DeBella: Why Trump Fired Comey

James Comey alongside President Trump’s former acting Attorney General Sally Yates in 2016. (Public domain photo by the FBI.)

For only the second time in history, the director of the FBI has been fired from his position. On Tuesday, President Trump’s team released a letter from Mr. Trump to now-former FBI Director James Comey informing him of his termination.

Within this letter Mr. Trump stated, “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.”

Greg Gutfeld of Fox News’ 9 P.M. show “The Five” accurately equated Trump’s statement to an, “it’s not you, it’s me” breakup line.

Democrats, such as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., suggested that President Trump’s actions were an attempt to disrupt the current FBI investigation into Russia’s involvement in the recent American Presidential election and that country’s possible ties to members of the Trump campaign team.

Schumer called Mr. Trump’s firing of Comey a “big mistake.” However, Senator Schumer’s recent sentiments appear to be in direct contradiction to his statements from November of 2016 when Mr. Schumer expressed that he did “not have confidence in [Comey] any longer.”

This criticism was in response to Mr. Comey’s decision to reopen the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private server upon the discovery of possible new evidence. Typical partisan politics at its finest.  

While skepticism of Mr. Trump’s actions are understandable considering the timing of this dismissal, to suggest that the absence of James Comey will cause the FBI’s Russia investigation to cease simply isn’t accurate.

The professionals who work at the FBI will continue their day to day investigative tasks despite changes at the very top of the organization. This is one of the reasons why we have various levels of leadership in organizations, deputy directors, vice presidents, etc.—so that the functions of an organization will continue as normal in the presence of a disruption within leadership at the top.

So, if firing the FBI director will not stop an ongoing investigation, what other reason could President Trump have for choosing to fire the FBI director at this moment in time?

On May 9, 2017, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein sent a memo to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which was also released to President Trump, in which Rosenstein indirectly recommends the dismissal of FBI Director Comey.

In Mr. Rosenstein’s memo, he cited Mr. Comey’s mishandling of the Clinton email investigation and the lack of recognition that Mr. Comey had regarding this mishandling. Many had criticized James Comey for publicly offering a recommendation to prosecutors regarding whether or not charges should be brought against Hillary Clinton upon the FBI email investigation.

These arguably inappropriate actions by James Comey likely planted the initial seeds of doubt into Mr. Trump’s mind. Then, the deputy attorney general’s recommendation seemed to solidify the President’s decision, as James Comey was fired the same day that Mr. Trump received this recommendation.

In addition to Mr. Comey’s handling of the Clinton email investigation and Mr. Rosenstein’s recommendation, events that transpired last week could have also been a contributing factor in the president’s decision.

Last week in James Comey’s testimony on Capitol Hill he stated that Huma Abedin (Hillary Clinton’s top aide) “forwarded hundreds and thousands” of emails to her husband, Anthony Weiner’s, laptop that contained classified information.

The FBI had to later correct Mr. Comey’s statements by clarifying that only a “small number” of relevant emails had been forwarded from Huma Abedin to her husband, with only two of those messages containing classified information. It is likely that this misstatement in his testimony further contributed to the lack of faith in Mr. Comey as the FBI director.

While it appears that there are many factors that contributed to the President’s decision to fire the director of the FBI, James Comey, Democrats nonetheless are touting their belief of Mr. Trump having ulterior motives.

However, it must not be forgotten that only a short time ago these same Democrats were expressing their own dissatisfaction with Mr. Comey. While the timing of the director’s dismissal does offer them a politically expedient opportunity to make this claim of corruption, it simply is not the most likely reality.

Since the Russian investigation is not likely to cease simply upon Comey’s dismissal, the most likely scenario is that Comey’s mishandling of the Clinton email investigation, recent inaccurate testimony on Capitol Hill, compounded with the recommendation for dismissal from the deputy attorney general all contributed to a decision by the president to relieve James Comey of his position as FBI director.

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