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Ethics & Religion
Column #1,863
May 11, 2017
Comey Fired for Wrong Reasons
By Mike McManus

 

Perhaps I am the only columnist who called last week for the firing of FBI Director James Comey before Trump did so. But he was fired for the wrong reasons, which could halt the crucial investigation into the Trump-Russia connection. Trump could appoint a new FBI Director who won't embarrass the President.

Comey conducted two investigations one regarding Clinton's emails, and the other about whether Trump's staff worked with Russians to defeat Clinton. Normally, FBI investigations are secret, and only become public if charges are to be filed.

However, Comey made two major public statements about Clinton - one in July when he said some emails contained classified information that was "extremely careless," but not prosecutable. Then on October 28, only 11 days before the election, he announced he had discovered more emails that needed investigation. Clinton's poll numbers immediately fell 3%, from which she never recovered.

However, Comey also began an investigation in July into the possible collusion between members of Trump's campaign staff and top Russians. He found many connections. The Democratic National Committee's computer was hacked apparently by Russians, as was the computer of her campaign manager. Thousands of emails were published by Wikileaks, undermining her credibility.

However, Comey did not announce his investigation into the Trump-Russian connection until March - months after the election. His silence helped Trump defeat Clinton.

I charged that "in both cases, Comey should have remained silent - or gone public about both well before the election."

He put two thumbs on the scale to hurt Clinton and none to hurt Trump. That is manifestly unfair, and a role the FBI has never taken before. The FBI has always been neutral with regard to elections.

That's why Comey deserved to be fired.

However, the reasons given for the firing of Comey make no sense. Rod Rosenstein, Deputy Attorney General, said Comey's statement on July 5, 2016 announcing the case should be closed without prosecution, should never have released "derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal investigation," which he called "a textbook example of what federal prosecutors and agents are taught not to do."

This criticism was endorsed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who said the Director of the FBI must be someone who follows faithfully the rules and principles of the Department of Justice."

Three questions: If Comey's treatment of Clinton was so unfair, why didn't President Obama fire Comey? That might have helped Hillary win the election.

Second, why did Trump praise Comey for reopening the investigation into Clinton's emails a few days before the election? He said, "It brought back his reputation. It took a lot of guts" for him to decide the agency should review new evidence. Comey helped throw the election which delighted Trump.

Finally, if Trump felt Comey had undermined "public trust and confidence" in the agency, why didn't he fire the Attorney General on his first day in office? Clearly, he was grateful - until Comey announced his investigation into the Trump-Russia collusion in March.

As The New York Times put it, "Mr. Comey was fired because he was leading an active investigation that could bring down a president...So far, the scandal has engulfed Paul Manafort, one of Mr. Trump's campaign managers; Roger Stone, a longtime confidant; Carter Page, one of the campaign's early foreign policy advisers; Michael Flynn, who was forced out as national security adviser; and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recused himself."

However, Sessions ignored his own pledge to recuse himself in signing the letter urging Trump to "remove Director James B. Comey, Jr."

Trump hopes to appoint a milquetoast as FBI Director. As Trump said on Monday, "The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax. When will this taxpayer funded charade end?"
However, the President is not above the law. He may have temporarily crippled the FBI's credibility to carry out an investigation of him and his staff, many of whom were getting big bucks from Russia.

However, Republican Senators such as Lindsey Graham, John McCain and even Richard Burr, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee - are now agreeing with Democrats that there is a need for a Special Prosecutor.

America lived through a similar painful era of the Saturday Night Massacre in October, 1973 when President Nixon ordered the firing of the Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox investigating Watergate. Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus resigned rather than fire him.

Ultimately, Cox was fired. But Nixon was forced to resign.

Trump has not learned that history lesson.

____________________________________
Copyright (c) 2017 Michael J. McManus, President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist. For previous columns go to  www.ethicsandreligion.org. Hit Search for any topic.

 

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