President Trump has released James Comey from the FBI and doomed him to a ruinous life of private equity, consulting or investment banking. Immediately after the news broke, Democratic politicians, cable news pundits and so-called centrists were all making passive or direct comparisons to Watergate, a Constitutional crisis, and desperate pleas about their beloved Republic.
Yet in between the shrieks, reckless declarations and demands of “things being done,” a simple question never arose: What else was he supposed to do?
Comey lost the trust of half the country the moment he declined to press charges against Clinton for operating an illegal e-mail server. At the time, Democrats admonished the man for directly criticizing Clinton’s practices in his press conference, but also gave a sigh of relief in private that this nightmare was close to ending on November 7.
Yet by so forcefully condemning her in such a public spectacle, Comey sealed his fate in the eyes of the Clinton mafia. He crossed her. He called her reckless. He all but called her practices criminal and made her an example of a two-tier American criminal-justice system.
In an alternative dimension where Clinton won the presidency, he would have been negotiating his exit with Huma Abedin in December of last year instead of learning about his fate on television. Instead of the surreal letter from Trump thanking the director for clearing his name in the agency’s Russia investigation, the Clinton administration would have released a smoother and far more professionally worded statement thanking Comey for his resignation and his public service.
But that’s not the timeline we live in. Instead, we live in the world where the other guy under FBI investigation won. Still, the result remains the same: Comey just couldn’t hang around anymore. The only difference is that the guy whom the media loathed won. Poll a group of Democrats on November 9th, and they’d all agree.
If the argument against Trump’s decision simply comes down to timing, then yes, his critics have a point. I have no problem conceding that, like many other things he does, the president came across as disorganized and needlessly secretive. For a man who loves television, he’d be better off writing a script and sticking to it.
Despite all the fears from the press and grandstanding from Democratic politicians, the ousting of Comey doesn’t spell the end of any investigation into possible ties by Trump’s associates and Russia. By so publicly kicking him in the balls, Trump guaranteed that there will be leaks from Comey loyalists, and has only increased public attention on the investigation. There’s no suggestion that the FBI’s independence or integrity is in question; the only person who was a threat to that was Comey himself.
The longer Comey kept his job, the longer the nation’s top law-enforcement agency remained politicized. Trump knew this, even if his chief private reason for firing Comey was because he was jealous of all the attention he was getting.
Democrats don’t want to offer any alternatives to Trump’s decision because there aren’t any good ones. If the answer was to keep Comey on until the FBI concluded any investigation into the administration’s associations — an independent Congressional panel or special prosecutor can relieve this concern.
None of this is to say that Comey didn’t find himself in an incredibly difficult position over the last year. Still, the man put his job into jeopardy the moment his agency protocol, started mugging for the camera and bungled the most important criminal investigation of the 21st century.
The Comey Circus got canned and the Trump Show took its time slot.