Well, it’s good to know I got something right last year in all that prose about the presidential campaign, including some sentences written six days before the election:
Who will be the new FBI director? James Comey has seven years remaining in his ten-year term at the top of the agency. But there are serious doubts that he can survive the tumult unleashed, in both political parties, from his cryptic disclosure, with only days remaining before Election Day, that his agents were reviewing the e-mails on the personal computer of a Clinton aide. Unknown as well: why, given his stated concern for “transparency,” for allowing the American people to have the facts before voting, did he refuse to acknowledge that the Bureau had hard evidence that Russia was attempting to influence the election through e-mail hacks And those leaks about agents supposedly denied permission to investigate the Clinton Foundation and any ties to the Clinton State Department and Bill Clinton: they may not have originated with Comey, but they suggest an investigative organization that has been drawn into the politics of the day. — Nov. 2, 2016
No crowing, none; frankly, it was an easy call, as easy as a TV reality show host snarling “You’re fired” at an apprentice. Now the tough part, not for a columnist or a television star, but a country.
The nation’s premier law enforcement organization, an executive branch agency, has gone from tumult to turmoil, a distinction that might otherwise be without a difference were not so much else of the federal government swimming against the same current. More, the present upheaval threatens decades of structural and internal reforms that have bolstered the Bureau’s credibility and its operational capabilities. No more, or so we felt assured, of the bad old days when presidents of both parties employed the FBI as a political tool to torment rivals, aided by a storied but since sullied director who was only too happy to cooperate. Forget for a moment Comey; ask the president from Arkansas how he (and Hillary) got along with his FBI director. (You needn’t ask her about Comey, though had she been elected she presumably would have felt compelled to keep him on.)
Now Comey, a political amateur, is gone, fired by a policy apprentice who never publicly seemed certain of whether he approved of his FBI director’s stewardship or abhorred it. Cashiered, one day after (quite likely by accident) providing an inaccurate if substantively insignificant answer to a congressional committee’s question, and about a week after a similar misstep in earlier Capitol Hill testimony. Canned, months after turning the presidential campaign on its ear, not once but repeatedly — absolving Hillary Clinton of criminal wrongdoing in the e-mail controversy, then announcing a re-opening of the probe, with days remaining before the balloting. And then a second absolution. Breaches of Justice Department guidelines, yes. But none of that is in play now, not really.
Who under the sun considers believable President Trump’s assertion that his basis for firing Comey was the latter’s fumbling the e-mail stuff? Could it possibly, just possibly, have anything to do with Comey’s inquiry into such connections as there may be, or have been, between the Trump team and the Russian government? Well, possibly not. It is possible that Mr. Trump, having recently praised Comey and who, in showing him the door, expressed appreciation for supposedly clearing him of any wrongdoing (and when did that happen?) indeed abruptly lost “confidence” in him. Of course it is possible. Of course. Why, the U.S. attorney general and the Justice Department’s second-in-command, who work for Mr. Trump, recommended the director’s ouster.
Mr. Trump’s spokeswoman says it is “inappropriate” to question the president’s decision.
This is not a happy situation, not for the nation or its inept incumbent administration, or the Congress. Or the political parties, though it is tempting to remind every Republican officeholder of any stature in Arkansas that they attested to Mr. Trump’s suitability for the highest office in the land. House and Senate oversight of the country’s premier law enforcement agency is as solemn a responsibility as the FBI director’s job itself, and both ought to be above political considerations. In the current climate, good luck with that. The FBI director who Democrats despised is now their man of the hour.
That the FBI would get a new director regardless of who won the presidency was a foregone conclusion. Some new questions: Will we get the independent investigation that Democrats and some Republicans are demanding? I don’t know. Where is this headed, the Russia inquiry? I don’t know. I know I am faintly nauseous.