Thursday 14 December 2017

Under-fire FBI chief will now have to tread warily

FBI Director James Comey. REUTERS/Gary Cameron/File Photo
FBI Director James Comey. REUTERS/Gary Cameron/File Photo

Eric Tucker

FBI Director James Comey faces a complicated path under a Donald Trump administration.

Does he try to serve out the remaining seven years of his term under a president who has publicly questioned the FBI's integrity?

Or does he stay on as a safeguard against executive power and a guide for a novice president on complex national security matters?

He would be in the delicate position of working with a president who lobbed occasional criticisms from the campaign trail against the nation's premier law enforcement agency.

Though attention had centred on whether Comey could have co-existed with a Hillary Clinton presidency, given the FBI's investigation into her email practices and his own public statements about the probe, that question applies at least equally to a Trump administration.

As recently as Sunday, Mr Trump complained that Mrs Clinton was "protected by a rigged system" after Mr Comey renewed his decision not to recommend charges for her use of a private email server while secretary of state.

Mr Trump's past rhetoric on the terrorism threat, including warnings that "radical Islam is coming to our shores," is out of step with Mr Comey's more measured assessments.

His stated desire to have an improved relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin comes even as federal intelligence officials have publicly accused the Russians of meddling through hacking in the American electoral process.

FBI officials did not respond to a message about Mr Comey's plans, but James McJunkin, a former FBI assistant director, said he doubted Mr Comey was fazed by Mr Trump's campaign trail statements.

He said Mr Comey knew when he was appointed in 2013 by President Barack Obama that his 10-year term would carry over at least two administrations that might differ sharply.

"I can't imagine he would think this is anything more than politics as usual," McJunkin said.

"I think politicians say whatever they think they can in order to seize the moment, and I think that once Trump settles into office, he'll realise the value of the independence that Comey displayed."

Irish Independent

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