Alan Keyes
Firing Comey: Did Trump give his adversaries a sword?
By Alan Keyes
May 16, 2017

"Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who was confirmed by a 96 to 4 vote in the Senate on April 25, wrote the letter recommending that Comey should be fired: 'The Director was wrong to usurp the Attorney General's authority on July 5, 2016, and announce his conclusion that the case should be closed without prosecution. It is not the function of the Director to make such an announcement,' wrote Rosenstein."

This is how Roger Aronoff of Accuracy in Media reports the rationale given by the Justice Department official who recommended that President Trump dismiss FBI Director James Comey. Yet later in the same article, Mr. Aronoff describes the circumstances in which Director Comey took it upon himself to make that announcement:
    Following the revelation that then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch had met with Bill Clinton in a plane at the Phoenix airport, she refused to recuse herself from the case, instead saying that she would follow the recommendation of Comey. Comey then interviewed Hillary for about three hours, and just a few days later, without comparing her answers to previous statements she had made on the record, such as during her testimony before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, he let her off the hook. Comey laid out the case for Hillary's indictment, but concluded that no reasonable prosecutor would prosecute the case.
Attorney General Lynch publicly stated that she would abide by the conclusion of a process, which included Comey's recommendation, about whether the evidence available justified pursuing the case against Hillary Clinton. Thus, Lynch appeared, quite publicly, to refer any conclusion about that issue to others, including Director Comey. Since that delegation was made in public, was Director Comey at fault for publicizing his conclusion? After all, Lynch's public statement, made in the context of refusing to recuse herself from the case, nonetheless left it to Director Comey to evaluate the available evidence. If Attorney General Lynch did not move to prosecute Mrs. Clinton, her public statements made it inevitable that the public would demand to know Director Comey's determination.

But any answer given in the context of that public clamor would have been subject to the suspicion that the director was acting under duress of public and bureaucratic pressure, and at the behest of the attorney general. In the midst of a presidential election, wouldn't this have damaged the Bureau's credibility as a non-partisan law-enforcement agency? By announcing the decision on his own initiative, was Director Comey acting to reassure the public that his conclusion was reached objectively, on his own responsibility, and under no partisan duress?

Be that as it may, Attorney General Lynch passed the buck in a very public fashion. It makes no sense for Deputy AG Rosenstein simply to ignore this, especially since Lynch's statements tended to rebut the notion that Director Comey wrongfully usurped the attorney general's authority. The stronger position would be to make the case that Comey's view of the evidence was simply wrong.

But that case would hardly justify firing the director now, since he later reversed the judgment, re-opened the FBI's investigation into Clinton's actions, and was praised by then candidate Trump for having the courage to do so.

If Mr. Trump was right when he praised Comey's courageous amendment of his views, why has he now dismissed him for his initial judgment, as if his subsequent self-correction was of no account? Since as president, Trump has lawful authority to dismiss the FBI director without pretense of any cause, why publicly proclaim a cause that makes so little sense? Is he doing so for the same reason Attorney General Lynch publicly passed the buck to others, including Director Comey, in the first place? As a political appointee, she was subject to the suspicion that her judgments were mainly dictated by her partisan interest in the outcome of the election. That obvious conflict of interest made her involvement in the process questionable, rightly fueling demands that she recuse herself.

But in the present circumstance, individuals identified as supporters and associates of President Trump are the subjects of investigation. He is therefore subject to the same conflict of interest allegation. Though he has the lawful power to dismiss the director without cause, doing so might be construed to lend credence to the view that he seeks to undermine the investigation. It could be construed to justify the suspicion that he, or those around him, fear being seriously damaged by what the investigation will reveal. Since his partisan opponents excoriated Director Comey for handing the presidency to Trump by re-opening the FBI's investigation of Hillary Clinton, isn't it reasonable to assume that President Trump and his advisers expected these opponents to applaud Comey's fall?

But instead, his opponents are brushing aside the reason Rosenstein gives for Comey's dismissal. They are pressing the view that President Trump's action is a desperate bid to delay the revelation of some "smoking gun," which they claim will be exposed by further investigation into the Trump team's possible collusion with Russian interests. It may be that, as the Trump faction's supporters maintain, there is no such conclusive evidence. But, if that is true, why rouse suspicion with a maneuver that seems aimed at crippling, or at least slowing down, Congress' investigation into the matter?

Why not trust to the truth, while focusing steadfastly on fulfilling the promise of President Trump's vision for the nation's good? In that way, wouldn't President Trump be more likely to avoid the deep regret President Nixon expressed when asked how his enemies succeeded in their bid to end his presidency: "I brought myself down. I gave them a sword, and they stuck it in and they twisted it with relish. And I guess if I had been in their position, I'd have done the same thing."

To see more articles by Dr. Keyes, visit his blog at and his commentary at and

© Alan Keyes


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Alan Keyes

Dr. Keyes holds the distinction of being the only person ever to run against Barack Obama in a truly contested election – featuring authentic moral conservatism vs. progressive liberalism – when they challenged each other for the open U.S. Senate seat from Illinois in 2004... (more)


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