2017-05-10 18:10:50 UTC
MAY 9, 2017 · 11:23 PM ↓ Jump to Comments
Ethics Observations On The Firing of FBI Director James Comey
President Trump on Tuesday fired the director of the FBI, James B. Comey
today. Rod Rosenstein, the new deputy AG who replaced Sally Yates, prepared
a memo that recommended the firing, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions
1. Here’s how the New York Times described the firing in its story’s opening
President Trump on Tuesday fired the director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey,
abruptly terminating the law enforcement official leading a wide-ranging
criminal investigation into whether Mr. Trump’s advisers colluded with the
Russian government to steer the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
That’s pretty despicable, and as blatant an example of intentional negative
spin as you are likely to see, even from the Times. There were so many
justifications for firing Comey that the mind boggles. Attaching the act to
the one elicit reason for firing Comey is just yellow journalism, and
nothing but. The Times is really a shameless partisan organ now.
2. Should Comey have been fired? Of course. He didn’t have to be fired, but
to say that at this point he was not trusted by either political party and
was widely viewed as incompetent would be an understatement The fact that
his testimony before Congress last week was not only riddled with errors,
but riddled with errors that made headlines, was reason enough to fire him.
From the Washington Post:
Shortly before the announcement, the FBI notified Congress by letter that
Comey had misstated key findings involving the Hillary Clinton email
investigation during testimony last week, but nothing about that issue
seemed to suggest it might imperil Comey’s job….
In defending the probe at last week’s hearing, Comey offered seemingly new
details to underscore the seriousness of the situation FBI agents faced last
fall when they discovered thousands of Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s emails on
the computer of her husband, Anthony Weiner.
“Somehow, her emails were being forwarded to Anthony Weiner, including
classified information,” Comey said, adding later, “His then-spouse Huma
Abedin appears to have had a regular practice of forwarding emails to him
for him I think to print out for her so she could then deliver them to the
secretary of state.”… At another point in the testimony, Comey said Abedin
“forwarded hundreds and thousands of emails, some of which contain
Neither of those statements is accurate, said people close to the
3. Comey deserved to be fired for the inexplicable botching of the Clinton
investigation, especially as discussed here. Clinton wasn’t under oath when
she was interviewed by the Bureau. Clinton chief-of-staff at the State
Department Cheryl Mills, who was potentially complicit in everything Clinton
did regarding the mishandled e-mails, was a likely witness and even an
indictment candidate, yet was allowed to represent Hillary during
questioning as her lawyer. No transcript of the interview was made. All
4. Democrats now making comparisons with Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre”
really are shameless hypocrites. They have been calling for Comey’s head and
blaming him for Clinton’s defeat since October. Now that Trump has done what
they wanted to be done, it’s somehow sinister. This, however, is how the
whole last six months have gone since the President’s election, and
apparently Democrats no longer can tell when they make themselves look
untrustworthy and ridiculous.
5. Wrote James Robbins in USA Today:
Comey had been a dead man walking for some time. He was a director without a
constituency. He had tried to strike a balance in a sharply divided
political environment and wound up alienating both sides. He had to go….The
bottom line was that Comey repeatedly made himself the issue. His mandate
was to enforce the law fairly and impartially. Instead, he appeared time and
again to be gaming the system. A March poll showed that only 17% of
Americans had a favorable opinion of Comey.
This is also pretty obvious, shouldn’t surprise anyone, and reason all by
itself to fire Comey.
6. Trump’s letter firing Comey was unprofessionally snarky (or something),
with its “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate
occasions, that I am not under investigation..,” but that’s President Trump.
7. Was Comey in part a victim of circumstances beyond his control?
Absolutely. One major circumstance was Obama AG Loretta Lynch allowing Bill
Clinton to taint the entire Clinton e-mail investigation by meeting with her
right before the FBI’s conclusions were going to be announced. Comey was
also correct when he said that he literally could not make a “right”
decision regarding the newly discovered e-mails on Anthony Weiner’s laptop.
If he withheld the information until after the election and some bombshell
discovery was revealed, he would have been crucified. Nevertheless, nobody
trusted him, especially after he gave inaccurate information to Congress
last week. When nobody trusts the head of the FBI, he has to be fired.
8. If there is anything wrong with the firing, it is that it didn’t happen
months ago. But I have never heard of an act that everyone agrees should
have been done earlier being condemned when it finally happens.
9. Back to the Democrats now spinning this into something sinister: Have
they no decency at all? When does this contrived and desperate anti-Trump
slander and libel finally become so ridiculous that it is widely recognized
for the embarrassment that it is?
David Axelrod on Twitter: “Putin made a small investment that, tonight, has
paid off beyond his wildest dreams. His own “worm” in the heart of our
Louise Mensch on Twitter: Of course it isn’t over. I think Nixon tried the
David Frum on Twitter: “It’s a coup.”
Robbie Mook (Hillary’s campaign manager) on Twitter: “I was as disappointed
and frustrated as anyone at how the email investigation was handled. But
this terrifies me.”
Tim Kaine on Twitter : “Trump firing Comey shows how frightened the Admin is
over Russia investigation”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer: “Were these investigations getting too
close to home for the president?”
Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin: “Any attempt to stop or undermine this
FBI investigation would raise grave constitutional issues.”
This all would be really funny if it didn’t reveal the ethics rot in our
politics. Keep it up, everybody. The President firing an official you have
been assailing for six months, for allegedly illicitly affecting the 2016
election, is a threat to the democracy. I think you will find that the
American public isn’t a stupid as you think it is.
MAY 10, 2017 · 12:26 PM
More Ethics Observations On The Firing of FBI Director James Comey
It’s all this guy’s fault…
I have read the initial comments on the original post-–which I interrupted
my viewing of a Red Sox game to write, just so you know how dedicated I
am—had some additional thoughts and processed some new data. Here are some
1. The New York Times biased reporting is even worse than I thought. Today’s
print edition has a “Saturday Night Massacre” size headline screaming:
TRUMP FIRES COMEY AMID RUSSIA INQUIRY
This is deceit, and, as I noted before, yellow journalism. It is technically
accurate, but misleading and false anyway. Trump also fired Comey in May,
“amid” the North Korea crisis, and while the Orioles were playing the
Nationals. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Comey’s firing
had anything to do with the Russia investigation except this: Comey
thoroughly botched the last major investigation the FBI was engaged in.
The Times goes further, adding another above the fold story headlined, “The
President Lands a Punch, and Many Hear Echoes of Watergate.” Ah, the old
“many say/many hear/many think” ploy—an unethical journalism classic. Let’s
seed the unfair suspicion without taking responsibility for it! Hey, we didn’t
say we thought that, just that others do!
2. Many have noted that President Hillary would have fired Comey within
seconds of taking office, or as close to that as possible. This is
doubtlessly true. It is also true that Republicans would probably be
attacking her with as much fury and blatant hypocrisy as Democrats are
attacking the firing now.
But doing something unethical in an alternate universe is still not as
damning is doing it in this one.
3. I have been working on a “100 Days” overview of the ethics score since
President Trump took office. In general, it is both remarkable and
disturbing how closely the President’s actual performance tracks with my
expectations, as explained over the last two years. One aspect of this
mostly negative assessment that is undeniably positive, however is that
President Trump, unlike his predecessor, does not fear making decisions, and
makes them despite the amount of criticism he knows will be coming,
especially from the news media. (The previous President knew that he had
nothing to fear from the news media, since it was invested in making him
seem successful and wise even when he wasn’t.)
The firing of Comey is a perfect example, as was the decision to enforce,
belatedly, Obama’s “red line” in Syria.
4. Nowhere near enough focus has landed on Rod Rosenstein (left) , the
deputy attorney general who was only confirmed a couple of weeks ago ( April
25, 2017). Rosenstein is an impressive lawyer with a long, distinguished
record in both Democratic and Republican administrations, and authored the
“Memorandum to the Attorney General” on the subject of “Restoring Public
Confidence in the FBI.” This articulates the best reasons for firing Comey,
and any critic who argues that it made sense to keep him on is tasked with
rebutting Rosenstein’s brief. Good luck with that.
5. Rosenstein’s memo is remarkable in that it examines Comey from a
decidedly non-partisan viewpoint, criticizing, for example, his public
statement regarding the decision not to charge Hillary Clinton, a statement
that Democrats hated and the the GOP mostly loved, even though it did not
love the decision itself. Rosenstein wrote,
The Director was wrong to usurp the Attorney General’s authority on July 5,
2016 and announce his conclusion that the [Clinton email] case should be
closed without prosecution. It is not the function of the Director to make
such an announcement. At most, the Director should have said the FBI had
completed its investigation and presented its findings to federal
prosecutors. The Director now defends his decision by asserting he believed
Attorney General Loretta Lynch had a conflict. But the FBI Director is never
empowered to supplant federal prosecutors and assume command of the Justice
Department. There is a well-established process for other officials to step
in when a conflict requires the recusal of the Attorney General. On July 5,
however, the Director announced his views on the nation’s most sensitive
criminal investigation without the authorization of duly appointed Justice
5. There is speculation that the next FBI director will be tasked with
re-opening an investigation of Hillary. That would be terrible. Yes, I know
the arguments: if laws are to apply equally to all, then Clintons should not
constantly escape accountability. This consideration is far, far
outbalanced by the importance of avoiding an endless cycle of political
trials of vengeance aimed at slaking the blood-lust of either party’s most
radical base. Once we start that process, it never ends, except perhaps with
the Guillotine and a reign of terror.
6. Now Democrats are in a hard-fought contest to see who can go the farthest
in hysterical fear-mongering and dishonesty. Some of the early favorites
were noted in the last post, but I don’t know how anyone will beat Sen.
Brian Schatz (D-Ha), who tweeted,
Lots of justified confusion and outrage. We need to be prepared to come back
together, regardless of party, and take our democracy back…We are in a
full-fledged constitutional crisis.
What an irresponsible fool. He’s an idiot if he believes this, and cynically
encouraging civil unrest if he doesn’t.
7. Well this was inconvenient:
CNN exclusive: Grand jury subpoenas issued in FBI’s Russia investigation:
Federal prosecutors have issued grand jury subpoenas to associates of former
National Security Advisor Michael Flynn seeking business records, as part of
the ongoing probe of Russian meddling in last year’s election, according to
people familiar with the matter. CNN learned of the subpoenas hours before
President Donald Trump fired FBI director James Comey. The subpoenas
represent the first sign of a significant escalation of activity in the FBI’s
broader investigation begun last July into possible ties between Trump
campaign associates and Russia.
Boy, if firing Comey was supposed to kill the investigation, it sure didn’t
This illustrates the contrived nature of the news media’s Watergate
narrative. Nixon fired the special prosecutor, Archie Cox, whose integrity
and competence were beyond reproach. It took about ten days to appoint a new
one, buying Nixon time: teh Watergate hearings were going on, and John Dean
had alreday testified. There was substantive evidence of a scandal. Firing
Comey, in contrast, has no practical effect on the investigation at all
(which is about Russia, not Trump, as much as the anti-Trump media pretends
otherwise) except that Comey’s exit increases the (slight) likelihood that
the findings won’t be attacked as partisan once the investigation is
8. Finally, here’s the almost always sensible Ann Althouse’s critique (in
part) of the 538 essay, by Perry Bacon Jr, which asks, “Did the president
dump Comey for mishandling the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email, as
Trump and his team have said?…Or was Comey’s handling of the investigation
simply a pretense to fire an independent-minded director who was
investigating ties between Trump’s campaign and the Russians?”
…Perry Bacon Jr…. sees plenty of evidence that Comey indeed mishandled the
Clinton email investigation. But if that were the real reason, why didn’t
the firing occur months ago? Trump had the basis for firing Comey, but he
didn’t pull the trigger. He just kept it in reserve, so doesn’t that mean
that he knew he could justify firing Comey and he waited until something
else, something about him, not Clinton, made him want to be rid of the man?
The best answer to that is: Comey made a big mistake last week testifying
before Congress (when he said that Huma Abedin forwarded 1,000s of Hillary
emails to Anthony Weiner). Bacon’s response to that is hard to find. He
switches to talking about how Democrats are criticizing Trump for firing
Comey. But, of course, Democrats reflexively criticize Trump. They’re
calling him “Nixonian.” A Republican Senator said he was “troubled” and
another said there were “questions.”
Bacon speculates that “the American people” might not believe Trump, but
that’s why I’m reading this article, Mr. Bacon. I thought you were going to
answer the question why Trump did what he did, but now it seems you’re only
talking about whether people will believe Trump’s assertion.
Ann is right: the blogosphere and news media are bending over backwards to
avoid admitting that the President had plenty of good reasons to fire Comey,
and while working hard to keep suspicions flaming that the real reason was a
9. Comey was apparently ambushed by the news he had been fired, which
appeared on a screen behind him while he was addressing FBI employees. He
has been a loyal public servant, and did not deserve to be embarrassed like
You would think Donald Trump, of all people, would know the right way to