Conspiracy theorists, partisan Democrats, political junkies and other masochists are cranking out a firestorm of stories, claims and counterclaims about why, how and when President Trump fired FBI director James Comey. But for the regular citizen who wants his or her life back, the best — and perhaps only — document one needs is the memo that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote to his superior recommending the dismissal.
Mr. Comey was wrong to usurp the attorney general’s authority last summer and announce his recommendation that the Hillary Clinton email server case be closed without prosecution. It is not the function of the director to make such an announcement; the FBI director is never empowered to supplant federal prosecutors and assume command of the Justice Department.
Compounding the error, Mr. Comey ignored another long-standing principle: We do not hold press conferences to release derogatory information about the subject of a criminal investigation. The goal of a federal criminal investigation is to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to justify a federal criminal prosecution, then allow a federal prosecutor who exercises authority delegated by the attorney general to make a prosecutorial decision. If prosecution is warranted, the judge and jury determine the facts.
Mr. Comey cast his decision as a choice between “speaking” about and “concealing” the FBI’s decision to investigate the newly discovered email messages. “Conceal” is a loaded word that misrepresents the issue. When federal agents and prosecutors quietly open a criminal investigation, they are not concealing anything; they are simply following the long-standing policy that we refrain from publicizing non-public information. In that context, silence is not concealment.
BRIAN J. GOLDENFELD
Woodland Hills, California
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