A Good Reminder For A Monday…

unds of love
At the cross

My worth is not in skill or name
In win or lose, in pride or shame
But in the blood of Christ that flowed
At the cross

I rejoice in my Redeemer
Greatest Treasure,
Wellspring of my soul
I will trust in Him, no other.
My soul is satisfied in Him alone.

As summer flowers we fade and die
Fame, youth and beauty hurry by
But life eternal calls to us
At the cross

I will not boast in wealth or might
Or human wisdom’s fleeting light
But I will boast in knowing Christ
At the cross


Two wonders here that I confess
My worth and my unworthiness
My value fixed – my ransom paid
At the cross


By Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty, and Graham Kendrick
© 2014 Getty Music Publishing and Make Way Music (admin by MusicServices.org)

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The Great Uprising: How a Powder Revolutionized Baking By Ben Panko

Flour and cake

Before baking powder hit the scene in 1856, making cake was not a piece of cake

Today, if you need to make a last-minute birthday cake, you can grab a box of Betty Crocker cake mix, whisk it with some oil and eggs, and pop it in the oven. In early America, making a cake was an ordeal. “The flour should be dried before the fire, sifted and weighed; currants washed and dried; raisins stoned; sugar pounded, and rolled fine and sifted; and all spices, after being well dried at the fire, pounded and sifted,” reads a common cake recipe in the 1841 cookbook Early American Cooking.

Besides this grueling work, you had to plan ahead. If you wanted your cake to be fluffy and airy, rather than dense and flat, you would need to do some serious work make it rise. For most of human history, the main rising agent has been yeast. As these finicky little fungi grow and divide, they breathe in oxygen and release carbon dioxide like we do. Mix them into dough and they’ll eventually fill it with the familiar bubbles of carbon dioxide that make baked goods rise—a process known as leavening.

In the 18th century and earlier, most baking was dictated by the delicate whims of respiring yeast. And we aren’t talking about dry or refrigerated yeast; this was way before fridges and commercial packaging. First you had to make the yeast, by letting fruit or vegetables or grains ferment. Once you’d done that, your hard-earned rising agent could still be killed or weakened by temperatures that were too hot or too cold, or contamination from bacteria. (Many early recipes recommend obtaining the help of a manservant.)

Even when it did work, leavening was a tedious process. “You’re talking upwards of 12 hours of rising, usually more like 24 hours,” says Jessica Carbone, a scholar in the National Museum of American History’s Food History Project. Basically, forget about the joy of waking up and deciding to make pancakes.

So what changed? In a phrase, baking powder. Without this miraculous white substance, “We literally would not have cake as we know it now,” says Linda Civitello, a food historian and author of the new book Baking Powder Wars. Today, baking powder “is like air, water,” Civitello says. “It’s the one ingredient everyone has on their shelf.” This cheap chemical factors into countless baked goods we buy and make every day, from donuts to hamburger buns. But how did this revolution-in-a-can come about?

In the late 19th century, baking powder companies competed fiercely through colorful advertising, state bribes and even lawsuits. Meanwhile, yeast companies also tried to elbow each other off the market.

In the 18th century, American bakers were already experimenting with less labor-intensive ways to make things rise. In addition to beating air into their eggs, they often used a kitchen staple called pearlash, or potash, which shows up in the first American cookbook, American Cookery, in 1796. Made from lye and wood ashes, or baker’s ammonia, pearlash consisted mainly of potassium carbonate, which also produces carbon dioxide quickly and reliably. But this agent was difficult to make, caustic and often smelly.

In 1846, the introduction of baking soda, a salt that can react with an acid to create carbon dioxide, made things easier. But baking soda still needed to be mixed with an acid. Since it was cheap and widely available, bakers often used sour milk. This process was unpredictable, since it was hard to control how acidic the sour milk actually was, meaning it was difficult to know how much baking soda to use or how long to bake for.

The first product resembling baking powder was created by English chemist Alfred Bird in the late 1840s. Bird combined cream of tartar (an acidic powder composed of potassium bitartrate) and baking soda, keeping the two apart until they were to be used so they wouldn’t react too early. Unfortunately, cream of tartar was an expensive byproduct of winemaking that had to be imported from Europe, meaning that it was out of reach for many poorer Americans.

In 1856, this need for a viable alternative drove a young chemist Eben Norton Horsford to create and patent the first modern baking powder. Horsford worked at a time when chemistry was only just beginning to be considered a respected field, and ended up creating the first modern chemistry lab in the United States at Harvard University. By boiling down animal bones to extract monocalcium phosphate, Horsford developed an acid compound that could react with baking soda to create those desirable CO2 bubbles.

“It’s really the first chemical that opens the floodgates for chemicals in food,” Civitello says.

Horsford later had the idea to put the two together in one container. Water activates them, so he mixed them with cornstarch to soak up any excess moisture and prevent them from reacting prematurely. Now, instead of purchasing two separate ingredients at the pharmacy (where chemicals were sold at the time), and having to precisely measure out each one, would-be bakers could grab one container off the grocery store shelf and be ready to go.

In the 1880s, Horsford’s company switched to mining the monocalcium phosphate as opposed to extracting it from boiled down bones, because it was cheaper. Marketed under the name “Rumford” (named for Count Rumford, who was Horsford’s benefactor while he was a professor at Harvard), the baking powder is still sold today in much the same formulation.

Rumford wasn’t alone for long in the baking powder industry. The company Royal Baking Powder quickly capitalized on the traditional cream of tartar that had been used ad hoc by housewives, while Calumet and Clabber Girl aimed to be more modern by using the acid sodium aluminum phosphate (alum), which was cheaper and much stronger than other baking powder acids. Hundreds of smaller manufacturers sprang up across the country, and by the end of the 19th century, the baking powder industry was worth millions of dollars.

Baking didn’t immediately adapt to this new revolution, however, Carbone notes, since most recipes that women and existing cookbooks had were built around the old way of combining an acid with a salt. Baking powder companies worked to change this by releasing their own cookbooks, which served as both marketing and instruction manuals for their products. Some of these cookbooks are held today in the collections of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

In that same collection are remnants of the ugly wars fought within the growing baking powder industry around the turn of the 20th century. As alum baking powder companies like Calumet’s and Clabber Girl’s captured more and more of the baking powder market, Royal Baking Powder in particular fought to discredit them. In advertisements, Royal touted the “purity” of its more expensive product, while claiming that other baking powders were “injurious” to one’s health.

The fight culminated in 1899, when Royal managed to bribe the Missouri legislature to pass a law banning the sale of all alum baking powders in the state, according to Baking Powder Wars. Over six years of fighting, millions of dollars in bribes were paid, dozens were sent to jail for simply selling baking powder, and the muckraking press forced the resignation of the state’s lieutenant governor. Even after the ban’s repeal, baking powder manufacturers battled for decades into the 20th century through advertising battles and intense price wars, as Civitello chronicles in her book.

Eventually, the alum baking powder companies won out, and Royal and Rumford were acquired by Clabber Girl, leaving it and Calumet as the reigning American companies on the market. You don’t have to look far to see baking powder’s continued hegemony today: cooks around the world use it in everything from cupcakes to crepes, muffins to madeleines, danishes to doughnuts. “The fact that you can find it in every major supermarket tells you something about how it’s been embraced,” Carbone says.

So thank chemistry and modern science that you’re not one of those early American bakers, pounding and sifting for all eternity.

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/great-uprising-how-powder-revolutionized-baking-180963772/#FsiRpY56jXajMfBf.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv

June 20, 2017


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Why I Don’t Write ‘Christian’ Novels N. D. Wilson on Stories as Soul Food Barnabas Piper and N.D. Wilson

N. D. Wilson has written two acclaimed works of non-fiction, Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl [review] and Death by Living [review], both of which I thoroughly enjoyed and benefited from reading. Such books are bread and butter in church circles. They’re books we can learn from, books that make statements of truth, books with lessons.

Wilson’s fiction, though, is his bread and butter. He’s written two series of novels and is working on a third (along with couple stand-alone books) that might be called young adult fiction, but I can assure you they’re not the least bit juvenile. His stories are fantastic and fantastical—weaving in elements of mythology, heroism, history, and a touch of Indiana Jones-esque panache. His villains are grotesque and evil, while his heroes are vulnerable and courageous. And he steadfastly refuses to fall back on the tropes of romance to fuel his stories like so many young adult novels do.

The feeling you have after reading one of these series is akin to the feeling you find in reading Lewis, Tolkien, or Chesterton. I’m not arguing Wilson’s novels are classics, but they do echo such classics in nobility and tone and truth. And yes, fiction can be true.

I devoured Wilson’s first two series (100 Cupboards and Ashtown Burials) in days, but I think his most recent book, Outlaws of Time: The Legend of Sam Miracle, is his best yet. It’s thrilling and imaginative, and I eagerly await the next installment in the series.

I asked Wilson about his influences as a storyteller, the power of stories in our lives, where an aspiring fiction writer can begin, and more.

Why is it so important for Christians to read good fiction? How do stories shape our behavior and worldview? 

For a long time, I never had to think about this at all, because I was unfamiliar with those portions of the church in which fiction and story are highly suspect. I was raised in a family that was constantly telling (and reading and listening to) stories. It all started with The Story: the great epic of creation, the war between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman, the curse, and mankind’s long exile. And then came the quadruple-hinge of history—Christmas, the Cross, Easter, Pentecost. My sisters and I knew the story in which we belonged, but intellectually knowing the story and being equipped to live in that story as faithful characters (making faithful choices) are two very different things.

Intellectually knowing the story and being equipped to live in that story as faithful characters (making faithful choices) are two very different things.

And for faithful narratival living, we all need faithful examples and faithful friends (real and fictional). The story in God’s mouth is huge and never-ending—much too large for ours. We need much smaller bites. And we need lenses to help us shrink and capture as much of the whole as possible. We are narrative creatures swimming in a narrative ocean, and we need narrative food, narrative catechisms, narrative marination. Stories are soul food. Stories grow our imaginations, which is to say, stories grow the hands with which we attempt to grasp and process God’s reality. There’s much more to say here; I feel like I’m just skipping wobbly phrases off the surface of a huge, glassy lake. But rather than going on and on, I’ll just leave you with one final quick image.

Many worldly-wise kids/parents/pastors aren’t worried about stories at all. “Yay stories,” just about sums it up. But they enjoy stories purely as pleasurable consumables. Stories are fun—“I like stories.” The end. They don’t dig any deeper than that.

And then there are the uptight churchmarms who stress out about the dangers of VeggieTales just as much as they fret about vampire fiction.

Well, count me in with the churchmarms. We’re in complete agreement about the potency of narrative (and how narratives shape loyalties and desires). We agree that story packs a punch. I just happen to think it can pack a punch for good as well as ill, and I want to use (and celebrate) that potency as God-given. The worldly wise folk sling it around like lemonade when it’s really moonshine.

What books, especially fiction, most affected you growing up? What stories stuck with you, and what about them stands out?

Let’s start with the Old Testament (just to ruffle some feathers). The Bible stories work with far more complex characters and situations than any Christian novelist dares to. What the heck, Tamar? Samson, you did what? Abraham, why are we still telling kings that Sarah is your sister? My imagination was absolutely nourished in Narnia and Middle Earth, and revisiting those books is still like scooping up a deluxe double portion of ice cream. But the stories in Scripture (and in the natural revelation of history) served up all the heavy protein, and my characters are far more Old Testament than they are Narnian. But . . . when I was young, Puddleglum and Faramir were the characters that helped me realize how stupid my Picture Bible was, and they made me want to get to know the ancient saints “for reals.” Fantasy fiction helped me look past the evangelical neutering of the Bible that is all too common, and see things without all the modernist PG filters that have been imposed on it. I realized Gandalf was directly downstream from (and inspired by) Moses—that old man leaning on his staff in Pharaoh’s court. I learned that the entire superhero genre was spawned from the Book of Judges (and Messianic yearnings). Lewis and Tolkien (and Chesterton and Wodehouse) helped calibrate my eyes and my mind to see things that would’ve remained unseen otherwise.

Eye-poke sidenote: it’s also Scripture and this created world that keep me writing magical realism/fantasy. Why? Because Moses. And the plagues. And Passover. And the resurrection. Because dragons and satyrs are in the Bible, if we have the courage to read it like children, with imaginations that remain unashamed of what we might find.

Your books depict numerous virtues and redemptive themes woven into the stories and characters, but they aren’t “Christian novels” in the stereotypical sense. How do you, as a Christian author, depict values without writing an explicitly Christian novel?

My books are not “Christian novels” in the genre sense. In fact, I doubt I could get my next one published at Thomas Nelson (maybe I’m wrong). But my books are Christian novels, heart and soul, blood and bone. Every thread and theme of truth in my stories grows directly out of my faith. From Leepike Ridge (my first novel) through the 100 Cupboards series and the Ashtown Burials series and my new Outlaws of Time trilogy, I’ve done nothing but directly and indirectly rip off the Author who made us all. I try to honor what he honors and damn what he damns. I imitate his arcs, his plots, and his characters. And just like he does, I soak the whole thing in magic that is typically taken for granted. And then I throw in some sleight of hand just to keep it from getting too Sunday school-ish. I could really get going talking about Ashtown and my direct thefts from Isaiah that no one ever seems to notice . . .

I’ve done nothing but directly and indirectly rip off the Author who made us all. I try to honor what he honors and damn what he damns. I imitate his arcs, his plots, and his characters. And just like he does, I soak the whole thing in magic that is typically taken for granted.

The villains in your novels are despicable—truly hateable characters. The conflict is intense and even violent. Yet you write with no gratuitous gore, profanity, or any such offensive content. How do you depict evil so clearly without making the story grotesque or, like many authors, making the evil almost titillating?

Because true darkness is petty to the core (I’m stealing from Lewis here). The heart is where the deepest rot is, and that can be revealed without bathing the reader in exhaustive and particular filth. It’s essential to work with darkness in our storytelling (God does), but it’s also essential to remember our own fallen humanity. Any story that gives readers vicarious thrills through explicit depictions of darkness is a dangerous story. But any story that ignores, erases, or patronizes evil is dangerous as well, and far more sneaky. Once again, we have plenty of examples (inspired and otherwise) to imitate.

Writing fiction feels like a nearly impossible task to me. There are seemingly infinite characters and stories and worlds. Where would you suggest I, or any aspiring story writer, begin?

Reading! Reading widely and reading critically.

Obviously, there’s a lot more to say here. But instead of saying it, how about I just reopen an old promotional offer for TGC readers for the rest of September? I’ve been putting together a short video series for aspiring writers (The School of Fantastical Wordcraft). Seven lessons have already been filmed and posted (to be followed by two more and some FAQ videos). Anyone interested need only pick up a copy of my new book, Outlaws of Time: The Legend of Sam Miracle, through any retailer and then email a copy of the receipt to sam@outlawsoftime.com. The good folks over there will give you a password to watch all the writing videos for free.




Posted: September 24, 2016



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Mary Slessor’s Providential Preparation for Missionary Service by Vance Christie ⋅

Mary Slessor
Mary Slessor (1848-1915) was one of the most celebrated Christian missionaries of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. For thirty-eight years she carried the Gospel to savage, degraded tribes in the dense forests of Calabar (southern Nigeria), West Africa, courageously pioneering in areas that other missionaries and even traders avoided.

Mary’s girlhood and early adult years were filled with both extreme difficulties and encouraging spiritual influences. Both the negative and positive facts of her girlhood were used of God to forge within her the selfless, indomitable spirit that would be needed to fulfill the career of daunting, heroic service He had for her.

Stained Glass Church Window of Mary Slessor in Scotland

Mary’s father, Robert, after losing his job as a shoemaker in Aberdeen, Scotland, due to his drinking problem, moved his family to Dundee, where he worked in one of the city’s mills. As Robert descended deeper into alcoholism, conditions grew increasingly desperate for the family. Any money he could lay his hands on was spent on alcohol, and his wife was often left with nothing to feed and clothe the children.

Saturday nights were tense, fearful occasions for Mary and her mother. Having received his weekly pay in cash, Robert would stay out late drinking and then stumble home thoroughly inebriated. When his wife and Mary, the eldest daughter, offered him the supper they had denied themselves in order to provide for him, he often threw it into the fire. Sometimes when he became violent Mary was forced to flee into the streets where she wandered, alone and sobbing, in the dark.

Not many months after their move to Dundee, Mrs. Slessor had to enter one of the factories to help support her family. Mary was left to care for her siblings and undertake many of the household responsibilities. When Mary was just eleven years old, she too was put to work in a factory to help supply needed income for the family. At first she was a “half-timer” in a textile factory, working half the day and attending a school connected with the factory the other half.

By the time she was fourteen Mary had become a skilled weaver and went to work fulltime while continuing her education at the school by night. She arose at five o’clock each morning to help with household chores before going to the factory and needed to carry out similar duties after returning home at night. When Mary’s father died, the pressures on her remained enormous as she had become the primary wage earner for the family. Her life at that time was said to be “one long act of self-denial.”

Mary SlessorMary’s mother was a gentle, devout Christian. She always took her children to the regular church services and had them attend the church’s Sunday School. Mrs. Slessor also had an active interest in the foreign missionary enterprises her Presbyterian denomination was carrying out in India, China, Japan, South Africa and Calabar (the southeastern coastal region of modern Nigeria).

Despite Mary’s wearisome work hours, she was active in the ministries of her church. In addition to attending a Bible class for teens and adults, she participated in the weeknight prayer meetings and taught a class of “lovable lassies” in the Sabbath School. Mary’s church started a mission to reach needy young people in the tall tenements of Dundee’s slums, and she taught classes for boys and girls on Sundays and weeknights. When she and a few others attempted to carry out open-air evangelistic ministry in those underprivileged neighborhoods, roughs opposed them, pelting them with mud.

Mrs. Slessor’s children, Mary most of all, shared in her intense missionary interest. In that era missionary service was generally not open to single women. Two of Mary’s brothers showed interest in becoming missionaries but both of them died at a young age. Mary began to wonder: Would it ever be possible for her to become a missionary? Could she go in place of her brothers? Gradually those thoughts, which she expressed outwardly to no one, formed into a definite desire and determination.

When news of David Livingstone’s death reached Britain early in 1874, it created a new wave of missionary enthusiasm and played a part in leading many, Mary Slessor included, to offer themselves for service on the Dark Continent. Mary’s mother and most of her trusted spiritual confidantes encouraged her to pursue the possibility. She offered her services to the Foreign Mission Board of the United Presbyterian Church in May of 1875 and was accepted as a teacher for Calabar.

Women of Faith and Courage by Vance Christie#          #          #


A fuller account of Mary Slessor’s formative girlhood and young adult years as well as a record of her storied missionary career in Calabar are included in my book Women of Faith and Courage (Christian Focus, 2011). W. P. Livingstone’s Mary Slessor of Calabar, Pioneer Missionary (originally published 1916) is the classic full-length biography of her life. Bruce McClennan’s Mary Slessor, A Life on the Altar for God (Christian Focus, 2015) is a more recent full account of her life.

Copyright 2017 by Vance E. Christie

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An Unlikely Adoption…

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7 Jane Austen Quotes To Live By By Sarah Cool

Known for her wit and wisdom, Jane Austen was never at a loss for words on writing, nor were her characters at a loss for their follies and humor. If you’ve never read Jane Austen – and there are undoubtedly a few – her novels are a must read for their “sense and sensibility.” Austen takes on the social customs and behaviors of her day, and she does so with subtle yet sometimes scathing jabs at conformity and living only according to social expectations. Below are a few of our favorites, what are yours?



1. “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” – Northanger Abbey, 1817

2. “One cannot have too large a party.” – Emma, 1815

3. “Know your own happiness. Want for nothing but patience – or give it a more fascinating name: Call it hope.” – Sense and Sensibility

The Farmer's Boy

4. “To sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment.” – Mansfield Park, 1814

5. “Give a girl an education and introduce her properly into the world, and ten to one but she has the means of settling well, without further expense to anybody.” – Mansfield Park, 1814

6. “The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of merit or sense.” – Sense and Sensibility, 1811

7. “I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.” —Persuasion (1817)


Posted: June 13, 2017

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Why Trump Fired Comey By Andrew McCarthy

At last, at least for your humble correspondent, this week’s big hearing brought clarity. I now believe President Donald Trump fired Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey because he believes Comey intentionally misled the public into believing Trump was under investigation by the FBI. There is enough support for this theory that, had the president been forthright in explaining it when he dismissed Comey on May 9, there might have been considerably less uproar. Instead, Trump dissembled, as he seems hardwired to do. He thus bought himself a debilitating special-counsel investigation, despite its being increasingly patent that there is no crime to investigate.


March 20 was the big day. Understanding why requires us to go back several weeks, to January 6, the day Trump and Comey first met.


It was also the day the FBI, in conjunction with the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency, issued a report called “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections.” The report was based on intelligence that had been gathered over several months. But it made clear to the public that the FBI was continuing to investigate. As the agencies put it, “new information continues to emerge, providing increased insight into Russian activities.” Thereafter, the continuing investigation was widely covered in the media, often on the strength of unlawful leaks of classified information.


The agencies’ report was the reason for Trump’s introduction to Comey that day, at Trump Tower in New York City. The Bureau’s then-director, accompanied by other intelligence-agency bosses, was there to brief the then-president-elect.



In written testimony that Comey submitted this week to the Senate Intelligence Committee, he recounts his concern that the incoming president might form the misimpression that “the FBI was conducting a counter-intelligence investigation of his personal conduct.” Thus, after discussing the matter with his FBI “leadership team,” Comey came to the meeting “prepared to assure President-Elect Trump that we were not investigating him personally.” He met one-on-one with Trump to deliver part of the briefing. Though the president-elect did not ask, Comey volunteered the “assurance” that Trump was not being investigated.


Three weeks later, on January 27, Trump, now sworn in as president, hosted Comey at a one-on-one dinner in the White House. Yet again, the then–FBI director assured Trump that he was not under investigation.


In light of what would come later, the context of this second assurance is striking. Trump explained that he was considering ordering Comey to investigate lurid claims made in a dossier about Trump and prepared by former British spy Christopher Steele. The president said he wanted the claims examined “to prove it didn’t happen.” That is, far from curtailing the Russia investigation, Trump was calling for additional FBI focus on Russia, where Steele alleged these salacious activities had occurred. Comey discouraged the idea. As the former director recounted in his written testimony, he advised the president against taking steps that could create a misleading public “narrative” — in this instance, a narrative that the FBI was “investigating him personally, which we weren’t.”


With this as background, let us turn to then-director Comey’s March 20 testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.


In his opening statement, he made this startling disclosure (my italics):


I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts. As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.




In presaging this revelation, Comey noted that it was against the “practice” of the FBI “to confirm the existence of ongoing investigations, especially those investigations that involve classified matters.” As we noted at the top, though, it had already been publicly confirmed in the intelligence agencies’ report, and it was already publicly known through media reporting, that the FBI was investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.


Consequently, the only apparent purpose of Comey’s irregular disclosure was to proclaim that the Bureau was probing links between the Trump campaign and the Putin regime — in particular, any “coordination” between the campaign and Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. And note Comey’s reference to the FBI’s “counterintelligence mission.” Given that it is not the purpose of that mission to investigate crimes, and that it is in fact improper to use counterintelligence authorities with the intention of building criminal cases, why would the FBI director invoke an “assessment of whether any crimes were committed”?



It had only been a few weeks since Comey cautioned Trump to avoid creating misleading narratives. Yet it was inevitable that the then-director’s explosive disclosure would fuel the narrative that Trump — who, as NBC News’s Lester Holt pointed out, was the “centerpiece of the Trump campaign” — had ties to Russia that were worthy of FBI scrutiny. In addition, Comey’s assertions invigorated the narrative that Trump had colluded with Putin to manipulate the American electoral process.


Comey’s testimony seemed, for example, to validate an explosive New York Times report (February 14) headlined “Trump campaign aides had repeated contact with Russian intelligence” — a report that Comey now describes as “almost entirely wrong.” Indeed, as our Dan McLaughlin notes, the Times reported on the March 20 bombshell under the headline, “F.B.I. Is Investigating Trump’s Russia Ties, Comey Confirms.” Even as Comey was giving his testimony, Neera Tanden, president of the left-leaning Center for American Progress, tweeted (next to her “Resist” avatar), “The FBI is investigating a sitting President. Been a long time since that happened.” As Dan shows with numerous cognate examples, Comey’s announcement was understandably and predictably exploited by mainstream media outlets, which blared that Trump himself was under FBI investigation.


On March 30, Trump called Comey to complain about the ‘cloud’ over his presidency. Naturally, it had intensified since the congressional hearing, impairing his ability to govern. In this week’s written testimony, Comey further related that he “briefed the leadership of Congress on exactly which individuals we were investigating and . . . told those Congressional leaders that we were not personally investigating President Trump” (emphasis added). This was done, of course, out of the public earshot. And — mirabile dictu! — it seems to be the only detail the intelligence community and plugged-in Democrats have resisted leaking to the media.


At Thursday’s hearing, Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) noted that as late as May 18, his colleague Senator Dianne Feinstein (D., Cal.) conceded to CNN that she’d seen no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. As the ranking member on two relevant committees, Feinstein has had access to intelligence unavailable to Cotton and other more junior senators. Comey, furthermore, has acknowledged that as long as he was at the FBI (i.e., until his May 9 dismissal), there was no investigation focused on President Trump.


To summarize, then, despite over a year of investigation, no evidence of collusion between Trump’s circle and the Putin regime has been uncovered — and, clearly, none had been uncovered by March 20. Moreover, whatever threads the FBI has been following are sufficiently remote from the president himself that Trump was never under investigation — a fact that, by March 20, was well known to the intelligence agencies, who made it known to Congress.


Nevertheless, a decision was made — Comey stresses, with Justice Department approval — to have Comey announce to the nation on March 20 not only that there was an ongoing FBI counterintelligence investigation but that it was focused on the Trump campaign’s suspected collusion with Russia, and that criminal prosecutions were a possibility. Since the existence of the counterintelligence investigation was well known, Trump had to wonder: What point could there have been in that announcement other than to cast suspicion on the Trump campaign — and, inexorably, on Trump himself?


 We are not told who at the “Trump” Justice Department authorized the then-director to make this announcement. I scare-quote the president’s name advisedly. On March 20, the only Trump appointee yet installed at the Justice Department was attorney general Jeff Sessions. He was already recused from Russia-related matters and therefore presumably not consulted on Comey’s planned disclosure.


Ten days later, on March 30, Trump called Comey to complain about the “cloud” over his presidency. Naturally, it had intensified since the congressional hearing, impairing his ability to govern. On this point, Comey’s testimony addresses the president’s desire to know what the FBI could help him do to “lift the cloud.” Left unaddressed, however, is what had been done at the March 20 hearing to intensify the cloud. When, in their March 30 conversation, Comey again confirmed that Trump was not personally under investigation, the president insisted — quite understandably — “We have to get that fact out.”


In his written testimony, Comey observes that he and Justice Department leaders (again, not Trump appointees) were “reluctant to make public statements that we did not have an open case on President Trump.” Remarkably, the rationale offered for this reluctance was fear of the uproar that would be caused if the record eventually had to be corrected — meaning: The speculative possibility that some evidence implicating Trump in Russia collusion might someday come to light, notwithstanding that (a) in all the months and months of investigating, no signs of such evidence had surfaced, and (b) as Comey explained in answering hearing questions from Senator Marco Rubio (R. Fla.), Trump had encouraged the FBI to do the Russia investigation and let it all come out.


In any event, why was this the FBI director’s call to make, rather than the president’s? If Trump is so confident about his lack of culpability in Russia’s cyberespionage that he was willing to run Comey’s “duty to correct” risk, what would have been the downside of informing the public that Trump was not under investigation — especially when any sensible person, on hearing what Comey did disclose, would assume that Trump was under investigation?


I don’t see how Trump could have handled Comey’s dismissal worse — no warning, conflicting explanations, talking him down in a meeting with Russian diplomats, savaging his reputation. All that said, and as the former director learned painfully during the Clinton caper, the FBI and Justice Department should not make public statements about investigations unless and until they are prepared to file charges formally in court, where people get to see the evidence and have a chance to defend themselves. What possible good reason was there to alert the public that the Trump campaign was under investigation? Inevitably, that would induce the media to tell the world — incessantly — that Trump himself was under investigation.


Comey maintains, as he did in the July 2016 Clinton-e-mails press conference, that there is a “public interest” exception to the Justice Department rule against commenting on investigations. But public interest is the very reason for the no-comment rule. The point is to avoid smearing people who have not been charged with a crime. Such a smear happens only if the public is interested in the case.


More fundamentally, what is the “public interest” in misleading the public? If you know that what you are about to say is going to lead people to believe the president of the United States is under investigation (as it did), and you know for a fact that the president of the United States is not under investigation (as Comey did), why make the statement?


And if it was important enough to tell Congress that Trump was not under investigation so that Congress would not be misled, what conceivable reason is there not to tell the public — especially when you must know that withholding this critical detail will make it much more difficult for the president to deal with foreign leaders and marshal political support for his domestic agenda?


The fact that President Trump was not under investigation did not get out until Trump finally put it out himself. That was in the May 9 letter that informed FBI director Comey that he was removed from office: “I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation.” Do you suppose the desperation to tell that to the world, the exasperation over Comey’s refusal to tell it to the world, just might have been at the front of the president’s mind?

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/448513/trump-james-comey-fbi-director-russia-investigation-fired-misleading-public


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