Former FBI Director James Comey is a bit of a unique character in DC’s political vaudeville show. Hired with bi-partisan support, he leaves his DC perch with nary a political friend in sight. Comey broke FBI rules and precedent with his infamous “careless-Hillary-isn’t-a-crook” press conference.
President Obama should have fired him that day.
Of course, democrats cheered Comey that July day, after he systematically laid out the legal case against Mrs. Clinton, and then fumbled the explanation why he did not hand off the prosecutorial decision to the Department of Justice. Republicans, conservatives, and actual lawyers fumed at Comey’s incorrect and improper legal conclusion.
On October 28, 2016, Comey “re-opened” the case against Hillary with a broad and shocking public revelation about finding additional e-mails on another device, that of her aide’s husband. Trump supporters went wild, and Democrats were furious. In fact, after Hillary lost, and to this day, the Democrats vacillate between blaming Clinton’s loss on racism, sexism, the Russians, and of course, Comey.
By the weekend before the election, Comey had re-cleared Mrs. Clinton … again infuriating republicans and again breaking with the role and precedent of an FBI director.
President Obama still had not fired him.
President Trump didn’t fire Comey either when he first took office. By early March, however, Trump and Comey were at each other over Trump’s assertion that the Obama administration had been spying on him. I even called for a special prosecutor into the entire mess.
Last week, Mr. Comey was back on Capitol Hill testifying again. During that testimony, he mischaracterized the facts and circumstances of Huma Abedin’s misuse of classified information. How bad was the misrepresentation? The FBI publically corrected Comey in a statement this past Tuesday.
That same day, Rod Rosenstein, the newly sworn in and confirmed Deputy Attorney General of the Department of Justice, the man to whom Comey reports, wrote his boss, the Attorney General, recommending that Comey be fired. Rosenstein, a man who enjoyed broad, bi-partisan support, set out the clear reasons for his recommendation.
President Trump accepted that recommendation, and did the job that President Obama refused to do. He fired an FBI director who had turned the office of the Director, and by extension, the entire FBI, into a political police force.
Mr. Obama didn’t fire Comey in July because Mr. Obama received from Comey the political result he wanted when Comey refused to recommend prosecution of Hillary Clinton on facts and law that any reasonable prosecutor would have brought to a grand jury. Comey, a lawyer, ironically, abandoned his role as chief investigator to take on a role of making a prosecutorial decision, one for which he was neither hired nor was he well-suited to make. Loretta Lynch and Obama hung him out to dry in order to take their finger prints off the dirty, political decision not to prosecute.
In return for his political loyalty, and in-spite of his gross breach of rules, ethics, and protocol, Obama kept Comey in place.
After that, Comey went rogue. Under heat, under pressure, and feeling the burn of being used politically, Comey attempted to restore his “credibility” with an equally ill-advised move to re-insert himself into the election. He caused complete upheaval when he declared the investigation into Clinton re-opened. This public comment and letter, he claimed, fulfilled an obligation he undertook in sworn testimony to keep Congress appraised of any development related to the e-mail scandal.
In Comey’s lawyerly mind, he was both living up to an obligation, and acting with the highest ethical standards irrespective of the timing and politics. Deep down in secret places he doesn’t like to talk about, Comey thought he was standing above the fray, and that people would see him as the ultimate arbiter of fairness.
Comey forgot that such public statements, without a charging document, are exactly why the FBI doesn’t insert itself into the public eye on investigations, let alone political matters, absent a prosecution.
Any reasonable FBI director would have known that.
After Hillary lost, Mr. Obama didn’t fire Comey again. Why? It would have looked like a politically motivated payback for the damage done to his candidate. For Mr. Obama, he was now in coast and legacy protection mode. Firing Comey might have been the right thing to do, but it was not right politically. So, we still had Mr. Comey, who Mr. Obama should have fired on July 6, 2016.
Along comes Mr. Trump. Why didn’t he fire Mr. Comey? First, I think President Trump saw firing Comey as an unnecessary political act given that all of Comey’s missteps took place on Mr. Obama’s watch. In addition, Trump was mired in this story about Russiagate, and even team Trump recognized that firing Comey as a first order of business looked bad poltically. That was probably a good instinct.
Now, Democrats who were screaming for Comey’s head are screaming about the timing and motive for firing Comey.
Truth be told, Comey’s latest gaffe and misrepresentation could not be ignored, and given his history, it demanded action. Second, Mr. Trump finally has his AG in place, and the AG has his second in command in place, to whom Mr. Comey reports. Mr. Rosenstein had seen enough long before this, and he would have rightfully fired Comey, as he indicated, for the Hillary e-mail scandal disaster.
Rod Rosenstein is exactly the type of non-partisan, no nonsense broker hired to evaluate these issues. Trump was right to take his recommendation.
Democrats are now gnashing teeth and breaking out false, phony, politically motivated “Nixionian” references to the Comey firing. They wanted this guy’s head since Clinton lost. That’s how jacked up out political situation has become. It’s all bad political theater, but at least Trump fired the lead actor in this FBI drama.
The FBI needs non-partisan, non-political, leadership. Mr. Comey couldn’t provide that. He proved it over, and over, and over again.
For Mr. Trump, the challenge will be to find a unicorn. He needs a national figure, bipartisan, powerful, respected, and capable of leading the very professional FBI. He has only a few possible choices, and none of them should be politicos like Christie, Giuliani, Sheriff Clarke, or even the very capable Trey Gowdy.
The right choice for the new FBI Director is Raymond Kelly.
Kelly has served republicans and democrats. He’s a cop’s cop and an FBI outsider. He was police commissioner of New York longer than anyone else. He ran the toughest cops in the biggest city, and he restored law and order. He has worked with the FBI on high profile terror issues, and he has proven, in the harsh light of NY media, that he understands both how to administer a large, credible police force, and how to be the public face of such a force. He is well known to and well regarded by both President Trump and Senator Schumer.
Any reasonable President would pick Mr. Kelly, a chief cop on whom any reasonable prosecutor can always rely.
Author: Richard Kelsey
Richard Kelsey is the Editor-in-Chief of Committed Conservative.
He is a trial Attorney and author of the new book on higher education, “Of Serfs and Lords: Why College Tuition is Creating a Debtor Class”
Rich is a former Assistant Law School Dean and Law Professor. At Mason Law Kelsey conceived of, planned, and brought to fruition Mason’s Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property, known as CPIP, drawing on his expertise as a former CEO of a technology company specializing in combating cyber-fraud.
Before returning to private practice, Rich taught legal writing and analysis and an advanced litigation seminar. In 2014 he was elected by the graduating class as the faculty speaker at their graduation.
He is a regular commentator on legal and political issues in print, radio and on TV. Rich has appeared on hundreds of stations as a legal expert or political commentator. He provided the legal analysis for all stages of the Bob McDonnell trial and appeal for numerous outlets including NPR and WMAL.
Rich also writes on occasion for the American Spectator and CNSNews.com.
In his free time, Rich is part of the baseball mafia of Northern Virginia, serving on numerous boards and as a little league and travel baseball coach.
His Twitter handle is @richkelsey.