Fecteau: Trump’s Miscalculation On the Comey Firing

Thursday, May 11, 2017
Matt Fecteau, GoLocalProv Guest MINDSETTER™

James Comey
Citing the mishandling of the Hillary Clinton email scandal, President Donald J. Trump claimed FBI director James Comey undercut “public trust and confidence” of his agency, and fired him on Tuesday. This is strange because, not soon after Mr. Trump’s election, he kept Mr. Comey in the role as FBI director. White House chief of staff Reince Priebus even praised Mr. Comey calling him “extraordinarily competent.”

If Mr. Trump was so confident in Mr. Comey after the poor handling of the Clinton email scandal, why cite the email scandal as the reason for his firing? Something just doesn’t add up, and now Trump has another gigantic mess on his hands.

This may have been a calculated (or miscalculated?) decision to rein in any attempts to undermine Mr. Trump’s standing as president. Democrats called for Mr. Comey’s ouster during the presidential campaign because of Comey’s letter to Congress. Just before the election, Mr. Comey let Congress know in written correspondence he was taking “additional investigative steps” into Clinton’s use of a private email server – this move is thought to have cost Clinton the election.

During the Trump presidency, Mr. Comey had a strange role reversal. Mr. Comey became a check to Mr. Trump’s credibility, leading an investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia. Mr. Comey also repudiated Trump’s accusation that President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump tower – something of an embarrassment for Mr. Trump.

In firing Mr. Comey, Mr. Trump could have thought that Mr. Comey, an Obama appointee, was too unpredictable to keep as head of an organization tasked with investigating his administration. Trump may have even felt firing Comey would be met with muted condemnation because of the toxic relations between Comey and the Democrats – he misjudged the optics badly.

In one GoLocal Article, I (perhaps naively?) urged Congress to investigate the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. After the fiasco that ensued with California U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes over the handling of intelligence related to the Russian meddling scandal, Congress doesn’t appear up to be up to the task. These Congressional committees can be exceptionally biased anyway with a Republican-controlled Congress – such as with the situation with Mr. Nunes. Of the five Congressional standing committees investigating Mr. Trump, there is no bipartisan select committee to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia, only Republican majority controlled committees sympathetic to Mr. Trump.

I had some confidence the FBI would step in as an unbiased advocate for interests of the people (justice is blind, right?). That expectation dimmed when then U.S. Senator and now U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was caught – essentially – lying to the U.S. Senate, and the American people about his own contacts with Russian officials. Mr. Sessions eventually recused himself from any inquiry into this past presidential election.

Thus, the divisive Mr. Comey became the reluctant, deficient, yet a preeminent champion, the man who would finally shed light on the extent of Trump’s ties to Russia. Even with Mr. Comey’s flawed approach to Clinton mess, Mr. Comey appeared to be conducting an impartial investigation, an investigation critical to instill faith in our democracy.

With Mr. Comey’s firing, this FBI investigation could be just as or perceived to be as compromised. Regardless, the trust in an institution based on the rule of law will have a serious perception problem. Rumor has it that Trump allies Chris Christie or Rudy Giuliani may be picked for the position of FBI director. While the Russian meddling investigation is still ongoing, can there truly be an unbiased result with one of these men in charge? Likely not.

All hope is not lost. Two other avenues remain feasible options: an independent commission (e.g. the 9/11 commission) or a special prosecutor (I prefer the latter for the sake of expedition). With the dismissal of Comey, Mr. Trump made an egregious mistake. The calls will grow louder for an investigation unrestrained by political baggage, and now, Trump has to deal with another controversy – something his rock bottom approval ratings cannot afford. 

 

Matt Fecteau ([email protected]) of Pawtucket, Rhode Island was a Democratic candidate for office in 2014 and 2016. He is a former White House national security intern and Iraq War veteran. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewFecteau

  • Jennifer Duffy

    Cook Report

    "We don't really know what a Trump presidency means for the nation, never mind the smallest state.  One of the unintended consequences of last night's results is that Sen. Jack Reed won't be chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Chalk that up as a loss for RI."

     
  • Pam Gencarella

    Head of Ocean State Taxpayers' Association

    "Trump’s win means that his signature issue, illegal immigration, could have a big impact on RI, hopefully reversing our course as a sanctuary state and saving the state taxpayer millions of dollars.  While we agree with his 'repeal and replace' Obamacare stance, we have no idea what that means to the RI debacle known as UHIP.  It is not a stretch to believe that federal funding for this kind of system will be off the table so, will RI be stuck with this massively expensive system that still doesn’t work and that is expected to cost another $124 million to fix?  

    Trump's belief that there is significant fraud in the Food Stamp program and the policies that may come from that belief could have a negative impact on RI's local economy since there are businesses in certain cities that rely heavily on this program, fraud and all. On the upside, we may be able to ditch the UHIP program if there is significantly less need for processing welfare program requests (ie. Medicaid and food stamps) resulting from fewer illegal immigrants and less fraud.  While we are ambivalent about his touted child care policies, if enacted, it may force our legislators to revisit the ever growing state cost of subsidies in this area and possibly reduce the fraud and abuse in this system." 

     
  • Kay Israel

    Professor at Rhode Island College

    "With a Republican President and Congress, Rhode Island will probably be excluded from the 'fruits of victory."  

    The congressional delegation will be able to vocally make their presence felt, but in the long term it's more symbolic than substantive.  

    For Rhode Island it's a matter of holding on and waiting until '18 or '20 and a surge in Democratic influence."

     
  • Jennifer Lawless

    Professor at American University

    "The RI congressional delegation just became even less powerful than it was. With unified government, Trump doesn’t need to quell Democrats’ concerns or acquiesce because he’s worried about a Democratically-controlled Senate.

    His appointments will reflect that. His executive orders will affect that. And the conservative policy agenda he puts forward will affect that."

     
  • Len Lardaro

    Professor at University of Rhode Island

    "Well there's a few things -- because there's not going to be gridlock, that's a big difference if it had been Hillary and a GOP Congress, in which nothing would got done. We'll at least get a half a billion in infrastructure that's going to pass which will have an impact.

    I think you'll see there will be reduced reliance on government nationally -- and that's where we'll stick out like sore thumb. We've relied way too much on government -- and our government is highly inefficient and ineffective.  Maybe, just maybe, in this who cycle of things we might be forced to be small and more efficient for once.

    A couple of other things -- interest rates jumped. The one to follow is the ten year government bond rate -- which is tied to mortgages. It went from 1.7% to 2.05% in one day. The point is -- if the ten year stays high, mortgage rates will start going higher -- and in the short time people will run to re-finance. 

    That's the short term impact -- but then if rates stay hight, that will make mortgages more out of reach. And we just passed a bond issue to limit open space -- housing has limited upside here.
    The next thing -- the Fed Reserve will go ahead with tightening next month. A strong dollar will hurt manufacturing. When the dollar is strong our exports become more expensive overseas. 

    Our goods production sector -- manufacturing and construction -- in the near term will do a little better, but as time goes on will be more limited. But something you won't hear, is there are lags in fiscal policy, of six months to year. So we won't really see the effects until the third our fourth quarter of 2017, going into 2018."
     

     
  • Mike Stenhouse

    RI Center for Freedon and Prosperity

    "As the unbelievable turned into reality this morning, it struck me that the presidential election was not really all about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. It was about a fed-up people, revolting against a corrupt system - the "beast" - that relentlessly favors insiders. Hillary personified the beast, while Donald personified the slayer.

    Sadly, based on election results in our state, Rhode Island's version of the beast lives on. I fear our political class has not learned the lessons from the Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump movements - and will continue with their government-centric, anti-family, anti-business status quo."

     

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