President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey this evening in a surprise move.  Various politicians and the media have openly referred to the act as “Nixonian” and “another Saturday Night Massacre.”  I have previously stated how the Saturday Day Massacre has been misrepresented.  I also do not agree with Jeff Toobin on CNN tonight that the decision was clearly due to the fact that Comey’s investigation was getting “too close” to President Trump.  I do not see how one can reach that conclusion after months of criticism over Comey’s past conduct, including widespread anger from Democrats over his public statements on Hillary Clinton.  I agree that the timing is concerning and legitimately questioned.  However, the Administration may also have waited for the Deputy Attorney General to be confirmed to allow a career prosecutor to review the matter and to concur with the decision.  Democrats denounced Comey over his actions regarding the Clinton Administration.  The matter was given to the Deputy Attorney General who was just confirmed recently.

President Trump took efforts in his letter state that Comey assured him that he was not under investigation.  He stated that  “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgement of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau.”

The White House released a memorandum from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, a respected career prosecutor.  He found that Comey’s prior conduct did “substantial damage” to the FBI’s “reputation and credibility.”  He noted that the FBI Director is never empowered to supplant federal prosecutors and assume command of the Justice Department” and that his conduct was “a textbook example of what federal prosecutors and agents are taught not to do.”

Rosentstein served in both Republican and Democratic administrations. He is not viewed as a political hack.  Moreover, the firing of Comey results in the elevation of an individual widely denounced by Republicans: Andrew McCade.  That would hardly be an optimal political switch.  The question is whether the White House will bypass McCade due to his political controversy involving his wife and select someone else to serve as acting FBI Director.

Notably, Comey’s testimony last week resulted in a correction issued today by the FBI as to one of his representations.  After that hearing, a source referred to Comey in saying that he was “as popular as cholera” on the Hill.

FBI directors generally hold 10-year term limits and cannot be reappointed, but Comey’s predecessor, Robert Mueller III was given special permission by Congress to serve an extra two years.  However, the director is effectively an at-will employee who serves at the pleasure of the president.  Only one president has fired a director.  In 1993, President Bill Clinton fired William Sessions after the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility found ethical problems involving the use of FBI plane to visit his daughter and the payment for a security system installed in his home 


  1. I know for sure that if Clinton won the election Comey would have been gone on 1/20/2017. but it seems no news outlet is letting the people know that the Russian conspiracy will go on by the f.b.i. and only God knows by who else and for how long. it seems to me that the democrats are trying to avoid the indictment and prosecution of Clinton and the Weiner family. every politician in the democrat party hated Comey until one second after he was fired and all of a sudden he is a martyr. does this make sense ?

  2. Comey’s firing has brought out the hypocrisy of Democrats. They wanted him fired over his comments on Hillary, publicly called for on TV. They didn’t tell Comey’s face-to-face. Although,
    Trump never had trouble firing people on TV. And for Hillary, your loss was about your campaigning. Whoever advised you, leaving out states Trump spent more time. Also, Obama almost assured a Republican win due to his policies.

  3. Prof. Turley – what happened to you? I greatly enjoyed you as a professor not that many years ago at GW, but you seem to almost have become a Trump shill or at least defender in recent days. Your USAToday piece on Yates was over the top, as well. Also, for an academic, I’d suggest some proofreading to be in order. “President Trump took efforts in his letter state that Comey assured him that he was not under investigation.” Huh? Also, it’s McCabe not McCade.

    Your ultimate conclusion that Trump may just now be firing Comey because the Deputy AG just came on board just doesn’t carry any water. This is really the first act of the new Deputy AG? And right after Comey went to the DAG requesting additional resources for the investigation? It looks like Toobin, not you, was correct. This was purely political.

    1. You’re expecting him to write like a partisan Democrat. He doesn’t Get over it.

      1. No, I’m expecting him to “write” like an intellectual legal scholar, not someone blindly supporting the President and his stooges.

        1. JC,
          You could always send him examples of what you believe represents the work of “an intellectual legal scholar” and that might just earn you a guest blogger spot. You could also start your own blog. Either way, I’m fairly confident he doesn’t actually care what you “expect”.

    2. Turley and most commenters on this site used to be center-left, but the whole atmosphere here has lurched substantially to the right in recent years. I’m not sure what brought this about. Turley has never commented on it, to the best of my knowledge.

      1. Oh, there is an easy answer to that. More conservative commenters started speaking up, and the center-left people did not have the intellectual capacity to survive in a non-echo chamber environment. Kind of like the SJW snowflakes, who can’t tolerate speech that disagrees with their opinions.

        Sooo, when confronted by stuff like evidence, facts, logic, and reasoning— the center left people here skedaddled for the hills, and the comfort of liberal echo chambers. I wrote them all a poem, several years ago, in sympathy with their plight:

        The Echo Chambers of Yesteryear
        A Poem by Squeeky Fromm

        The Echo Chambers of Yesteryear
        Are calling to me now.
        The comforting sounds of my own voice
        To soothe my weary brow.

        Voices echoing my own thoughts
        Reverberate around.
        I lay my head upon my hands
        And listen to the sound.

        And nary one dischordant note
        Is plucked within this womb.
        No flats, no sharps, unless in key
        Are heard within this room.

        And here, my mind in safe repose
        In silken threads is twirled
        As Echo Chambers of Yesteryear
        Cocoon me from the World.

        Squeeky Fromm
        Girl Reporter

  4. Comey ALWAYS had the option to resign. Even the military provides subordinates a process to challenge seniors that abuse their authority. The nanosecond after Comey first decided to abandon his principles for politics is the moment He owned the outcome of that decision.

    1. A charitable construction of his conduct was that he was attempting to lay out for the public the contours of Hillary’s misconduct while preventing Lynch & co. from having the last word. No way the Holder-Lynch Lawfare squad would have had the professionalism to prosecute Hilligula had he played it straight. So, he leaves them in a position where all they can manage is awkward silence.

      1. Charitable indeed. It would seem that when he came to a fork in the road, he took it. He should have just got off the road.

  5. Jim Comey will go down as a dedicated public servant who got caught in the crossfire of the 2016 Presidential race, with its outside interference by Russian intelligence, self-serving excesses of both major party establishments, media bias bordering on zealotry, and citizen resolve to force change on a sclerotic DC establishment and fifth-estate elitism.

    We don’t know the extent to which the FBI and Intel Sector was blemished by political activism, except to say that a damaging Loretta Lynch memo has been uncovered pledging to “do everything in my power to forestall indictment” of Hillary Clinton. Yet, there isn’t really any roadmap in the Justice Dept. and FBI, nor in the foreign Intel Sector, about how to deal with candidate and campaign illegal misconduct during election season. Heck, we don’t even have a definition of when election season is, it having become perpetual motion machine.

    Jim Comey’s “impossible situation” has at its heart the desire of law enforcement to 1) stay out of political campaigns, and 2) enforce the laws of the land without regard to the stature of the perpetrator, two values on a collision course. In dealing with the Clinton server matter, we have an Atty General who worked out of the public eye to exculpate Mrs. Clinton and her closest staff from legal consequences for their assumed evasion of FOIA, which was what led to multiple violations of handling classified material. We may never know whether Lynch would have applied the same standard to a Republican candidate. Even worse, we don’t ourselves even debate what protections against legal oppo-activism we should cede to candidates for the Highest Office. Clearly, most Americans would detest a new form of campaign warfare which attempts to use the FBI and Justice Dept. to pursue petty, technicality-level infractions of federal law. On the other hand, we need the deterrence that arises from threat of indictment to keep candidates’ and their operatives’ behavior in line. But, the actual threshold for investigation and indictment is undefined.

    Mrs. Clinton’s moves to skirt FOIA by using a private email server are not necessarily riddled with malice toward public accountability. The FOIA law, originally intended to serve the public with transparency, has evolved into an oppo-research tool, where it becomes a power-tool in the quest for ad hominem, partisan trench warfare. The greatest long-term threat to our democracy is that people of great accomplishment simply refuse to step forward to run for office under a “scortched Earth” campaign system. I’m willing to cede to Mrs. Clinton “the assumption of innocence” that her motives in setting up the server were to merely level the playing field against Republican operatives out to destroy her in a sophisticated, digital infowarfare milieu.

    We can only hope in time that events conspire to force Americans into a debate about how to protect candidates from ad hominem oppo-research that employs lawyers as warriors whose role is to manipulate the legal system into doing damage to the opponent’s reputation, viability and eligibility as a candidate.
    If we don’t draw the line at keeping campaign warfare out of the legal system, still fewer exceptional leaders of good character will be willing to run for office.

    1. More likely he’ll go down as an office-political trimmer.

      1. A few days ago, someone said that Comey was “about as popular as cholera with both political parties”.
        The “PR Aspect” of Comey’s termination is just starting.
        Given the way that Comey was fired, and who fired him, one party now finds him much more popular than cholera.
        In some respects, this PR game will be as interesting to observe as the legal matters that are being investigated.
        At this point, I don’t think it’s possible to predict Comey’s legacy.

  6. I continue to believe that leaders of law enforcement agencies should be independent of whims of politicians who have vested self-interests above that of their offices. Elected sheriffs are one such example. At least here they personally do not answer to county commissioners (other than budgetary constraints and codification of county ordinances). But having so many LEAs on the federal level I agree this might not be practical. In a compromise, the attorney general should also be separate from the executive, and in our state the position is elected by the voters.

    In another matter, without addressing the merits of terminating Mr. Comey’s employment, the manner for which he was informed was dishonorable. President Trump if he was to fire anybody should have at least the courage and consideration to fire him in person, not to have Mr. Comey learn of this at some random time from others–such as while speaking in public. Unless there was some national security interest necessitating such a swift termination, it can wait a few hours until he returns to Washington and perform this in a proper venue.

    1. President Trump if he was to fire anybody should have at least the courage and consideration to fire him in person, not to have Mr. Comey learn of this at some random time from others–such as while speaking in public. Unless there was some national security interest necessitating such a swift termination, it can wait a few hours until he returns to Washington and perform this in a proper venue.

      The President is on a tight schedule and the Attorney-General intervenes in the chain of command. Gerald Ford dismissed James Schlesinger and William Colby face-to-face. Both were direct reports, one in charge of a cabinet department and one of a stand-alone agency with a large budget. John Frohnmeyer, who was chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts under George Bush the Elder, was formally a direct report, but ran a minor agency; he was informed he was dismissed by the President’s chief of staff. I think leaving the task to the Attroney-General or his deputy was appropriate.

      1. I thought the Attorney General had recused himself from anything directly or indirectly related to the Russian inquiry …..

  7. Michael Beschloss

    J. Edgar Hoover took over what became the FBI today 1924: #Getty

    It’s too bad that somebody didn’t fire Hoover somewhere along the way.

    1. By the time it became clear that Hoover was dangerous, he had too much blackmail material on other public figures.

    2. Hoover couldn’t get fired, he had lots of secret stuff on everybody. At least that was the story.

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