The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the nation's highest law enforcement agency, may be better off without James Comey as its director. There is little disagreement that his tenure, especially in the past year, has led to an erosion of public confidence in his leadership atop the agency.
His odd public handling of the Hillary Clinton email controversy last summer started the decline. The unprecedented manner in which he inserted himself and his agency into the final days of the presidential election in October was bizarre and uncalled for. While the circumstances that led to his actions were certainly anything but ordinary, he seemed to abandon what experts saw as normal protocol.
There were also concerns that his conduct was disruptive inside the agency and provided legitimate reasons for his superiors to at least consider his dismissal.
Yet to look upon these factors as simple and straightforward would be to ignore the realities of American politics and our governmental system. Despite the self-inflicted wounds Comey carried, he was ultimately in charge of the most important investigation of a presidential administration since the Nixon era more than 40 years ago. His agency is deeply involved in a counter intelligence probe of Russian interference in last year's U.S. presidential election and possible collusion with the Russians by Donald Trump's presidential campaign. It is a tangled web that must be unraveled and no resources should be spared by the U.S. government to do so.
It is that backdrop that makes Comey's firing on Tuesday so problematic and troubling. Comey was fired by President Trump, the individual at the center of the important case the FBI is investigating. Trump's actions look bad and smell bad. This cannot be shrugged off as a routine dismissal of an FBI director. There is nothing routine about it.
While Trump acted within his power, and will now select an individual to replace Comey, that new director should not be charged with leading the probe into Russian interference in our recent election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. The investigation should be turned over to an independent entity to carry on this important task.
U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana is right when he says there are serious questions about the President's decision to fire Comey while he was leading the agency investigating the possible Russia-Trump link.
“The American people deserve answers regarding Russia’s interference in our election," Donnelly said in a statement. "This action should not change the pace or the extent of the investigation, and it’s clearly time to appoint a special prosecutor.”
We agree with Donnelly's assertion. A special prosecutor and independent commission need to be appointed to complete the FBI investigation into Trump campaign contacts with the Russians. That is the only acceptable way forward.