James Comey has joined a rather exclusive club: FBI directors who have been fired by the President of the United States. Up until yesterday, only one other director has held that distinction–William Sessions, who was fired by Bill Clinton back in 1993 when allegations were raised that Sessions had abused his office.
For those of you who were around in those days, you’ll recall that the Clinton administration–much like the Trump administration now–was dealing with its share of legal headaches that were being investigated by the FBI. In Clinton’s case, the trouble stemmed from a shady real estate deal known as Whitewater that happened when the future president was Arkansas attorney general in the late 70’s. The particulars of it were pretty convoluted, but it involved a fair sum of money, a collapsed savings & loan, shredded documents and culminated in the suicide of Clinton confidante Vince Foster. Sessions, a holdover from the previous Bush administration, was in the middle of investigating Whitewater when Bill Clinton fired him.
Republicans naturally howled over the move, and suggested that the firing had less to do Sessions’ wrongdoing and more to do with covering up Clinton’s. Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole even called it a “potentially worrisome precedent” that could put the FBI’s independence in doubt. If all that sounds familiar, it’s because Democrats are using almost exactly the same language to throw shade on President Trump’s decision to fire James Comey amid the FBI’s proble into supposed ties between members of the current administration and Russia. History is known for repeating itself, but rarely this verbatim.
So does the opposition have a point? Sure. In Bob Dole’s case, he was certainly correct to point out that the timing of Session’s firing looked bad. But it’s also true that politicians tend to cast the other guy’s actions in the worst possible light, while glossing over all the valid reasons that action was taken. There was credible evidence that Sessions had misused Bureau resources, which included billing the FBI for personal expenses–like a $10,000 fence around his house–and having agents act as personal chauffeurs for his wife. Sessions also had a key card made so that his wife, who did not have any clearance, could access his office without escort any time she liked. This was a flagrant violation of security protocols, and by itself was enough to get Sessions in a lot of trouble. Clinton was more than justified in firing him.
The same, however, goes for James Comey. Yes, the optics of firing him during an active probe into Russia/White House ties are pretty bad, and I would fully expect Democrats to seize on that–politics ain’t beanbag, after all. At the same time, there were plenty of valid reasons to sack Comey, chief among them the way he asserted the authority to not prosecute Hillary Clinton for mishandling classified information–a decision that was not his to make–and his bungling of the testimony he gave to Congress last week. Comey has undermined public faith in the FBI, and if I had to guess I would also say that he has lost the confidence of a lot of the FBI agents he was supposed to lead. It was President Trump’s prerogative to fire him, well within his authority–and justification.
What’s really stuning, though, is how quickly all of the pundits who called for Comey’s head last October after he reopened Hillary’s email investigation are now holding him up as a model public servant. As I recall, nobody in the media attempted such a radical transformation for Bill Sessions when he got the boot. They were just happy to see him fizzle, like so many of the bimbo eruptions that dogged Slick Willy on his way to the White House. But I would imagine that by the time the media are done with him, Comey will morph, chameleon-like, into whatever they need him to be–so long as they can use him to inflict maximum damage on Trump.
And if that means forgetting all about Hillary’s accusations that he cost her the election? Well, that’s just a price she’s going to have to pay, isn’t it? The narrative was only useful so long as it maintained the illusion of a stolen election, and distracted the Democrat rank-and-file from realizing how terrible a candidate Hillary really was. But if the Democrats think they have something better now, does anybody doubt they’ll sacrifice Hillary to get it?
If I were her, I’d start working on some new excuses. I have the feeling she’s going to need them.