Collins to Comey: Was this really the best time to put out a book?

Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) talked to NBC News’ Chuck Todd on Meet the Press this weekend and the inevitable questions about James Comey and the Russia investigation came up. Collins hasn’t exactly been a huge defender of the President (to put it mildly) but she’s a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence which is looking into the Russia, Russia, Russia story, so she has a bit of experience here. To be charitable, her helpful advice for Comey wasn’t particularly flattering.

Let’s start with the video in question and then a couple of excerpts from NBC News.

“I cannot imagine why an FBI director would seek to essentially cash in on a book when the investigation is very much alive,” she said on Sunday’s “Meet The Press.” “He should have waited to do his memoir.”

Collins, a Republican member of the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence, which is conducting its own investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election in addition to the Department of Justice probe run by special counsel Robert Mueller, also said that if she were advising a future FBI director, she would tell them two things.

“One, always follow the Department of Justice’s protocols and guidelines, which unfortunately James Comey did not do with the Hillary Clinton investigation and he did not do when he leaked documents that were FBI work documents to a friend of his, knowing that they would go to the press,” she said. “And, so that would be my first advice. The second would be don’t write a book in the middle of an investigation.”

Shorter translation of those two pieces of advice: Follow the rules which apply to doing your job, and if you actually care about the job being done, don’t get rich off of it while the work is ongoing.

Collins seems to have a sort of on again, off again position when it comes to Comey, perhaps depending on who’s doing the interview. Compare these comments to how she answered a very similar question for George Stephanopoulos only a week ago, when she said that Comey had violated the FBI’s own guidelines with the leak, but didn’t break law. I realize we sometimes spend a bit too much time gazing into the tea leaves on questions like this, but that really sounds like a distinction without a difference. Leaking information regarding an ongoing federal investigation to the media via one of your friends is either coloring inside the lines or it isn’t. Make up our minds already.

Of course, her record in dealing with Comey has never been one where she let him off the hook. Keep in mind that it was almost a year ago now that Collins was one of the first ones to call on Comey to come testify before the Intelligence Committee over the entire Michael Flynn affair. If nothing else she earns some credibility for being even handed over the course of this debacle.

Leaks aside, the book remains another issue. Collins’ deadpan “advice” on that subject was similar to some of the questions I raised initially. If Comey had any actual dirt which was relevant to the Russia probe but he sat on it until everyone bought his book, that should have tanked any credibility he had. You can’t very well go on at length about the sacred duties of the investigators and then tell them you’ve got pertinent information, but they’ll need to pony up $29.95 to get a look at it. And if none of the “information” is more substantive than additional opinions and complaints about the President, why should we buy the book?

Either way, it’s too late for that. He’s already gotten his payday from the publisher and they cleaned up on the early sales. So Collins’ advice is probably falling on deaf ears at this point.

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