WHY OBAMA SHOULD FIRE COMEY*: Comey himself makes clear that he either does not understand what a law enforcement cover-up IS, or he knows what it is but acted out of fear that others may not. That’s a profoundly dangerous message to law enforcement and prosecutors nationwide. As well as to the public.
According to senior F.B.I. officials, Mr. Comey felt that he would be breaking his pledge of transparency to Congress if he did not reveal the new information from the Weiner case. And he believed that the bureau would be accused of suppressing details to benefit Mrs. Clinton — an accusation that he believed could do lasting damage to the F.B.I.’s credibility.
— 10 Questions (and Answers) About New Email Trove, Michael S. Schmidt and Matt Apuzzo, New York Times, yesterday
As it stands, we now have real-time, raw-take transparency taken to its illogical limit, a kind of reality TV of federal criminal investigation. Perhaps worst of all, it is happening on the eve of a presidential election. It is antithetical to the interests of justice, putting a thumb on the scale of this election and damaging our democracy.
— James Comey is Damaging Our Democracy, Jamie Gorelick and Larry Thompson, Washington Post, yesterday
You know what is the scariest and most absurd part of Comey’s offered reasons? That he was afraid he would be accused of a cover-up.
Please understand, he’s saying one of two things: Either he himself thinks that not releasing raw information learned through a search warrant, the significance of which his agency does not yet know because it needs a new search warrant to learn more, amounts to a cover-up. Or he himself knows it does not, but is so cowed by the prospect that some political forces will erroneously call it that, that he releases raw information learned through a search warrant.
That alone should cause Obama to fire him. Does Comey also think it’s a cover-up to withhold from the public information learned through grand jury testimony? Does he think that OTHER law enforcement agencies should announce to the public raw information learned through a search warrant?
And does this definition of cover-up apply only just before an election, to information about a candidate? He did say, after all–stunningly; this IS the FBI director, remember–that his very purpose was to “inform” the public about new, utterly raw information about a candidate (for president, no less) obtained through law enforcement policy powers.
Where exactly does he think this use of police investigatory power ends?
I think Obama needs to make clear that it ends well before where Comey has now said it ends. And he needs to do that NOW, not after the election.
Something about informing the public before the election. As Comey himself would say.
In this instance, though, it would be about informing both the public and law enforcement and prosecutors’ offices around the country that, the FBI director’s statement and actions notwithstanding, the law does forbid the use of raw investigatory information obtained through search warrants, grand jury testimony and other means, with the exception of information contained in police reports and in indictments and other court papers available to the public.
Comey has seven years remaining on his 10-year term, but the president can fire him for cause. Anyone who thinks that statement of his does not constitute cause does not understand the significance of what Comey actually said.
Obama rarely explains things; that’s been a huge problem throughout his presidency and is a large part of the reason for the Democrats’ massive midterm electoral losses, in 2010 and 2014. But this should not be hard to explain, because it’s just not very complicated. He can quote this:
Actually, the idea that materials gathered in a governmental investigation resolved without prosecution should, in the name of transparency, be made known in summary form when relevant for the guidance of voters is quite frightening.
– Comey’s mistaken quest for transparency, Donald B. Ayer, Washington Post, yesterday
Donald B. Ayer, the post states under his byline, served as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California, principal deputy solicitor general and deputy attorney general under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
Comey does not understand the fundamental nature of police and prosecutorial investigatory powers, either in and of itself or in that public misunderstandings of it should itself alter fundamental nature of police and prosecutorial investigatory powers. He has misinformed the public, police and prosecutors about this. This misinformation should not be allowed to stand.
It doesn’t matter whether the misinformation is because Comey is dismayingly weak or instead just stupidyingly stupid. We need him gone, and his instruction on police and prosecutorial informational obligations corrected. This is profoundly serious stuff.
* UPDATED: Reader J.Goowin posted this in the Comments thread:
October 31, 2016 10:48 am
President Obama probably should not fire the director of the FBI for cause just before the election in reaction to the director’s apparent political efforts. Even asking for his resignation before the election is probably a bad political move.
He’ll certainly be packing up his desk the day after the election though.
Upon reconsideration, I agree that given how very close we are to the election, Obama should just wait until afterward to fire Comey. But for the reasons I discussed in this post, Obama should fire him shortly after the election, and explain exactly why.
This post’s title originally was: WHY OBAMA SHOULD FIRE COMEY, NOW. It no longer says “Now.”
Updated 10/31 at 12:15 p.m.