’s recent claim that he was wiretapped by former President Obama.
Those statements took up a total of just under two minutes of a proceeding that lasted five hours and 18 minutes. The rest was filled with blatant partisan statements by committee members and the expected “no comment” responses by Comey and Rogers – well, sort of.
The FBI director declined to answer members’ questions more than 100 times, but managed to come up with more than 50 variations on “no comment.” Who does that? It has to be some kind of a record – that, and sitting for nearly four hours before pleading for a potty break. (There’s a full transcript of the hearing on The Washington Post website).
Comey’s No-Comment Codex:
I’m not going to comment.
I’m not going to comment on that.
I’m not going to comment on ______ (fill in blank).
I’m not going to comment on it.
Not going to comment on that.
I can’t comment.
I can’t comment on it.
I can’t comment on that.
I’m just not going to comment.
I just can’t comment.
That’s not something I can comment on.
That’s not something I’m going to comment on.
It’s not something I can comment on.
I don’t want to comment.
That’s not for me to comment on.
Not something I want to comment on.
That’s one of those subjects I can’t comment on one way or another.
I don’t think I should comment.
I don’t want to get into business of commenting on that.
I’m not going to answer that.
I’m not going to answer.
I can’t answer that.
That’s not a question I can answer.
I can’t answer in the context of this particular matter.
That’s not something I can answer.
That’s not something I can answer in an open setting.
I can’t answer that question.
Not a question I can answer.
I don’t think that’s something I should be answering.
Yeah, that’s when I don’t want to answer.
I have to give you the same answer: I’m not going to comment.
Same answer as before: I’m not going to answer that.
I have to give you the same answer.
I’ll give you the same answer.
It’s the same answer.
Give you the same answer.
Same answer as before.
Same answer (used 18 times).
I don’t want to say.
I can’t say.
I can’t say in this forum.
I can’t say here.
I can’t say as I sit here.
I really don’t want to get into answering questions about any individual U.S. person.
I don’t want to start down the road of answering questions about somebody.
I’m not going to talk about any particular person here today.
I’m not going to answer about anybody in this forum.
I’m not going to comment on anybody.
I’m not going to comment on an article.
I can’t answer the hypothetical because it would depend upon a number of other things.
I don’t think I should be answering hypotheticals.
That’s a hypo I don’t want to answer.
I’m not going to answer that hypo.
That’s not a question I can answer. For a variety of reasons, I’m not qualified to answer, and I shouldn’t be answering questions like that.
Image: FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers, seconds before the hearing adjourned. While Rogers wore the same Scorpio scowl for most of the day, it wasn’t until the end that Comey looked thoroughly grilled. Derived from screen capture of House Intelligence Committee video.