Well this is awkward. I’ve been building a case against James Comey for years. That doesn’t necessarily mean I wanted him removed. Comey over-politicized the FBI long before the 2016 election. He’s got an agenda, and he pushes it, while also portraying himself as some sort of super-cop. Under a normal president I’d have been happy to see him go. But under Trump?
A take-down of James Comey would have been part of my next series on US criminal justice. His pushing of antiquated and mildly racist ideas from the top of the FBI was another hindrance to fixing policing in this country. It’s unlikely his replacement will be much better, but his replacement won’t have Comey’s history of supporting notions like the “Ferguson Effect”. He will be a blank slate.
James Comey was the hero of his own story. Beyond his potential utility against the Trump administration, Comey was also a great character. I was hoping to get to him in a more formal fashion, but now all he gets is a video reacting to his firing. That’s politics, I guess!
Video Transcript after the jump…
So… Donald Trump just fired FBI director James Comey.
I picked quite a day to take an internet break.
So I’m just finding out about this, but I’ve got a couple of initial thoughts that I think are worth getting out there now. The Trump administration claims that they fired Comey because of his actions during the 2016 election. First, his initial announcement that he wouldn’t prosecute Hillary Clinton, or that he… his investigation hadn’t yielded anything worth prosecuting, earlier on in the election, and then his last minute announcement that he had something else to deal with, with Hillary Clinton, that many argue skewed the election towards Trump.
This is transparently kind of ridiculous for the Trump administration to claim… at least the second action, the action right before the election was something that they praised at great length. I think the general interpretation, that they are firing Comey now, because he’s leading a Russia investigation, makes a lot of sense to me.
I’d like to talk a little bit about James Comey though, and the broader question: “Will we miss James Comey?”
I’ve really disliked FBI director James Comey and his public profile long before anybody else did, or rather, long before he became a household name for his political actions. Due to some of his actions, earlier on in his career, during the Bush administration specifically, he’s portrayed in the press as kind of a heroic figure, as someone who is willing to stand up to political power, stand up to presidents. And that may be true…
But I’ve got a more ambivalent read on that. I think the degree of conviction and self-importance that this guy has is pretty problematic. He’s been weighing in on political issues throughout his time as FBI director. I’ve got a personal mad-on for this guy because of two issues in particular that I care about deeply, and that he chose to take very public political positions on.
The first is criminal justice in the United States. I’m not sure if you’re aware of the concept of the “Ferguson Effect”? It’s the idea that protests by people in the Black Lives Matter movement are contributing to crime , to a rise in crime in the United States. This is a deeply, deeply controversial argument to make. I’ve talked about it at length in the past, you can check out some of my videos.
I’m a little ambivalent on the idea. I can see how declining trust for police forces would lead to higher crime, but I don’t think you can blame protesters for that, you blame police forces for that. Also, interestingly… In the years since this initial claim of the Ferguson Effect was made… it hasn’t really materialized. The declining trajectory of crime has continued. But, very early on, I believe within a year of the Ferguson event… FBI director James Comey, decided to get up in a speech and promote the idea of the Ferguson Effect. This guy has always been a political actor.
The other issue is Syrian refugees. We have a tremendously rigorous vetting process for every refugee that comes to this country. It takes like two years. But when James Comey got in front of Congress to talk about this vetting process and he was asked a question about whether or not it was certain that we could tell whether these refugees weren’t terrorists… he decided to answer the question in a legally rigorous way, pointing out that of course, no, there’s no hundred percent certainty. James Comey’s answer there was legally accurate, but it was not, I believe, a responsible way for someone like that to respond to this question.
Comey’s testimony on the Syrian refugee issue has been used over and over, and over again, to justify the idea that there is a need for a more, an even more extreme vetting process for Syrian refugees. That makes me very angry, so James Comey, long before the 2016 election, was a political actor, in a way that I never felt was appropriate.
As far as the actual issue… the issue that the Trump administration claims it fired him for, his weighing in on the 2016 election, I don’t have very strong opinions, I think probably he should have just kept to himself, the results of the investigation. But I do acknowledge that it was a pretty unprecedented thing. I don’t have very strong feelings one way or the other. So I just read a pretty good tweet, presenting two things that are true. Number One: Comey should have been fired a long time ago. Number Two: Comey’s firing, at this point, by the Trump administration, is deeply, deeply problematic.
So to the question of “Will we miss James Comey?” I think we will actually. I find James Comey to be a very problematic figure. I don’t agree with him politically, I don’t agree with the way that he politicizes, has always politicized the office of the FBI Director, but in the sort of unique historical period that we’re in right now, with a president that’s being investigated, or rather with figures surrounding the president being investigated for connections to Russia…
I think James Comey actually would have been kind of useful. And I think it is a problem that he’s been fired. It also opens the really interesting question of: So who’s going to be appointed to replace this guy? Is he going to be a Trump loyalist that’s going to squash any investigation of the Russia issue?
I’m also on record as not being the biggest fan of Russia hysteria, but I definitely do think that these allegations should be investigated seriously, and the fact that the Trump administration is inserting itself into this process, in such a belligerent, and obvious way, is incredibly troubling.
It’s yet another very troubling act, taken by the Trump administration, which is barely even news at this point… but this one, this one’s big enough to be news. That I agree with.
To close, I’d like to get back to the central question. Will we miss James Comey? I’ve got a hunch, not backed up by much of anything, that we haven’t seen the last James Comey. Actually, this guy has been very savvy, throughout his public career, at building up a reputation of independence. The political positions that he has taken, that I find so objectionable: Against Syrian refugees, and against a better, fairer criminal justice system, Certainly don’t appeal to me, but they appeal to a lot of people.
I think, and you heard it here first… that James Comey is a very credible, very possible 2020 primary challenger to Donald Trump.
What do you think?
Who knows. Anyway. Thanks for watching, Please subscribe, and if you