Since President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, right-wing media have defended the decision, calling the former director a “political animal.” This comes as Trump is considering multiple political figures to serve as head of the FBI, a move experts have decried.
Trump’s Firing Of FBI Director Suggested He May Be Obstructing Russia Investigation, And He Has Indicated He May Nominate A Partisan Replacement
Trump Said He Was Thinking Of “This Russia Thing” When He Fired FBI Director Comey. President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on May 9, with his administration at first citing Comey’s handling of the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. But in a May 11 interview with NBC News, Trump admitted that the FBI’s investigation into possible ties between his campaign and Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election was on his mind when he fired Comey. As CNN.com reported:
President Donald Trump has said he was thinking of “this Russia thing” when he decided to fire FBI Director James Comey, who had been leading the bureau's investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Trump told NBC News that he was frustrated by the ongoing investigation and believed it was motivated by Democrats' fury at losing the election.
The interview on Thursday capped a week of contradictory statements on Comey.
• On Tuesday, the White House said Trump had fired Comey solely on the recommendation of the deputy attorney general, who sharply criticized the handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server as secretary of state.
• That explanation was repeated multiple times on Wednesday by Vice President Mike Pence, senior adviser Kellyanne Conway and other White House officials. “He provided strong leadership ... to act on the recommendation of the deputy attorney general,” Pence told reporters on Capitol Hill.
• But late on Wednesday -- after earlier meeting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US ambassador Sergey Kislyak -- Trump said he had fired Comey “because he wasn't doing a good job.”
• Friday morning, Trump defended his surrogates and their shifting statements.
“As a very active President with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy!....,” he tweeted. [CNN.com, 5/12/17]
Trump Is Reportedly Considering Several Republican Lawmakers To Run The FBI. According to The New York Times, among the candidates Trump is considering to replace Comey as FBI director are several Republican lawmakers, including Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), and former Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI). [The New York Times, 5/12/17]
Legal Experts And Journalists Say Nominating A Republican Lawmaker Would Destroy FBI’s Independence
Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara: “To Preserve Independence,” ... “Maybe A Loyal Partisan Politician Shouldn’t Be In Charge” Of FBI.
A radical thought -- to preserve independence, remove politics/partisanship at FBI maybe a loyal partisan politician shouldn't be in charge https://t.co/kEyZzmNJaB
— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) May 13, 2017
NY Times FBI Reporter Adam Goldman: If Trump Picks A Politician To Run The Agency, “It Will Be Seen As [A] Sign That The FBI Is Being Politicized,” And “Trump Is Playing With Fire” If He Picks John Cornyn.
If @realDonaldTrump names politician to run FBI, the agents will not be happy. It will be seen as sign that the FBI is being politicized
— Adam Goldman (@adamgoldmanNYT) May 13, 2017
— Adam Goldman (@adamgoldmanNYT) May 13, 2017
Lawfare Editor-In-Chief Benjamin Wittes: “Cornyn Is A Partisan Political Figure And Hence Per Se Inappropriate As An FBI Director. He Should Under No Circumstances Be Confirmed.”
Cornyn is a partisan political figure and hence per se inappropriate as an FBI director. He should under no circumstances be confirmed. https://t.co/BqejbWOP5f
— Benjamin Wittes (@benjaminwittes) May 13, 2017
Nixon White House Counsel John Dean: “Horrifying Thought” That Either Cornyn Or Gowdy Could Be FBI Director, As “Both Are Way Too Political.”
ICYMI: Here's a horrifying thought, either Gowdy or Cronyn as FBI Director. Cronyn isn't smart enough and both are way too political. Awful! https://t.co/ugnWDJUaIA
— John Dean (@JohnWDean) May 14, 2017
Political Science Professor Mark Jones: “There’s Going To Be At Least Some Resistance To Having Someone In The Position With A Clear Partisan Profile.” Rice University political science professor Mark Jones told the Houston Chronicle that “there’s a belief the FBI director should at least nominally be politically independent.” From the May 14 Houston Chronicle article:
Whether Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, would want the FBI position was unclear. For now, though, he is viewed as a long shot to takeover (sic) the FBI, with Kelly and Rogers the likely frontrunners, said Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University.
“One of the difficulties Senator Cornyn faces is there's going to be at least some resistance to having someone in the position with a clear partisan profile. There's a belief the FBI director should at least nominally be politically independent,” he said. “Also, he's perhaps one of the few individuals for whom FBI director could be construed as a step down as opposed to a step up.” [Houston Chronicle, 5/14/17]
Right-Wing Media Figures Defend Trump’s Firing Of Comey, Attacking Him As “A Political Animal”
Fox’s Eric Bolling: Comey “Became Ineffective After” He “Became Political.” Fox host Eric Bolling claimed that Comey “became ineffective as an investigator” after he “became political” during the Clinton email investigation by acting like “a prosecutor.” From the May 10 edition of The Fox News Specialists:
ERIC BOLLING (CO-HOST): What Comey said right there is very important and probably the reason why he got fired. The FBI is an investigative body, not a prosecutorial body. What he said right there was a recommended course of action for a prosecutor. And he became political by using his prosecutorial hat when he should've just kept with the investigative hat. He would have been fine. He lost the confidence of his own agents, and I think he therefore became ineffective as an investigator. [Fox News, The Fox News Specialists, 5/10/17]
CNN’s Jason Miller: “I Do Think By Removing Director Comey,” Trump Will “Take The Politics Out Of The FBI.” CNN political commentator and former Trump campaign communications aide Jason Miller defended Comey's firing, claiming that “removing Director Comey” will “take the politics out of the FBI.” From the May 10 edition of CNN’s New Day:
JASON MILLER: I do think by removing Director Comey that they’re going to take the politics out of the FBI. Law enforcement shouldn't be dictated and driven by politics. [CNN, New Day, 5/10/17]
Fox’s Lou Dobbs: Comey Was “An Integral Part” Of The “Politicized” Justice Department. Fox Business host Lou Dobbs asserted that Comey was “an integral part” of the “politicized” Justice Department. From the May 9 edition of Fox News’ Hannity:
LOU DOBBS: I think we have to remember something, that this Justice Department was the most politicized in history, I mean in history, the Obama Justice Department. James Comey was a part of that, an integral part t. [Fox News, Hannity, 5/9/17]
RedState’s Josh Kimbrell: “James Comey Should’ve Been Fired” Because He Made The FBI “Political.” RedState contributor Josh Kimbrell claimed that “James Comey should’ve been fired” and “the only mistake President Trump has made here was not firing him sooner,” because Comey made “the FBI political” during the Clinton email investigation. From the May 14 edition of Fox News’ America’s News Headquarters:
JOSH KIMBRELL: The idea that he’s being fired, Mark, exclusively because of handling with Russia is ridiculous.
KIMBRELL: He was fired because of what happened last summer when Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton met on a tarmac in Arizona.
KIMBRELL:Then James Comey has to jump in and do the press conference Loretta Lynch should have done. Now, Comey shouldn’t have done what he did, but the fact is James Comey botched it when he took the FBI political after Bill Clinton met with Loretta Lynch on a tarmac in Arizona. James Comey should've been fired. The only mistake President Trump has made here was not firing him sooner. [Fox News, America’s News Headquarters, 5/14/17]
Frequent Hannity Guest Jay Sekulow: Comey “Became This Political Animal.” Chief Counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice Jay Sekulow, a frequent guest on The Sean Hannity Show, criticized Comey on the show because he did not indict Clinton, claiming that he “became this political animal” who “set the entire department on a collision course.” From the May 10 edition of Premiere Radio Networks’ The Sean Hannity Show:
JAY SEKULOW: But this was the problem with James Comey from the outset. He became this political animal, politician instead of a director of the FBI, and parsed words to get to a result that he somehow thought was palatable, or at least more palatable. When the reality is, what he did was set the entire department on a collision course with its own history. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show, 5/10/17]
CNN Guest Matt Schlapp: People Were “Frustrated” With Comey Because He Was “A Political Animal.” Frequent cable news guest Matt Schlapp, who chairs the American Conservative Union, defended Trump for firing Comey, asserting that people were “frustrated” with the former FBI director because he was “a political animal.” From the May 12 edition of CNN’s New Day:
MATT SCHLAPP: And this is one of the reasons why a lot of Republicans and Democrats have become frustrated with Jim Comey over the years is he is a political animal. And he plays this game and he is clearly trying to push back to win the news cycle. [CNN, New Day, 5/12/17]
Fox Guest Tom Fitton: Comey Was “As Political As Any Other Political Appointee Of Barack Obama.” Tom Fitton, frequent Fox News guest and president of Judicial Watch, attacked Comey, calling him “as political as any other political appointee of Barack Obama.” From the May 12 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
TOM FITTON: Obama's Justice Department wasn’t going to indict [Hillary Clinton]. Mr. Comey, who is as political as any other political appointee of Barack Obama, wasn’t going to recommend an indictment or put his neck on the line. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/12/17]
Joe DiGenova: Comey Helped Clinton “For Political Purposes.” Republican lawyer and frequent conservative media commentator Joe DiGenova criticized Comey for not indicting Hillary Clinton, claiming that Comey did not recommend charges against her for “political purposes.” From the May 11 edition of Fox News’ Hannity:
JOE DIGENOVA: In fact, one of the grave sins that Comey committed during that July 5 news conference, besides usurping the function of the attorney general, was to misstate the law, to misapply it to her, and to make believe that nothing was actually actionable. He was wrong, he knew it, and he did it for political purposes. [Fox News, Hannity, 5/11/17]