Shed no tears for James Comey. He was an inept and incompetent director of the FBI. He should have been fired long ago. But in the end, he was fired by the wrong man for the wrong reason.
Yes, Comey should have been fired by President Obama last Oct. 28 for violating all rules of the Justice Department by injecting the FBI into the heat of a presidential campaign – and doing so, it turned out, for no good reason.
Comey did, however, almost certainly change the course of history. As master statistician Nate Silver concluded, Comey’s Oct. 28 bombshell “might have shifted the race by 3 or 4 percentage points toward Donald Trump, swinging Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Florida to him, perhaps along with North Carolina and Arizona.”
Yet Obama didn’t fire Comey. Instead, Donald Trump did. And not for the reasons he gave. Trump didn’t fire Comey, as the White House claims, because he’d bungled the Clinton investigation. In fact, Trump praised Comey’s actions on Oct. 28 – “It took a lot of guts” – and he knows he wouldn’t be in the White House today without Comey’s help.
No, Trump fired Comey because he could feel him breathing down his neck. Isn’t it obvious? He knew the FBI was closing in on evidence that Trump associates, if not Trump himself, had colluded with Russian officials in rigging the 2016 election in Trump’s favor – and he wanted to get rid of Comey in order to shut down the investigation. As the New York Times concludes, “Mr. Comey was fired because he was leading an active investigation that could bring down a president.”
Just hours before Comey was fired, in fact, federal prosecutors had issued grand jury subpoenas for business records of Trump’s buddy former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. As reported exclusively by CNN, those subpoenas were “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.” Just days ago, in fact, Comey had asked the Justice Department for more money in order to step up the investigation.
In short, Trump could sense the noose was tightening. For weeks, he’d been frustrated that the Russian connection would not disappear from TV screens. Of course, he blamed the media but, most of all, he blamed Comey for keeping it alive. So he decided to fire Comey and then, as he reportedly told Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein to come up with good reasons for doing so.
Hence, the ludicrous rationale that Trump fired Comey because he was too mean to Hillary Clinton. Which is LOL given that candidate Trump himself called Clinton “guilty as hell” and led chants of “Lock Her Up!”
It’s not the first time Trump has used his power to silence a critic. He fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates for refusing to enforce his Muslim ban. He sacked U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara as he was undertaking an investigation of Trump’s multiple conflicts of interest. And now he’s axed James Comey for daring to investigate Trump’s Russian connection.
Nor is it the first time a president has fired the man leading an investigation into his administration. That was Richard Nixon’s big mistake in 1973, firing Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox. Now Donald Trump’s done the same thing, except worse, since Comey was confirmed by the Senate 93-1.
But no matter how Nixonian, Trump’s brazen abuse of power may ultimately succeed. In theory, there are three investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence officials. But in reality the House Intelligence Committee has collapsed; the Senate Intelligence Committee’s operating only part-time; with Comey’s departure, many question whether the FBI investigation will continue full-steam.
This underscores the urgency of the appointment of a special prosecutor to conduct an independent investigation of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian hackers. It’s the only way to get to the truth of what really happened.
And that decision is up to one man, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who alone has the authority to appoint a special prosecutor. Rosenstein must decide: Will we safeguard our electoral system? Or will we allow a rogue candidate and foreign adversary to steal an election? It’s a constitutional crisis like no other since Watergate. The integrity of America’s democracy hangs in the balance.