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Thursday, March 21 , 2019, 10:15 pm | Fair 52º


Susan Estrich: Comey Is Gone, and the Worst Is Yet to Come

The news that President Donald Trump has fired FBI Director James Comey is not cause for celebration.

Of course, Comey deserved to be replaced. Not only did he make a horribly bad decision when, 11 days before the election, he threw the contest to Trump when he announced that the investigation that went nowhere (twice) into Hillary Clinton's emails had been reopened.

Then, to add extreme insult to unimaginable injury, he lied to Congress last week on just how many emails were involved — not tens or hundreds of thousands as he claimed — and how many of them had any classified information that they hadn't already seen. 

He cheapened the integrity and the independence of the agency he led in his never-ending occupation with himself. In preparation for testifying before the Senate, he spent more time trying to clear himself than he did investigating the facts. He wrote his own pink slip.

If there is one person in government for whom it is impossible to feel any kind of sympathy, it is the fatally flawed and narcissistic former director of the FBI.

But his departure is no cause for celebration. Because of only one thing can we be absolutely certain: Whoever replaces him will be worse.

What do I mean by worse?

I mean that he or she will have even less respect for the mandate that the FBI stay out of politics.

He or she will have even less respect for the notion that the good of the country is more important than the personal reputation of the director of the FBI.

He or she will care even less about such niceties as the separation of powers; the freedom of the press; respect for the truth; civil liberties; the absolute necessity of restraint; the absolute evil of untruthful grandstanding.

It means that, given any opportunity, he or she will do far more to ingratiate himself with the man who appoints him and the party that confirms him.

Should we expect shades of J. Edgar Hoover? From Donald Trump, himself no friend of the Constitution, what else?

I keep saying to myself: Today, I will write about something other than Donald Trump.

I'll write about local politics, about throwing your hat in, about getting involved in your neighborhood and community. I'll write about missing my mother, and wishing I had understood when I was younger how hard it is when your children leave and you are alone.

I'll write about trying to find gratitude in a difficult world, trying to feel secure in a dangerous world, trying to believe in the essential goodness of people when it is often so hard to see.

I used to despair that no one cared about politics. Now, I worry sometimes that we talk of little else, and that all we do is talk, or write.

And then we find out that Comey overstated his own defense — overstated the number and nature of the emails involved — in justifying his throwing the election to Trump.

I know; Comey wasn't the only reason. When you lose by a little, as Clinton did, anything that goes wrong is enough to make the difference.

So people can debate all day whether it was Comey or sexism or Clinton's own tactics that cost her the election, and the answer will always be the same: It was all of them. It was any one of them. 

Comey is gone. He is paying his price. But what about the rest of us?

We just keep paying and paying. And with his replacement, we will pay yet more.

Susan Estrich is a best-selling author, the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the USC Law Center and was campaign manager for 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. Click here to contact her or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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