Firing on Comey

In the spirit of William F. Buckley, Jr., herewith a few thoughts briefly stated on President Trump’s firing of James Comey as FBI Director.

I usually try to sleep on significant developments before commenting on them. In this case I have slept on it over two nights. At this point I would like to go back to bed until it’s safe to come out to play.

We await the definitive account of the reasons behind President Trump’s firing of Comey. It is reasonable to doubt that the reasons proffered in the Rosenstein memo prompted the termination. It would be a mistake to take them at face value without more. Even so, one can reasonably conclude (as many Democrats and Republicans believed) that Comey’s termination was warranted. If so, Trump’s termination of Comey was proper if not desirable.

The media hysteria over Comey’s firing is almost unbelievable. It is certainly insufferable. The media are like five-year-olds whose crying upsets each other until it reaches a crescendo of wailing and lamentation. The hysteria of the media, however, is not without point. It amplifies the talking points of the Democratic Party protesting Comey’s firing, which Democrats were of course more or less demanding up until Trump pulled the trigger. As for the Democrats, hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to opportunism.

In firing Comey, Trump exercised his unquestioned constitutional prerogative as president. How this can be converted into a “constitutional crisis” or a “coup” — as both the Democrats and their media adjunct assert — is a mystery beyond rational explanation. As in all earthly matters, they believe because it is absurd.

The theme that Trump fired Comey to impede or shut down the investigation of his campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia is simply stupid. In harping on it, the Democrats and their media adjunct seek to exploit the ignorance and gullibility of the public. The FBI investigation continues. If there is a there there, the FBI will discover it. If there is no there there, the Democrats will continue to harp on it.

Knowledgeable men whose judgment I greatly respect such as Andy McCarthy and Bill Otis testify to Comey’s character and integrity. I can only speak to my own impressions deriving from his public statements. Comey seems to me a man suffused with a sense of his own righteousness. Putting the issues raised by the Rosenstein memo to one side, I find that Comey’s July 5 performance in the matter of Hillary Clinton difficult to square with his belief in his own rectitude.

As Andy McCarthy has repeatedly pointed out, Comey presided over a bizarre criminal investigation of Clinton’s possible misconduct in the use of a private server for her conduct of official business. Witnesses were allowed to act as attorneys. Evidence was destroyed. The crimes inherent in Clinton’s misconduct were patent.

Comey’s July 5, 2016, press conference laid out the factual predicate of the case against her and then absolved her based on her alleged lack of criminal intent or mens rea. One of the pertinent criminal statutes expressly omits the element of specific intent, however, and Comey in any event omitted any acknowledgment of the massive circumstantial evidence supporting the existence of mens rea. I find the theatrical qualities of the investigation and the internal contradictions of Comey’s public performance to be difficult to square with Comey’s reputation for probity.

Comey’s anomalous role in the case of Hillary’s email derived from Bill Clinton’s meeting on the tarmac in Phoenix on June 27 with Attorney General Loretta Lynch as the FBI investigation was reaching its conclusion. Absent the meeting, Comey would never have been in a position to hold his July 5 press conference, yet the same outcome would have obtained. Hillary Clinton was never going to be prosecuted by Obama’s Department of Justice (and the Department of Justice was the institution where the legal authority resided). Much as I appreciated the case that Comey laid out against Clinton in his press conference, that is one truth that Comey wouldn’t tell.

One can’t be happy with the manner of Comey’s termination. I think Trump should have asked for Comey’s resignation in the traditional manner and would have served himself better had he done so.

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