This is a serious question. I don’t dispute that the president has the right to fire an FBI Director at any moment, but whether he can unilaterally hire one should be up for debate. The New York Times released another report about the president’s odd behavior last night, and it’s especially damning because the source attached his name to the quotes. Does this sound like someone who would prioritize adherence to the rule of law in any new FBI director?
President Trump called the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, weeks after he took office and asked him when federal authorities were going to put out word that Mr. Trump was not personally under investigation, according to two people briefed on the call.
The takeaway from Benjamin Wittes’ account of what James Comey told him in both The New York Times and on Lawfare paints a picture of a president acting like a mafia Don, courting one of our chief lawmen to do his bidding.
Mr. Wittes said that Mr. Comey said that he received a call from the White House and was told that “the president needs to talk to you urgently.”
”He’s about to get on the helicopter, so he doesn’t get on the helicopter,” Mr. Wittes said. “And then when the president gets on he just wants to chitchat.”
Mr. Wittes said that Mr. Comey told him that he perceived the call as Mr. Trump still “trying to get him on the team and he saw it in light of his refusal to give him his loyalty.”
Wittes elaborated on his interview in the Times, writing on Lawfare:
Comey never said specifically that this policing was about the Russia matter, but I certainly assumed that it was—probably alongside other things. While I do not know how many incidents we’re talking about, how severe they were, or their particular character, I do know this: Comey understood Trump’s people as having neither knowledge of nor respect for the independence of the law enforcement function.
Watch this video as Comey uncomfortably strolls over for a handshake after Trump’s inauguration, and Trump tries to pull him in for a symbolic embrace—generally acting like he’s Don Corleone greeting his goon squad.
Five days after this exchange, Donald Trump invited James Comey over to literally kiss his ring—asking for his loyalty at a private dinner. A couple weeks later—right after Michael Flynn had been fired—Trump requested that Comey to drop the investigation altogether. Per the Times:
Mr. Comey had been in the Oval Office that day with other senior national security officials for a terrorism threat briefing. When the meeting ended, Mr. Trump told those present — including Mr. Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions — to leave the room except for Mr. Comey.
Republicans insist that Trump was simply joking with Comey, but this deliberate attempt to isolate him before making the request suggests otherwise. Also, let’s not forget that Trump told us why he fired James Comey.
“In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.’”
From the moment that Donald Trump entered the Oval Office, he was on a mission to derail the FBI’s investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia. Everything he has done is the opposite of how innocent people act, and now the AP revealed that his own attorneys “originally wanted him to submit an updated financial disclosure without certifying the information as true.”
We’re going to let this fraud select the person to lead the FBI over the next 10 years? Why?
His first choices were mostly politicians, likely because they are far more easily swayed than law enforcement officials and DOJ lawyers. He settled on Joe Lieberman as a prime target, who couldn’t be any more biased towards Trump if he tried. Lieberman belongs to the law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, who represents Trump. Per their own website:
The Washington Post featured Marc E. Kasowitz in the article “When Trump goes looking for a media brawl, this feared lawyer steps in”. The article highlights Marc Kasowitz’s and the firm’s various representations of President-elect Trump, the Trump Organization, and the Trump campaign. The article quotes President-elect Trump as saying that Kasowitz’s lawyers are “not good lawyers, they’re phenomenal lawyers.” Alan Garten, the Trump Organization’s general counsel, describes Marc Kasowitz as President-elect Trump’s “go-to guy . . . when really urgent, sensitive, complex issues come up . . . [Kasowitz is] incredibly smart, very measured . . . (but) that doesn’t mean he’s not tough.”
Despite the litany of positive articles that come up when you search “Trump” on their website, people are still trying to cover up this obvious conflict of interest.
Trump has done more than enough to discredit himself in this search. It's clear that any new Director of the FBI would be forced to promise concessions on the investigation into his Russian ties, and they would likely have to pledge fealty to Trump and not to the constitution. James Comey suspects as such, which is why he doesn't completely trust Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Per Wittes' account in Lawfare:
So he was asking himself, I suspect: What loyalty oath had Rosenstein been asked to swear, and what happened at whatever dinner that request took place?
It was damn near impossible to build anything in New York City in the 20th century without help from the mob—as they owned most construction companies—and that is Donald Trump's point of reference for operating from the seat of power. He knows nothing of shared sacrifice or valor—only personal loyalty in the name of survival. Trump courted James Comey for a few months, trying to integrate him into his inner circle of crooks and charlatans, and when he was rebuked, he did what any mafia Don would and dumped Comey's body in the river. Unfortunately for Trump, making James Comey a private citizen opened a whole new world of stuff he is now allowed to talk about.
Trump’s competency falls far short of Tony Soprano, Don Corleone, Henry Hill or any other semi-fictional character that he is surely super-imposing himself on to. He is a child playing make believe with real world institutions and implications.
Trump has certainly committed federal crimes in the past—whether it be related to Russia or his days laundering money in Atlantic City—and his chief priority in picking a new FBI Director is ensuring that he avoids prosecution. Donald Trump doesn’t care about anyone but Donald Trump, and he would hire a shill like Sean Hannity to run the FBI before picking a real lawman like Robert Mueller or James Comey. There does seem to be some wiggle room to take this decision out of Trump’s hands, as the Congressional Research Service writes: The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is appointed by the President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.
“Advice and consent” has historically translated into voting to confirm the president’s selection, but that definition also allows the Senate to suggest candidates to the president. If the Senate had any backbone, they would reach out to the judicial branch for a list of recommendations, and they would tell our Boy King that they will only confirm someone from that list. But since Republicans care more about their party than our country, it’s clear that this will never happen. Once we allow a self-obsessed, paranoid man-child who couldn’t tell the difference between the constitution and The Cat in the Hat appoint the chief lawman in the country, we will cement America’s status as a true banana republic.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.