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HEADLINE ROUNDUP: Another Toxic Week For James Comer

Mar 24, 2023

James Comer began this week expecting a cushy profile in the New York Times, and ended with a legal complaint filed against him in his home state. He essentially admitted in the interview to stealing a server, hacking emails, and leaking them in a brazen attempt to intimidate a former girlfriend who credibly accused him of abuse and a blogger making her accusations public. Comer has no credibility or moral authority to investigate others. It’s his actions which should be looked into and should be the subject of a House Ethics Committee investigation and investigation by the Fayette Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. Comer should come clean about his past dirty tricks, in light of using the same tactics to shamelessly attack Biden and his family to score political points, and admit he isn’t investigating the Trump family for political reasons. Once again, it’s a bad week to be James Comer. Is it ever a good one?


Phillip M. Bailey, reporter for USA Today: “INBOX: The @usintegrityorg says @JamesComer’s revelation in that @nytimes profile about ‘his past dirty tricks’ during the 2015 #Kentucky governor’s race warrants a House ethics investigation. #KY01” [Twitter, 3/21/23]

Josh Dawsey, reporter for the Washington Post: “Illuminating reporting on new oversight chair James Comer, the contours and demands of his district, his checkered past, his accrued power back home, the national Republican base & his situation in Washington.”  [Twitter, 3/21/23]

Adam Smith, vice president of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington: “James Comer says voting to certify a free and fair election was the ‘toughest’ vote he’s ever taken.” [Twitter, 3/21/23]

David Jolly, former U.S. representative: “Wow. James Comer basically admits to swiping emails from a server related to one of his KY political opponents.” [Twitter, 3/21/23]

Norman Ornstein, contributing editor for the Atlantic: “James Comer is a thug, unfit for public office.” [Twitter, 3/22/23]


New York Times: Comer, Republican Oversight Chair, Embraces Role of Biden Antagonist. “During the 2015 Republican primary for governor — Mr. Comer’s dream job from a young age — a local blogger began publishing allegations that Mr. Comer had abused a college girlfriend, prompting Mr. Comer to resort to hardball tactics. His campaign turned over documents to a local prosecutor to help in an investigation of the blogger. (The prosecutor dropped the investigation after the election.) The month before the primary, a story appeared in The Lexington Herald-Leader in which leaked emails suggested coordination between the blogger and the husband of the running mate of one of Mr. Comer’s opponents in the race, the Louisville developer Hal Heiner. The rumor whispered around Kentucky political circles at the time was that Mr. Comer had swiped the emails from the computer server for the husband’s former law firm and leaked them to the newspaper. In an interview with The Times, Mr. Comer confirmed, for the first time, that he had been behind the leak and strongly hinted he had gotten them from the server. “I’ve had two servers in my lifetime,” Mr. Comer said when asked about the emails. “Hunter Biden’s is one, and you can — I’m not going to say who the other one was, but you can use your imagination.” “It ended up in my lap,” Mr. Comer added of the information. “I’ll put it like that.” His decision to leak the emails backfired. The former college girlfriend, Marilyn Thomas, was angry about being called a liar and sent a four-page letter to a reporter at The Louisville Courier-Journal who published a devastating story just weeks before Primary Day. In the letter, which The Times obtained and authenticated, Ms. Thomas accused Mr. Comer of having hit her and said he had taken her to a clinic for an abortion, an account that was supported by her roommate at the time.” [New York Times, 3/21/23]

Louisville Courier Journal: Group Urges James Comer Investigation Over Remarks About 2015 Email Leak. “A Democrat-aligned organization has asked a Kentucky prosecutor to investigate U.S. Rep. James Comer over his possible involvement in the leak of a law firm’s emails during his 2015 race for governor, stemming from an admission in a recent New York Times profile of the congressman. The Congressional Integrity Project — a 501(c)(4) that is pushing back against U.S. House Republicans’ investigations of President Joe Biden’s son and administration — wrote a letter Wednesday to Fayette County Commonwealth’s Attorney Kimberly Baird, asking her office for a ‘formal and thorough investigation’ into Comer’s ‘involvement in unlawfully obtaining and/or receiving stolen emails from a computer server’ of the law firm. ‘No one should be above the law, and information revealed yesterday in an article published in the New York Times provides strong reason to believe that Representative Comer committed at least one, and perhaps multiple, felony offenses during his failed attempt to secure the Republican nomination for governor in 2015,’ wrote Kyle Herrig, the group’s executive director.” [Louisville Courier Journal, 3/24/23]

WPSD Local 6: Group calls on Kentucky prosecutor to investigate Rep. James Comer over allegations that he leaked stolen emails. “In a profile of Comer published Tuesday, The New York Times reports that, during the 2015 Kentucky primary for governor, Lexington blogger and attorney Mike Adams published allegations that Comer had abused a girlfriend while he was in college. The Times reports that The Lexington Herald-Leader published a story a month before the primary containing leaked emails suggesting ‘coordination between the blogger and the husband of the running mate of one of Mr. Comer’s opponents in the race, the Louisville developer Hal Heiner.’ The Times reports that, in an interview with the newspaper, Comer ‘confirmed, for the first time’ that he was behind the leak and ‘strongly hinted’ that he got those emails from the computer server of the husband’s former law firm. ‘I’ve had two servers in my lifetime,’ Comer told the New York Times. ‘Hunter Biden’s is one, and you can — I’m not going to say who the other one was, but you can use your imagination.’ The congressman added: ‘It ended up in my lap … I’ll put it like that.’” [WPSD Local 6, 3/23/23]

Louisville Courier Journal (Opinion): Abuse Allegations, Leaked Emails And How Jamie Comer Undid His Own Bid For Governor. “Nearly eight years after a former girlfriend accused him of hitting her when they dated in college, U.S. Rep. Jamie Comer has finally come clean about one part of the saga − telling the New York Times he was responsible for the leak that forced the story into the mainstream. In other words, in what may have been one of the biggest, dumbest Machiavellian miscalculations in Kentucky political history, it was Comer himself who set in motion the slew of devastating stories during the last two weeks of the 2015 Republican primary campaign that likely cost him the governorship. People who do duplicitous and unscrupulous things − and scheme like he did − shouldn’t be governor.” [Louisville Courier Journal, 3/22/23]

The Hill: Comer Agrees It Could Be Politically Unsustainable To Investigate Kushner. “Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, agreed that it could be politically unsustainable to investigate Jared Kushner — former President Trump’s son-in-law who served as a senior adviser in the White House — in a new profile by The New York Times. The Times, which interviewed Comer for six hours, said the Kentucky Republican did not rule out probing Kushner’s business dealings but agreed with a reporter who suggested it might be politically unsustainable for him to investigate Kushner. ‘I don’t disagree with what you said,’ Comer said, according to the newspaper. Comer secured the gavel for the House Oversight and Accountability Committee in January, when Republicans officially took control of the lower chamber. The panel plays a central role in the House GOP’s investigative oversight, and the conference has vowed probes into a number of areas, including President Biden’s family, the situation at the southern border and the messy withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021. In his roughly first two months on the job, Comer eliminated a probe looking into Kushner’s business dealings, according to the Times. The panel launched an investigation into Kushner in June 2022, when it was still in Democrats’ hands, zeroing in on whether or not the president’s son-in-law’s personal financial interests improperly influenced U.S. foreign policy during the Trump administration.” [The Hill, 3/21/23]

Washington Post: James Comer Is Live-Streaming His Fishing Expedition. “Perhaps the most revealing part of the New York Times’s lengthy look at House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) comes at the very end. The Times reporters spent a substantial amount of time talking to Comer, with the legislator at one point describing an encounter he’d had with a traffic cop. The officer ‘had recently pulled him over for speeding,’ Jonathan Swan and Luke Broadwater write of Comer, ‘but let him go when he realized who he had nabbed — only after leaning in to ask one question’: ‘We going to get [President] Biden or not?’ It’s a revealing anecdote on multiple levels, including one that Comer appears not to appreciate. Here’s a guy tasked with stopping malfeasance who is unconcerned about applying that scrutiny to his friends but, instead, with seeing the Democratic president undermined. And he’s being pulled over by a local cop. Comer is in a position as head of the House Oversight Committee where he admittedly doesn’t have much room to roam. […] Instead of accruing evidence and sharing vetted new details, Comer shares everything, everywhere, recognizing that the act of taking investigatory steps is conflated in the public understanding with making important progress in an investigation. He knows generating questions that might have alarming answers is as useful in ginning up enthusiasm for his work as actually having those questions answered.” [Washington Post, 3/21/23]

Vanity Fair: James Comer Is Becoming a Headliner in the GOP’s Performance Politics. “[A] big takeaway of the New York Times’ illuminating profile of the Kentucky congressman is how little he, personally, seems to actually believe in his act—and how open he is about the degree to which this performance is for the benefit of Donald Trump’s true believers. ‘You know,’ Comer told the Times’ Jonathan Swan and Luke Broadwater of the anti-Biden conspiracy theories he has helped legitimize in recent months, ‘the customer’s always right.’ Comer, to be clear, is as right-wing as they come. He’s anti-LGBTQ+, anti-choice, and pro-border wall—a self-described ‘Trump man’ who has been an unabashed apologist for the former president. In other words, he’s not some moderate who put his finger to the wind and shifted right; he’s an actual conservative. But, as Swan and Broadwater note, Comer still seems to inhabit the reality that Trump has long encouraged his supporters to abandon: he voted to certify Biden’s 2020 election win, and seems to have privately expressed misgivings about the personal fealty to Trump that the MAGA base expected of him. ‘He was mortified by Trump,’ former Democratic Representative John Yarmuth, also of Kentucky, told the Times. ‘He used to say he was so frustrated because every weekend he would go home and there would be people who would beat up on him about not defending Trump enough.’” [Vanity Fair, 3/21/23]

Raw Story: GOP’s James Comer: I Felt Like My Constituents Were ‘Rooting For The Rioters’ on January 6th. “In an interview with the New York Times, Rep. James Comer (R-KY) reveals how much he struggled with his vote to certify the 2020 presidential election. In particular, Comer called the vote to certify the election as the hardest he has ever taken, and he says he was taken aback by the anger his constituents expressed against him for doing so. ‘I mean, people were mad,’ Comer tells the Times. ‘It was like they were rooting for the rioters.’ Former President Donald Trump incited hundreds of his supporters to violently storm the Capitol building on January 6th, 2021, a scene that Comer tells the Times reminded him of an episode of ‘The Walking Dead.’ Although Trump eventually asked his supporters to leave the Capitol after watching them riot for more than three hours, he also told them that, ‘we love you, you’re very special.’ Since then, he has claimed that the rioters are political prisoners, has demanded their immediate release from prison, and has pledged to give them all pardons and an apology if he is elected president again. Although Comer did vote to certify President Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 election, he did not join ten of his House Republican colleagues in crossing the aisle to support impeaching Trump for inciting the riots.” [Raw Story, 3/21/23]

Raw Story: GOP Committee Chair Says He Can’t Control Marjorie Taylor Greene. “Rep. James Comer (R-KY), who’s leading Republican investigations into President Joe Biden and his family, compared firebrand Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) to NBA superstar Lebron James. The Kentucky Republican chairs the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, where he’s been tasked by GOP leadership and his constituents to investigate wild claims about the president, his son Hunter Biden and other Democrats, reported the New York Times. ‘You know, the customer’s always right,’ Comer said, referring to the conspiracy theories presented to him by constituents. ‘I say, ‘Let me see it,’ because I want to see where the source is. They don’t know that it’s QAnon, but it’s QAnon stuff.’ Greene, one of the Republicans who serves on his committee, has expressed support for QAnon conspiracies herself, but Comer admitted that he had little authority to rein in the influence she holds within the GOP caucus after a little more than two years in Congress. ‘It’s hard for a coach to tell LeBron James what he’s doing wrong,’ Comer said. In addition to her history of spouting QAnon conspiracy theories, Greene has also questioned whether the Pentagon was really attacked during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, has called multiple school shootings ‘false flag’ operations staged by the American government, and has even suggested that the Rothschild family is funding giant space lasers that are starting forest fires in California.” [Raw Story, 3/21/23]

MSNBC (Opinion): GOP’s James Comer Spends An Inordinate Amount Of Time On Fox. “House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer has a rare skill that he exercises at every available opportunity: The Kentucky Republican can connect Hunter Biden to just about anything. In fact, Comer appeared on Fox News yesterday morning, suggesting Donald Trump’s possible indictment in New York is intended to distract from the congressman’s Biden-related theories. Watching this, I was reminded that Comer also appeared on Fox News a few days earlier, peddling thoroughly discredited claims related to Hunter Biden. A day later, there the Oversight Committee chairman was again, making another Fox appearance, pushing the same false allegations. […] A cynic might wonder whether the Republican-led Oversight Committee is focused more on reaching the GOP’s conservative base than doing legitimate work.” [MSNBC (Opinion), 3/20/23]