Trump Fires FBI Director Comey

from the you're-fired dept

So... not quite sure what to make of this yet, but according to the NY Times, just a little while ago, Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey (of course, just after our podcast came out talking about how Comey seemed to be hopeful the Trump administration would approve his encryption backdoor plans).

“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau,” Mr. Trump said in a letter dated Tuesday to Mr. Comey.

“It is essential that we find new leadership for the F.B.I. that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission,” Mr. Trump wrote.

The full letter is... even more crazy:

If you can't read that, it says:

Dear Director Comey:

I have received the attached letters from the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General of the United States recommending your dismissal as the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I have accepted their recommendation and you are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately.

While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgement of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.

It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission.

I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.

Donald J. Trump

I'm not sure why it even bothers to mention that Trump himself is not a target of an investigation (or that Comey told him that three times). It's already known that the wider administration is subject to an investigation, and even if you don't believe that such an investigation will turn up anything, it's still happening. At the very least, this should call into question whether or not there can effectively be any investigation into the administration that won't involve meddling by the administration. That alone should be a big concern.

I don't think we've ever said anything particularly supportive of Comey, who we've disagreed with on a large range of issues, but it's difficult to see how this is going to be a good thing. It's already been admitted that the FBI was investigating potential ties between Russia and the administration. Whether or not that investigation had anything at all to do with the firing, there's no way to spin this that looks good.

Yes, the President has the power to fire the head of the FBI... but when that FBI was conducting an independent investigation of the President, any such firing is clearly going to be seen as politically motivated. And, yes, it's important to note that this is NOT entirely unprecedented. President Clinton fired FBI director William Sessions soon after taking office as well, though there wasn't the stench of an FBI investigation into the President going around at the time. If anything, the comparison that seems slightly more apt that people are making is to Archibald Cox, the independent special prosecutor that Richard Nixon fired, leading to the resignations of the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General (contrast that to today's news, where it was those two roles who recommended this firing...).

Comey was not a particularly good FBI director, and we've covered numerous problems with his leadership. But that doesn't mean that whoever replaces him won't be even worse.

Filed Under: doj, donald trump, fbi, fired, investigation, james comey, jeff sessions


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  1. identicon
    Chuck, 10 May 2017 @ 6:28am

    Please Leave

    There's plenty to be said about this, but let's just get a couple obvious things out there, shall we?

    First, Comey should've been fired by no later than October 30th. The disclosure of the re-opened investigation was the SECOND time the FBI had violated their own policy of "we don't discuss ongoing investigations" and in both occasions, the violation was committed by a (public) letter to congress with Comey's own signature on the letter. If any other employee of the FBI had made such a flagrant, public violation of a policy the FBI has stuck to since literally the day they were formed, they would've been fired on the spot. No two weeks notice or anything. A good boss holds himself to the same standard as his employees, so Comey should've been fired last October, at the latest.

    Second, not only does the FBI not speak with the public about ongoing investigations, they CERTAINLY do NOT EVER, EVER, EVER speak to the TARGET of an investigation about it. The fact that Comey has told Trump yes or no, either way, that he's not under investigation is a violation of more rules, ethics, and basic common sense than I can easily count. It's not about whether or not Trump is under investigation. It's about the fact that Comey was so completely willing to violate even the basic rules that any local cop would know, just because it's his boss asking him the question.

    And third, the fact that Trump is so stupid he'd actually put this in writing is astounding. Trump is admitting that, on three separate occasions, one of two things happened: either Comey, completely unprompted, volunteered this information, or else, Trump asked. If he asked - and let's be honest here, odds are about 90% he asked at least once - Trump was violating both federal law and basic ethics.

    But then again, given how woefully unprepared he has been for even the most basic aspects of his new job, I'm not surprised. Let the next 3.5 years be a lesson to everyone: only an idiot thinks the skills that apply to the business world actually translate to governance.

    All that said, a couple responses to some of the comments above are in order.

    "... Comey ain't no conservative -- he's been a liberal Republican (RINO) most of his life, although he said in 2016 that he no longer has any formal party affiliation.
    Comey supported Republican liberals McCain and Romney for President. "Conservative" President Obama appointed Comey as FBI Director."

    This right here encapsulates everything that's wrong with the republican party. I feel for you. I've been a democrat since I was 10 (I'm 30 now) and I know exactly what it's like to have a party that's really made up of a half-dozen warring subfactions, all claiming to be the "true" Democratic party, whilst in reality, the truth is none of them are. It took Obama and the subsequent 2010 mid-terms for us to FINALLY get our s**t together, and sadly, while that was happening, your party did the opposite. In 50 years this'll be clear to you, but for now, just take my word on this: 2010 was the darkest year in Republican Party history because it's the year you lost your identity.

    As to Comey, the man is a conservative. Being open to at least hearing liberal ideas does not make one a liberal, it makes one a non-asshat. (I say the same about being a liberal who at least listens to and considers conservative ideas. I do. I agree with one or two of them, anyway.) The problem you have here is that what it means to be a Republican now is undefinable. There's the traditional, ever-since-post-dixie-crats Republicanism, then there's the Tea Party, and now the Alt-Right. Each of these is a different, and frankly, contradictory version of Republicanism. In fact, about the only things they have in common are being pro-corporate-profits and anti-environment. They differ on literally almost everything else. Before you start claiming Comey isn't a Republican, you should start by getting at least 80% of your voters on the same page as to which of these competing ideals is what Republicanism really is. (Of course, to do that, you'll have to kick some of these people out of your party, and we all know that means you'll lose elections, so this won't happen.)

    "In other news Obama said "you get politicians you deserve!" Something wise from Obama is not common. I am a little shocked, but not too much."

    We're talking about a guy who was a constitutional law professor for a decade. Wisdom was literally his job for several years. The fact that you're surprised by this is just sad.

    "So much for Trump being a Reagan-republican. In reality he is a Nixon-republican."

    In reality, he is a Non-Republican. See above for the problem with defining Republicanism, but Trump is none of the above. Trump is whatever he needs to be for the next 10 minutes in order to feel like he's the smartest person in the room (which he ONLY ever is when he's in a room with his supporters at a rally, hence why he keeps holding them even though the campaign is over.) Reagan publicly sold tax cuts to all, but quietly raised taxes on the rich. Nixon founded the EPA. Trump wants to cut taxes on the rich because it'll make him, personally, more money and appointed a guy to head the EPA who has spent the past 15 years trying to abolish it. Trump can't hold a candle to either Reagan or Nixon, and I say this as someone who doesn't hold either of those two in very high regard.

    Though, yes, he's rapidly approaching Nixonian levels of corruption.

    "The relevance of news about James Comey to Techdirt is explained in the first sentence. In the future, please finish reading the first sentence of the article before you comment."

    I don't have a response to this, just wanted to echo it. RTFA people.

    And...I'm done. In closing I'll just say this: if you came here to respond to this, and only this one article, and don't regularly read the articles here on Techdirt, please, please, for the love of science and sanity, please educate yourself on the core concepts and comment productively, and if you aren't willing to do that, then just LEAVE. I love this web site specifically BECAUSE it doesn't (usually) attract the crazies. Please do not ruin my one little sane corner of the internet. Thanks.

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