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Why Democrats May Embrace Jim Comey’s Self-Righteousness in 12 Months

Some Democrats are already blaming Jim Comey for Hillary’s loss last night. It will be some time before we know for sure whether that is true. Certainly polling (to the extent that it can be regarded as a fair read of the electorate, which I’m not sure it can) didn’t show Hillary losing a lot of support, net, over the course of Comey’s head fake. Instead, polls showed Gary Johnson voters coming home to the GOP, which closed Trump’s polling gap. I do think it likely that Comey’s head fake had an effect on Democratic turnout.

So we will see whether Comey is to blame or something else (that said, by the time we really know that, a narrative will be set).

But I also want to talk about Comey’s position going forward.

Had Hillary won, I think President Obama might have fired Comey in the lame duck. But I don’t see that happening now. Partly, because it would be seen as vindictive, and Obama has his legacy to cement. More importantly, there’s no chance Obama could get someone else confirmed.

So Comey will be FBI Director on January 20, with six plus years of a ten year term in front of him.

Trump has already floated Rudy Giuliani as Attorney General.

I have no idea what their relationship is like now, but recall that Comey worked for (presumably was hired by) Giuliani when the latter was US Attorney in the 1980s. Giuliani is the guy that launched Comey on his self-righteous career of federal prosecution.

For that reason — and because of Comey’s behavior in the last month — I expect Trump will keep him.

That means Comey’s self-righteous rule is one of the few things that will prevent Trump, in the near turn, from politicizing the FBI more than it already is. Today’s FBI is already bad, but Comey may limit how badly Trump’s FBI targets Muslims and others Trump targeted during the campaign.

Ultimately, Comey’s tenure may end where it has before, in standing up to some legalistic abuse (even while sanctioning the underlying behavior, as Comey did with both torture and mass surveillance), and resigning or getting fired.

But in the short term, at least, the Democrats who are blaming Comey today may welcome his self-righteousness tomorrow. Me, I think the reasons that self-righteousness is a problem now will remain a problem. But probably less problematic than having Joe Arpaio run the FBI.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

12 replies
  1. Trevanion says:

    Twelve months from now we will be lucky if we know who “the Democrats” and who “the Republicans” are. We sure do not know that as of this morning: You cannot answer the question of what each stands for either by looking at their standard-bearer as of yesterday or by looking at the results as of this morning. Weird.

  2. Elizabeth Bishop says:

    agree it is all too early but i do not trust one element of this new bunch. not one of them has integrity or believe in public service for the public good. even though comes has a tenured position can’t he be made to be uncomfortable? I don’t believe silly rules such as his employment timeline would be a reason for a totalitarian such as trump would keep him there. i fear there sincerely be no one to rein him in. i believe trump to be an incompetent person so the folks around him will do the work which is what is most scary bc they are just as nefarious. i just have zero confidence anyone will know of or keep check of their collective bad works. they have total cover now with a straight red congress. i’d love for any response.

    • emptywheel says:

      I agree there will be few to rein him in (though I think Pence will run a lot of things, which is just as scary).

      All I’m saying here is that in the medium term, Comey will be one check, however inadequate. I also think Comey may resign or get fired down the road.

  3. What Constitution? says:

    It depends on what Trump had for breakfast, each and every day.  Predicting a year out is pointless.  Comey was a brave hero ten days ago, when his patriotic disclosure of new Hillary emails obviously confirmed her dastardly frauds; Comey was a feckless tool of the Clinton-rigged Machine four days ago when he announced the new emails changed nothing.  And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how we’ll be doing that for some time to come.  I’ll be more interested in watching Hugh Hewitt, Guiliani, Ann Coulter and the like elbowing each other for position at the trough.

  4. MD Rackham says:

    Whenever Giuliani’s name comes up for AG (or any other office) I have to drag out this quote of his:

    “Freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do.”

     

     

  5. Evangelista says:

    I am uncertain what Comey’s contribution to the current political situation might have been, intentionally, or intentionally. Certainly some peculiar forces were brought into play late in the late campaigning period, and those appear to have thrown Comey into a very peculiar, and uncomfortable position.

    I suspect that Comey, if he did throw the election, and purposefully, or if he is suspected to have, he will, in the end, be praised for doing so, perhaps including by Hillary Clinton. The indications, from the Weiner Computer dust-up, are that some serious wrongdoing was evidenced to have occurred, and that Hilllary was in the middle of the storm (which does NOT mean she was an active participant).

    If one parses Comey’s retraction, or last retraction, on notices that he placed particular emphasis on Hillary Clinton not being in any cross-fire. He makes specific point that Hillary’s error was using a personal server. His wordings suggest that the Weiner laptop evidence shows Hillary’s personal server having been misused, by others, for serious wrongdoing, in which wrongdoing Hillary, herself, was not a participant.

    Hillary, in office, would have had serious official difficulties in result, for the multiplication factor expectations for the office would have imposed. A result could have easily been even worse gridlock than the U.S. government has suffered recently, and a tainted legacy for women in presidency.

    We will have to see.

    I suggest putting all campaign prejudices behind, whichever candidate they may have been toward, and going forward positively, or with positive anticipations. The U.S. Presidency is, after all, when legal parameters are enforced, an office of very limited powers and responsibilities. Remember, we have three separated branches who are, per the terms of the Constitution, inter-policing.

    • jerryy says:

      “Remember, we have three separated branches who are, per the terms of the Constitution, inter-policing.”

      Everyone says that, but no one believes it.

  6. rugger9 says:

    I don’t think any of the Trump appointees will “breeze through” but the question of whether the filibuster remains will be answered in January when the new Congress convenes and sets its rules.  I place no stock in McConnell respecting “tradition” when power can be consolidated now.  Jerryy’s comment about “inter-policing” is apt, given the example of Kansas where its Supreme Court ruled that the legislature had to fund public schools to meet the requirements of the KS Constitution, and the legislature declared war on the court by cutting off their funding until the court ruled the right way.  I believe this is still ongoing.

    Sam Bee had a good segment on who’s responsible for this.  Man up and own up.

    Another interesting data point from the HuffPost had to do with why Comey may have been forced to do this, in that the visit of Bill to Lynch’s plane in AZ triggered a chain of events where Comey was cornered into having to say something to Congress in July and because of that had to update Congress last week.  Interesting theory, but it leaves out the timing for Round 2, and also leaves out the unequal treatment of Trump’s Russian ties especially since a high-level official confirmed Russian meddling.

    http://www.rawstory.com/2016/11/russia-confirms-direct-communications-with-trump-campaign-prior-to-election-day/

     

     

  7. jerryy says:

    There is no shortage of articles claiming the D. Trump’s wins have been because of the voters wanting to get rid of the political elites … including the GOP elites. This election’s outcome should then have those folks quaking in their shoes. But instead they are working overtime to consolidate their power bases.

    D. Trump has made too many conflicting promises to his base voters to be able to succeed in keeping them (for example, he wants to bring coal back from its demise as well as keep fracking going for the natural gas folks — these are opposites in a kind of zero sum event in that if one succeeds, the other does fail in nationwide markets, external markets are not going to accept the excess products for long either as other countries seeking the means to stop pollution in their own countries will not look kindly on importing either coal or gas just to help the US.)

    He has promised jobs to the unemployed and used the red herring of foreigners taking the locals’ stuff as the enticement for their votes. And failed to mention that it is not really the foreigners taking the jobs from the locals, it is the continuing struggle with how automation is replacing workers (now so rapidly advancing that the overseas factories are replacing their workers with ‘robots’) — ignoring the lessons from the John Henry folk tale that we are all dealing with. Those jobs are not coming back, even moving the factories here will not bring jobs back, they were lost to the mindless robotic assembly machines a while back.

    In about a year, those Trump voters are going to be muttering again and may be ready to boot their leaders out. Yet the political elites are not worried, they are working to consolidate their gains. Maybe they have already figured out a way to blame it on ‘the others’ and thus stay in power.

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