James Comey, arguably the most controversial FBI director since J. Edgar Hoover, was unexpectedly fired by President Donald Trump this week. And while the administration reaps the whirlwind of this highly unorthodox move, we pause to offer a word of thanks to the departing director.
Throughout his career, Comey enjoyed a reputation of rectitude, dedication and thoroughness. That reputation took a hit during the 2016 presidential race, first with his half-hearted exoneration of Hillary Clinton’s email practice and then with a last-minute threat to reopen his investigation of her.
He is certainly not above criticism, but as our story this week notes, Comey also did extraordinary outreach to the Jewish community during his tenure as director, and he deserves praise for it.
On his watch, the fight against hate crimes — including hate crimes against Jews — became a priority. He regularly conferred with the Anti-Defamation League and spoke at its conventions. More recently, he proved indefatigable in investigating a spate of JCC bomb hoaxes, solving some of those cases.
Less dramatically, but perhaps more tellingly, Comey instructed all FBI employees to tour the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., not only for the history lesson, but as a reminder that democracies need constant tending, lest they fall prey to incremental tyranny.
Many political observers are seeing just such an increment with Comey’s dismissal.
It is impossible not to cast suspicion on the president’s motives and timing. The given reason — that Comey did not properly handle the Clinton investigation last year — is laughable, given Trump’s effusive praise of Comey precisely for how he was handling it.
And despite what Trump said in his termination letter to Comey, the FBI is engaged in an investigation of administration figures and their ties to Russia. The day before his firing, Comey asked the Department of Justice for additional funding for the investigation.
If Trump thought firing Comey would quell that investigation or quiet his critics, he is mistaken. This action smacks of cover-up or worse. We hope the truth will out, but it will take men and women on both sides of the aisle willing to put the needs and integrity of the country ahead of partisan politics.
For the record, we demand the appointment of a special prosecutor to look into Trump-Russia connections and Russia’s meddling in last year’s election.
Also for the record, we salute James Comey for a lifetime of service to his country and to the American people.