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Comey presses Republicans to 'stand up and speak the truth'

The former FBI director wants Republicans to "stand up in the face of fear." Comey's message is compelling, but he's an imperfect messenger.
Image: James Comey Testifies At Senate Hearing On Russian Interference In US Election
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 08: Former FBI Director James Comey testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol...

Since Democratic gains in the midterm elections last month, Republicans have generally struggled to come up with a clear and consistent message about the results and the road ahead. Most GOP leaders -- in Congress and in the White House -- have, however, pushed one line with great vigor: they've pleaded with Democrats not to investigate Donald Trump.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) joined the partisan chorus on "Meet the Press" the other day, telling NBC News' Chuck Todd, "My advice [to the incoming Democratic House majority] would be: legislate, don't investigate."

Part of the problem with the pitch is that there's no reason to see this as an either/or proposition, since the House majority can legislate and conduct oversight at the same time. The other angle of note is the degree to which the GOP appeal is breathtakingly hypocritical.

Almost exactly 24 hours after Roy Blunt pressed House Dems not to investigate the Republican White House, the outgoing GOP majority held another hearing with former FBI Director James Comey, peppering him with questions about Hillary Clinton's emails. "How does that make any sense at all?" Comey asked.

But as NBC News noted, the former FBI director also tied these concerns to the larger issue of Republican indifference to Trump's attacks on federal law enforcement.

"Republicans used to understand that the actions of a president matter, the words of a president matter, the rule of law matters, and the truth matters. Where are those Republicans today?" he asked.Those Republicans joining Trump in an effort to undermine the FBI will have "to explain to their grandchildren what they did," Comey said."At some point someone has to stand up and in the face of fear of Fox News, fear of their base, fear of mean tweets, stand up for the values of this country and not slink away into retirement, but stand up and speak the truth."

It's a compelling message, to be sure. I'm less sure, however, that Jim Comey is the best messenger.

I find it easy to understand and relate to the former FBI director's indignation. Comey added yesterday, referring to one of Trump's recent anti-law-enforcement tweets, "This is the president of the U.S. calling a witness who is cooperating with his own Justice Department a 'rat.' Say that again to yourself at home and remind yourself where we have ended up. This is not about Republicans and Democrats; this is about what does it mean to be an American, what are the things that we care about. Above our policy disputes, which are important, there are a set of values that represent the glue of this country, and they are under attack by things just like that. We have to stop being numb to it."

That's good advice, though I wish Comey had arrived at this point a couple of years earlier.

Remember, this is the same James Comey who publicly chastised Hillary Clinton's email server protocols, and announced two weeks before Election Day 2016 that he'd reopened the FBI inquiry into the matter, dramatically altering the direction of the campaign in its closing days.

Comey did not, however, alert the public to the fact that Donald Trump's political operation was the subject of counter-espionage investigation.

And why not? Apparently because the then-FBI director was concerned about the political reactions from Republicans, their base, their p.r. machine, and their cable news network.

Comey yesterday implored responsible voices inside the GOP to shake off their fears and stand up for the truth, regardless of the partisan blowback.

Imagine where the country would be today if Comey had followed his own advice in 2016.