The timing was extremely suspect. Trump’s bizarre termination letter was beyond troubling. Reports that the administration first decided to oust Comey and then searched for a plausible reason to do so did nothing to instill faith that we will find transparency in any of the investigations swirling around the President. However, at the center of it all is a reasonable man that provided an excellent case for why Comey had to go.
Late Tuesday afternoon, we learned from Sean Spicer that FBI Director James Comey had been terminated. Spicer’s press release stated that the termination came “based on the clear recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.”
Subsequently, Jeff Sessions’ recommendation letter was severely lacking in detail. Saying “a fresh start is needed at the leadership of the FBI” and that “[t]he Director of the FBI must be someone who follows faithfully the rules and principles of the Department of Justice and sets the right example for our law enforcement,” was simply a way of saying that Comey was fired for not playing along with the President’s attempts to whitewash any wrongdoing by the administration.
However, also included with the President’s termination letter to Comey was a memorandum prepared by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Rosenstein brings up that he “could not defend the Director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails.” Rosenstein goes on to say that Comey overstepped the bounds of his office and was wrong to announce, “his own conclusions about the nation’s most sensitive criminal investigation, without the authorization of duly appointed Justice Department leaders.” Rosenstein went on to say:
“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.”
Prior to his appointment, Rosenstein was the longest-serving US attorney. He held highly-regarded positions under both Bush presidencies, as well as in the Clinton and Obama administrations. Rosenstein has investigated the Whitewater scandal, leaks of classified information under Eric Holder, and corruption by police officers in Baltimore. The point is, Rosenstein should be a trusted figure, standing out among a cacophony of liars in political posts.
Two weeks ago, the Senate confirmed Rod Rosenstein to the Deputy Attorney General post with a 94-6 vote. Then, just hours before the news broke that Comey was relieved of duty, former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates said that she had confidence in Rosenstein as he leads the investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible illegal ties to the Russian government.
In his letter, Rosenstein was right; James Comey had abused his authority and could no longer earn the trust of Congressional members seeking answers in a complex investigation. Likewise, the American people could no longer be assured of a fair and impartial investigation if Comey continued in his role as Director of the FBI. Simply put, the administration, based on Rosenstein’s recommendations, was absolutely correct in terminating Comey. The American people deserved far more than what we were being served by James Comey and we are better off now that his is gone.
That said, there is a stench emitting from the Trump administration that cannot be ignored. We know that Donald Trump values positive media coverage and craves ratings points on TV. So it is extremely easy to see that Trump fired Comey when he did in order to distract from Sally Yates’ crushing testimony earlier Tuesday. You can also see straight through Trump’s widely publicized letter to Comey:
“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgement of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”
It is obvious that the letter was not intended as a message to James Comey. Instead, it was meant for the media and the public in general. There is nothing more shameful for the President than using the sacking of the FBI Director to assure the American people that an active investigation into the Trump campaign does not actually involve Trump.
Further, to insist that Comey’s ouster was not politically motivated and that it had nothing to do with the ongoing “Russiagate” probe is ridiculous. While there are many important issues to focus on, like health care, tax reform, and the media’s love affair with Trump’s war porn, the President’s actions surrounding the investigation are deplorable.
To this point, The Ring of Fire’s position was that the Russian probe should be investigated, but ultimately hysteria over the matter would merely lead to disappointment. The prevailing thought was that overwhelming media coverage merely distracted from how terrible Hillary Clinton’s campaign was and drew attention away from the Trump administration’s worst policy moves. However, the Trump administration’s constant interference raises significant concern.
Sure, it is still certainly possible that all of this will blow over and we’ll find that the only culpable party in this whole mess was Michael Flynn. However, it is increasingly obvious that regardless of how insignificant any original wrongdoing might have been, President Trump’s actions surrounding the case must be dealt with impartially and with the full weight of the law.
To echo Sally Yates’ vote of confidence, there is a great reason to trust that Rod Rosenstein will be the perfect person to carry out such a daunting task, whether he appoints a special investigator or not. However, it is now imperative that President Trump’s odd dismissal of James Comey be a key factor in determining wrongdoing within the administration.