President Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director Comey has rightly led to questions about his motivations and judgment. We discuss that elsewhere. But President Obama’s failure to fire Director Comey is troubling, albeit for different reasons. Why didn’t President Obama fire Comey immediately after Comey’s initial conclusion of the Hillary investigation? Obama’s judgment was also poor. But we believe his primary motivation was something altogether different. It was just politics, pure and simple. And it’s yet another example of a President placing politics above the needs of the country.
Obama’s Failure to Fire Comey – It Was All About Politics
Comey’s July 5, 2016 public exoneration of Mrs. Clinton was exactly what President Obama and the Democratic Party wanted. It was what they needed. And the President ignored the incredible impropriety of Director Comey’s actions, his usurpation of prosecutorial powers from the Justice Department. Instead, by retaining Comey after his improper actions, President Obama rewarded Director Comey for a “job well done.” By contrast, a President who truly respected the law enforcement and judicial processes in the United States would have immediately fired Comey.
Rod Rosenstein’s Factual Analysis is Spot On
Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s May 9, 2017 memorandum to the Attorney General laid bare the proper analysis:
The director was wrong to usurp the Attorney General’s authority on July 5, 2016, and announce his conclusion that the case should be closed without prosecution. It is not the function of the Director to make such an announcement. At most, the Director should have said the FBI had completed its investigation and presented its findings to federal prosecutors. The Director now defends his decision by asserting that he believed attorney General Loretta Lynch had a conflict. But the FBI Director is never empowered to supplant federal prosecutors and assume command of the Justice Department. There is a well-established process for other officials to step in when a conflict requires the recusal of the Attorney General. On July 5, however, the Director announced his own conclusions about the nation’s most sensitive criminal investigation, without the authorization of duly appointed Justice Department leaders.
Compounding the error, the Director ignored another longstanding principle: we do not hold press conferences to release derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal investigation. Derogatory information sometimes is disclosed in the course of criminal investigations and prosecutions, but we never release it gratuitously. The Director laid out his version of the facts for the news media as if it were a closing argument, but without a trial. It is a textbook example of what federal prosecutors and agents are taught not to do.
Both President’s Failed
At the least, President Trump’s exercised poor judgment with the timing of his decision to fire Comey. Perhaps there is something more there – time will tell. But President Obama’s failure to fire Comey was due to a different type of lack of judgment. In his case, it was a simple political payback – the country be damned.