“The most powerful person in Washington”

That’s what Eli Lake calls James Comey. Why? Because with the FBI’s investigation of alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, Comey “will in a practical sense determine the legitimacy of our elected president.”

When President Trump, just a few days after taking office, decided to retain Comey as FBI director, I questioned whether this was a good decision from Trump’s perspective:

Comey, independent and stubborn as hell, has been a thorn in the side of the last two presidents. Trump’s presidency is likely to be at least as bumpy as his immediate predecessors’. Thus, from his perspective, Comey is hardly the ideal Director.

Trump’s interests and the American interest are not necessarily the same here. But I question whether, from the standpoint of the national interest, Comey is the right person to run a high-stakes investigation of Trump.

I’m more a fan of Comey than a critic, but let’s face it — he brings plenty of baggage to the Trump investigation. Democrats say he helped Trump win the election by announcing the reopening of an investigation of Hillary Clinton he had recently closed — and would soon close again. Subconsciously, therefore, he may incline towards erring on the side of being tough on Trump.

I hope I’m not being unfair to Comey when I say that during the election, it seemed like he was trying to balance the score sheet, so to speak, in the Clinton investigation. In an unusual measure, he publicly laid out the evidence against Clinton, but declined to recommend prosecution. Then he announced the reopening of the investigation, but just before the election announced that it was being re-closed.

If Comey was trying to strike a balance last year, he may subconsciously try to rebalance things in his investigation of alleged coordination between Team Trump and the Russians. I’m not saying he will. I’m saying we’d be better off if we didn’t have to contemplate this possibility.

We’d be better off if the FBI investigation were in the hands of someone without James Comey’s history — someone who hasn’t been under the strain of highly charged, politics-related investigations for several years. We’d be better off if Comey were not “the most powerful man in Washington.”

However, Trump made the decision to retain Comey who, in many ways, is an exemplary public servant. As a matter of politics, it’s too late to sack Comey, and I believe having Comey lead the investigation is better than turning it over to a “special prosecutor.”


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