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No surprise in Comey's firing

| Saturday, May 13, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
Protesters in Los Angeles last week denounce the firing of FBI Director James Comey by President Trump. (AFP/Getty Images)
AFP/Getty Images
Protesters in Los Angeles last week denounce the firing of FBI Director James Comey by President Trump. (AFP/Getty Images)

Long ago and far away, when I was a 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, 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 talked candidly to me 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. 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 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, and that, of course, requires that Comey be fired. 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 absurd to think that. Reread the Rosenstein memo. There's the story. Comey was wrong in July, wrong in subsequent statements, and refused to admit error. The story is a straight-line one, and it's about Rosenstein.

Earlier this month 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 ... .”

That's Comey on Rosenstein. 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.

So whom to turn to? Most definitely someone in the Webster mold, which means a current or former federal judge of stellar reputation and perhaps with some charisma.

But first we have to endure a few days of over-the-top takes from the always 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.”

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