Why did President Trump fire FBI Director James Comey now? The answer, as my Washington Examiner colleague Byron York has argued, is that he waited until after his impeccably apolitical Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was in place as Comey's direct superior.
Rosenstein was confirmed on April 25 and his memorandum "Restoring Public Confidence in the FBI," was appended to Trump's firing letter exactly two weeks later.
In that document, Rosenstein characterized Comey's July 5, 2016 statement on the FBI's investigation of Hillary Clinton's secret email system as "a textbook example of what federal prosecutors and against are taught not to do." In support of that proposition, he cited comments from five former deputy attorneys general and four former attorneys general of both parties (including Eric Holder, who held both offices).
Who is Rosenstein? He started off his career as a Justice Department lawyer and was appointed U.S. attorney for Maryland by George W. Bush in 2005. He was one of only three of the 93 U.S. attorneys kept on during the Obama administration. This could not have happened without the approval of Maryland's Democratic senators at the time, Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin.
Both senators are paragons of integrity with long experience in the swampland of Maryland politics. Mikulski was elected to the Baltimore Council in 1971 and to Congress in 1976. Cardin was elected to the state legislature in 1966 and to Congress in 1986. Both saw successive Maryland governors, Spiro Agnew and Marvin Mandel, ousted from office under criminal charges. Both surely wanted a competent and apolitical federal prosecutor and believed they had one in Rosenstein.
This makes mincemeat of Democrats' cries that Trump fired Comey to kill any investigation of Russian collusion in the election. Rosenstein will be in charge of that, since Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself. And Trump's FBI director nominee will also receive close scrutiny from the Senate.
It's similarly farfetched to compare this to Richard Nixon's firing of special prosecutor Archibald Cox in 1973. For some Democrats and journalists, every Republican military initiative is Vietnam and every possible scandal Watergate. That's a measure of the nostalgic perspective of the Baby Boom generation: We're as many years away from Vietnam and Watergate as they were from the 1920s.
Can something be said in defense of Comey? He was put in a terrible position by the Clintons and the Obama Justice Department. Justice officials downplayed the criminal nature of the investigation of Clinton's emails and granted immunity to Clinton aides rather than summon them before a grand jury. That amounts to weighting the scales of justice in favor of the administration's candidate for president.
So does the June 27 meeting on the Phoenix airport tarmac of Bill Clinton and Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who revealed herself to be a shameless political hack. That meeting was surely intended to be secret, as was the illegal Clinton email setup over which she sent easily hackable classified information.
When the meeting was revealed, Lynch said she would go along with the FBI's decision on prosecution, but didn't formally recuse herself. One question never answered is why she didn't do so, and let Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates (the latest liberal "hero" for her bewildering congressional testimony this week) make the decision.
One can understand why Comey could feel miffed when Lynch left him publicly exposed as the one who would decide whether the putative Democratic presidential nominee would be criminally prosecuted. If an FBI director shouldn't be deciding who gets prosecuted, as Rosenstein correctly asserted, he certainly shouldn't be making a decision that may determine who will be elected president of the United States.
Comey's July 5 statement made it clear that Clinton had violated Section 793(f) of the Espionage Act. But he added to the words of the statute an intent requirement, and so recommended that she not be prosecuted. It's not hard to imagine that he felt entitled to inflict political damage on someone for whom the Obama Justice Department put in the fix.
That makes Comey only the latest victim of the Clintons who, like F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tom and Daisy Buchanan, smash up "things and creatures" and then retreat "back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they have made."
The mess continues, as Democrats howl against the removal of an official whose removal they demanded up through lunchtime Tuesday, and now they continue to search, Ahab-like, for evidence that Russia somehow stole the election.