With this plea, FBI Director Comey asked for a bathroom recess a few hours into a lengthy open hearing on Capitol Hill held on March 20, 2017.
The House Intelligence Committee held an open hearing on March 20th on the active measures being taken to investigate potential Russian influences in the election.
Two hours into the hearing, it was nearly impossible to ignore the number of times FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers both explained their inability to answer certain questions was due to the fact that they couldn’t divulge classified information a public setting.
News articles following the hearing were, however, written by a slew of authors assuming that Comey and Rogers’s inability to answer basic questions meant there was something nefarious afoot.
But this was an open hearing held on classified information. It’s worth noting that expecting answers would have meant expecting two directors of the nation’s premier intelligence agencies divulge classified information. This would pose as a great threat to our national security.
And no one reasonably wants that.
Neil Gorsuch (now, Justice Gorsuch) faced a similar situation in his confirmation hearings. Just like Comey and Rogers, Gorsuch faced perhaps a far more intense public backlash for not providing answers to certain questions.
But these non-answers are justified and important. A panel of legal experts hosted by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) explained that if Gorsuch were to answer, he could be forced to recuse himself in future cases. In other words, if the hypothetical cases were to appear before Gorsuch in the Supreme Court, he would then have to recuse himself based on evidence of his prior bias.
This is an important fact, and one that was not well-broadcast. Journalists were quick to infuse the sense that Gorsuch couldn’t be trusted due to his inability to answer questions. And the same occurred to Comey and Rogers just a few days prior.
It stands as a reminder that jumping to assumptions based on (the lack of) responses of officials won’t lend itself answers. The public must realize that government officials operate under restraints. And answers are not divulged ultimately for the important purposes of our national interests and security.