|MARK PETERSON / REDUX FOR THE NEW YORKER|
(PRESIDENT TRUMP FIRED COMEY LATE ON TUESDAY AFTERNOON SOME HOURS AFTER I POSTED THIS. IT WILL BE UPDATED.)
It was March 10, 2004. Attorney General John Ashcroft lay ill in an intensive-care room at George Washington University Hospital when an urgent call went out to his deputy, James Comey.
White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez and President Bush's chief of staff, Andrew Card, were on their way to the hospital to persuade a barely conscious Ashcroft to reauthorize Bush's domestic surveillance program, which the Justice Department had just determined was illegal. Comey notified FBI Director Robert Muller and then raced, sirens blaring, to Ashcroft's bedside, barely beating Gonzalez and Card.
Ashcroft, summoning the strength to lift his head and speak, refused to sign the papers they brought. Gonzalez and Card, who never acknowledged Comey's presence in the room, turned heel and left.
If it were not for that famous scene, which cemented Comey's reputation, it is unlikely that President Obama, citing his independence and integrity, would have nominated him to succeed Muller to be director of the FBI in June 2013.
Fast forward four years, Comey's reputation is in tatters and arguments that he threw the 2016 presidential election to Donald Trump because of miscalculations and misstatements -- if not outright lies -- seem increasingly plausible.
Comey is no longer independent and has destroyed his integrity, two qualities that an FBI director must have above all others. It is time for him to resign.
Comey is loathed by Democrats and viewed with suspicion by Republicans. It is time for him to resign.
It does not matter that Comey may not have intended to change the court of history or was in the pay of Trump or Russia. It is time for him to resign.
The final straw is confirmation of the accuracy of a ProPublica report that Comey misstated key details of his reinvestigation of Hillary Clinton's emails, the announcement of which 11 days before the election sent the Clinton campaign into a tailspin.§
In testimony last week, Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee that it makes him "mildly nauseous to think that we might have had impact on the election" and then served up two big helpings of red meat to Republican Clinton bashers. He stated that top Clinton aide Himan Abedin "forwarded hundreds and thousands of emails" from Clinton's private email server to her husband, former Congressman Anthony Weiner, as part of a "regular practice" of forwarding emails for Weiner to print out for Clinton, and that these emails contained classified information.
But as ProPublica found and The Washington Post has now confirmed, neither statement was accurate.
Abedin did occasionally forward emails to her husband for printing, but it was a far smaller number than claimed by Comey and was not a regular practice. None of the emails were marked classified, and only a mere handful were later judged to contain classified information.
Not only were these gross misstatements of fact key to Comey's testimony, but he used them to defend his decision to disclose the "new" emails on October 28 because of their seriousness and the need for him to say something. Comey did not, of course, say something else that was of far greater gravity -- that the FBI was investigating credible allegations that the Trump campaign had colluded with Russians who were working to sabotage Clinton -- a disclosure that he withheld until March 20.
Comey's intervention on Ashcroft's behalf was a singularly important moment in American history. Principle winning out over politics. His gross mishandling of the Clinton email investigations and failure to disclose the Trump-Russia probe would seem to be the opposite.
It is time for him to resign.