Outcry over the Nunes memo is damning for Democrats and FBI
|| theHill.com | Jonathan Turley
“The release of the four-page memo by the House Intelligence Committee has triggered preset responses from both sides. The memo is, in fact, enlightening in a number of respects. However, the most alarming elements may be what it does not contain.
First, it is important to start with what we previously knew. At the heart of this controversy is the dossier that was compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British spy, and Fusion GPS with funding from Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. Previously, Clinton’s top campaign lawyer, Marc Elias, and former campaign chairman, John Podesta, denied any connection to the dossier. After news stores confirmed the funding, Elias and Clinton herself admitted that they did fund this effort.
Second, we knew that Steele shopped the information in the dossier to various reporters to try to get them published during the election. Third, the contents of this dossier were so unverified that virtually all of the reporters declined to run the story during the campaign.
The memo confirms that top FBI officials, including former director James Comey and his deputy Andrew McCabe, used the dossier to secure secret surveillance targeting a U.S. citizen. That citizen was Carter Page, an aide to the presidential candidate of the party opposing the Obama administration. Comey signed off on multiple Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) applications targeting Page.
The memo states that the applications never mentioned that the dossier was funded in significant part by the Clinton campaign, even though high-ranking officials knew about that funding. That would obviously be highly material to judging the value of the information. To make matters worse, Steele admitted to FBI agent Bruce Orr, who was later demoted, that he hated Trump and was “desperate that not be elected and was passionate about his not being president.”
“WASHINGTON — President Trump has fired the director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, over his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, the White House said on Tuesday.
Mr. Comey is leading an investigation into whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election.
“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau,” Mr. Trump said in a letter dated Tuesday to Mr. Comey.
“It is essential that we find new leadership for the F.B.I. that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission,” Mr. Trump wrote.”
“President Trump abruptly fired embattled FBI Director James Comey late Tuesday afternoon for mishandling the feds’ probe into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, a top Justice Department official said.
“The FBI’s reputation and credibility have suffered substantial damage, and it has affected the entire Department of Justice,’’ Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote in a memo explaining Comey’s dismissal. “I cannot defend the director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken. Almost everyone agrees that the director made serious mistakes; it is one of the few issues that unites people of diverse perspectives.’’
Trump also issued a statement, saying the FBI needed fresh leadership.
“The FBI is one of our nation’s most cherished and respected institutions and today will mark a new beginning for our crown jewel of law enforcement,” Trump said in a statement.
Trump acted based on the recommendations of both Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who also slammed Comey in a memo released by the White House.
“I have concluded that a fresh start is needed at the leadership of the FBI,’’ Sessions wrote. “I must recommend that you remove Director James B. Comey, Jr. and identify an experienced and qualified individual to lead the great men and women of the FBI.’’
The president also sent a letter breaking the news to Comey, who headed the agency as it was investigating possible ties between the Trump campaign and administration to Russia, a probe that remains ongoing.
“I received the attached letters from the attorney general and deputy attorney general recommending your dismissal as the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I have accepted their recommendation and you are hereby terminated and removed from office effective immediately,” Trump wrote.”
Next Words Director Comey May Hear From President Trump? ‘You’re Fired!’
“If there’s one thing we know about President Donald Trump, it’s that he’s not afraid to yell, “you’re fired!” anytime he hears something he dislikes. 45 must be practicing his termination declarations Monday, after a day of James Comey’s testimony before Congress. Comey, the Obama-appointed FBI director testified today before the House Intelligence Committee, and that testimony boiled down to this: Obama’s wiretapping is “fake news,” and the Trump-Russia connection isn’t (or at the very least they are investigating).
If you’re thinking that it’s a little weird for the FBI to be commenting on an open investigation, you’re right. The FBI is generally pretty tight-lipped about its work. But bizarre times call for bizarre measures, and Comey explained that in “unusual circumstances where it is in the public interest,” he would share what information he could about what’s been going on with our president.
Comey began his hours of testimony with this confirmation that Trump’s campaign is being investigated, and that investigation is a criminal one:
While Donald Trump is known for his pervasive inconsistency, he is consistent about one thing: getting rid of those who threaten his authority. He has been known to fire (or, if we’re talking Hillary Clinton, threaten to “lock up”) any worthy opponent. Just last week, news broke that Trump had fired U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara and dozens of other U.S. Attorneys. Although turnover of federally-appointed prosecutors is typical, Bharara’s firing was not. For starters, it opposed a public announcement last November that Bharara had been officially asked to stay on into the Trump administration. Stranger still was the timing. Right at the time he was fired, Bharara had reportedly been conducting an investigation into Tom Price, Trump’s new Health and Human Services Secretary, over some shady stock transactions.
By contrast, Comey’s calling Trump out for lying about President Obama, while simultaneously confirming that the FBI is amidst an investigation over collusion with Russia is a one-two punch that leaves the Price investigation in the dust. Trump, a compulsively reactive person when publicly embarrassed, is likely doing far more than licking his wounds right now. But could Trump really fire James Comey?
He sure can. Under federal law, the F.B.I. director is appointed to one 10-year term – a term length purposely created such that it overlaps presidential administrations. Presidents may fire the FBI director (and Congress can impeach one) – and according to a 2014 report by the Congressional Research Service, “there are no statutory conditions on the President’s authority to remove the FBI Director.” While some FBI directors have resigned prior to the end of their terms, only one – William S. Sessions (appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1987) – was ever fired. Sessions was fired by President Bill Clinton in the wake of allegations of ethics violations, such as misuse of public funds for his private benefit.
It was impossible to listen to Comey’s testimony Monday without anticipating Trump’s cutting short his tenure as Director. And yet, such a reality was all but unthinkable just a few short months ago. James Comey’s unprecedented public statement made the week prior to the 2016 presidential election was largely considered the thing that sealed President Trump’s win. Just a few days before Election Day, Comey announced that the Hillary Clinton was being reopened. Although little came of the announcement relative to that investigation, the bell could not be un-rung, and Hillary Clinton was pronounced for evermore, “extremely careless” with the handling of classified information. Candidate Trump could not have asked for a better gift; many, though, like Senator Harry Reid, and ethics specialist Richard Painter, criticized Comey for having acted improperly and perhaps even illegally.”
Defiant FBI Chief Is Fired by President Clinton: Law enforcement – Alleged ethical abuses by Sessions are cited as reason for dismissal. He refused to resign.
| LA Times – 1993
“WASHINGTON — FBI Director William S. Sessions, who stubbornly refused to resign despite Justice Department ethics findings that he abused his office, was fired Monday by President Clinton–the first time a director of the storied agency has been dismissed.
Clinton and Atty. Gen. Janet Reno, steeling the Administration against claims that the decision was politically motivated, used unmistakably blunt language to describe Sessions’ failings. Reno “has reported to me in no uncertain terms that he can no longer effectively lead the bureau and law enforcement community,” Clinton said, adding that he fully agreed with her recommendation to replace Sessions immediately.
Clinton is expected to announce today that he plans to nominate U.S. District Court Judge Louis J. Freeh of New York, a former FBI agent and federal prosecutor, to succeed Sessions. Clinton met with Freeh for 90 minutes Friday night.
“With a change in management in the FBI, we can now give the crime fighters the leadership they deserve,” Clinton said. Administration officials said Monday that they know of no other candidate under consideration for the post.
Clinton dismissed Sessions after the director rejected Administration entreaties to resign, contending that to voluntarily step down would violate the principle of an independent FBI. The FBI director is appointed to a 10-year term but serves at the pleasure of the President.
Sessions was appointed 5 1/2 years ago by former President Ronald Reagan.
“We cannot have a leadership vacuum at an agency as important to the United States as the FBI,” Clinton said at a White House press conference. “It is time that this difficult chapter in the agency’s history is brought to a close.”
With Senate confirmation of the next FBI director not likely before fall, Clinton said that Deputy Director Floyd I. Clarke would serve as acting director. Sessions’ wife, Alice, has repeatedly accused Clarke of leading an internal cabal to force her husband from office, and Sessions has publicly questioned Clarke’s loyalty.
At his press conference, Clinton rejected the suggestion that Sessions fell victim to an internal vendetta and responded “absolutely not” when asked if the removal of Sessions would create the impression that the FBI is being subjected to political pressures.
Clinton cited the six-month-old highly critical report on Sessions’ conduct by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility, which investigated the director in the final year of the George Bush Administration.
Clinton noted that the attorney general had studied the findings and thoroughly reviewed Sessions’ leadership.
Reno said that, when she took office last March, then acting Atty. Gen. Stuart Gerson, a Republican holdover, advised her that Sessions “had exhibited flawed judgment which had an adverse effect within the FBI.”
But Reno said she wanted to make her own independent assessment of Sessions’ ability to lead the FBI, noting that she felt very strongly that the FBI director “should be above politics and not automatically subject to replacement with a change of administrations.”
The Justice Department report found, among other things, that Sessions had engaged in a sham transaction to avoid paying taxes on his use of an FBI limousine to take him to and from work, that he had billed the government for a security fence around his home that provided no security and that he had arranged business trips to places where he could meet with relatives.
Sessions dismissed the findings as biased and said that they resulted from “animus” toward him by former Atty. Gen. William P. Barr, who–on his last day in office last January–presented the report to Sessions with orders to take remedial actions.
In addition to the sections of the report that have been released, the investigation looked into whether Sessions had accepted a “sweetheart” deal on his home loan from a Washington bank and into other matters that have not been made public, sources familiar with it said.”