For better or worse, James Comey is gone. Whether you are perplexed at the timing, thought he should have received his pink slip a long time ago, or see the dismissal as a scandal of Nixonian proportions, the fact remains that Comey is gone and never coming back.
How we remember Comey’s dismissal will largely be determined by who Trump names as his replacement. Whoever it is will likely face unprecedented scrutiny during his or her confirmation.
Ask yourself, when was James Comey originally appointed as FBI Director? Who preceded him in the job? What particular issues came up during his confirmation hearing? I’m willing to bet that the vast majority of people reading this cannot answer these questions.
Comey replaced Robert Mueller, who served from 2001-2013 under Presidents Bush and Obama. So uncontroversial was Comey’s nomination, that he was confirmed by the Senate on a 93-1 vote. (Rand Paul was the lone dissenter, as is tradition.)
Such bipartisan deference dates back to the 1970s when J. Edgar Hoover’s replacement, Clarence Kelley, served under Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Carter. Kelley was approved 96-0.
The fact that the next director will face scrutiny more akin to a Supreme Court nominee says something about how our politics has changed since 2013. Hillary Clinton’s server and Russian attempts to influence the presidential election have made the Director of the FBI a political target for members of both parties.
This is a discouraging development. It’s becoming an old-fashioned notion, but some offices should exist above politics. Cabinet positions have been political since their inception, and the politicization of the judicial appointments is beyond saving. Law enforcement, however, should be different.
After the ignominious tenure of James Comey, President Trump and Congress would be wise to reaffirm the FBI Director as a nonpartisan appointment. As Erick has already noted, both parties owe it to the country to ensure an independent and competent man or woman fills the vacancy.
Trump’s appointee cannot be someone who simply passes the 51 vote threshold, or even 60 or 70. The American people need confidence that the head of the top law enforcement agency in the country will follow the rule of law, and pursue investigations without consideration for party or ideology.
Without this kind of assurance, Washington will perpetuate the growing assumption that the levers of power only operate in the direction of the party in power. Whether it’s the Department of Justice selectively determining which laws to prosecute or ignore, the Trademark’s Office revoking a well-established trademark, or the Department of Education reinterpreting decades old education law, every part of the executive branch seems to exercise its duties based on the ideological inclinations of the President rather than on the notions of good governance.
This cancer cannot be allowed to spread to the FBI.
If there is one area where President Trump has inspired confidence even to his most skeptical of conservative critics, it is in his ability to “hire the best people.” As noted by David French at National Review, Trump has already shown that he can make the perfect pick for the moment.
Trump replaced Michael Flynn with H.R. McMaster as National Security Adviser, a position that should exist above politics, and in a move that was met with bipartisan approval. McMaster was confirmed 86-10. His confirmation should be a benchmark for the kind of success a qualified nominee can garner, even in the face of a Democratic minority set on pleasing elements of the extreme Left rather than fairly evaluating the nominees.
A McMaster type pick to replace Comey would give Congress the opportunity to rise to the occasion, and overwhelmingly confirm the next FBI Director.