Make no mistake—on a personal level I think James Comey is a good man, and a person who made many sacrifices for and contributions to our country. I thank him for his service, and as someone who worked a major FBI undercover investigation during his tenure as US Attorney in Manhattan, I sincerely wish him Godspeed in the future.
As Director of the FBI, however, he made a few grave mistakes that damaged the reputations of the FBI, and indirectly, of the many fine men and women who work so diligently for the Bureau. I would be remiss if I didn’t state for the record that the Bureau’s reputation was not fully warranted based on my extensive experience sitting on both sides of the table with the FBI. However, legitimately earned or not, the FBI has enjoyed the general public’s trust and opinion that they were in fact apolitical, at least until Director Comey’s poor decisions.
Former Director Comey insulted every lawyer, knowledgeable law enforcement agent, and judge by the statements he made during last July’s press conference about Hillary Clinton’s criminal inquiry. He further exacerbated his egregious conduct by arrogantly defending his position so ardently before Congress just weeks ago. He insulted everyone with a basic knowledge of federal law by laying out every element of a crime committed by Clinton regarding the mishandling of classified information and then exonerating her because of lack of intent. The problem for Comey, a very experienced lawyer, is that the criminal statute doesn’t require intent, which made Comey look like he wasn’t being honest.
The mishandling of classified information is a “gross negligence” standard, not an actual intent statute. To say he didn’t recommend prosecution because of lack of intent is absurd and foolish.
Additionally, it has never been the job of the FBI to publicly recommend whether to prosecute a case or not. The moment Comey put his prosecutor hat on as Director of the FBI he violated long-standing codes of conduct within the DOJ. The fact that AG Lynch was recused is irrelevant, and the poorest of excuses that makes Comey look like his largest problem was a lack of common sense. DOJ has a rank structure that includes the AG’s deputies. He could have made his recommendation in private to the Deputy AG without any issue. He certainly shouldn’t have publicly laid out every element of a crime and then give a false reason for not recommending prosecution.
For everyone out there who doesn’t think politics plays a role in very high-profile cases, especially those involving public officials, you are sorely mistaken. The FBI is subordinate to the Attorney General’s Office, the AG is appointed by the President, and thus inherently political from the onset; to assume politics plays no role in these types of investigations is ridiculous.
The problem for Comey is that his conduct was one of the most public and flagrant displays of politics in our justice system. The inner circles of Washington know how things really work, but Comey’s mishaps pulled the curtain back and allowed the American public to view the reality of how terribly imperfect our system is. Arguably the most important reason to support President Trump’s decision to terminate Comey is the fact that beyond the loss of the public’s faith in him and the FBI as our top law enforcement agency, is the issue that Comey lost the trust and confidence of many of his rank-and-file agents, the backbone of the Bureau. Agents who have seen low-ranking soldiers and Marines get court-marshaled and imprisoned for inadvertently mishandling a classified document were furious when he foolishly misled the entire world with his “lack of intent” excuse.
So although I believe James Comey is an excellent lawyer and a man who was known for his excellent character, I also believe he made a deal with the devil and sold out the Bureau when he should have stood up and resigned as soon as he knew that AG Lynch wasn’t allowing a full investigation into the Hillary Clinton e-mail inquiry. He knew this as soon as Lynch refused to impanel a Grand Jury, which is the first thing done for even the smallest and most basic of investigations. The Clinton inquiry was a sham from the onset, and Comey had to know it; by not resigning he became implicit. His lame excuses and interjecting himself into the spotlight during an election is proof enough of that complicity for me, and thus he deserved to be fired.
Michael Grimm is a former member of the United States Congress, and a former FBI Agent.