Fired FBI Director James Comey confirmed what many of us know about President Trump. He expects total loyalty by everyone in his “org chart.” He says whatever he feels will get him his way. He rewards personal loyalty. He brooks no independence.
This whole fiasco makes me pine for J. Edgar Hoover, who would have told President Trump to go to hell.
Trump is oil and good governance is water. Decorum and indirect messages don’t reach him or move him.
But Donald Trump is not the first, or the only, person to test and break the limits of executive power in a checks and balances government. But he’s the most obvious about it. The Clintons did everything behind veils and doors and buddy systems that existed for decades. The Bushes relied on family connections and long relationships. Barack Obama used public pressure, organizing activists, and his extensive knowledge of the Constitution and government nooks and crannies to get his way.
Where Obama used his knowledge of the Constitution and our government checks and balances to work within the loom against those very limits, Trump tears at them with garden shears.
Comey said Trump (and by extension, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein) lied about the reasons he was fired. (That may have been a bit of self-serving face-saving, as Comey did plenty of things to place himself in jeopardy.)
The reason Comey gave why he didn’t confront Trump during their multiple personal meetings on the impropriety of his requests is he isn’t “Captain Courageous” (his words). Trump is completely unqualified to navigate the legal and ethical waters surrounding an investigation. Any meeting after the first one between the two (when Trump was president-elect) should have brought a strong “no, sir, do not ask me this because I can’t” from Comey.
Maybe a stronger FBI chief (like Hoover) could have dealt more squarely with Trump, who hates pulled punches. But this just shows how bad governing has become.
Bill Clinton met with Loretta Lynch on a private jet before Comey detailed Hillary’s crimes and announced he would not recommend prosecution. This was after Lynch said she would abide by whatever the FBI recommended. It was all improper, but Comey didn’t have to deal with the awkwardness of meeting with Obama. We don’t know what went on between Comey and Lynch, but apparently he didn’t stand up to her either.
The FBI must remain independent, and not under patronage to the president. But for a long time, the Justice Department was suborned to the president’s wishes. Jack Kennedy appointed his own brother Attorney General. They both would have loved to get rid of Hoover.
Trump has appointed another lifetime lawyer in Christopher Wray to lead the FBI. But I’m beginning to think that position should go to someone with the biggest cajones, not the best lawyer. Hoover may have had his faults, but failing to stand up to presidents wasn’t one of them.
We don’t need an FBI director who owes anything to anyone. Just like Trump ran as the main plank of his campaign–he should require this complete independence from Wray.
It’s not enough to give Trump “loyal honesty,” give him what he needs–someone who won’t pull punches.