James Comey certainly didn’t do his reputation any good when, during the presidential campaign, the FBI director spotlighted (and apparently exaggerated) Hillary Clinton’s emails and went back and forth on the gravity of the issue.
But no one, not even the most savvy Washington insiders and elected officials, could have imagined that President Trump would have fired the director over his handling and mishandling of the email issue. It seems a nonsensical — and convenient — line of logic for the president to use.
Comey, after all, is part of an investigation into possible ties between the Russians and an attempt to manipulate the 2016 election in Trump’s favor. His firing opens Trump to charges that he got rid of the director to disrupt (as this most surely will) the investigation.
North Carolina’s Sen. Richard Burr, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Comey’s firing “further confuses an already difficult investigation by the committee.” It’s encouraging that Burr was quick to criticize the move, but he’s apparently not supporting the idea of a special prosecutor, which is needed.
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Trump has made a huge mistake here, showing his inexperience, his selfishness, his ineptitude and his obliviousness to the importance of his decisions in the eyes of the world, the country and the Congress.
Some members of Congress have it right: At this point, an independent special prosecutor must be appointed to carry out the Russia-campaign investigation. There is no other way, not even with the appointment of Andrew McCabe as acting FBI director. He is a veteran of the agency who seems well-qualified.
This may not have been another “Saturday Night Massacre,” the desperation move of President Richard Nixon to manipulate the firing of a special prosecutor and then having an attorney general and a deputy attorney general resign in defiance. But Trump handled the matter as clumsily as it could have been handled: Comey, who recently testified before Congress on the Russian probe, found out he had been fired through television news. And then he and others heard Trump’s explanation, that it was all about Comey’s handling of the email issue.
This, from a president who encouraged cheers of “Lock her up!” on the campaign trail and praised Comey for his raising of the email issue.
This may be the most bizarre moment in the early days of a presidency marked by many of them.
But the presidency is not a circus. The United States has grave issues to face, from North Korea to terrorism to internal division to specific domestic issues such as health care and immigration. This kind of diversion — particularly in a White House with a short attention span — is potentially damaging to the conduct of more important business.
A special prosecutor must be named, and quickly.