Up until the moment he was he was fired, FBI director James Comey didn’t have all that many friends left in Washington.
Blamed by many on the left for contributing to US president Donald Trump’s election with his insistence on investigating—and publicly discussing—Hillary Clinton’s emails, and criticized by Republicans and the White House for his probe into possible Trump campaign ties to Russia, Comey stood a lonely, 6’8″ figure, apparently “mildly nauseous” over it all.
In early November, even before he would experience the height of the bipartisan onslaught on his reputation, in a eulogy for a beloved longtime Justice Department figure, David Margolis, Comey made a pointed joke about his own political isolation. He said that Margolis “would love that all of you are here,” the Washington Post reported from the memorial. “I can picture him standing right there and looking at me and smiling, and saying, ‘You know, we’re going to be able to have your service in a lot smaller room.’ ”
His onetime boss Eric Holder—president Barack Obama’s first attorney general—Holder’s successor Loretta Lynch, and her deputy Sally Yates—all of whom either criticized Comey or warned him against renewing his investigation into Clinton’s emails—were among the mourners in the room.
Washington may not like Comey any more now than it did back then. But many in the capital and beyond are lamenting the way he was dismissed on Tuesday (May 9). Words of support, or at least alarm at the news of his forced exit, poured in from all sides.
The Senate’s top Democrat, minority leader Chuck Schumer—who last year said he had “lost confidence” in Comey—appealed to Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general responsible for the investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 election: “Mr. Rosenstein, America depends on you to restore faith in our criminal justice system, which is going to be badly shattered at the administration’s actions.”
Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein became more and more critical of Trump’s decision as events unfolded: “As I reflect on the decision to dismiss Director Comey, I become incredulous thinking about the ongoing FBI investigation into Russia’s interference with our presidential election and possible connections to associates of the Trump campaign and administration.”
Not all Republicans rejected the firing, but a fair number have spoken out against Trump’s action.
Republican senator John McCain said in a statement that he was “disappointed” with the decision and reiterated his call for a special congressional committee to look into Russian interference in the US election. “James Comey is a man of honor and integrity, and he has led the FBI well in extraordinary circumstances.”
“Regardless of how you think Director Comey handled the unprecedented complexities of the 2016 election cycle, the timing of this firing is very troubling,” said Republican senator Ben Sasse. “Jim Comey is an honorable public servant, and in the midst of a crisis of public trust that goes well beyond who you voted for in the presidential election, the loss of an honorable public servant is a loss for the nation.”
Even Holder, although indirectly, voiced his concern:
In the end, it appears only the chaotic management style of Donald Trump could bring a day of unity to the perennially polarized capital.