There are three possible reasons the God-King fired FBI Director James Comey, and none of them helps the God-King…. (More)

“The way the Director handled the conclusion of the email investigation was wrong”

The first possible reason is the case made by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, which details Comey’s mishandling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation:

I cannot defend the Director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken. Almost everyone agrees that the Director made serious mistakes; it is one of the few issues that unites people of diverse perspectives.
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Although the President has the power to remove an FBI director, the decision should not be taken lightly. I agree with the nearly unanimous opinions of former Department officials. The way the Director handled the conclusion of the email investigation was wrong. As a result, the FBI is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a Director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them. Having refused to admit his errors, the Director cannot be expected to implement the necessary corrective actions.

The specifics of Rosenstein’s letter read like a Clinton press release. Whether to prosecute her for charges related to her emails was a Justice Department decision. Comey was wrong to supplant that by holding a press conference to announce the FBI would recommend no charges, and even more wrong to smear her reputation in that press conference. Most indefensibly, he should not sent the October 28 letter to Congress about Clinton emails on Anthony Weiner’s laptop.

That’s all true, but here’s the thing. The God-King was furious in July that Comey didn’t recommend prosecution, and thrilled by the October 28th letter. That reason doesn’t hold water.

Even if it were believable, the God-King would be admitting that Comey interfered in the election … an election the God-King repeatedly insists he won on his own merits. So that reason doesn’t help him.

“At most, the Director should have said the FBI had completed its investigation and presented its findings to federal prosecutors”

The second reason – popular among wingnuts on Twitter – singles out a single paragraph in Rosenstein’s letter:

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. At most, the Director should have said the FBI had completed its investigation and presented its findings to federal prosecutors. The Director now defends his decision by asserting that he believed attorney General Loretta Lynch had a conflict. But the FBI Director is never empowered to supplant federal prosecutors and assume command of the Justice Department. There is a well-established process for other officials to step in when a conflict requires the recusal of the Attorney General. On July 5, however, the Director announced his own conclusions about the nation’s most sensitive criminal investigation, without the authorization of duly appointed Justice Department leaders.

In the wingnut reading, Comey was fired because he blocked Clinton’s prosecution. Remember, the God-King threatened that if he were elected he would put Clinton in jail, and this week an Out House staffer said the God-King will release video of Clinton’s concession call, for no other reason than to humiliate her. As the Twitter wingnuts see it, the God-King is “cleaning house” and plans to hire a Director who will “lock her up.”

But the FBI Director must be approved by the Senate, and you can bet Senate Democrats will ask exactly that question in confirmation hearings. And while it may appeal to the GOP base, most Americans don’t want us to become the kind of country where losing an election means going to jail. No, that reason wouldn’t help the God-King either.

“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation…”

The third reason is based on the timing, and bolstered by the God-King’s letter to Comey:

Dear Director Comey:

I have received the attached letters from the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General of the United States recommending your dismissal as the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I have accepted their recommendation and you are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately.

While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.

It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission.

I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.

Donald J. Trump

I added the italics because that’s what poker players call a “tell.” In trying to head off criticism that he fired Comey to interfere with the FBI investigation of his campaign’s ties to Russia – a day after former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates testified that she warned the God-King about Michael Flynn’s ties to Russia and the same day a grand jury issued subpoenas for business records of Michael Flynn’s associates – the God-King pretty much admits that’s the real reason.

POLITICO’s Josh Dawsey cites sources who back up that rationale:

President Donald Trump weighed firing his FBI director for more than a week. When he finally pulled the trigger Tuesday afternoon, he didn’t call James Comey. He sent his longtime private security guard to deliver the termination letter in a manila folder to FBI headquarters.

He had grown enraged by the Russia investigation, two advisers said, frustrated by his inability to control the mushrooming narrative around Russia. He repeatedly asked aides why the Russia investigation wouldn’t disappear and demanded they speak out for him. He would sometimes scream at television clips about the probe, one adviser said.

Bloomberg’s Noah Feldman calls it a small-c-constitutional crisis:

Technically, President Donald Trump was within his constitutional rights Tuesday when he fired FBI Director James Comey. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is part of the executive branch, not an independent agency. But the firing did violate a powerful unwritten norm: that the director serves a 10-year, nonrenewable term and is fired only for good cause.
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Practice regarding FBI directors doesn’t go back all that far, because J. Edgar Hoover ran the department from 1924 to 1972, ultimately dying in office. Hoover was too powerful and knew too much to be fired.

In reaction, Congress adopted a law in 1976 that limited the director to a 10-year term. The law doesn’t place any limits on presidential power to fire the director. Arguably, law enforcement is so central to the core constitutional power of the executive that it would violate the separation of powers if Congress tried to take away the president’s authority to remove the chief federal law enforcement officer.

At the same time, however, it’s anomalous in a rule-of-law system for law enforcement to be too responsive to the political whims of the elected executive. It’s just very risky to allow a country’s most powerful elected official to control the appointment of key law enforcement officers – in part because of conflicts of interest like the one raised by the Comey firing. As a result, the vast majority of well-functioning democracies professionalize the investigative role, rather than politicizing it.

That’s been the unwritten norm in the U.S. – one might almost say, a part of our unwritten, small-c constitution, though not of the written, big-C Constitution. Of the four Senate-confirmed directors before Comey, all served under presidents of both parties. Three served until their terms ended or they voluntarily retired. One, Robert Mueller, got a special two-year extension.

LawFare’s Benjamin Wittes and Susan Hennessey call it “profoundly dangerous”:

Make no mistake: The firing of James Comey as FBI director is a stunning event. It is a profoundly dangerous thing—a move that puts the Trump-Russia investigation in immediate jeopardy and removes from the investigative hierarchy the one senior official whom President Trump did not appoint and one who is known to stand up to power. One of the biggest dangers of Comey’s firing is that Trump might actually get away with it, ironically, because of Comey’s unpopularity among Democrats and on the political left.

We warned about this danger immediately after the election.

On November 10, we wrote that that Trump’s firing of Comey would be a “a clear bellwether to both the national security and civil libertarian communities that things are going terribly wrong.”
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The immediate concern is to ensure that the integrity of the Russia investigation, and all associated investigations, is preserved. We have not previously called for a special prosecutor, believing that Rosenstein was a person of integrity who should be given a chance to make a call on that question. His performance today, however, requires that he now step aside. Assuming that he acted with sincerity for the reasons he articulated, he has still participated in a tawdry episode that will – and should – raise profound questions about the administration’s commitment to a fair and independent investigation of matters that touch the deepest of national security concerns. He cannot credibly lead this investigation any longer, and leaders of both parties must make sure he steps aside for an independent prosecutor who can.

The broader concern is the protection of the FBI. Because removing one FBI director means installing another. Whomever Trump chooses for the role needs to go through the most exacting scrutiny to make sure that the director’s office – and the Bureau more generally – is not now the subject of White House control and a mere instrument of political whim.

New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait echoes that last point, arguing the God-King believes the government should function like his business:

Trump has demonstrated his inability to tolerate any authority that lies beyond his control. He disputes the right of courts to review and overturn his actions; he regards his power as a vehicle for enriching himself and his family, and recognizes no public right to know even the contours of his self-interest. It is fitting that Trump sent his personal bodyguard to hand-deliver Comey’s letter of termination. He sees the federal government as a whole as personally subordinate to himself, exactly like his business. He would no more tolerate independent legal enforcement investigating his potential misdeeds than he would allow his own private security detail to dig up dirt on him.

There is no longer any serious possibility that he will respect the norms of conduct governing his office. The only questions are how far his fellow Republicans, who control all the power in Washington, will let him go before they stop him, or whether the midterm elections will give Democrats the chance.

Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall warns of “a dark and perilous moment”:

Here’s the fundamental issue facing the country right now.

In criminal trials there are certain actions defendants can take from which judges will tell juries they can infer guilt. In a political context, this is one of those moments. We are now hearing word from White House officials that the White House is stunned at the backlash at Comey’s firing. Didn’t Democrats think he was doing a bad job? We’re even hearing commentators speculate that maybe this may have been a huge miscalculation. The White House didn’t realize how big a deal this was. In the final analysis I think this will be judged a major miscalculation – just not in the sense they mean. Frankly, no one is that naive. It doesn’t wash.

There is only one reasonable conclusion that can be drawn from the decision to fire Comey: that there is grave wrongdoing at the center of the Russia scandal and that it implicates the President. As I write this, I have a difficult time believing that last sentence myself. But sometimes you have to step back from your assumptions and simply look at what the available evidence is telling you. It’s speaking clearly: the only reasonable explanation is that the President has something immense to hide and needs someone in charge of the FBI who he believes is loyal. Like Jeff Sessions. Like Rod Rosenstein.

This is a very dark and perilous moment.

Finally, the Washington Post staff summarize responses from members of Congress, including:

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) – “I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey’s termination. I have found Director Comey to be a public servant of the highest order, and his dismissal further confuses an already difficult investigation by the Committee. In my interactions with the Director and with the Bureau under his leadership, he and the FBI have always been straightforward with our Committee. Director Comey has been more forthcoming with information than any FBI Director I can recall in my tenure on the congressional intelligence committees. His dismissal, I believe, is a loss for the Bureau and the nation.”

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) – “I’ve spent the last several hours trying to find an acceptable rationale for the timing of Comey’s firing. I just can’t do it.”

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) – “While the President has the legal authority to remove the Director of the FBI, I am disappointed in the President’s decision to remove James Comey from office. James Comey is a man of honor and integrity, and he has led the FBI well in extraordinary circumstances. I have long called for a special congressional committee to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. The president’s decision to remove the FBI Director only confirms the need and the urgency of such a committee.”

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) – “Regardless of how you think Director Comey handled the unprecedented complexities of the 2016 election cycle, the timing of this firing is very troubling. Jim Comey is an honorable public servant, and in the midst of a crisis of public trust that goes well beyond who you voted for in the presidential election, the loss of an honorable public servant is a loss for the nation. As the chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s Oversight Subcommittee, I have reached out to the Deputy Attorney General for clarity on his rationale for recommending this action.”

Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) – “My staff and I are reviewing legislation to establish an independent commission on Russia. The second paragraph of [Trump’s] letter is bizarre.”

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) – “Today’s extraordinary decision raises many questions all of which must be answered. Congress and the American people need a transparent explanation as to how this decision was reached and why it was executed at this time. It is critical that the FBI can continue all of its pending work with independence and integrity – especially the investigation into the Russian government’s efforts to influence our last election and undermine American democracy. Today I reiterate the need for Congress to establish a Select Committee with full investigatory powers to thoroughly examine this matter.”

A few Republicans defended the firing. Maine Sen. Susan Collins (R) insisted we must give the God-King the benefit of the doubt, I guess because his lifelong history of lying shouldn’t matter.

Except it does matter, and that’s why even Democrats who loathed Comey found this very disturbing. The God-King seems to think the FBI should be his praetorian guard, and CNN quotes one DOJ official saying there will soon be more firings at the FBI: “There is a lot of cleaning house that needs to be done.”

Dangerous times, indeed.

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Photo Credit: CNN

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Good day and good nuts