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Comey Fired

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New Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein recommended that FBI Director James Comey be dismissed, and the Attorney General and the President have accepted that recommendation.  Christine Wang reports for CNBC:

In a memorandum titled "Restoring public confidence in the FBI," Rosenstein said he couldn't defend Comey's handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails.

"The Director was wrong to usurp the Attorney General's authority on July 5, 2016, and announce his conclusion that the case should be closed without prosecution. It is not the function of the Director to make such an announcement," the deputy attorney general said.

Last summer, Comey said "no charges are appropriate" in the FBI's investigation of Clinton.

"Although there is evidence of potential violations regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case," he said in July.

Rosenstein said that the dismissed FBI director compounded the error when he "ignored another longstanding principle: we do not hold press conferences to release derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal investigation."

Update: Finally found the full text across the pond at the Independent in London.

20 Comments

Rosenstein (an at-will political appointee of Trump who reports to another political appointee, Sessions) after only 13 days in office, is quick to criticize Comey's handling of the Clinton email scandal. But he doesn't have the patience to await for the (presumably 100% apolitical) DOJ Inspector General's report regarding the same matter.

This smells bad to me. Real bad.

Regardless of smell, do you believe on the merits that Comey's handling, and public statements about, the Clinton email investigation were correct? Because I have heard, from both Republicans and Democrats, that they were anything but correct.

P.S. EVERY Deputy Attorney General is a political appointee.

I believe that Comey was between a rock and a hard place. And through no fault of his own. He was pulled into the political tornado of Trump v. Clinton. And, I believe, he did his best to navigate that tumultuous path in an objective and fair manner.

His July statements were warranted in light of the narrow exception to the DOJ's no public comment policy. This is especially true in light of Bill Clinton's supposedly unplanned (right!) meeting with Lynch on the tarmac in Arizona.

Under these unique and bizarre circumstances, I believe he was justified in his belief that the independence of the DOJ was compromised on the Clinton email investigation. And it was, therefore, his reasonable and ethical perogative to make the public comments he did as the spokesman for the FBI.

With respect to his October letter to a congressional commitee, I believe he did the right thing. He had promised in prior testimony to let them know if the Clinton email investigation was re-opened. And that's what his letter did. He didn't divulge the confidential letter to the public. It was leaked for political purposes.

Perhaps, as I suggested previously on this blog, he should have provided the committee with a confidential oral briefing on the re-opened investigation (instead of providing a letter that it was reasonable to expect would be leaked in the heat of the election). That might have better assured that his briefing would remain confidenial. But I am not going to Monday Morning Quaterback his high-pressure decision.

Bottom line: I believe that Comey is a man of utmost integrity and honesty who, at worst, had a minor lapse of judgment. And for Trump (via Rosenstein and Sessions) to twist and spin Comey's words and acts into unethical, unreasonable, conduct warranting his termination, when Comey was leading an indpendent, apolitical, investigation into the Trump-Russia connection (if any) is, in my apolitical mind, very disturbing.

I respect, but disagree with, your well-reasoned point of view.

I don't question that Mr. Comey is a man of integrity who found himself in a very difficult position. But the high offices are not like civil service. It's not a question of "good cause" or "fairness." It's a question of what is best for the country and its government. People lose offices for reasons that are not their fault. That is life in the fast lane. I think it is best that the FBI have a new leader.

There is no bad smell here.

It is perfectly reasonable to come to the view that the no comment policy on investigations should be inviolate.

The real problem--Hillary's server nonsense wasn't investigated with any sort of vigor--I mean, really, giving Cheryl Mills immunity? So Comey tried to split the baby, and sometimes, the baby cannot be split--i.e., it's better to have the baby go to the wrong mother than split in half. Once Comey went down the road of that BS nonsense re: criminal intent, he was obliged to go whole hog. That is a reasonable view, and the "smells bad" is an unprincipled insult to Mr. Rosenstein.

Rosenstein served as U.S. Attorney for Maryland for all of President Obama's eight years. Were he a political animal, he would have been removed in a heartbeat. James Comey made himself and the FBI a political force. Nobody did this to him. There are two narratives about how career FBI agents felt about his dismissal. One is that reporters interviewed an agent in a field office who said he/she cried when it was announced and that he was wonderful and everyone was sad. The other is that when he held a press conference and laid out a clear case for the prosecution of Hillary, then announced that no prosecutor would charge her with a crime, senior FBI officials from department heads on down, knew he was lying. It was absolutely a political move and the damage to the FBI had been done. He should have been dismissed the next day. It doesn't matter who the Attorney General was, it was not his job to go public and make the call. Why did Trump wait to make the call yesterday? Because Rosenstein, who was confirmed 94-6 two weeks ago, clearly understood the damage Comey had caused and could make the recommendation without being tarred a political operative (except by the extreme wacko left).

To all commenters:

Using only your common sense, gut instinct, what, based on the totality of the circumstances, do you believe was Trump's motivation to fire Comey?

"Why did Trump wait to make the call yesterday? Because Rosenstein, who was confirmed 94-6 two weeks ago, clearly understood the damage Comey had caused and could make the recommendation without being tarred a political operative (except by the extreme wacko left)."

BINGO!

The problem with this BINGO theory is that Rosenstein never made a "recommendation" regarding Comey's fate in his memo to Sessions.

In fact, it is now being reported that Rosenstein is angered by the fact that Trump (apparently without Rosenstein's assent) used Rosenstein's memo as the pretextual basis for Comey's firing.

It is also being reported that Rosenstein was angered at Trump's antics in using him as the fall guy. And he threatened to resign.

Rosenstein now has a huge decision: Will he appoint a special prosecutor?

If the recent reports are accurate and Rosenstein has the integrity that has been attributed to him during his 27 years at DOJ, I suspect he will do the right thing, even if he becomes the next perceived traitor on Trump's Hit List.

As I said previously: This whole think stinks, Big Time!

I believe I'll let Mr. Rosenstein speak for himself.

Maybe it was due to the Russia investigation--seriously, so what? It's painfully obvious that the outgoing Administration abused its surveillance powers, and it's also painfully obvious that there is almost certainly no Manchurian candidate type issue. Compare Comey's money requests with the kid gloves treatment of Hillary's obvious wrong-doing--I mean, seriously, immunity to Cheryl Mills.

Hillary wanted to get around the Federal Records Act and put US secrets and assets at risk AND violated the law. Comey offered up some extremely weak sauce about why it wasn't a crime.

Bill can defend the guy, and I respect Bill's judgment, but the whole lot of them, if not for their place in society, would be behind bars. Comey had a huge hand in that, and in my view, he has contributed to yet another hit to the "rule of law" in this country, and coupled with his zeal to pursue the Russia stuff is startling. It's somewhat personal to me, since I recall the abject focus I had when I had custody of merely Secret material, and I was a 25 year old military officer. One slip-up in documenting destruction (even if the document was, in fact, destroyed) would have likely gotten me non-judicial punishment--something that would have impacted my career choices for the rest of my life.

No one thinks Trump coordinated the hacks into the DNC or Podesta's emails. No one thinks anyone high up in the campaign did either.

There doesn't appear to be any there there.

And paul, I don't recall you getting bent out of shape about Obama's bullying of IGs, the Fast and Furious lies or anything else. If I were Trump, I would have done the same thing.

Lawfareblog has an interesting take on the problems with the impossible position Sessions and Trump placed Rosenstein in and the flaws with his response:

https://www.lawfareblog.com/rod-rosenstein-pulls-comey

Facing demands from Sessions and Trump, he second guessed the IG investigation and produced a rushed report that they used to justify their desire to fire Comey for political reasons.

The moral of the story for Comey and Rosenstein is this: Prosecutors who won't steadfastly resist the intense political pressure that GOP officeholders and conservative media place on them to yield to their whims will find their integrity and reputations ground up in the process.

If Comey hadn't been so terrified of potential criticism from Chaffetz and Congressional Republican in late October, he'd have his job now and he wouldn't have flipped the election to the man who fired him.

1. You lambaste Rosenstein for being cowardly in finding that Comey should be let go, while disputing on the merits, or even mentioning, not a single one of the conclusions that led Rosenstein to that view.

Far out!

2. "If Comey hadn't been so terrified of potential criticism from Chaffetz and Congressional Republican in late October, he'd have his job now and he wouldn't have flipped the election to the man who fired him."

That statement is so full of dubious assumptions and conclusions that I'm not even going to start.

federalist,

Thank you for your military service. I have always believed that the Constitution should have required that to be eligible to the Commander-in-Chief you must have served honorably in the military -- something that I will admit I have never done.

But despite your honorable service to our nation, I respectfully disagree with your attempt to categorize me as simply a political hack because I hold very strong views on the actions and words of our current president. I am certain that if you, as a young military officer, had said or did the things that he has said and done, repeatedly, your military career would have been short-lived.

I fully supported the IG's inquiry into F&F. Just like I fully support the IG's inquiry into Comey's handling of the Clinton e-mail scandal -- a nonpartisan independent investigation that was improperly ignored by Trump's directive to Sessions and, in turn, Rosenstein to give him pretextual reasons to fire Comey.

But, as the linked article points out, Trump's desire (as a "CEO president" or as a "wannabe strongman") to eliminate a person who he percieves as "disloyal" or as an "enemy" (choose your own descripition) might come back to bite him in the a!@.

Only time will tell if my perception of Trump or your perception of him is accurate.

http://www.lawfareblog.com/spotlight-shifts-doj-inspector-general

5/11 @ 8:40 commenter: Alternatively, if he had privately made the correct recommendation to Attorney General Lynch last July -- that Mrs. Clinton was clearly guilty under the mens rea requirement of the statute and should be prosecuted -- then the election would have come out the same and he would still have his job.

Please identify yourself with a "handle." Real name is not required.

Decencyevolves: Kent, so say conservative partisans and crowds howling "Lock her up" at Trump rallies. Given the respective "oversight" that the current House of Representatives provides to Democratic and Republican Administrations, I find it increasingly difficult to take the pronouncements of GOP partisans on this subject at all seriously. Certainly many commentators disagree with your analysis, which of course, has been a favorite on Fox News:

http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-pol-clinton-email-legal-analysis-20160705-snap-story.html

Yup. People disagree.

For the record, I have never attended a Trump rally nor hollered "Lock her up."

I have, however, been responsible for the protection of classified information, a responsibility that as a mere captain I took one helluva a lot more seriously than Mrs. Clinton did as the senior member of the Cabinet, responsible for vastly more important secrets.

You, like any commentator, are entitled to your opinion. Mr. Comey had his own, which apparently didn't jibe with yours. He is a more seasoned prosecutor and he spent significantly more time and energy and had access to much more information than you did in formulating your opinion. You don't second guess prosecutorial decisionmaking much in your professional life and don't approve very much of those who do. Still, the political consequences of doing so are different here, since a prosecution might have acheived a desirable political result.

I recall the current President threatening to prosecute and lock up his opponent during a televised debate. As with so much of what has happened In the past year, there was a disturbing third world quality to that moment. This happens in other countries--families of Presidents cashing in on deals with foreigners, leaders firing those investigating their Administrations, candidates threatening to jail each other. Our democracy feels at risk to me. The most disheartening aspect of it is the willingness of the GOP to look the other way.

"The most disheartening aspect of it is the willingness of the GOP to look the other way."

I suspect that the vast majority of GOPers who are looking the other way know that Trump is, as Kent has aptly stated on previous occassions, a vulgarian, if not an outright liar and embarrasment to America. But they are willing, at least for now, to turn a blind eye to his outrageous acts and words because he is a useful tool to accomplish their long-term policy objectives that they believe (rightly or wrongly) were trashed by 8 years of Obama.

These goals include, but are not limited to:

(1) tax/healthcare reform (designed to redistribute wealth -- that they beleive Obama policies transfered from the rich to the poor -- from the poor back to the rich);

(2) correcting Obama's perceived hostility to law and order, corporations, gun owners and the right to life movement;

(3) packing the lower federal courts with judges who they believe will be more "conservative" and adhere to originalism; and, perhaps most importantly (at least to some commenters on this blog),

(4) ensuring that Justice Kennedy (whose retirement is allegedly going to occur in the near future) and/or Justice Ginsburg (who may not be able physically to hang on much longer) is/are replaced with a justice(s) who will move the Court to the right for many, many, decades to come.

I am sure in the privacy of his home when his wife asks Paul "What do really think about Trump?," Ryan's response is not flattering. But that's beside the point. The GOPers have to ensure that Trump (and his signing pen) survives, at least until they get most, if not all, of their goals accomplished. If they reach that point, Trump will be as dispensable to them as people who he believes are disloyal/enemies are to Trump.

P.S. The Dems had the same blind eye to many things that Obama said and did that most reasonable persons believed were contrary to the rule of law and the Constitution. But I don't believe Obama's level of sheer vileness, ignorance, incompetance, and desire for unchecked power was anywhere near Trump's. Trump's is simply off the charts. But, as I said, he is a useful tool/fool.

Oh, yes, politics is a disgusting game. And getting more disgusting every day.

Comey's opinion was that Mrs. Clinton had indeed violated the statute but that as a matter of prosecutorial discretion he should impose a higher level of mens rea than the statute requires. I don't recall denigrating anyone for questioning prosecutorial decision making in that area or anything close to it.

A candidate threatening to prosecute his opponent in a debate was indeed an uncomfortable thing to see, but given the context that the opponent was clearly guilty of a felony offense against national security -- one that I or any of my colleagues would surely have been court-martialed for during my laboratory days -- the blame for that falls primarily on the opponent.

It is also worth noting that the Justice Department under Attorney General Sessions has not, in fact, prosecuted Mrs. Clinton for this crime. They let her get away with it. That is probably the right thing to do, much like Lincoln's amnesty after the Civil War. The divisiveness of the prosecution outweighs the need to seek justice.

I'm not going to respond to any of the off-topic matters in the last two comments.

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