James Comey was unfair to Hillary Clinton during the federal investigation into her emails. That is the ironic rationale that the Trump Justice Department used on Tuesday to justify firing the FBI director.
“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,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote in a letter to his boss, Jeff Sessions.
“Almost everyone agrees that the Director made serious mistakes; it is one of the few issues that unites people of diverse perspectives.”
The White House said Trump fired Comey on the recommendation of the two Justice Department officials.
Rosenstein is overseeing the Justice Department’s handling of the investigation into whether Trump associates colluded with the Russian government during the presidential campaign. He is in that role because Sessions recused himself from the matter.
In his letter, Rosenstein pointed specifically to Comey’s July 5 press conference announcing that charges would not be filed against Clinton in the email investigation. He also faulted Comey for re-opening the email probe on Oct. 28.
But conflicting with Rosenstein’s rationale are Trump’s comments following both of those events.
Trump praised Comey’s remarks during the July 5 presser, saying at a campaign rally that his remarks “took a lot of guts.”
While Comey said criminal charges against Clinton were unwarranted, he blasted her use of a private email server as “extremely careless.”
And at an Oct. 31 campaign rally, Trump said that Comey’s decision to re-open the email investigation “brought back his reputation.”
Rosenstein also faulted Comey for circumventing Obama’s Attorney General, Loretta Lynch.
“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,” he wrote, adding that “it is not the function of the Director to make such an announcement.”
“Compounding the error, the Director ignored another longstanding principle: we do not hold press conferences to release derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal investigation.”
Rosenstein went on to say that “the FBI’s reputation and credibility have suffered substantial damage” as a result of Comey’s actions.