President Donald Trump removed Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey from his post Tuesday afternoon.
Mr. Comey had come under fire in recent months for his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails and the subsequent probe into potential foreign influence in the election of Mr. Trump. Calls for his firing had come from all sides of the political spectrum and though Comey likely had good intentions, his choices helped shape the political landscape at critical moments.
Removing Mr. Comey wasn’t necessarily the wrong thing to do. It’s just the wrong person removed him.
Though the FBI was investigating Trump and his administration, he was still within his power to fire the agency’s director. But why do that? And why now? It’s possible Comey was close to proving Trump knowingly aided in the manipulation of last year’s election. It’s also possible that the ties to Russia aren’t there, or they’re exaggerated, and a sociopath saw an opportunity to evoke controversy and so took it. Maybe Mr. Trump just saw it as an opportunity to promote someone within his circle to a plum position. Maybe the entire administration is tone deaf and made an insanely incompetent move. The first two possibilities could potentially result in his removal from office. Not one of the four is a good look.
Barack Obama never seriously considered removing Comey from the position to which he had appointed him several years prior. Mr. Obama realized the potential impact and made known his displeasure, but didn’t fire him. Perhaps he should have, knowing what we know now, and shouldered the political heat. But it still seems like the right call in spite of Comey’s removal Tuesday.
President Trump did what his predecessor did not, calling to mind the only other time a commander in chief terminated the head of the FBI (fun fact: noted choir boy Bill Clinton holds that honor, and Richard Nixon earns an honorable mention for ordering the firing of the special prosecutor charged with investigating Watergate). He should have let Comey and his team finish out the investigation uninterrupted. Instead, his crass and callous decision has become the most recent in a less-than-stellar few months full of them.
Anything less than a level-headed, respected man or woman with at least a little bipartisan support being named director of the FBI is unacceptable, but likely. Whether this is another smokescreen to repress something more sinister or a head of state delighting in the confusion of his political enemies remains to be seen.