Comey to head FBI

posted at 8:01 am on May 30, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

With the Department of Justice in an uproar already over Operation Fast and Furious — which has not gone away — and the snooping scandals as well as a new problem with Eric Holder and potential perjury charges, the last thing the Obama administration needs is more controversy in its law-enforcement efforts.  FBI Director Robert Mueller will retire shortly, and the White House made what looks like a safe choice to replace him:

President Barack Obama is prepared to nominate James Comey, a former Bush administration official with bipartisan credentials, as the next FBI director. In a possible warning sign, the top Republican on the Senate committee that would review the nomination said Comey would face questions about his ties to Wall Street.

Three people with knowledge of the selection said Wednesday that Obama planned to nominate Comey, who was the No. 2 at the Justice Department under President George W. Bush. Comey was general counsel to Connecticut-based hedge fund Bridgewater Associates from 2010 until earlier this year and now lectures at Columbia Law School.

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) wonders whether Comey would be tough on his recent colleagues in the hedge-fund industry:

Grassley said in a statement late Wednesday he had not heard from the White House about Comey’s nomination but said Comey possessed a lot of important experience on national security issues.

“But, if he’s nominated, he would have to answer questions about his recent work in the hedge fund industry,” Grassley said. “The administration’s efforts to criminally prosecute Wall Street for its part in the economic downturn have been abysmal, and his agency would have to help build the case against some of his colleagues.”

I’m not sure how well this objection can be sustained.  One reason that Wall Street execs didn’t get prosecuted is that the Obama administration didn’t make it a priority; another is that it would be difficult to prosecute them when most of the underlying problem was caused by Congress and administrations of both parties in government manipulation of the mortgage markets for social engineering.  Comey didn’t have much to do with that, and most of his recent colleagues in the hedge-fund industry probably didn’t, either.

Comey has shown considerable independence in his past work within the DoJ, much to the frustration of Republicans at the time:

However, Comey is widely viewed as an apolitical prosecutor and is best known for rebuffing pressure from Bush’s White House to approve the reauthorization of a terrorist surveillance-related program in 2004.

The dispute culminated in a dramatic showdown at the hospital bedside of an ailing Attorney General John Ashcroft, with White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and chief of staff Andrew Card pressing Ashcroft to sign off on continuing the highly classified program and Comey racing to the scene to urge the attorney general to reject the White House’s entreaties.

That’s been getting plenty of attention overnight, and for good reason.  However, let’s not forget that Comey was actually negotiating for continuing the program under more legal parameters:

The current FBI director, Robert Mueller, also rushed to the hospital at Comey’s request. Comey prevailed in the dispute, with changes made to accommodate his legal objections. The details of the program that prompted the fight remain classified.

Comey has managed to stay out of the political battles since 2007 and had a long record for aggressive prosecution in terrorism cases.  He’s not someone who can be easily rolled by an administration.  At least at first blush, he appears to be exactly the kind of leader everyone would like to see at the top of the FBI.  Unless something very specific pops up, I’d bet on a smooth ride for Comey once his nomination becomes official.

Update: Marc Ambinder remembers the nuance of Comey’s intervention:

Jim Comey, who President Obama will reportedly nominate to run the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is best known for a singular act of courage: When the Bush administration wanted to act like the rule of law was inconvenient, he said no. In doing so, he pissed off the White House, many of his own colleagues, made an enemy of Dick Cheney for life, and earned plaudits from civil libertarians as a liberal-minded man of the people.

All true. But Comey also helped to institutionalize the very program — the National Security Agency’s orderless domestic collection — that his refusal to sanction had put the breaks on. He did not object to the part of the program declassified by the Bush administration. He believed that the president’s Article II power did in fact provide enough cover for the NSA to collect call records from subscribers who were reasonably believed to be connected to overseas terrorists or their associates.

It’s a lot more gray than black and white.


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Just do it

cmsinaz on May 30, 2013 at 8:07 AM

Commi currently heads the U.S…

hillsoftx on May 30, 2013 at 8:08 AM

Comey has managed to stay out of the political battles since 2007 and had a long record for aggressive prosecution in terrorism cases. He’s not someone who can be easily rolled by an administration.

But with this administration…
There appears to be a lot of rolling going on..

Electrongod on May 30, 2013 at 8:09 AM

Jamie Gorelick not available?

meci on May 30, 2013 at 8:16 AM

Sounds like he would be a much better replacement for Holder. DOJ is in much worse shape than the FBI.

chemman on May 30, 2013 at 8:17 AM

Shorter Ed Morrissey:
“Aw,c’mon.Let’s trust Obama this time,guys.”

Dr. Carlo Lombardi on May 30, 2013 at 8:20 AM

a bushie? can anyone say trojan horse?

no way this guy contradicts anything obama wants to say or do.

Under a republican administration he’s “apolitical”.

Under obama he’ll groan and squeal.

renalin on May 30, 2013 at 8:23 AM

Comey needs to be asked what he intends to do with an FBI that dawdled in Tripoli for weeks instead of securing evidence in Benghazi. Anderson Cooper managed to get in and recovered Ambassador Stevens journal, where the hell was the FBI.

This is a failure of the Bureau and administration… What will Comey do to correct the failure of Mueller and the rat-eared coward?

Happy Nomad on May 30, 2013 at 8:28 AM

I hear ya Renalin but I rather have the gop focus on the scandals…the lsm gas a new squirrel now

cmsinaz on May 30, 2013 at 8:28 AM

another is that it would be difficult to prosecute them when most of the underlying problem was caused by Congress and administrations of both parties in government manipulation of the mortgage markets for social engineering.

For various reasons politicians in universal suffrage representative democracies are rarely blamed, much less held accountable, for their monumental socio-economic engineering blunders.

If they cannot find someone else to investigate and pin it on without getting caught up in the blame game themselves they quickly point the finger elsewhere and then change the subject, unleashing some squirrels if, when, and as needed.

farsighted on May 30, 2013 at 8:28 AM

I’m not sure how well this objection can be sustained. One reason that Wall Street execs didn’t get prosecuted is that the Obama administration didn’t make it a priority; another is that it would be difficult to prosecute them when most of the underlying problem was caused by Congress and administrations of both parties in government manipulation of the mortgage markets for social engineering.

The main reason Team SCOAMT didn’t make prosecuting Wall Street execs a priority is they bankrolled and pretty much handed the 2008 election through their roles in The Great Recession to Team SCOAMT.

Steve Eggleston on May 30, 2013 at 8:28 AM

Bush adminisration? One world order–open borders?

Don L on May 30, 2013 at 8:29 AM

I hear ya Renalin but I rather have the gop focus on the scandals…the lsm gas a new squirrel now

cmsinaz on May 30, 2013 at 8:28 AM

I don’t think the GOP Senators should be allowing a single confirmation until the administration comes clean on all these scandals. No cabinet-level positions, no confirmation of flag officers for the DoD, no judges, nothing. If the administration wants to practice contempt of Congress, let the Congress show the filthy bastard what contempt really looks like.

Happy Nomad on May 30, 2013 at 8:32 AM

Good point Happy nomad

Good point

cmsinaz on May 30, 2013 at 8:35 AM

Off-topic – there was a double dose of OOPS! on the economic front:

- Initial jobless claims rose to 354K, while expectations were for 340K. Related – we’re back to the +4K upward revision cycle.

- The second look at 1Q GDP dropped the annualized growth to 2.4%, while expectations were for an unchanged +2.5%.

Steve Eggleston on May 30, 2013 at 8:36 AM

I don’t think the GOP Senators should be allowing a single confirmation until the administration comes clean on all these scandals. No cabinet-level positions, no confirmation of flag officers for the DoD, no judges, nothing. If the administration wants to practice contempt of Congress, let the Congress show the filthy bastard what contempt really looks like.

Happy Nomad on May 30, 2013 at 8:32 AM

….this ^ ^ ^

KOOLAID2 on May 30, 2013 at 8:36 AM

Marc Ambinder remembers the nuance of Comey’s intervention:

Jim Comey, who President Obama will reportedly nominate to run the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is best known for a singular act of courage: When the Bush administration wanted to act like the rule of law was inconvenient, he said no…

and defied the evil Bush/Cheney WH.

Shortened and edited for clarity, reducing it to its essence.

Nuance.

farsighted on May 30, 2013 at 8:37 AM

Comey is Schumer’s guy.

Comedy oversaw putting Judith Miller in jail and prosecuting Scooter Libby for not remembering what he said to Tim Russert during his FBI interview. He also prosecuted Martha Stewart in a huge prosecutorial overreach.

He is no Republican to celebrate.

MayBee on May 30, 2013 at 8:37 AM

Obama nominating this guy says volumes about the guy. He’s worse than Alberto Gonzalez.

Buddahpundit on May 30, 2013 at 8:40 AM

I don’t think the GOP Senators should be allowing a single confirmation until the administration comes clean on all these scandals. No cabinet-level positions, no confirmation of flag officers for the DoD, no judges, nothing. If the administration wants to practice contempt of Congress, let the Congress show the filthy bastard what contempt really looks like.

Happy Nomad on May 30, 2013 at 8:32 AM

Agreed.

But there are probably enough GOP weasels without the backbone to do this to torpedo the effort. If the GOP tries this the Dems will peel them away and the MSM will declare them bipartisan heroes for opposing the GOP extremists.

I’d like to be wrong about that.

farsighted on May 30, 2013 at 8:41 AM

cmsinaz on May 30, 2013 at 8:35 AM

KOOLAID2 on May 30, 2013 at 8:36 AM

I’m serious about this. When the military has a massive problem they have a “stand down” to address the issues (not to be confused with telling the armed forces to stand down in the midst of an attack on Americans at a consulate). When there was a design flaw in the Dreamliner, the FAA grounded the entire fleet.

This administration is so riddled with scandals and loss of public trust they need a strategic pause to deal with these issues before we even think about appointing new officials.

Happy Nomad on May 30, 2013 at 8:46 AM

I figured with Secastration they’d farm it out to Putin…

..more Flexibilty and all….

ToddPA on May 30, 2013 at 8:52 AM

I don’t think the GOP Senators should be allowing a single confirmation until the administration comes clean on all these scandals. No cabinet-level positions, no confirmation of flag officers for the DoD, no judges, nothing. If the administration wants to practice contempt of Congress, let the Congress show the filthy bastard what contempt really looks like.

Happy Nomad on May 30, 2013 at 8:32 AM

Deserves an extra bump! +1000!

dominigan on May 30, 2013 at 8:56 AM

the last thing the Obama administration needs is more controversy in its law-enforcement efforts.

Maybe like shooting an unarmed Boston Bomber witness, who happens to be of Chechen extraction? And then having FBI and police witnesses give conflicting accounts of events?

Smart power.

Difficultas_Est_Imperium on May 30, 2013 at 8:57 AM

I’m serious about this. When the military has a massive problem they have a “stand down” to address the issues (not to be confused with telling the armed forces to stand down in the midst of an attack on Americans at a consulate). When there was a design flaw in the Dreamliner, the FAA grounded the entire fleet.

This administration is so riddled with scandals and loss of public trust they need a strategic pause to deal with these issues before we even think about appointing new officials.

Happy Nomad on May 30, 2013 at 8:46 AM

Ok, I have to go with another bump! You are expressing EXACTLY how I feel! I would shut everything down until we start getting respectful answers, starting with Fast and Furious (what I believe to be an impeachable offense) on through until the current set of scandals.

I would also immediately suspend any finances for any Presidential or family travel. If they want to go, they can pay out of pocket for it.

dominigan on May 30, 2013 at 9:00 AM

James Comey, the guy who appointed Fitz, presented by Chuck Schumer during Asst AG confirmation.

Forget the part about Bush.

J_Crater on May 30, 2013 at 9:06 AM

An FBI director who was truly independent, nonpartisan and incorruptible would scare the bejeebus out of both parties.

myiq2xu on May 30, 2013 at 9:17 AM

I don’t think the GOP Senators should be allowing a single confirmation until the administration comes clean on all these scandals. No cabinet-level positions, no confirmation of flag officers for the DoD, no judges, nothing. If the administration wants to practice contempt of Congress, let the Congress show the filthy bastard what contempt really looks like.

Happy Nomad on May 30, 2013 at 8:32 AM

Bump again.

Happy Nomad on fire today.

bofh on May 30, 2013 at 10:25 AM

This administration is so riddled with scandals and loss of public trust they need a strategic pause to deal with these issues before we even think about appointing new officials.

Happy Nomad on May 30, 2013 at 8:46 AM

I agree.. but wonder if it’s even possible, when you have media people like Tom Brokaw shushing the comparisons to Nixon as over blown, when Obama’s are staggeringly worse..

The LSM are in full damage control mode.. and the only way to distract from Obama’s being a slimebag.. is to demonize the GOP for daring to point it out. They got him re-elected doing that, making the GOP toxic in a direct collaboration with the Obama campaign..

Until the bulk of the networks stop polishing Obama’s boots.. too many Americans get their news filtered through treasonous slugs like Brokaw. Too many Americans will go the no information route and hate anyone who rocks the Obama fantasy boat.

If the IRS scandal,.. vastly worse than anything Nixon even thought of doing gets a yawn from the morning shows.. sadly, much of America will go back to sleep. I believe that’s the plan.. put their bootlickers front and center as the “voice” of America saying.. Moveon.org..

They’ve let him get away with everything else..

I truly begin to wonder now, if Obama will even step down in 2017.. he ignores the law like a child ignores the rules they don’t like.. Were he to suspend elections.. would that clown Brokaw announce they’re out dated anyway?

You have to wonder when criminal offenses are simply swept under the NBC rug.

mark81150 on May 30, 2013 at 12:22 PM

James Comey, a former Bush administration official with bipartisan credentials

So in other words, a liberal in hiding.

jnelchef on May 30, 2013 at 2:03 PM

An FBI director who was truly independent, nonpartisan and incorruptible would scare the bejeebus out of both parties.

myiq2xu on May 30, 2013 at 9:17 AM

How long would one stay that way?

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

From Wikipedia

Hoover is credited with building the FBI into a large and efficient crime-fighting agency, and with instituting a number of modernizations to police technology, such as a centralized fingerprint file and forensic laboratories.

Late in life and after his death Hoover became a controversial figure, as evidence of his secretive actions became known. His critics have accused him of exceeding the jurisdiction of the FBI.[1] He used the FBI to harass political dissenters and activists, to amass secret files on political leaders,[2] and to collect evidence using illegal methods.[3] Hoover consequently amassed a great deal of power and was in a position to intimidate and threaten sitting Presidents.[4] According to President Harry S Truman, Hoover transformed the FBI into his private secret police force; Truman stated that “we want no Gestapo or secret police. FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail… J. Edgar Hoover would give his right eye to take over, and all congressmen and senators are afraid of him”.[5]

A little more from Lord Acton seems apropos to our recent events:

There are two things which cannot be attacked in front: ignorance and narrow-mindedness. They can only be shaken by the simple development of the contrary qualities. They will not bear discussion.
Letter (23 January 1861), published in Lord Acton and his Circle (1906) by Abbot Francis Aidan Gasquet, Letter 24

Every thing secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity.
Letter (23 January 1861), published in Lord Acton and his Circle (1906) by Abbot Gasquet, Letter 24

Whenever a single definite object is made the supreme end of the State, be it the advantage of a class, the safety of the power of the country, the greatest happiness of the greatest number, or the support of any speculative idea, the State becomes for the time inevitably absolute. Liberty alone demands for its realisation the limitation of the public authority, for liberty is the only object which benefits all alike, and provokes no sincere opposition.
“Nationality” in Home and Foreign Review (July 1862); republished in The History of Freedom and Other Essays (1907), p. 288

The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern. Every class is unfit to govern. The law of liberty tends to abolish the reign of race over race, of faith over faith, of class over class.
Letter to Mary Gladstone (24 April 1881); later published in Letters of Lord Acton to Mary Gladstone (1913) p. 73

There is no error so monstrous that it fails to find defenders among the ablest men. Imagine a congress of eminent celebrities, such as More, Bacon, Grotius, Pascal, Cromwell, Bossuet, Montesquieu, Jefferson, Napoleon, Pitt, etc. The result would be an Encyclopedia of Error.
Letter to Mary Gladstone (24 April 1881)

I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favorable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way against holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.
Letter to Mandell Creighton (5 April 1887), published in Historical Essays and Studies, by John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton (1907), edited by John Neville Figgis and Reginald Vere Laurence, Appendix, p. 504; also in Essays on Freedom and Power (1972)
Paraphrased variant: All power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

The inflexible integrity of the moral code is, to me, the secret of the authority, the dignity, the utility of History.
If we may debase the currency for the sake of genius, or success, or rank, or reputation, we may debase it for the sake of a man’s influence, of his religion, of his party, of the good cause which prospers by his credit and suffers by his disgrace. Then History ceases to be a science, an arbiter of controversy, a guide of the Wanderer, the upholder of that moral standard which the powers of earth and religion itself tend constantly to depress. It serves where it ought to reign; and it serves the worst cause better than the purest.
Letter to Mandell Creighton (5 April 1887), published in Historical Essays and Studies, by John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton (1907), edited by John Neville Figgis and Reginald Vere Laurence, Appendix, p. 504; also in Essays on Freedom and Power (1972)

AesopFan on May 30, 2013 at 7:31 PM