//  5/9/17  //  Quick Reactions

The President has fired FBI director James Comey.  The White House has released the letter that memorializes the action.  In the letter, the President says that he "concur[s] with the judgment of the Department of Justice" that Comey be terminated.  The White House attached a letter from Attorney General Sessions stating the recommendation that Comey be fired; this letter did not get into specifics. 

The White House also attached a three-page memo from Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein detailing the grounds for the recommendation: the mishandling of the Hillary Clinton investigation. 

The focus of Rosenstein's criticism is on the decision last October, in the midst of the presidential election campaign, to announce that the FBI was re-opening its investigation of Secretary Clinton.  (The letter also makes passing reference to Comey's announcement that no prosecution would be warranted -- a decision that is normally left to prosecutors not the FBI -- and to Comey's subsequent news conference in which he negatively characterized Secretary Clinton's handling of her emails.)  Rosenstein notes that this interference in the election is outside the best traditions of the Department and that this is the judgment made on the record by numerous past Attorneys general and Deputies Attorney General from Administrations of both political parties.

All of this is true enough.  I am sure Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein believes every word he wrote.  I do not believe for one minute, however, that this is the actual reason that Donald Trump is firing James Comey.  After all, the President refuses to accept the bi-partisan consensus that Russia attempted to intervene in the Presidential election and continues to assert that he only lost the popular vote because of illegal voting, despite the utter absence of any evidence.  Why, then, would anyone believe he was motivated to fire Comey out of concern that Comey had harmed Hillary Clinton's electoral prospects?

I confess that I do not know the real reason.  I do enjoy the odd hand of poker, and I can recognize a tell.  In this case, President Trump's letter may contain one.  Before stating his concurrence with the Department of Justice's judgment, President Trump notes that he "greatly appreciate[s] you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation ...."  Why note this if it isn't relevant?

As long as the Deputy Attorney General is writing memos making recommendations, it is time to make a recommendation for the appointment of a special counsel.


The Special Prosecutor and Government Institutions

1/15/19  //  In-Depth Analysis

Does the special prosecutor qualify as an 'institution'? Does it matter? (Hint: Yes, it does.)

David Marcus

UCLA Law School

Clear Statement: The Barr Memo is Disqualifying

1/14/19  //  Commentary

His dangerously misguided legal analysis demonstrates that William Barr is the wrong man to serve as Attorney General

Neil J. Kinkopf

George State University College of Law

Prosecuting the President

1/14/19  //  In-Depth Analysis

Why have presidents appointed special counsels when they are not required to do so? Why do presidents tolerate special counsels, even when they can fire them?

Andrew Coan

University of Arizona