Conservative media casts Comey testimony as clearing Trump

Former FBI director Jim Comey’s testimony on Capitol Hill either completely vindicated President Donald Trump or further implicated him.

That depends on which media is reporting the story.

According to many right-wing outlets, Comey not only cleared Trump by confirming that he was not personally under investigation, he also helped stir up old drama around the FBI probe into Hillary Clinton’s emails and admitted he orchestrated leaks to the media after his firing.

Much of the rest of the media, however, focused on Comey saying he took Trump’s statement that he “hopes” the FBI would drop the investigation into Michael Flynn as a directive, that Trump “lied” and “defamed” Comey and the FBI, and that Comey took detailed notes about his meetings with Trump because he was concerned that Trump would later lie about them.

That mainstream outlets and conservative outlets would focus on different aspects of the testimony isn’t entirely surprising, but reflects the extent that conservative media is backing Trump when even some Republican senators are condemning his handling of Comey.

“Comey: Pres did not order me to let Flynn probe go,” read a Fox News chryon while a CNN chryon at the same moment read "Comey: I took Trump’s request about Flynn as a directive.”

On The Drudge Report, which often sets the agenda for right-leaning media, the focus was on Comey voluntarily saying he asked a friend to release the contents of memos from his conversations with Trump to the media, and that former Attorney General Loretta Lynch pushed him to describe the department’s investigation into Clinton’s email practices as a “matter,” not an “investigation.” (Though Comey noted that while he did end up saying "matter," most of the media called it an investigation anyway.)

Breitbart, whose former employees now populate the West Wing, set up shop at a local Washington bar that was throwing a watch party for the event. Their coverage mocked the “Washington elites” who were “celebrating” the testimony.

"Comey is in big trouble after this hearing. He admitted he’s a leaker, and has an actual network through which he leaks information to the press. In addition, he withheld from leaking information that would have vindicated President Trump weeks ago,” the site’s liveblog read.

Townhall also focused on Comey leaking his memos, and that Comey said the president never asked him to stop the FBI’s Russia investigation.

On the liberal end of the spectrum, the Huffington Post focused on Comey saying he purposely leaked in order to “get a special prosecutor.” TalkingPointsMemo focused on Comey saying he was fired in order to influence the probe into Russia, while Salon’s website declared "Trump’s in big trouble.”

Many mainstream outlets like the major newspapers and TV networks highlighted Comey’s explosive declaration that Trump lied and defamed him and the FBI. They also focused on the leaked memo, though many pointed out that Comey said the leaked memo had a point: To compel a special prosecutor. The New York Times sent a breaking news alert with Comey’s statement that he leaked the memo in order to trigger a special prosecutor, while USA Today took the calmer route, with their main story saying Comey “plays political hardball.”

CNN’s website focused on the split between Comey and the White House, blaring the headline “Comey: President lied. White House: No, he didn’t,” a sentiment MSNBC’s website also focused on. Fox News’ website also mentioned that Comey accused Trump of lying, but in the same headline added that Comey suggested “Lynch covered for Clinton."

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