Sunday, June 24, 2018
Opinion

Hugh Hewitt: Comey's firing isn't like the "Saturday Night Massacre." It's pretty straightforward.

Long ago and far away, when I was a young special assistant first to Attorney General William French Smith and then to Attorney General Edwin Meese, the young staff would automatically stand up whenever William Webster, then head of the FBI, walked into a room. At Friday morning round-table briefings in the attorney general's massive conference room, when Webster spoke, everyone leaned in. He had the bearing, the competence and the character of the nation's top and trusted cop.

Last summer an old D.C. hand took me to one of those Beltway places of lore for lunch and a cigar and talked candidly about how shocked he was at then-FBI director James Comey's decision to publicly discuss the Hillary Clinton email investigation and to walk the public through a hundred details of the case and then conclude she should not be prosecuted. Agree or disagree with that decision, he said, it's not what the FBI does. Ever. Agents present facts to prosecutors. They may nudge or even push in one direction or the other, but they don't decide. My interlocutor, a former assistant U.S. attorney and then-senior official in numerous positions and companies, was not so much outraged by Comey's actions at the time as puzzled, perhaps even shocked.

Apparently, new Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein shared exactly that view and expressed it succinctly in his three-page memo to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Confidence in the FBI would not come back until a new director was in place. Firing Comey was not a decision to be taken lightly, Rosenstein argued, but one he recommended. Sessions reviewed the recommendation, concurred and forwarded a joint recommendation to the president, who agreed.

Anyone who thinks this is connected to a cover-up of "Russian collusion" has to believe that both Rosenstein and Sessions would participate in such a corrupt scheme. I don't. It is, in fact, absurd to think that. Reread the Rosenstein memo — a few times. There's the story. Comey was wrong in July, wrong in subsequent statements, wrong as recently as last week and refused to admit error. The story is a straight-line one, and it's about Rosenstein.

In fact, just last week Comey said this in response to a question from Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., about whether Rosenstein should appoint a special prosecutor in the Russian investigations: "That's a judgment he'll have to make. He is, as I hoped I was as deputy attorney general, a very independent-minded, career-oriented person, but it'd be premature for me to comment on that."

That's Comey on Rosenstein. Last week. Under oath.

Which doesn't mean that questions about the investigation of Russia's attack on our election are any less serious or the need for a thorough inquiry into charges of collusion between Russia and anyone in the many circles of President Trump is any less pressing. It just means that the FBI has to be led by someone like Webster to assure that both sides of deeply divided D.C. accept the results of all facets of the investigation.

Moreover, at last week's hearing Comey told Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., that there are 2,000 investigations into would-be "violent extremists" — half home-grown and in the "lone wolf" category, the other half in contact with foreign organizations (of whom about 300 are immigrants to the United States). That's a massive threat. The FBI is the chief bulwark against it as well as against all cybercrime from abroad (government-sponsored and private criminal activity) and organized crime at home. The director simply cannot lack the confidence of the deputy attorney general or the attorney general.

So whom to turn to? Most definitely someone in the Webster mold, which means a current or former federal judge of stellar reputation for both character and competence, and perhaps with some charisma that could prove useful in rallying the FBI and the Justice Department. Someone like J. Michael Luttig, former 4th Circuit judge and now-general counsel for Boeing; U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon, who has handled scores of terrorism cases; or Stephen Larson, one of my law partners, a former federal judge and former head of the organized-crime division of the U.S. Attorney's Office for California's Central District. There are, in fact, plenty of superb candidates in the mold of these three that would bring stature and independence to the job.

But first we have to endure a few days of over-the-top takes from the overwrought mainstream media. This isn't the "Saturday Night Massacre." There are no tapes, no subpoenas for presidential documents, no resignations from the Justice Department, but instead recommendations from the Justice Department. It's four months into an administration, not four years. In short, the overwrought media has toppled into hysteria again.

Hugh Hewitt hosts a nationally syndicated radio show and is author of "The Fourth Way: The Conservative Playbook for a Lasting GOP Majority." © 2017 Washington Post

Comments
Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Itís hard to pick the biggest outrage in the financial and ethical swamp that has swallowed Tampa Bayís two primary job placement agencies, CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay. Is it the boiler room atmosphere where CareerSource recruite...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18

Family separation crisis is not over

The family-separation crisis that President Donald Trump created is not over. The executive order Trump signed Wednesday purporting to end the routine tearing of children from their undocumented parents stands on uncertain legal ground. U.S. border a...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Veterans can help veterans deal with trauma resulting from military service in a way no one else can. Thatís the theory behind a special hotline set up in the Tampa Bay area that proponents are hoping to take statewide.The expansion would cost some $...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Published: 06/21/18
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney generalís misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect ó prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18