President Trump deserves credit for taking quick and decisive action in firing FBI Director James Comey. Every CEO knows that once it’s clear a top executive must move on, it’s best to act immediately.
If you don’t trust someone, if they use bad judgment, or if they are hurting the enterprise, then every day of delay inflicts unnecessary pain on the company or enterprise. If Trump had waited for the Russian probe to end, he might have been waiting years, and in the process allowed further damage to the FBI’s reputation.
Comey’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election does not make him immune to criticism or mean we can forget about his past mistakes. It was clear Trump had to fire Comey, just as a CEO must dismiss a faltering, underperforming top executive. More, Trump’s decision was supported by the damning, well-researched letter from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
In his public statements, Comey played fast and loose with the facts — a bad trait in an FBI director. Just last week, he gave congressional testimony the FBI later had to correct. He grossly exaggerated the number of Hillary Clinton emails Huma Abedin had forwarded to her husband Anthony Weiner.
This was not the first distortion of truth from Comey. In 2016, he repeatedly claimed the FBI could open the San Bernardino’s terrorist’s iPhone only with Apple’s assistance. When Congress and the courts declined to force Apple to take action, the FBI quickly opened the phone by other means. On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal detailed other examples of Comey’s poor judgement, violation of process, and grandstanding.
So, President Trump had to make an executive decision. Now he must deal with the consequences, as politicians, beltway insiders, and the media insist Comey’s firing resulted from the expanding investigation into the Trump administration’s Russia ties. The investigation will proceed without Comey.
The FBI director reports to attorney general and deputy attorney general, not the president. And with Jeff Sessions conflicted on the Russia probe, an evaluation of Comey’s performance as well as the Russian probe must come from Rosenstein. And by all accounts Rosenstein is credible. The nation’s longest-serving U.S. attorney, Rosenstein was confirmed by the Senate on April 25 by a 94-6 vote.
As any effective CEO would, Trump made his decision based on the evidence he gathered from those he trusted. Rosenstein’s recommendation is factual, logical, and quotes former attorney generals and FBI heads from both parties regarding Comey’s mishandling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Trump said the Rosenstein memo and Sessions’ recommendation reinforced his concerns about Comey. Seduced by media accounts of the situation, I initially questioned Trump’s rationale before reading the report. Once I read it, I realized Trump had little choice but to fire Comey.
The fact that Trump made positive comments about Comey when the latter re-opened his investigation into Clinton is irrelevant. Candidate Trump was in the midst of a contentious election and he welcomed the public relations help from Comey.
And comparisons to Nixon’s Watergate scandal are unfair. Trump is no Nixon, this is no Watergate, and Trump did the right thing.
In Watergate, crimes had been committed and indictments were sought, so Nixon fired several people. The only evidence of a crime we know about is Russia’s interference with the U.S. election. Reports of similar tampering in France have not resulted in theories of Russia working hand-in-hand with candidates Emmanuel Macron or Marine Le Pen.
But Trump now has a problem. As a qualified CEO, he knows the Russian meddling continues to concern constituents. He can solve the situation by offering no resistance to the congressional investigation. He can and should insist the FBI investigation continue with the resources it needs. He can offer to share documents and witnesses on an expedited basis. He can even call for a special prosecutor. If he has nothing to hide, then there is no issue.
We know candidate Trump called on the Russians to leak the Clinton emails. Yet we knew this before the election and Trump still won. More evidence may come out as the Russia investigation continues, watched carefully by an eager media. But unproven allegations and hyperbole about the Comey firing simply bolsters the Russians’ plan to destabilize our democracy.
Let’s focus on issues important to the nation and let our president champion the agenda and approaches voters chose at the ballot box. The anti-Trump movement, the resisters, the disruptors and the personal attacks on Trump and his family are undignified and harmful to our democracy.
Trump has America’s CEO job. He is learning quickly. He is doing his best and altering many of his candidate positions as he learns the facts — and each day he becomes better at governing.
Let our democracy work. Vote next time at the ballot box if you want change. But it’s time to stop the howling over the firing of one senior executive who by all accounts made mistakes harmful to our democracy. He had to be fired.