Should Trump fire Mueller?

No. I don’t think he should. The hornet’s nest has already been sufficient stirred up, and we’ve already heard enough Watergate comparisons without replicating the “Saturday Night Massacre.”

But after James Comey’s testimony, there is a new argument for firing Mueller and handing the Russia hacking investigation back to the FBI and its new director. Newt Gingrich explains:

When asked Thursday by Senator Susan Collins of Maine whether he shared the memos he wrote about his conversations with President Trump with anyone outside the Department of Justice, Comey answered: “I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter – didn’t do it myself for a variety of reasons – but I asked him to, because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel.”

This statement is tremendously important because it completely delegitimizes Robert Mueller’s so-called independent investigation and reveals it as poisoned fruit.

I don’t see Comey’s actions as necessarily “delegitimizing” Mueller’s investigation, but the poisoned fruit analogy isn’t far off. Comey leaked the memos, arguably illegally (I may consider the legal issue in another post), for the purpose of creating pressure on the administration to appoint a special counsel. Without the leak, it’s quite possible that no such counsel would have been appointed.

Gingrich continues:

Think about it: Comey was the top law enforcement officer in the nation before he was fired on May 9. Had he felt a special counsel was necessary to investigate possible Russian influence in the 2016 election, he could have requested one from Congress at any time. If he felt his conversations with President Trump warranted additional attention, he could have approached Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about it.

But instead he decided to do nothing. Comey apparently didn’t think there was need for a special counsel until the Monday after he was fired, according to his testimony. In a clear act of retaliation, Comey went outside the system and shared secret information with the media via a college professor-friend, in a calculated attempt to inflict pain on the Trump Administration.

The main pain he wanted to inflict was a special counsel. That special counsel turned out to be Comey’s friend Robert Mueller.

During his testimony, Comey effusively praised Mueller several times. This may be another argument in favor of firing Mueller.

The counterargument, apart from the political problems another firing would cause, is that, regardless of how the memos became public, they suggest the need for an investigation headed by someone with as much independence from the president as possible (assuming the memos state the facts accurately). It’s a fair point.

But let’s put the matter of firing Mueller to one side. I find Comey’s leaking inexcusable, and think it undermines any claim that he is the fair-minded, above reproach figure he holds himself out as.

The memos were government documents. Comey removed them, quite possibly illegally.

He then had a third party do the leaking for him, undoubtedly in the hope that he would never be revealed as the real leaker. So much for Comey, the “stand up guy.”

As a friend has pointed out to me, Comey handled the matter with callous disregard for the impact of his behavior on the FBI, the agency he claims to revere. Why do I say this? Because allowing the memos to become public as he did would cause many people to believe that the leakers were high level FBI officials. This would tend to damage the reputation of the FBI and the FBI officials with whom Comey was associated.

If Comey did not understand this problem when he initially contacted the Columbia professor, he should have realized it immediately after the publication. At that point, rather than waiting for a hearing and allowing the reputation of the FBI and Comey’s FBI associates to be questioned, Comey should have acknowledged that he was the real source at the first opportunity.

That’s how a stand-up, beyond reproach guy would behave. Comey behaved like a creature of what President Trump likes to call “the swamp.”

So, no, Trump probably shouldn’t fire Robert Mueller. But we should take a dim view of Comey and a suspicious view of his good friend Mueller.

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