Comey’s “Good Day”: How Political Prosecutions Became “Ethical Leadership” in the Pursuit of Trump

Below is my column in the New York Post on the level of joy being expressed by many over the indictment of former president Donald Trump, including former FBI Director James Comey. The thrill kill atmosphere ignores the blatantly political history behind this indictment. In the Sixteenth Century, the poet John Lyly wrote “The rules of fair play do not apply in love and war.” It also appears equally true “in love and War Trump.”

Here is the column:

James Comey could not contain himself at the news of an indictment of former President Donald Trump.

Comey hopped on Twitter to declare, “It’s been a good day.”

The former FBI director, who has been teaching and speaking on government ethics, joined others in celebrating the upcoming arrest of Trump because nothing says “ethical leadership” like a patently political prosecution.

Comey declined to prosecute Hillary Clinton on her email scandal despite finding that she violated federal rules and handled classified material “carelessly.”

He declared, “Ethical leaders lead by seeing above the short term, above the urgent or the partisan, and with a higher loyalty to lasting values, most importantly the truth.”

Yet now Comey is heralding the effort of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who campaigned on a pledge of bagging Trump for some unspecified crime.

While the actual charges will not be disclosed until the release of the indictment, the underlying theory discussed for months is an effort to revive a dead misdemeanor offense of falsifying business records — years after the statute of limitations expired.

Bragg may try to accomplish this Frankensteinian feat by converting this into a felony.

The long-debated theory in Bragg’s office was whether they could effectively allege a violation of federal election laws even though the Justice Department and the Federal Election Commission declined such charges.

Notably, Bragg’s predecessor declined to bring these charges.

Bragg himself declined to do so, and that led to two of his prosecutors resigning in protest.

Mark F. Pomerantz then proceeded to do what some of us view as breathtakingly unprofessional.

He wrote a book on what he learned in the investigation, which was still ongoing.

He made the case for indicting an individual who had not been charged, let alone convicted.

He continued to engage in this public campaign despite requests from his former office that he was undermining its ongoing investigation.

The public pressure worked.

Bragg caved.

Despite the widespread criticism of Bragg for reducing charges for an array of felonies by Manhattan criminals, he spent months working to convert a misdemeanor into a felony.

Trump would apparently have been better off robbing Stormy Daniels at gunpoint rather than paying her off for a nondisclosure agreement.

And yet Comey is not alone in his praise.

Various professors and pundits have declared that this unprecedented use of New York law would be perfectly legal and commendable.

They largely ignore that the misdemeanor is expired.

Instead, Georgetown Law professor and MSNBC legal analyst Paul Butler declared, “Nobody is above the law, including Donald Trump.

“It doesn’t matter that this is kind of a minor crime compared to some of the other allegations.”

However, the law also protects people from selective prosecution and affords them protection through the statute of limitations.

One can debate whether Trump may have committed this misdemeanor.

That is a good-faith debate. What is not debatable is that the window for such a prosecution closed years ago.

Unless this indictment reveals a previously undisclosed crime, the use of the long-debated bootstrapped offense would defy the rule of law. Nobody is above the law, but nobody is below its protections … including Donald Trump.

Dozens of criminal counts — it’s been reported there are as many as 34 — will make no difference if they merely replicate the same flaws.

There are reports, for example, that Bragg may bring charges based not only on the Daniels payment but money given to former Playboy model Karen McDougal to kill a story on another alleged affair.

However, that payment (from Trump’s friend at the National Enquirer) was also paid in 2016 and raises the same statute of limitations and other issues.

Bragg is operating directly out of Comey’s handbook on “ethical leadership.” After all, it was Comey who joked about how he violated department rules to nail Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn. He delighted audiences with how he told underlings “let’s just send a couple guys over” to trap Flynn.

It was Comey who was fired after former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein cited him for “serious mistakes” and violating “his obligation to ‘preserve, protect and defend’ the traditions of the Department and the FBI.”

It was Comey who violated federal laws and removed FBI material (including reported classified material) after being fired and then leaked information to the media.

Despite those violations, Comey was heralded by the media and made wealthy on book and speaking tours.

Bragg knows that 62% of people view his case as “mainly motivated by politics,” but (like Comey) he is playing to an eager and generous audience.

The buildup to Trump’s booking has all of the appeals of a thrill kill for Democrats.

It will be another “good day” for Comey and others who put politics above principle in the use of the criminal justice system.

Jonathan Turley is an attorney and a professor at George Washington University Law School.

298 thoughts on “Comey’s “Good Day”: How Political Prosecutions Became “Ethical Leadership” in the Pursuit of Trump”

  1. Trump’s indictment in this case, though likely smaller than what awaits him in Georgia and federally, is a huge necessary step in upholding the principle that the president, either in office or having been defeated, is not a king. We’ve struggled with that after the reign of Richard Nixon. I share in Comey’s satisfaction that this trend is beginning to be reversed, even if it took a skid mark of a blatant con man like trump to finally make it begin to happen. I know this runs across your mission of making trump palatable, Turley. Sorry, not sorry, about that.

    1. “Trump’s indictment in this case [. . .] is a huge necessary step in” the Left’s desire to fabricate political “criminals,” to interfere in elections, and to create a single-party state.

      Now the statement’s accurate.

      1. Always impressed when someone can type and blow Tucker Carlson at the same time. Thanks!!

        1. “Always impressed when someone can type and blow Tucker Carlson at the same time.”

          It sounds like you have tried both at the same time. In failing you now wish to blame someone else by making things up.

          1. Allan, often your posts make me realize it’s sometimes really fun to be me on this blog.

            1. If the responder was Alan, there might be a modicum of humor from an otherwise humerouless and unimaginative guy. Was the one discussing blow jobs you ATS, or the banned one who forgot to sign his name? It sounds like the posts are from the other guy who has had a lot of practice blowing and almost no time thinking.

      2. ATS’s intellect is tiny Sam, so be careful when you respond because words bigger than five characters confuse him.

        I take note that in his argument ATS never considers the political side of Bragg’s actions and can’t remember his comments or the comments of his office for the past seven years and longer.

    2. You might want to read something on the differences between prosecutorial discretion and judicial activism (William A. Schabas, “Prosecutorial Discretion v. Judicial Activism at the International Criminal Court,” Journal of International Criminal Justice 6 (4) (2008), pp. 731-761) and legal philosophy (Ch. Perelman, The Idea of Justice and the Problem of Argument, New York: Routledge,1963), or perhaps Casey’s arguments for why the US should never join the ICC (Lee A. Casey, “The Case against the International Criminal Court,” Fordham International Law Journal 25 (3) (March 2002), pp. 840-872). Hint — the ICC, like most ICTs are run by the prosecutors and the judges, who write their own statutes and design their own process — not exactly democratic institutions. Prosecutors who abuse their discretionary powers do something similar.
      The basic western concepts of justice, which have developed over centuries by fits and starts, demand that everyone be treated equally, and that is clearly not the case when a prosecutor singles out some for prosecution and ignores others who have behaved in the same or a similar manner or, in Bragg’s case, much worse than the person he will indict on Tuesday.
      It is also usually wise to follow precedent, even in a continental legal system, and certainly in an Anglo-American one, unless there is a good reason for breaking with precedent, not only because precedent (or tradition, if you prefer) anchors the legal, as well as the social and intellectual systems, but because once you begin to ignore precedent (static law, stare decisis, tradition), you effectively create chaos. If you doubt that, think about how many Democrats (and Independents) could be indicted by any number of ‘activist’ local DAs if the mood moved them.
      Staid is usually better for the stability of a system, legal or otherwise, than hysterical.
      Sadly, many people have been hysterical ever since Trump defeated Clinton in 2016, and hysterical people do all manner of silly things, and some harmful things as well.

      1. “It is also usually wise to follow precedent, even in a continental legal system, and certainly in an Anglo-American one, unless there is a good reason for breaking with precedent, not only because precedent (or tradition, if you prefer) anchors the legal, as well as the social and intellectual systems, but because once you begin to ignore precedent (static law, stare decisis, tradition), you effectively create chaos.”

        Wasn’t aware we were discussing the Dobbs decision.

        1. Why do I say that???

          Because Roe was established law and the custom of not indicting presidents dates back to the Nixon years. That custom is not established law.

          1. Nixon wasn’t indicted because he was pardoned. That was a mistake on Ford’s part. Nixon should have been charged and tried.

            1. The reason for the pardon was so that impeachment didn’t happen. Nixon might have won the impeachment.

              You like to bloody everything.

          2. No. Roe WAS NOT established law. It was a decision by a sitting Court, that was reversed by another sitting Court. Just like, you know, Dred Scott. Law is established by legislation. Constitutionality is addressed by the Court, and, clearly, it is not absolute. Maybe your high school American History class didn’t get to the late 20th century…President Nixon resigned, and, then President Ford granted a “preemptive” pardon, for lack of a better term.

          3. Roe, of course, was the break, not Dobbs.
            That said, you missed the point of my post.
            Read that Schabas article. It’s rather good.

        2. the Dobbs decision.

          The Dobbs decision returned protected constitutional power to the people. Why do you insist the federal courts run roughshod over the people concerning things not within Federal jurisdiction.

          1. Stalin never wanted the people to make their own decisions. That is why we hear so many Stalinist responses from people like ATS.

          2. No it didn’t. It made women’s reproductive healthcare completely subject to their address and their financial status. And the R’s want a federal abortion ban.

            1. ” It made women’s reproductive healthcare completely subject to their address and their financial status.”

              ATS, that is bunk and you know it. Your over exaggerations make you sound foolish.

            2. An abortion is not “reproductive healthcare” any more than is contraception. “Reproductive healthcare” is a function of seeing one’s gynecologist, getting Pap smears, getting needed treatment for gynecological conditions, etc.

    3. You are so partisan that your brains are rotting causing your discussion to be meaningless. Prosecutors are not supposed to play partisan politics. You should know that but you don’t. That tells us you are not credible or trustworthy.

        1. So says then non thinking side of this blog. Look up the statements made by Bragg when running for office. They prove you are either not honorable or insufficiently educated in the matter.

          1. I’m familiar with his statements. It doesn’t strike me as wrong that someone running to be a prosecutor says they’ll prosecute criminals once in office.

            1. You need to be less superficial in your fact gathering. Your superficiality makes you sound superficial.

    4. Lets Assume that you actually beleive what you are saying – there is far more evidence of actual criminality IN OFFICE by Joe Biden.

      Unless you treat the conduct of conservatives and prograssives the same – you have no credibiltiy and your arguments are proof that you have weaponized politics.

      We have a Series of cases involving mishandling of Classified documents, By republicans and Democrats.

      Of all of those By Far the worst was Hillary. Thousands of Documents were involved., They were sent over the internet, they were accessible over the internet by hostile foreign powers. There is no question that her actions were deliberate. She or her staff had to go to a great deal of effort to get Classified documents into her email. The Sec State has no unilateral declassification authority.

      If as Comey claimed the standard is not to prosecute this – Which is FALSE – as Petraus, and Deutch and Sandy Berger, and …..

      Then the issues regarding Pence Trump, Biden are all DEAD. Yet they are not, and those of you on the left continue to pretend Trump’s problems are the Worst when in fact they are by a large margin the Least.

      Of the Trump, Clinton, Biden, and Pence cases – Only Trump was president at the time of the alleged infraction.
      We do not know that the Trump documents were actually Classified.
      We do not even have the assertion from DOJ that they were classified, only that they were MARKED Classified.

      Further the case-law – JW v. NARA unequivocally states that it does not matter whether the documents are classified or not Ex-Presidents can personally posses pretty much whatever they want. The issue is not even subject to Judicial Review.

      You can disagree, you can claim the law SHOULD be different. And you are free to try to change that, Though the existing Case law suggests you would need a constitutional amendment.

      You can disagree with me that a constitutional amendment is required.

      What you can not disagree with without destroying even the pretence that you beleive in “the rule of law” is that All ex-presidents are ENTITLED to rely on JW v. NARA as law UNTIL the it is overrules somehow. If you wish to use Trump as the means to overrule JW V NARA you are free to attempt to do so.

      But even if you succeed you CAN NOT get past the FACT that all ex-presidents were entitled to rely on it UNTIL it is overturned.
      You can not retroactively make Trump’s conduct which was legitimate based on JW V. NARA criminal in the past by overruling JW V NARA in the future.

      I would note that you have that problem with pretty much ALL your Trump prosecutions.
      There is absolutely no legal theory for this NYC Trump indictment that does not run afoul of decided law.
      You can use Trump to Change the state of the law. But you can not criminalize conduct that Trump was entitled to believe based on the law at the time was legal.

      It is self evident that the effort to “Get Trump” is weaponized politics specifically because the ONLY consequential support you have is from the far left.
      When you are advancing novel and untested – and often rejected legal theories. Ones that require reading the constitution and the law different than has ever been done before – YOU are the one on the wrong side of the law.

      I would further warn you that Turn about is fair play.

      I have been periodically watching house hearings, as Republican Chairs do to democrats – to a lessor extent what was done to democrats under Pelosi.

      What are you going to do if Missouri, Louisiana, Texas or some other Republican strong hold decides to criminally prosecute Joe Biden for criminal violations of first amendment rights ? This is a trivial case to make, and does not involve Novel readings of the law or constitution.

  2. Seems like a good GOP prosecutor in Arkansas could cobble something together concerning Hunter Biden and the bimbo to get the painting revenues into the open

    1. These politicized prosecutions are incredibly dangerous – for the very reasons you describe.

      It is pretty trivial for any DA or AG anywhere to subject anyone they have a political axe to grind to novel applications of the law.

      We do not want Republican AG’s going after Biden any more than we want this idiotic nonsese going after Trump.

      Nut those on the left are once again opening the floodgates without anythought for how this may ultimately play out.

      1. We do not want Republican AG’s going after Biden any more than we want this idiotic nonsese going after Trump.

        Yes, that was under the old rules.

        All of us were dragged across the line by Alvin Bragg.

        1. I absolutely agree.
          Reason is currently claiming that WI Senate Republicans who have a super majority are planning to Impeach the newly elected WI Supreme court justice.

          There are allegations that Democrat PACS were giving $2509 Gift cards out in return for votes.

          This is one of many reasons you can not have mailin voting.

          Ballots can NEVER leave the oversite of the state or the oportunities for difficult to detect fraud grow exponentially.

          Hillaries financing the Steele Dossier is a far easier criminal conviction than Braggs charges.

          Hillary paid Perkins Coi – as lergal fees to hire steele and a Russian national to construct the dossier.

          The payment of foreign nationals in a campaign in a crime.

          regardless, it is trivially easy to make up new crimes to match Bragg.

          Further news today.

          There was no violence at the Trump arraignment protests – except by the left – including an assault of a Trump supporter by a CNN cameraman.

          VP Biden’s secretary testified that Biden’s documents were sent to 3 insecure locations by private car in 2017 as Biden left office.
          That the Closet at the Biden Center was NOT locked, and that office staff as well as building employees had access tot he closet.

          And the Big Bombshell – that the Biden Classified Docs at the Biden Penn Center were found in May 2022 NOT November 2022.

          So there has been a 9 month coverup of this.

          This is also problematic because it suggests that the Biden admin winding up the Classified Docs attack on Trump was a pre-emptive move BECAUSE they knew they had their own scandal brewing.

          1. VP Biden’s secretary testified that Biden’s documents were sent to 3 insecure locations by private car in 2017 as Biden left office.
            That the Closet at the Biden Center was NOT locked, and that office staff as well as building employees had access tot he closet.

            And the Big Bombshell – that the Biden Classified Docs at the Biden Penn Center were found in May 2022 NOT November 2022.

            So there has been a 9 month coverup of this.

            Jeff Jacoby wrote a column about this.


      2. We do not want Republican AG’s going after Biden any more than we want this idiotic nonsese going after Trump.

        You can expect them to do so.

        “You can be sure that there are prosecutors across Florida and Texas right now who are looking for a state law hook into the Biden family,” said Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton. “And if they’re not, they’re not doing their jobs.”

        Mike Davis, a former chief counsel for nominations on the Senate Judiciary Committee and president of the Article III Project, floated legal theories for possible prosecutions.

        “I think our Republican AGs and DAs should get creative,” Davis said.

        1. I do not think that is a good thing. But it is likely inevitable if the courts do not slap this down.

          We are headed into a very dark realm.

          As many – including several foreign leaders have said – this is what banana republics and failed nations do.

          Republicans Will have to respond if this is not shot down.

          The best possible outcome would be the wrath of voters – that is more consequential than that of the courts.

          But if nothing is done – Republicans will have no choice but to reciprocate.

          And this is bad for everyone.

          This goes beyond Trump and beyond politics.

          This indictment is garbage.
          No one should be frug into court with anything this bad.

          Some democrats are saying “no one is above the law” – NOT no one should be subject to the rule of Man, not law.

    1. Joe Biden and John Fetterman. Would you want either one of these guys driving a school bus?

      1. Trump can’t drive at all. When was the last time you have seen Trump actually drive? Biden can drive, Obama’s can drive. Can Trump? He’s been chauffeured all his life.

        1. That’s not the point. Whether you like him or not can he drive? And yes, I would trust Trump driving a school bus over those 2.

        2. Anonymous has a lot of problems with the truth.

          As President and former President, for security reasons,Trump is driven by chauffeurs. Before that Trump drove cars and has (?had) a multi million dollar car collection.

          Why is it you get so much so wrong so frequently?

        3. Is this the state to which you have devolved ?
          Debating who can Drive ?

          These is video on the internet, posted by Melania in 2014 of Donald Trump driving his Rolls Royce Phantom with Barron and Melania in the car.

          I am not sure why this matters to you.
          Regardless, your argument is both irrelevant and in error.

          What is Relevant is that you do not know what you are talking about.
          That you made up a claim, and assued it was True based on your own personal biases.

  3. Difficult to ignore the racial undertones in the New York prosecutions. Both Bragg and James promised to ‘get Trump.’ Given Trump’s difficulties with his predecessor, it is possible to see this prosecution not only as an effort to inhibit Trump in seeking office again but also as an effort to avenge a perceived wrong that no doubt has a long memory. I do not like such ruminations, but I also think it unwise to suppress such thoughts by employing magical thinking to imagine that if they are not voiced they will not exist.

    1. African Banana Republic Tin Horn District Attorney Tribal Justice

      “Legally Pathetic”

      – Professor Turley

        1. Aninny, don’t you mean racist Alvin “And The Chipmunks” Bragg couldn’t resist “indicting a ham sandwich” in “Hymietown,” according to a direct quote from alleged and variously reverend, fraud, philanderer and “love child” baby daddy, Jesse Jackson.

        2. Anninny, were the American Founders, Framers, Legislators and the Naturalization Acts they ratified within the year of adoption of the Constitution racist?

          Naturalization Acts of 1790, 1795, 1798 and 1802 (four confirming iterations)

          United States Congress, “An act to establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization,” March 26, 1790

          Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That any Alien being a free white person, who shall have resided within the limits and under the jurisdiction of the United States for the term of two years, may be admitted to become a citizen thereof…

        3. The dastardly and treasonous Aninny proposes the full and complete abrogation of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, and the imposition of the Communist Manifesto.

          Further, he proposes renaming the United States, the Union of American Socialist Republics, UASR, alternatively, the Union of American Socialist States – UASS!

    2. Of course it is to avenge a perceived wrong.
      He won in 2016
      He would have won in 2020 but for election rigging.

      For those on the left, being wronged means anything less than agreeing to allow them to have their way.

      1. The 2020 election was not rigged. Even Fox News admits this. In fact it has been lying to it’s viewers about those claims and is in a very serious defamation case that it is very likely to lose.

        Trump is the one who is all about vengeance. Trump is facing the consequences for breaking the law. In NY flashing business records is a crime and he was indicted accordingly. He will have his change to defend himself against the charges in court. Trump is being held accountable for his actions. It’s as simple as that. Remember it was Trump who constantly prodded his fans to chant “ LOCK HER UP, LOCK HER UP!”. When republicans were investigating her for anything that they could find. Turns out he’s getting the same treatment. Turnabout is fair play, no? The only difference is that there is real evidence of crimes committed by Trump than there were for Clinton.

        1. Still lying.

          No Fox has not admitted the election was not rigged.

          Fox both publicly and privately expressed skepticism about the DVS Voting machine claim.
          That is all.

          You conducted a lawless election.
          you engaged in massive illegal balolot harvesting.
          You conducted an election in violation of provisions of state constitutions.
          You conducted an election throughly absent transparency.
          You have fought tooth and nail every effort at transparency.
          You engaged in massive censorship of the TRUTH.

          You Lied to win. You Silenced those telling the truth to win.

          The above is just SOME of the MANY ways you have rigged the 2020 election.

          That debate is OVER – you lost.

          Worse still YOU betrayed the values YOU claim to hold.

          You CLAIM to value democracy – that requires trusting the people with the Truth.

          I am not the advocate of democracy – YOU Are.

          Yet, apparently the only form of democracy you support is one in which you can look over voter’s shoulders as the vote – to assure they vote as you wish. and to spoon feed them propaganda and silence the truth.

          When you control what the people are allowed to hear or speak, that is NOT democracy.
          That is authoritarian.

          Of Course the election was rigged. AGAIN you are LYING.

        2. More of this idiocy from you about Law.

          There is no crime of Falsifying Business records.
          All actual crimes require HARM.
          Fraud is where you GAIN something – and someone else LOSES something as a result of False information.

          Further what is Gained and what is lost must be something that the loser had an actual right to.

          There is a reason that outside the left wing bubble you exist in the majority of people beleive this is political.

          They may not understand the nuances of the law – But they KNOW Right and Wrong.

          And they Know that this is not a crime.

          Who lost something they were entitled to as a Result of Trump’s conduct ?

        3. It is likely that in 2025 Trump will be all about Vengance and you have only yourself to blame for that.

          As to the Claim that Trump WAS about vengenace – what is your evidence ?

          You rant about “lock her up” ?

          Was Hillary locked up ?
          Was she prosecuted ?
          When Trump was president was she even investigated ?

          In point of FACT Trump called Clinton after the election and told her there would be no investigations.

          YOU are about “vengence” – you want Revenge because Trump won.
          You want revenge – because Trump succeeded where Biden has Failed.
          You want Revenge because your policies and ideas are schiff.

          The House is not investigating the weaponizatation of Government because Democrats are shouting “lock him Up”

          They are are doing so because you have gone beyond political rhetoric – free speech to ABUSE OF POWER.

          Turnabout IS Fair Play.

          The House is just doing to you – in a more lawful manner as well as based in FACT.

          Yes, the Republicans investigated clinton – They investigated her conduct as Sec State.
          That is called govenrment oversight.
          It is the legitimate domain of Congress.

          The FEC found myriads of Campaign Finance Law violations of Clinton’s 2016 campaign. What State AG or Local DA prosecuted those ?
          What Republican convenened a Gran Jury ?

          Hillary Actively sought to get Electors to change their votes – and some did.
          What states convened GJ’s to investigate Hillaries “election interferance” ?

          Hillary – and YOU Lied about Russian interferance. You LIED about Election Fraud in 2016 – Why would anyone beleive you in 2020 ?
          Regardless, What GJ’s were conveneed ?

          Hillary Paid for “legal Services” to Perkin’s Coi to construct the Fraudulent Alpha Bank records and the Steel Dossier Hoax.
          And she paid for that out of her campaign. Why didn’t Bragg indict her for that ?

          There is a reason no one has engaged in the prosecutions that YOU are fawning over before – BECAUSE THEY ARE ILLEGAL AND WRONG.

          You say Trump is all about Vengeance – yet the only acts of vengeance we see are YOURS.

          What you accuse others of, is the best mirror into your own soul.

        4. “The only difference is that there is real evidence of crimes committed by Trump than there were for Clinton.”

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