Comey’s testimony unlikely to rock Wall Street

Like everyone else, the people on Wall Street will be closely watching former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony to Congress Thursday.

What does Wall Street want to hear?

Well, normally investors want less chaos rather than more. That’s understandable — who wants to put a lot of money on the line when you don’t know how much Washington is going to get rocked?

When Bill Clinton’s impeachment started in December 1998 the markets got very nervous.

It was only through a combination of three interest rate cuts by the Federal Reserve and — probably — surreptitious buying by Wall Street insiders that kept the markets from convulsing.

And you’d think Wall Street would be of the same frame of mind right now.

Stock prices have risen nicely since President Trump beat Ms. Whatsername back in November. In fact, the Dow Jones industrial average is up 15.5 percent since Election Day through Wednesday’s close at 21,173.69.

So, logically, the investment community would want Trump to stay right where he is, tweeting stupid comments seemingly around the clock from the West Wing of the White House.

But it’s different now than during Bill Clinton’s time.

So if Comey’s testimony stirs things up, Wall Street might be able to handle it without help. And that’s a good thing because there is little that the Fed or others can do.

Back when Clinton was impeached by the House in 1998, the economy was doing well and the Fed had room to cut rates.

Now the economy is weak and the Fed has been neutralized.

There’s one other thing that could help Wall Street handle another Washington tremor — the experience it got during the Clinton situation.

So isn’t that sweetly ironic? Wall Street’s experience with the trials of the husband of President Trump’s worst enemy could help President Trump keep the country calm during the current tremors.

I guess the second time a bus is bearing down on you, there’s less panic.

Just for the record, I don’t think there is any chance Trump will be impeached — which in case you don’t know means an indictment for high crimes and misdemeanors by the Republican-controlled House.

If someone is found guilty of those crimes, he can be removed from office.

At least I don’t think he’ll be impeached just yet. That could all change if Republicans turn against him, something I think could happen over time.

So whatever Comey says Thursday might not have an immediate impact either on Trump’s political fortunes or the fortunes of investors.

Nothing in Comey’s opening statement — released on Wednesday — would cause much trouble for Trump, although there could be some embarrassment come the live testimony.

But if, while fielding questions from lawmakers on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Comey does make a reasonable case that Trump tried to obstruct an investigation into the Russians’ meddling in the US presidential election, then Wall Street’s initial muted reaction might turn a little more volatile in the weeks and months ahead.

If anyone can prove Trump colluded with the Russians — which I think is ridiculous — then all bets are off as far as reactions are concerned.

The probe into whether folks on the Trump campaign colluded is a more open question.

I don’t think Comey has the goods to actually get Trump in much trouble.

If Comey had the goods, the former FBI chief would have had to report it immediately to the Justice Department.

Comey didn’t.

So Comey would have to get himself into serious trouble to get Trump in real trouble.

Wall Street, however, could be shaken out of its slumber if the Comey hearing goes off course.

How could that happen?

The Republicans could turn into aggressive questioners of Comey. They could ask, for instance, if anyone ever tried to interfere with his investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server.

Or whether Attorney General Loretta Lynch ever poked her nose into that investigation after she held what she hoped would be a secret meeting aboard a plane with Bill Clinton.

Republicans might even ask Comey about the circumstances surrounding the closing of the Hillary investigation — before it was reopened weeks before the election. Specifically, senators might ask Comey about how many FBI agents really agreed that the probe should be wrapped up without a recommendation of an indictment.

My point: There was so, so much going on during last year’s election that any deep probe now of Comey or any of the other principal actors in that drama could veer out of control.

And that could wake the financial markets up to the seriousness of what is now going on: Democrats and their media allies are trying to overturn the election of a President.


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