The Editors: The calm conviction we need in the face of James Comey's firing

James Comey (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

For someone who campaigned on law and order, calling on others to “play by the rules,” President Trump has an unsettling habit of violating traditions and norms of behavior. His abrupt firing of F.B.I. director James Comey—who learned of his dismissal from reports on television—certainly follows that pattern. Mr. Trump was unaware or unconcerned that his action would be seen as an attempt to shut down the F.B.I.’s investigation into his presidential campaign’s possible ties to the government of Russian leader Vladimir Putin. The president’s unprecedented use of Twitter is another sign of his impatience with the norms of discourse in government, and his tweets expressing irritation with the scrutiny of Russia’s involvement in American politics show a disdain for the limits and oversight required by our government’s separation of powers.

At this point, it is important to find level ground, rather than stumble down a hill that we may not be able to climb back up. It is tempting to declare Mr. Comey’s dismissal a civil or constitutional crisis, to say, as David Frum does in the Atlantic, that we are now at “the hour of testing” for our democracy. But that may only freeze people on either side of our political divide and make it more difficult for any independent investigation to maintain credibility.

The more that Mr. Trump is able to paint an investigation as mere political opposition, the more latitude he has among his supporters to continue rejecting oversight and scrutiny from the press. Decoding his motives in firing Mr. Comey is less important than making sure that the investigation into any Russian attempts to manipulate our electoral system continues with adequate funding, with the authority to gather all important evidence and without pressure from the president or administration obstructing its progress. It is also essential that the investigation be insulated from partisan politics as much as possible; its conclusions will never be accepted by history if they are seen as mere attempts by one political party to score points against the other.

The wounds from the Watergate scandal involving President Richard Nixon and the impeachment of President Bill Clinton did not heal quickly; indeed, the scars may have contributed greatly to the mistrust between our two major parties and their inability to cooperate on both major legislation and the routine business of funding the federal government. Before embarking on another year of front-page politics, our political leaders should pause and figure out the best way to find the truth rather than to vanquish their opposition. A thorough investigation—and voter pressure on members of Congress to support such an investigation—will be a far more effective brake on Mr. Trump’s rejection of standard norms for presidential behavior than simple outrage.

THOMAS Heyman
2 months 2 weeks ago

What does Trump have to do before I hear a voice of righteous indignation from the Editors of America. Again you have served up pablum. This is a crisis of monumental proportions for our democracy. David Frum, who is no liberal or progressive describes the situation exactly right when he says this is " the hour of testing " for our democracy. It is particularly chilling to realize that days before the firing requested additional resources of Rosenstein for the investigation. This is further evidence that he wanted to leave no stone unturned to get to the bottom of the issue of Russia's involvement in the election and possible collusion of the Trump campaign with the Russians. Starving an investigation of funds is a way to kill it. this is exactly what Ryan and Mitchell are doing with the committees in their legislative bodies tasked with investigating these issues.
Again are you unaware of these matters if so do not even take time to comment if this editorial is the best you can do.

Gail Sockwell-Thompson
2 months 2 weeks ago

'I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and they would still support me'. Trump said it. He meant it. He proves it daily.

Jay Cuasay
2 months 2 weeks ago

I hardly find the criminal activities of Nixon and the spectre of a foreign power colluding with a campaign to influence a presidential election to be on par with the vigor with which Clinton's sexual misconduct and lying to cover it up. In any case, if it is more mortal than venial to lie to the American people when one holds the high office of President, then surely for Mr. Trump it is but a venial or even white lie to hold him in suspicion but a mortal blow to consider how he holds the high office.

Barbara Kelly
2 months 2 weeks ago

In November of 2016 the Catholic Church was very vocal in encouraging its members to vote for a certain candidate. Well, now you have that candidate as your president. Did you do any checking to discover what kind of individual this person was? This is a man who has mental health issues, is corrupt and wants to be a dictator. When is the church along with its republican members going to have the nerve to condemn this individual. What is it going to take for the church and its leaders to say "Enough" ?

Tom Maher
2 months 2 weeks ago

This editorial's offerings of "calm convictions" are subjective standards contrary to the considerable executive powers given to the Presidency by the U.S. Constitution. Additionally the "calm convictions" standards this editorial offers to analyze and evaluate President Trump's actions are new, unexpected and highly partisan standards unknown or unacceptable to most Americans. The editorial is inventing new, unrecognized, unlegislated and legally unknown standards on the Office of the Presidency. This editorial's fantasy standards are not helpful in dealing with the practical realities and authorities needed by the President to govern the United States.

The editorial author(s) also badly underestimate the considerable executive experience, talent and skills of President Trump. President Trump is an exceedingly able leader who is very knowledgeable of how to run a large organizations such as the United States government or his Presidential campaign organization. For example during his Presidential campaign candidate Trump numerous times replaced campaign managers and advisers with new people so his campaign would perform better. This editorial's representation of President Donald Trump as having "unsettling habit of violating traditions and norms of behaviors" is very wrongheaded given that President Trump has forty years of experience successfully building, running and improving a vast business organization and overwhelmingly won an uphill election battle for the Presidency against very well financed and organized opposition. Smearing Donald Trumps shrewdness and leadership abilities is only the first of many biased evaluations this editorial makes -- it assumes President has disabilities when in fact he has a lifetime of demonstrated rare executive and leadership abilities and achievements.

The editorial fails to properly deal with the fact that Donald Trump is President and has the Constitutional authority of a President to fire Director Comey for not doing a good enough job just how Trump would fire campaign adviser or business organization manager who were not doing a good enough job. And by removing someone not doing a good job opens up the job to be filled by someone who will do an excellent job.

Trump as President has made excellent staffing selections and is well advised by very able and talented people. His selection for Attorney and Assistant Attorney General formally advised President Trump in a public document to fire FBI Director Comey for significant and compelling causes. The representation of this editorial ignores the decision to fire Director Comey was formally deliberated on by very capable staff who identified and explain significant problems Director Comey was having in running the FBI. For example on taking office President Trump was plagued with extensive high level leaks of very private and sensitive classified conversations with foreign leaders. President Trump's telephone conversation with head of state were illegally leaked to the press but his was not being investigated though only a very finite number of people would be able to leak this sensitive classified information. This leaking of Trump administration classified data to the press is known by the public as a "Deep State" resistance to the Trump Presidency by high level government employee with their own private political agenda who recklessly and illegally abuse their security clearance to undermine the Trump Presidency by releasing classified information to the press. But protecting classified information was of course not James Comey strong point at all especially in the notorious case of Hillary Clinton's unsecured private server loaded with very sensitive classified information and documents.

Of course the idea that the Trump campaign was somehow working with the Russian was invented by the Hillary Clinton campaign who in public debate without evidence accused Trump of being a puppet of Vladimir Putin which is just not so. But as an excuse the idea that the Trump campaign worked with the Russians to steal the election is useful in explaining to Hillary Clinton numerous donors the loss of the 1.3 billion dollars they contributed to Hillary's Campaign and otherwise avoid accepting Hillary's role in her election loss. Of course the Democratic party is manic in insisting that the Russians stole the election from Hillary even though after ten months of investigating without any basis a Trump - Russian link no evidence has been found . Information on Trump being involved with the Russian is the one leak never heard of mostly because there is no Trump - Russian link. But the idea that the Russians and Trump stole the election from Democrats is very useful rather than facing the reality of not having the right economic policies for working class Americans to have and keep jobs. The working class voters went for Trump in numerous blue states in the Mid West because Trump addressed their job and economic problems and Hillary and Democrats did not. Blaming the Russians and Trump for the Democrats loss of control of the House, the Senate and the Presidency is ridiculous nonsense that the Democratic party is now actively promoting.

People are still talking about Trump derangement syndrome over the partisan, hostile rejection of Trump winning the Presidency for all kinds of irrational reasons even after more than six months since Trump won the election. Hopefully the editorial writer(s) in the future can avoid anti-Trump smears for the sake of smearing Trump. It needs to be remembered that Donald Trump six months ago was elected President and now has all the many executive roles and authorities given to the President by the U.S. Constitution. The Office of the President needs to be more respected. There are no competing legal standards or authorities to the executive authority given to the President by the United States Constitution. Any suggestion that an elected President is not fully empowered as chief executive of the nation with executive authority to act in the interest of the nation as this editorial does is false and misleading nonsense.

Wanda Martinez Rey
2 months 2 weeks ago

Bill Clinton did not bat an eye when he fired all US Attorneys across the country, and the long established White House Travel Team which became the infamous Travelgate scandal. There was hardly a whisper from the MSM. Lying is a Scrament for these people when it suits them

St Thomas Aquinas would roll in his grave if he saw the selective reasoning and trampling of Catholic intellectual rigor if he lived today

And then Catholic media wonder why Mass attendance has sunk to new lows, necessitating closure of parishes

Wanda Martinez Rey
2 months 2 weeks ago

So Demorats are now defending Comey after demonizing him for months and Hillary blaming him and "deplorables" for her losing her crown and scepter. Prior to the election, they raved about Comey, and Barry loved his professionalism. That was until Bill Clinton met with whats her name AG in Bill's private plane on the tarmac.

We definitely need health care reform because the whiplash Americans are getting from watching Democrats change their minds whenever convenient is grounds for a class action law suit against the DNC's cruel and unusual punishment on US citizens

Meanwhile those white misogynistic Democrats continue to mock Mrs. Kellyanne Conway in spite of her breaking the glass ceiling that Hillary was unable to break. Did the MSM tell you that Hillary outspent Dtrumpf 5:1 on the election, had all of the MSM carry her dirty water and yet still she lost?

Benghazi parents send their regrets...at Hillary's inept job as Secretary of State. Must have been her "walking pneumonia"

WWJD? Throw molatav cocktails, disregard life and not allow pro-life Democrats to run for elected office, according to Lisa, Crystal, Luis and the usual suspects on these boards

Lisa Weber
2 months 2 weeks ago

This article assumes that there will be an independent investigation of the possible connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. Given that Mitch McConnell intends not to have an independent investigation, it is unlikely that one will happen until after the 2018 elections.

This is a dangerous time for this country. Laws are being disregarded by the president and Congress is refusing to investigate. It is time to vote the Republican party out of existence.

Stuart Meisenzahl
2 months 2 weeks ago

The Editorial cites Mr Trumps ...."violation of tradition and norms of behavior ".......in this matter.
In fact it was Mr Comey who was sacked for exactly that respecting the Department of Justice's "traditions and norms" and specifically usurping to himself powers delegated to The Attorney General and/or a Grand Jury.

Comey's excuse was the ridiculous tarmac meeting of Bill Clinton and Attorney General Lynch. But he ignores that there was a Deputy Atty General who steps in when The AG is recused,conflicted, or unavailable.
He also had the option of going to a Grand Jury which would have been the traditional place for a determination to prosecute.
A friend of mine described Mr Comey last summer as fancying himself as "The Last Boy Scout". I always thought of him as more like Thomas Becket who thought his own sense of justice required vindication at all costs. In fact I think he probably relishes the idea that he is now a Martyr to Justice, beset on all sides by smaller people
.
There is little sense in commenting on the blatant hypocrisy of both political parties who were "For Comey before they were Against Him" and "Vice Versa ". Trump / Schumer have managed the trifecta of respectively being "Against/For Comey"....before they were "For/Against Comey" and finally they are "Against/For Comey
Finally for those who keep referring to "a cover up", please see DNS Clapper' s answer before The Senate Committee and citing the report of all 17 intelligence agencies(FBI included) , ...."No Sir, ...I have seen no evidence of collusion between the Trump Organization and the Russians"

Michael Barberi
2 months 2 weeks ago

I think Stuart's last few sentences sums up a lot about the hypocrisy and hyperpoly of the media and Democrats.

"Finally for those who keep referring to "a cover up", please see DNS Clapper' s answer before The Senate Committee and citing the report of all 17 intelligence agencies(FBI included) , ...."No Sir, ...I have seen no evidence of collusion between the Trump Organization and the Russians"

After Chuck Schumer and other Democratic leaders called for Comey to resign, they now are screaming "cover up" when Trump fires him. Many of the rank and file FBI agents think Comey was not the leader they need and many members of Congress, on both sides, think Comey was not doing a good job (and that is an understatement)..

If there is evidence of a scandal then let's bring Trump and anyone else to justice. However, let's stop calling all the Congressional investigations, FBI investigations and any other Department of Justice investigations regarding Trump or his cabinet "partisan and part of the infamous 'cover up' in order to persuade the American people that Trump is corrupt". Let's face reality. The media and Democrats like to jump to unsubstantiated accusations in the hope that if there is a 1% chance that Trump did something illegal or immoral, then all their hatred and negative narrative is worth all of the political capital in Washington...which is not much. Unfortunately, people who dislike Trump want to believe the worse. This is not fair-mindedness. Make no mistake about what I am saying....I did not vote for Trump, nor do I like the many of the means he chooses to achieve his ends. Nevertheless, I will call a spade a spade and this means giving truth and President Trump a chance to govern even if you don't like his style. The editors should do the same.

Lisa Weber
2 months 2 weeks ago

With Trump, it is not simply a matter of style. He has repeatedly lied. Truth has no meaning to him. Giving someone that dishonest "a chance to govern" is foolish.

J Cosgrove
2 months 2 weeks ago

A few points for the editors to consider:

1. The acting FBI director (McCabe) is a Clinton Democrat whose wife has direct ties to the Democratic party. If any hanky-panky was going on, he would surely know and be willing to reveal it. both Comey and McCabe are available to testify before Congress. So suppression of an investigation cannot be a legitimate rationale for Comey's dismissal. McCabe testified today that there was no interference into the investigation.

2. The so called "Russian Collusion" has produced zero evidence to support it and has been denied by Obama's intelligence appointees and investigations have been going on for nearly a year or longer. Given all the anonymous sources in news reports since Trump won the elections, wouldn't one expect some tidbit of evidence. So is the news on Russian Collusion an example of Fake News.

3. The Russian Collusion has paralyzed the government as the Democrats have used this false narrative to resist Trump at every corner. Thus, supporting the narrative without any evidence is complicity in insurrection. This should be the editors' main area of concern, the unethical interruption of the government by one of the political parties using Fake News as an instrument in this insurrection.

4. If there is evidence that points to a illegal Trump collusion with the Russians, then it should be aggressively pursued. But allegations are not evidence.

Wanda Martinez Rey
2 months 2 weeks ago

It appears the Editors failed to do their homework before publishing their conspiracy piece. Even the NYT, LA Times and MSM have reported that Bill Clinton fired his FBI Director, via suggestion by AG Janet Reno

Then there is Rostenkowski and Bill Clinton firing 93 US Attorneys, one of which was investigating Rostenkowski. Who demanded the firing the US Attorney investigating Rostenkowski? Janet Reno! But of course!

So much for Catholic intellectual rigor from this periodical.

http://www.nytimes.com/1993/03/24/us/attorney-general-seeks-resignation…

"ATTORNEY GENERAL SEEKS RESIGNATIONS FROM PROSECUTORS
By DAVID JOHNSTON, Published: March 24, 1993

WASHINGTON, March 23— Attorney General Janet Reno today demanded the prompt resignation of all United States Attorneys, leading the Federal prosecutor in the District of Columbia to suggest that the order could be tied to his long-running investigation of Representative Dan Rostenkowski, a crucial ally of President Clinton."

"Jay B. Stephens, the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, who is a Bush Administration holdover, said he had advised the Justice Department that he was within 30 days of making a "critical decision" in the Rostenkowski case when Ms. Reno directed him and other United States Attorneys to submit their resignations, effective in a matter of days."

rose-ellen caminer
2 months 2 weeks ago

A half hour before the breaking news that Comey had been fired, CNNand cable networks had another breaking news; that Comey had apologized for having " misspoken" during his testimony before the congressional committee a few days before. .I said when that breaking story broke that he should now be fired for this, and for this pattern he has shown of incompetence and or unethical behavior. And a half hour later he was! He had testified that Mrs. Weiner had sent classified emails, thousands of them, to her husband. At that hearing many members of the committee were clamoring to have her and her husband arrested![ the right wing has been paranoid about Human Abedin, who is Muslim, and the most conspiratorial of them during the campaign smeared her as a "Muslimbrotherhood mole" 'who should never get near the White House. Comey threw the Weiner's , who are low hanging fruit, under the bus during his hearing. But it turns out Comey "misspoke '"and she had not in fact leaked thousands of classified material and the right wing conspiratorial minded committee members, did not have anything on her. When Comey was fired, the media had a black out of this breaking story of a half hour prior, where Comey said he " misspoke' regarding Huma's handling of thousands of classified emails.This has been blacked out by the media.Nit's like there was never this breaking story just a half hour before the news broke that he was fired. Revisionist history, an alternative universe.;one minute it's flashed across the screen;" Comey appolgizes to committee for "misspeaking", having said that thousands of classified emails were sent",[ a crime potentially] and it's never again mentioned!
The guy has a pattern of being incompetent and or unethical going back to July , up to October [I said after Hillary lost that she should sue Comey for what he said on the eve of he election about her] and then right up to a few days prior to being fired, when he testified falsely under oath and seemed to talk out of both sides of his mouth before the committee! There is revisionist history going on in the media; omitting from any discussion , the fact that Comey on the very day he was fired, a half hour before, had to put out a "correction" to a false testimony he made under oath that falsely implicated two innocent people As if this is insignificant! Trump got his number.

John Walton
2 months 1 week ago

I recommend to all Adam Zamoyski's book "Phantom Terror, Paranoia and the Creation of the Modern State". Dems need a "red herring" (chuckle) to keep their large lunatic fringe energized.

Dolores Pap
2 months 1 week ago

I'm very pleasantly surprised at your even handed editorial- having followed the election and hearing from my Catholic friends, I had the impression that the Catholic church was solidly right wing, and so solidly behind trump. Two of my RC friends actually left their church because of the pulpit's trumpian pressure.
This is a time to put country over party, so we can be assured that the truth still matters.

Thomas Farrelly
2 months 1 week ago

For the record, I voted for neither Clinton nor Trump. I do back Trump's efforts to save and create US jobs, to reform the tax code, to replace the ACA with something better, and to enforce our long-unenforced immigration laws. I wish him well on this and especially hope that he gets the opportunity to appoint conservatives to the judiciary at all levels.
Unfortunately, I find much of his behavior bizarre.
I have to wonder, however, if the Chief Executive, who is the chief law enforcement officer, has not the same, and greater, prosecutorial discretion used by federal prosecutors and notoriously misused by the Obama Administration. I wonder why the President, who has unlimited powers of pardoning any federal crime, is not empowered to influence or even call off an investigation.
Any credentialed, impartial constitutional scholars are invited to comment on this.

James Schwarzwalder
2 months ago

Standard norms and balance. Oh, like President Harry Truman firing General Douglas MacArthur? Or the US Central Intelligence Agency plot overthrowing Mohammad Mosaddeq in Iran in 1953. Or the 1973 CIA backed coup d' etat against Salvador Allenede in Argentina. Democratic values? Apparently nice at home, but what about abroad. In how many foreign elections has the US CIA meddled? James Comey struck me as a publicity hound, regardless of his performance on the job. That alone may have been justification for being fired. For all the hoopla, has anyone produced any evidence of Russian state involvement corrupting our Presidential election that will hold up in a US Court of Law?

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