By Alex Bregman
After praising FBI Director James Comey’s October surprise on the campaign trail in reopening the Hillary Clinton email investigation, President Trump dropped his own surprise on Tuesday, firing the FBI Director in what’s being called the “Tuesday Night Massacre.” The president said on Wednesday, “He wasn’t doing a good job, very simply. He wasn’t doing a good job”
So who is James Comey, the towering figure, at 6 foot 8 inches, both literally and figuratively, at the center of this political firestorm?
He’s been FBI director since 2013, appointed by President Obama, despite being a registered Republican for most of his life.
Before taking over the nation’s top law enforcement agency, Comey was known as one of the country’s top prosecutors.
He took on everyone from the Gambino crime family to terrorists responsible for the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia.
In 2002, he was named U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, a powerful job recently vacated by Preet Bharara.
Probably his most high-profile prosecution came in 2003, when he put Martha Stewart behind bars on multiple charges related to insider trading.
Later that year, at the height on the war on terror, President George W. Bush made him deputy attorney general. Comey would find himself navigating a legally dicey situation. Summoned to a hospital room in 2004, Comey stopped then White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and chief of staff Andrew Card when they tried to get an ailing Attorney General John Ashcroft to sign off on extending the NSA’s wiretapping program.
Comey described the situation in Congress: “I was angry. I thought I had just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man who did not have the powers of the attorney general.”
Cut to 2016, when Comey became a part of the presidential political fray, he didn’t recommend charges against Hillary Clinton pertaining to her private email server, but did have this to say: “There is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”
Though Clinton felt vindicated, that announcement drew criticism from both sides of the aisle.
Then came Comey’s own October surprise. Just days before the election, he wrote a letter to members of Congress saying that the investigation had been reopened because of another investigation into disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner.
Comey would soon announce that nothing new was found, but according to Clinton, the damage had been done. She said recently, “I was on the way to winning until a combination of Jim Comey’s letter on October 28th and Russian Wikileaks raised doubts in the minds of people who were inclined to vote for me but got scared off.”
Comey’s term was supposed to expire in 2023, but citing his handling of the Clinton email investigation, President Trump fired him.
Though some say the firing was really about Comey disclosing that the FBI was also investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
So as questions continue to swirl around Comey’s firing, when it comes to the man and his legacy, at least, you can say, now I get it.