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6 Quick Takeaways From Trump’s Firing Of FBI Director Comey


President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday, at the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Here are a few things to keep in mind regarding that decision.

1) Comey Was Not Good at His Job

Precisely no one can argue with a straight face that Comey did a good job at the FBI, particularly in the last year. While the Democrats have only themselves to blame for nominating a presidential candidate under FBI investigation, Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information left much to be desired.

In part because Attorney General Loretta Lynch was caught secretly meeting with Clinton’s husband, Comey held a public press conference to talk about his recommendation regarding the investigation. He then proceeded to brutally condemn Clinton for her mishandling of classified information that violated the law while also recommending she not be prosecuted. His justification for failing to uphold the rule of law was to invent a non-legal standard of “intent” then declare that, inexplicably, Clinton had failed to meet that standard. His encroachment on the prerogatives of DOJ prosecutors was a grave miscarriage of justice.

He then violated the norms regarding secrecy during investigations by promising Congress he would provide an update if anything reopened the investigation. When investigators found thousands of Clinton emails on Anthony Weiner’s computer shortly before the election, he was forced to notify Congress.

When he realized how politicized the Justice Department was, he should have spoken out and said there was a problem. He didn’t do that. He did what it took to keep his job. Then, when he was effectively put in charge of the investigation, he had an opportunity to uphold the rule of law, but he again didn’t have the courage to do the right thing.

His most recent testimony regarding letting Huma Abedin get away with mishandling classified information was also problematic, and showed how his failures with Clinton had secondary effects.

He appears to have been duped by a shoddy dossier, presenting it to the president-elect, which legitimized it in the eyes of the journalists who were leaked the meeting’s occurrence. He apparently tried to pay the Democratic opposition researcher to continue his efforts, despite the shoddy product. And he may have signed off on a FISA warrant request based on the dossier.

As my husband said of Comey’s practices in the last year, “It’s like he kept on trying to split the baby in two and just kept hacking it to pieces.”

2) The Firing Was Done from a Position of Strength

While at some point in the last year nearly everyone in DC has called for Comey to be fired, some Trump critics questioned the timing of Trump’s decision. The White House says Rosenstein, who recommended the firing in a detailed letter, had only been at the department for two weeks.

Public opinion against Comey had continued to grow, with a March poll showing only 17 percent of registered voters had a favorable view of Comey. As the poll director put it:

“Even in 1953, the height of McCarthyism, Gallup had 78 percent saying J. Edgar Hoover, Jr. was doing a good job and only 2 percent a poor job,” said Harvard-Harris Poll co-director Mark Penn. “Comey’s ratings, which are two-to-one negative, suggest a crisis of confidence in his leadership as top law enforcement officer.”

Some conservatives had recommended Trump delay the firing. In National Review‘s February 6, 2017, issue, the editors wrote, “At this point, Comey has lost the trust of nearly everyone in Washington and undermined the credibility of the Bureau. Trump may not want to dismiss him immediately for fear of validating the Democratic narrative about the elections — in which case he should wait a decent interval.”

The delay helped in that much of the NeverTrump movement in the Republican Party has come around to either a friendly or non-antagonistic relationship with Trump. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s immediate response to the firing was, “I believe a fresh start will serve the FBI and the nation well.”

While the more unhinged elements of the anti-Trump crowd, both in the media and on the Left, are clinging to their hope that Trump will have been found to have coordinated with Russia in its hacking of the Democratic National Committee emails, most adults have realized that there’s not a lot of “there” to the Russia investigation, and likely not much beyond what is already known about Trump associates Carter Page, Paul Manafort, and Mike Flynn.

The hopes for impeachment-level activity are fervent on the Left, but at least insofar as the Russia investigation is concerned, if there were something significant to it, the ever-leaking intelligence community probably would have gotten it out. The FBI leaks so much that as soon as Comey was fired, word got out via leak, of course, about a grand jury subpoenaing Flynn associates. If they had something meaningful on Russia, instead of the non-breaking news that Trump makes some bad personnel decisions and some of Trump’s associates are bad at decision-making, they probably would have let the world know months ago.

3) It’s Reasonably Not Just the Clinton Probe

The reasoning Rosenstein lays out in his letter is airtight. And it’s a good and convincing read. Comey’s failures in the investigation of Hillary Clinton are more than sufficient grounds for firing, but observers are reasonably suspicious that Trump, of all people, would fire an FBI director because the latter had been unfair to her. Even on self-interested grounds, though, Comey’s failures in that probe don’t speak well of his ability to handle further investigations. And his politicization of the agency is widely known and corrosive to its mission.

He’s repeatedly suggested that he’s failed to investigate the leaks coming from the FBI. He’s under heat from Sen. Chuck Grassley for misjudgments related to the shoddy dossier that was used by the FBI despite its fatal flaws.

Despite the media’s daily efforts to push a narrative of treason by Trump and his associates, the investigation of Trump’s supposed ties to Russia has been mostly fact-free and highly manipulated. Whatever has been breathlessly reported as part of a leak campaign has turned out to be mostly sound and fury, signifying nothing, a far cry from collusion and treason. Democratic efforts to secure a special prosecutor make sense not because of any actual evidence of collusion with Russia, but because a fishing expedition with subpoena power would be fun for critics to play with.

4) Democrats Have Been Begging for This, Only to Denounce It

Far too many people in politics are hypocrites. Democrats loved Comey and Republicans hated him in July. Then each team switched sides in October. For months, then, Democrats have been saying they lost confidence in Comey, felt he had violated the Hatch Act, and should be fired.

Harry Reid and other prominent Democrats accused him of violating federal laws. Roughly 1,000 headlines just last week blared that Clinton “blamed Comey” for her loss in November.

Yet as soon as Trump fired Comey, the narrative flipped to a strong defense of Comey and a claim that firing him was unacceptable.

While it is possible that critics of Trump truly thought Comey was corrupt and should be fired, but not in the precise way that Trump fired him, that’s a difficult argument to sell to the American people.

5) This Is Not a Coup. Get a Hold of Yourself

Speaking of people losing their ever-living minds, David Frum tweeted the following:

A coup is defined as “a sudden, violent, and illegal seizure of power from a government.”

Trump fired someone who worked for him. He fired someone in whom people in both major political parties had lost confidence. Even if you disagree with the prudence of said firing, that is not a coup. It’s only a coup if you believe that elected representatives should have less authority than bureaucrats.

Anyone is welcome to believe that this firing was unwise, and to make the case for that, but it’s wise to make that case calmly. Here’s an example of someone claiming that Comey getting fired for mishandling an investigation was a world-altering event of doom:

CNN media reporter Dylan Byers was extremely, extremely excited by Toobin’s partisan commentary:

One wonders if people in newsrooms have any idea how such hysteria comes off to others, serving only to whip people into frenzies or cause them to tune it out completely.

On the bright side, Politico quickly ran an article asking scholars whether the president firing someone who works for him is a constitutional crisis. Most people responded reasonably.

If Trump replaces Comey with a corrupt individual, that would be cause for concern. But firing someone who was bad at his job is at least arguably not an existential crisis, all due respect to Toobin.

6) Investigations Will Continue

Frum fleshed out his claim into a conspiracy theory essay about Comey being fired because he knew too much, or something. Toobin also stated, without any evidence, that Comey was fired because the investigation was “Getting Too Close for Comfort.” The New York Times editorial page, bless their hearts, opined that “Mr. Comey was fired because he was leading an active investigation that could bring down a president.”

In the real world, of course, there is no indication Comey was fired because he’s on target over some massive revelation or conspiracy.

Media commentators worried about the investigations seem to think that Comey was personally leading an investigation of Trump, rather than the bureau investigating Trump associates and any potential ties with Russia. Comey wasn’t personally leading that investigation, but the agency performing the investigations. As such, those investigations will continue. In fact, they will continue with less of the politicization and problems they had a day ago.