Trump had good reasons to fire Comey

So, you don’t fire someone who’s investigating you. Really?

Following that logic, any FBI director need only open a public investigation of the president and he is assured absolute job security for four to eight years, no matter how incompetent, indiscreet and self-aggrandizing that director might be?

James Comey was fired for gross misconduct, period. He was fired for speaking in public when he shouldn’t. He didn’t just let indiscretions slip, he indulged in shameless grandstanding. That’s both sufficient and compelling cause, no matter that he was leading an investigation that might involve the president.

As Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, recently confirmed 96-4 by the Senate, wrote in his letter recommending Comey’s firing to President Trump, an FBI director should never speak publicly. The FBI is purely an investigative unit. It turns evidence over to prosecutors who decide whether to prosecute, and those prosecutors speak publicly only if and when indictments are filed publicly in court. If there’s no evidence of a crime, or if prosecutors decide there’s insufficient evidence to prosecute successfully, they say nothing.

Nothing is said unless charges are filed in order to preserve our tradition of presuming innocence. Merely saying someone is under investigation can damage someone's reputation. That's why FBI directors and the police don't comment on ongoing investigations.

Comey should have been fired by Barack Obama last July after Comey, having earlier confirmed Hillary Clinton was under investigation, held his inexcusable press conference exonerating her in the email scandal and “closing” the investigation. That wasn’t his job. While Attorney General Loretta Lynch had recused herself, any one of several deputy attorneys general could and should have stepped into the role of deciding how to handle the case.

Donald Trump should have fired Comey on his inauguration day. It is fair to criticize President Trump for waiting almost four months. But better late than never, which can’t be said of Obama, who, as a lawyer, should have known proper legal protocol.

Now, the present outrage of Democrats is especially rich. Each and every one of them would have fired Comey on November 9 for having cost Hillary Clinton the election with his “October surprise,” the eleventh hour re-opening and closing of the Clinton email investigation. Another egregious instance of doing in public what must be done in private. Now that Trump has reprised his TV role and shot off a “You’re fired,” Democrats are making him out to be the villain for doing the very same thing that they’d have done.

Indeed, remember when lame duck Democrat Senate Leader Harry Reid accused Comey not just of breaching legal protocol, but of violating the Hatch Act, which forbids federal employees doing anything which might influence the outcome of an election? Of course, that’s long forgotten, but Reid was right – certainly about the impact of Comey’s action, if not the intent.

Now, to the Russia investigation. The Democrats and most of the media would have us believe that the investigation has been completely derailed. What, no one else works at the FBI? Comey was singlehandedly conducting the investigation? Obviously, there’s a large team working on it and it will and should continue.

If Donald Trump was involved, or knew of his close aides involvement, in Russian efforts to swing the election his way, the American people should know and appropriate action should be taken. By the same token, if not, then the president should be cleared. Should a special prosecutor be named, or some independent panel formed? That was as a much a question last week as it is this week. Comey’s departure is irrelevant on that score.

Moreover, a new FBI director will be subject to Senate confirmation. While Republicans have the votes to confirm anyone, it takes a real bonehead to think that the Senate GOP is a monolith that slavishly follows President Trump’s every directive. Sen. John McCain, the un-hero in Donald Trump’s telling, isn’t going to rubber stamp anyone for this president. Name any GOP senator who would.

Did President Trump fire Comey in a graceless fashion? Absolutely. However, on the substance, the firing was long overdue.

Red Jahncke is president of Townsend Group International, a business consultancy in Connecticut, and a freelance columnist who writes on public policy issues.


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