By Matthew Vadum
President Trump abruptly fired embattled FBI Director James B. Comey Jr. late yesterday afternoon for exceeding his authority during the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email abuses.
The long-overdue termination of Comey, who inappropriately injected himself and the FBI into political matters, came three-and-a-half years into his 10-year term. It was based on the recommendation of the Department of Justice and was effective immediately.
Comey’s firing is a reaffirmation of the importance of the rule of law. He was more powerful than an FBI director ever should be. As commentator Brit Hume observed, “For better or worse, no FBI director since J. Edgar Hoover had taken so large a role in the political life of this country as James Comey.”
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were intimidated and scared by Comey, Tucker Carlson editorialized on his Fox News Channel show.
Just how powerful was James Comey? Let’s it put this way: He was feared in a way that no appointed bureaucrat should ever be feared in a free society. Time and again elected lawmakers on both sides came on this show and expressed worry and concern about his behavior, but they did so only during commercial breaks with the cameras off. Why? Because they were terrified at the prospect of criticizing him in public. They certainly don’t have that fear of the sitting president of the United States and that tells you everything you need to know about Jim Comey.
After taking this necessary step towards draining the Washington swamp, Trump was upbeat, saying the FBI “is one of our nation’s most cherished and respected institutions and today will mark a new beginning for our crown jewel of law enforcement.”
Here is the text of the president’s letter informing Comey of his firing:
Dear Director Comey,
I have received the attached letters from the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General of the United States recommending your dismissal as Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I have accepted their recommendation and you are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately.
While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgement of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.
It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission.
I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.
The passage in Trump’s letter about being informed he was not under FBI investigation seems out of place. While not relevant to the subject of the letter, perhaps it was inserted to color media coverage of the news. It may constitute an “I told you so” in the eyes of Trump but it is odd and Trump’s critics will no doubt seize upon it.
The firing of Comey flows directly from of his discreditable, widely-criticized conduct of July 5, 2016.
On that day Comey acknowledged the massive body of evidence that was accumulating against then-candidate Hillary Clinton and described it at some length during a press conference. He also acknowledged the former secretary of state probably broke the law when she used hacker-friendly homebrew private email servers to conduct official business.
But after airing Clinton’s dirty laundry, Comey then declared Clinton was above the law as he gave her a pass. “Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.”
In what may have been a bizarre bid to salvage Clinton’s campaign, Comey said Clinton and her aides were “extremely careless” in their handling of classified documents but there was no evidence of criminal intent. He made this statement even though the relevant national security statute does not actually require intent: mishandling intelligence, even inadvertently, is enough to land people with less pull than Hillary has, in hot water.
After Comey inserted the criminal intent standard into the law, the next day then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch confirmed no charges would be laid against Hillary. Lynch had a clandestine meeting with former President Bill Clinton at a Phoenix airport a week before, raising suspicions of corrupt bargaining taking place.
These palace intrigues reportedly caused morale at the FBI to plummet, a fact Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein confirmed in a memo to Attorney General Jeff Sessions that preceded Comey’s firing.
Over the past year “the FBI’s reputation and credibility have suffered substantial damage, and it has affected the entire Department of Justice. That is deeply troubling to many Department employees and veterans, legislators and citizens.”
Rosenstein criticized Comey’s handling of the Clinton email probe. “I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken. Almost everyone agrees that the Director made serious mistakes; it is one of the few issues that unites people of diverse perspectives.”
Comey’s announced “conclusion that the case should be closed without prosecution” usurped Lynch’s authority as attorney general,” according to Rosenstein. “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.”
Comey later defended himself, saying he took action because he believed Lynch had a conflict of interest in the case. “But the FBI Director is never empowered to supplant prosecutors and assume command of the Justice Department,” Rosenstein wrote, adding that there was already “a well-established process for other officials to step in when a conflict requires the recusal of the Attorney General.”
Comey then made things worse by ignoring “another longstanding principle: we do not hold press conferences to release derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal investigation.”
Comey laid out “his version of the facts for the news media as if it were a closing argument, but without a trial. It is a textbook example of what federal prosecutors and agents are taught not to do.”
Democrats were outraged, as they always are when things don’t go their way. They had gotten into the habit of denouncing Comey regularly because they blame him in part for Hillary Clinton’s defeat. Just last week, Clinton blamed Comey for her loss in the November election.
“I was on the way to winning until the combination of Jim Comey’s letter on October 28 and Russian WikiLeaks raised doubts in the minds of people who were inclined to vote for me, but got scared off,” Clinton said at a Women for Women International event. The importance of October 28 to Clinton is it was the day Comey notified Congress the FBI had obtained a search warrant to look at thousands of Clinton’s work-related emails. Those emails, some of which contained classified information, had found their way onto an unauthorized computer.
But with the witch hunt in progress against Trump over alleged electoral collusion with Russia, Democrats held out hope Comey could be useful to their cause.
Last night Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) held a presser to urge Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein to appoint an independent, special prosecutor immediately to probe the Russia allegations. Attorney General Sessions cannot do so because he has recused himself in that investigation. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Trump’s principal tormentor on the House Intelligence Committee, accused the White House of “brazenly interfering” in the probe.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said, “Comey was not fired because of Hillary. Comey was fired because of the Russians.” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) huffed that the firing of Comey was “shocking” and “nothing less than Nixonian.” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) also alluded to Watergate. Matt Bennett, co-founder of Third Way, said there is now a “serious constitutional crisis.”
In March of this year, Comey publicly bought into the Left’s conspiracy theories about Russian President Vladimir Trump maneuvering to get Trump into the White House. He told a congressional committee the U.S. intelligence community believed Russia acted to help Trump and hurt Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton during the election cycle.
“They wanted to hurt our democracy, hurt her, help him,” he said.
Comey said it was “a fairly easy judgment” that Trump was Putin’s candidate in the U.S. presidential race. “Putin hated Secretary Clinton so much that the flip side of that coin was he had a clear preference for the person running against the person he hated so much.”
The FBI director didn’t bother to elaborate on his theory. Perhaps he thought Putin was bitter over the fact that Clinton’s Russian “reset” button in 2009 read “overcharged” because of a botched translation into the Russian language. Why Putin would harbor ill will against anyone in the Obama administration, which let him get away with so much mischief in the world, is unclear.
A catalyst for Comey’s sudden ouster may have been his weird, inaccurate testimony before a congressional committee last week.
Just yesterday the FBI corrected a sentence in Comey’s sworn testimony. Comey testified that the Muslim Brotherhood-connected senior Clinton aide Huma Abedin had sent “hundreds and thousands” of potentially sensitive government emails to the laptop computer of her husband, former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.). The FBI sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee asserting that only “a small number” of the thousands of emails found on that computer had been forwarded there. The bulk of the emails had been backed up from electronic devices, according to the agency.
At the same hearing Comey argued that he suffered to protect America. He said the thought that his actions may have affected the outcome of the election made him feel “mildly nauseous.”
“Lordy, has this been painful,” he said. “I’ve gotten all kinds of rocks thrown at me and this has been really hard, but I think I’ve done the right thing at each turn.”
Joe diGenova, former U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, panned Comey’s congressional performance.
His testimony last week before the Senate was viewed by many as so bizarre, so self-indulgent, so self-righteous, that that many people believed he had really lost it and could no longer effectively function as the leader of the FBI and they were absolutely correct.