The Comey firing: Clumsy timing aside, it had to happen

It came as no surprise that after President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday, all sorts of theories about nefarious intent began making the rounds.

Perhaps the most ridiculous is that Trump hoped to derail an FBI investigation into allegations people close to him — or perhaps even Trump himself — had improper, illegal contacts with Russian operatives.

Alienating Comey, the man in Washington who, because of his position, had more information than anyone else about the investigation, seems a bad way to make it go away. More than a few disgruntled federal employees and officials have leaked information that brought their former bosses down in the past.

It is possible few outside Trump’s inner circle will ever know what his reasoning was in firing Comey, or why he waited months after being inaugurated to do so.

But what we do know is that Comey needed to go. In discussing publicly the investigation of Hillary Clinton last year, he broke one of the cardinal rules of the FBI and the wider Justice Department. The way he did it raised questions about his political neutrality — something that is absolutely vital in law enforcement.

The FBI is an investigative – not a prosecutorial – agency. Given the charges Comey outlines against Clinton, his job was to refer the case to the Justice Department rather than making a judgment on the case’s merits. In not doing so, Comey doubtlessly let down the FBI personnel who had spent months working the case. Since then, Comey has spent an inordinate amount of time in public spotlight without succeeding at restoring confidence that the FBI under him remains the world’s ultimate, non-political crime unit.

It’s easy to criticize President Trump for his decision, particularly the clumsy timing.

It’s easy to forget that Democrats who are now in such a self-righteous uproar, with all sorts of outrageous claims and complaints, wanted to fire Comey last sumer.

It’s easy to forget that, despite months of digging from a contentious mainstream media and resistant Democrat leaders, no connection has been found between Russia and the Trump administration relating to the 2016 election.

Replacing Comey gives the FBI a needed fresh start in rebuilding trust with both the Washington establishment and the American people, of all political persuasions. It was something that had to be done, to the point that retaining Comey could have spawned even more conspiracy theories.

Trump needs to replace Comey with someone of unquestioned integrity and impartiality that everyone in the country can trust to carry on the one-of-a-kind legacy of the FBI.