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Former FBI Official Michael Mason: Comey Firing Should Concern All Americans

Michael Mason is a retired Executive Assistant Director of the FBI. 

By Michael Mason

Michael Mason/fbi photo

Michael Mason/fbi photo

I believe the firing of James Comey is something that should concern all Americans.

The justifications for the firing of the Director that have been put forth by the White House lack credibility. Can anyone legitimately claim that the timing of this act is not, at the very least, suspicious?

The comment intended to quiet this storm that “…only the Director was fired, not the whole FBI…” might be true, but relative to its impact, it is a patently absurd statement.

Relative to the release of the information contained in the now infamous Comey letter, the American public seems to believe that Director Comey released that letter to the media. He provided the letter to the Congressional Committee to which he was obligated to report investigative progress.

That letter was obviously leaked to the press by one or more members of that committee immediately thereafter. Like it or not,  Comey was in a very difficult position immediately prior to the presidential election. If he had said nothing and the FBI found nothing…the matter passes unnoticed.

However, if he says nothing and an internal sympathizer calls a member of the press, then it looks like an attempted cover-up. If he says nothing and there’s no leak, but the FBI finds something and reports it after the election, all hell would have broken loose. So Comey was in a situation akin to seeing two small children fall into a lake and you can only save one. No matter what you do, that story will not end well.

The independence of the FBI is critical and that independence has been soiled by this situation. Comey was previously commended by the President, even called “courageous” for acts now used as justification for his removal. It would be laughable if it were not so serious.

Now the President is tweeting that there better not be a recording of any conversation he had with Comey. Far beyond the utter absurdity of the President “tweeting” such a threat and/or allegation, it would appear to me such a recording would make it completely clear what was said between these two men.

However, let’s not remove the dense fog that accompanies everything coming out of the White House relative to this situation. Just to be clear, I am not suggesting for a second that such recordings are appropriate but rather how odd it is the President felt he needed to issue a tough guy statement relative to the utterly improbable likelihood any such tape(s) exist. Just more dense fog, intended to distract our attention from the matter at hand once again.

The American public really needs to wake up and demand more from the President of the United States and his administration. Waking up each day and turning on the news for five minutes to see the latest absurdity coming out of the White House is already getting tiresome.

Weekend Series on Crime History: Nixon vs. Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox

How Trump’s Boorish Temperament Is Exposing Him to More Scrutiny

donald trump rallyBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

If President Trump thought firing FBI Director James Comey would rein in the bureau’s robust federal investigation of ties between Russia and Trump’s campaign, the billionaire-turned-political newcomer made a terrible, potentially fateful miscalculation.

Trump’s brazen decision Tuesday to terminate the man who was leading the growing investigation prompted a far-reaching call for an independent special counsel to examine whether the president’s campaign conspired with Russia to interfere with the 2016 election. Some also are questioning whether Comey’s firing constitutes obstruction of justice since he was looking into potential crimes committed by the president and some of his inner circle.

Former FBI Director James Comey

Former FBI Director James Comey

After drawing fierce criticism from both sides of the aisle, Democrats on Wednesday called for an independent special counsel to investigate the allegations. Then on Thursday, 20 attorneys general from across the country urged the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel.

Despite the reaction, Trump continues to take to Twitter and TV to blame the investigation on “fake news” and Democrats who “fabricated” the allegations “as an excuse for losing the election.”

Acting FBI Director Pledges to Blow the Whistle if White House Interferes

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe pledged Thursday to alert congressional members of any attempts by the White House to interfere with the “highly significant investigation” into ties between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia.

Speaking at a public hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, McCabe also vowed not to share information about the investigation with the White House.

Acting FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe

Acting FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe

A day earlier, Trump claimed Comey had been doing a poor job and suggested in a tweet that the 3-year FBI director “lost the confidence of almost everyone in Washington, Republican and Democrats alike,” despite an outpouring of support within the ranks of the FBI. 

At the hearing, McCabe challenged Trump’s portrayal of Comey, saying working with the director was “the greatest privilege and honor of my professional life.

McCabe added, “The vast majority of FBI employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection to Director Comey.”

McCabe assured the committee that the White House would not deter the FBI.

“Simply put, sir, you cannot stop the men and women of the FBI from doing the right thing, protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution,” McCabe said.

Trump Repeatedly Asked FBI Director Comey for His Loyalty at Private Dinner

Former FBI Director James Comey

Former FBI Director James Comey

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Just a month before Donald Trump was sworn in as president, the billionaire who pledged to “drain the swamp of corruption in Washington D.C.” invited FBI Director James Comey to the White House for a one-on-one dinner.

After some small talk, Trump got down to business. He wanted to know whether Comey would pledge his loyalty to the president, two Comey associates who are familiar with the dinner told the New York Times. 

It was an unusual request, not only because the FBI director is supposed to be free of political loyalty, but because Comey and the bureau were investigating whether Trump’s campaign team conspired with Russian operatives to interfere in the presidential election.

Comey explained that he could only pledge loyalty to his job and the country, but he promised to always be honest with the president. 

Unsatisfied, Trump repeated that he needed Comey’s loyalty. Again, Comey declined.

Nearly five months later, Trump fired Comey, who had maintained his independence.

Rex Tomb: President Shows ‘No Class Whatsoever’ in The Firing of FBI Director Comey

Rex Tomb served in the FBI from 1968 until his retirement in 2006. For most of his career he served in the Office of Public Affairs, retiring as Chief of its Investigative Publicity and Public Affairs Unit. His column addresses the firing of FBI Director James Comey.

By Rex Tomb

Rex Tomb

Rex Tomb

The timing and handling of this was shocking.

Also, a President who has a courier deliver a termination letter to someone of Comey’s station (who wasn’t even there to receive it) has no class whatsoever.

As to why he was sacked, I’m going to wait and let the dust settle. A couple of things kinda stand out for me, though:

    1. If Mr. Comey knows/has a lot of incriminating information about the President, it would seem to me that the President would want to handle him with kid gloves. As Lyndon Johnson once said about Mr. Hoover – “I’d rather have him inside the tent pissing out, than on the outside the tent pissing in.”
    2. I’ll be watching to see who Trump nominates to replace Comey. What kind of person will he choose? If the nominee is highly respected and of good character that’s a signal to me that Comey’s dismissal might be motivated by something other than a cover-up.
    3. Subpoenas were issued re the Russian probe I believe as late as yesterday, so things are not slowing down. Regardless of who is appointed, the FBI is relentless in their investigations & will not allow ANYONE to stand in their way. They certainly proved that during Mrs. Clinton’s email probe… The Watergate investigation was also relentlessly persued.
    4. I’m always suspicious of historical comparisons. Many times they turn out to be hysterical comparisons. Another Watergate? Comparing Trump to Hitler? Way too early to tell & history never really repeats itself, though there have certainly been historical variations on a variety of them.

This is one story I plan to follow, and I don’t rule out ANY possibility.

What I will try to resist, however, is allowing my emotions to take control of my brain. I’ve done that before & have almost always regretted it… I had & have a lot of respect for Mr. Comey. They gave him an impossible job and  he surely knew it might end this way, but did his duty, nevertheless.

Wonder what I’d do, or for that matter, any of the rest of us?

Timeline Highlights Trump’s Dysfunctional, Love-Hate Relationship with Comey

FBI Director James Comey.

FBI Director James Comey.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Just two days after Donald Trump was inaugurated as president of the United States in January, the bombastic billionaire blew a playful kiss at FBI Director James Comey and the two bro-braced in an awkward exchange that appeared to suggest the powerful pair had buried the hatchet.

But that wouldn’t be the case. Comey, who was three years into his 10-year term, was not backing down from an investigation of the Trump campaign’s alleged collaboration with Russian operatives to influence the presidential election.

Two days before the FBI director was set to testify about the investigation in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee today, Trump abruptly fired Comey, prompting dumbfounded Democrats and some Republicans to question whether the president was trying to disrupt a federal investigation into his inner circle. Some called Trump’s actions “Nixonian.”

Here’s a look at the rocky, often toxic relationship between the fiery political newcomer and an FBI director who was trying to reestablish his reputation as an independent investigator who operated without regard to politics. The timeline created by Tickle the Wire also raises serious questions about Trump’s insistence that he fired Comey because of his handling of the Clinton investigation. 

A timeline of the love-hate relationship between the two powerful men:

July 5, 2016: Comey announced he was not recommending  criminal charges against Clinton.

“The system is rigged,” Trump tweeted. “General Petraeus got in trouble for far less. Very very unfair! As usual, bad judgment.”

Oct. 13, 2016: Trump suggested on Twitter that Comey was hiding critical evidence in the Clinton investigation.

“Hillary Clinton is guilty, of all the things that Director Comey stated at his press conference and congressional hearings, and far more. He stated many things, but it’s far more and he knows that. And yet, after reading all of these items, where she’s so guilty, he let her off the hook,” Trump said at a campaign event in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Oct. 27, 2016: Just two weeks later, Trump suggested with no evidence that Comey and the FBI were up to something nefarious.

“He made a mistake, or whatever,” Trump told ABC News. “I don’t even call it a mistake. I think something happened. Look, something happened.”

Trump added that “there’s something going on.

Oct. 31, 2016: Trump’s attitude toward Comey took another big shift after the FBI director told Congress in a letter that the FBI was investigating new Clinton emails just two weeks before the presidential election.

“I have to give the FBI credit,” Comey said at a rally in Grand Rapids, Mi., on Oct. 31. “that was so bad what happened originally, and it took guts for Director Comey to make the move that he made, in light of the kind of opposition he had, where they’re trying to protect her from criminal prosecution, you know that. It took a lot of guts, I really disagreed with him, I was not his fan. But I’ll tell you what he did, he brought back his reputation — he brought it back.”

Nov 6, 2016: On the eve of the election, Comey announced that a review of a new batch of Clinton emails produced nothing of legal substance.

“They went through 650,000 emails in eight days – yeah right,” Trump told supporters in North Carolina. “So sad what’s going on.”

Jan. 22, 2016: Two days after a chipper Trump was inaugurated, he once again wildly shifted his rhetoric, blew Comey a kiss and hugged the FBI director in what appeared to be an uncharacteristic act of reconciliation by the new president.

“He’s become more famous than me,” Trump said of Comey to a crowd at a reception.

Feb. 24, 2017: Trump blasts the FBI for failing to prevent national security “leakers” from revealing to the media that the president tried to persuade the FBI to publicly refute the allegations that his campaign had ties to Russia, despite the ongoing investigation. 

“The FBI is totally unable to stop the national security ‘leakers’ that have permeated our government for a long time. They can’t even find the leakers within the FBI itself. Classified information is being given to media that could have a devastating effect on U.S. FIND NOW,” Trump tweeted.

A Tickle the Wire analysis found that Trump has complained about the Russia investigation more than 40 times since the November election, often blaming the “fake news” and the intelligence community. 

April 12, 2017: Trump expressed some confidence in Comey in an interview with Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo. 

“It’s not too late, but, you know, I have confidence in him. We’ll see what happens. You know, it’s going to be interesting,” Trump said, adding, “We’ll see what happens.”

May 2, 2017: In a stark demonstration of Trump’s quick, unpredictable temperament, the president less than a month later called Comey the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton,” even though the president himself suggested that he wasn’t interested in pursuing charges against Clinton.

“FBI Director Comey was the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton in that he gave her a free pass for many bad deeds! The phony Trump/Russia story was an excuse used by the Democrats as justification for losing the election. Perhaps Trump just ran a great campaign?” Trump wrote in a tweet, speaking about himself in the third person.

May 9, 2017: Trump fires Comey on the advice of the attorney general and deputy attorney general.

“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,” Trump wrote in Comey’s dismissal letter.

May 10, 2017: In typical fashion, Trump cast blame on Democrats and “Fake News” in yet another name-calling tweet.

Dems have been complaining for months & months about Dir. Comey. Now that he has been fired they PRETEND to be aggrieved. Phony hypocrites!” Trump tweeted.

Senate Intelligence Committee is meeting today to discuss the Trump-Russia investigation. Check back for details.

Lengel: Rod Rosenstein, the Canary in the Coal Mine, Is Already Gasping For Air

Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general.

Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general.

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, a former U.S. Attorney from Baltimore, is the canary in the coal mine for the Justice Department. In very short time, in that role, he’s already gasping for breath, having been put smack in the middle of the firing of FBI Director James Comey.

The phrase “canary in the coal mine” refers to caged canaries miners would carry down into the mine tunnels. If dangerous gases collected, the gases would kill the canaries before killing the miners. In this case, the dangerous gases could end up being dubious demands by President Donald Trump, that could compromise the Justice Department, and ultimately kill the canary’s government career.

Skeptics of the Trump administration have always expected that Attorney General Jeff Sessions would play politics and try to please his boss, the president.  But Rosenstein, a career prosecutor who has worked under both Republican and Democratic administrations, has a reputation as a straight shooter. The expectation is that he’ll stand up and say no if Trump tries to compromise the department. If Trump pushes too far and won’t back off, everyone assumes he’ll get fired or quit.

But very quickly, he’s already gasping for air.

Rosenstein authored a letter for the president detailing how Comey acted inappropriately during the Hillary Clinton email probe and implied he should be fired, but never said it outright. Trump then shot off a letter to Comey, saying he was going by the recommendation of Rosenstein and Sessions to fire him. Skeptics found it hard to swallow that Trump had concerns for Clinton.

Yellow canary - Serinus canaria on its perch in front of a white background

Rosenstein apparently felt duped, or at least that’s how it’s being portrayed in the press.

The Washington Post reported that Rosenstein threatened to “resign after the narrative emerging from the White House on Tuesday evening cast him as a prime mover of the decision to fire Comey and that the president acted only on his recommendation, said the person close to the White House, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.”

People will be closely observing, paying close attention to see if  the chirping continues to come from Rosenstein’s new office at Justice, or whether at some point, it’s silenced.