Guest Opinion: Comey firing was unusually timed and rather harsh

You have to admit it was odd.

Yes, President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey [“Trump axes FBI’s Comey in midst of Russia probe,” Associated Press article, May 10] was odd, too, at least, as to its timing. That’s not what I’m talking about, at least, not exactly.

Reid K. Beveridge

What was odd, and the thing the president cited, was Comey’s press conference last July to announce he would “not indict” Hillary Clinton for using her unsecured, personally owned e-mail server, for classified State Department data. In fact, no matter how much Comey defends it, most of his actions around the Clinton investigation were odd.

What also is interesting to watch is the head-snapping, whiplash-inducing, head-exploding reactions of Washington politicians, both Democrat and Republican. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who last month praised Associate Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein as a man of superb integrity, now wants to [appoint a] special prosecutor to look into Rosenstein’s recommendation that Comey be fired. You figure.

President Trump, of course, was widely known before he ran for office for his reality TV show where he was featured for saying “You’re fired.” Further, Mr. Trump is a businessman, and businessmen fire people sometimes.

Many Washington insiders praised Comey for his integrity and dedication to FBI goals. Probably true. However, leaks from inside the FBI suggest that Comey was perpetuating some investigations that might well have been wound up months ago. They cite, among others, the investigation of Trump allies with the Russians and Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Now, we know quite a bit for sure. We know that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn talked with the Russian ambassador to the United State a month or so after the election. Not quite sure why that’s wrong, other than Flynn then lying about it to Vice President Mike Pence. That was very wrong.

We know that several of Mr. Trump’s informal advisers had business ties with Russians. One was his earlier campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. He did business with the Ukrainians and others. The FBI got a wiretap order for Carter Paige’s telephone. Just as clearly, he was doing some kind of business with the Russians. Not clear why this was wrong; it might have been, but maybe not.

We know that there was a “dossier” floating around Washington beginning last summer that purportedly suggested various improper actions by Trump involving the Russians. It is unclear whether this was put together by a former British intelligence operative or whether it was put together by the CIA in order to show President Trump what might be falsely said about him. In any event, none of the things the dossier asserted was ever proved true, or ever verified as true.

So, given all that, what have we here? What we have, it seems, is at least two things. The first is the odd and unusual timing of President Trump’s decision, and the rather harsh way in which it is was carried out. “You are terminated, effective immediately” is not, to put it mildly, the way dismissals are usually handled at the highest levels of government or politics. Usually, those being terminated are offered the opportunity to “resign for personal reasons.” And they do. Almost everyone who works at the higher levels in Washington understands that they work at the pleasure of the boss, and that they get gone when that’s in the interests of that boss.

More apparent, in this case, is Comey’s various testimonies to the several congressional committees looking into one thing or another. My journalistic colleagues may think it is wonderful that Comey is so candid about the FBI’s various investigations. However, it is highly unusual, and some way quite improper, for the FBI director or anyone else in the Justice Department to comment so candidly and publicly about the Clinton investigation. And it was not Comey’s job to “decide” whether to prosecute Mrs. Clinton in the first place.

For one thing, the FBI doesn’t indict anyone. Or prosecute anyone. The FBI investigates and collects evidence to turn over to the Justice Department. Prosecutors, read that “the attorney general” in famous cases, decide whether to present it to a grand jury. Only a grand jury indicts.

Then, there was last week. In commenting on the mini-investigation last October into the transfer of e-mails from Clinton aide Huma Abedin to her husband’s laptop, Comey called it “hundreds, thousands.” Turned out it was a handful, and they weren’t classified until after the fact. FBI directors shouldn’t make this kind of mistake. In fact, they can’t be allowed to.

This may be the end of Jim Comey’s governmental career, but it’s hardly the end of his life. He’ll probably write a book, though he won’t get $65 million for it like Barack Obama. Comey is a lawyer, and some big firm will be glad to hire him and pay him plenty.

Do not weep for Jim Comey (with apologies to Andrew Lloyd Weber).

EDITOR’S NOTE: Reid K. Beveridge has covered politics in Texas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Delaware and Washington, D.C. He is now retired at Broadkill Beach.

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