politics to go

Comey firing was no ‘Saturday Night Massacre’


When President Trump fired FBI director James Comey last week it was one of the most ineptly handled major announcement by a president in recent history. The way the firing was announced was nothing short of a train wreck. 

Almost as soon as it was announced that President Trump had fired the FBI director, the Democrats screamed that his action was Nixonian or reminiscent of Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre,” which is a ridiculous comparison.

The “Saturday Night Massacre” refers to Oct. 20, 1973, when President Nixon ordered the firing of Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Attorney General Elliot Richardson resigned rather than fire Cox. The responsibility then fell to Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, who followed Richardson’s lead and also resigned. Finally, Solicitor General Robert Bork, who unlike the first two did not assure Congress that he would never interfere with Cox, followed the order and fired Cox.

Those who are familiar with both the Nixon and the Trump actions know that the two firings were not even close to being alike. Here are six reasons the firing of Comey is different from the “Saturday Night Massacre.”

1) Good Job vs. Bad Job: In 1973, most observers in both parties thought that Cox was doing a good job. In fact, one of the reasons Richardson resigned was that he promised Congress that he wouldn’t use his authority to can the Watergate special prosecutor, except for cause.  On the other hand, most of the Democrats complaining about the Comey firing believed he was doing a lousy job — until President Trump’s action gave them a political opening to attack the POTUS. 

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein created a compelling letter backing up the Trump decision. Not only did he point out why Comey was doing a lousy job and how he broke established Justice Department procedures, but his opinion was corroborated by Jamie Gorelick, deputy attorney general under President Clinton; Larry Thompson, deputy attorney general under President George W. Bush; Michael Mukasey and Alberto Gonzales, who each served as an attorney general under President George W Bush; and Eric Holder, who was deputy attorney general under President Clinton and attorney general under President Obama.

2) Subpoena: Nixon fired Cox in an attempt to avoid a subpoena demanding a copy of the infamous Nixon White House tapes. While there are reports that Mike Flynn has received a subpoena to testify, Trump hasn’t received a subpoena to turn over anything,

3) Evidence: Even without the White House tapes and before the “Saturday Night Massacre” we knew some facts, either thanks to Woodward and Bernstein or testimony to the Senate Watergate Committee. That evidence included:

•According to the FBI, the Watergate break-in stemmed from a massive campaign of political spying and sabotage conducted on behalf of the Nixon reelection effort.

•Former Nixon aides G. Gordon Liddy and James W. McCord Jr. were convicted of conspiracy, burglary and wiretapping in the Watergate incident.

•John Dean testified that he discussed the Watergate cover-up with President Nixon at least 35 times.

As of this writing there is no public evidence that President Trump or anyone in his campaign colluded with the Russians to hack into the Hillary campaign or the DNC. 

Both Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley and California Democrat Diane Feinstein, the senior members of the Senate Judicial Committee, said that President Trump was not being investigated. 

4) The Department of Justice objected to the firing of Archibald Cox, but the DOJ helped provide the rationale for the Comey firing:  Cox was fired despite the fact that the attorney general and his deputy resigned rather than carry out Nixon’s order. Comey was fired with the approval of his immediate supervisor and of the attorney general.

5) Timing: Nixon fired Cox the day after the special prosecutor refused a compromise on his insistence that Nixon surrender his tapes.

6) Involvement: Archibald Cox was the Watergate prosecutor — in other words his only job was to investigate the Watergate Scandal. As director of the FBI, Comey’s plate was filled with hundreds of projects of which the Russian investigation was just one. With the Hillary investigation. Comey delegated the investigation to senior people on his staff and over 100 agents; the Russia Investigation was probably being run the same way.

The claim that the firing of Comey is reminiscent of the “Saturday Night Massacre” is pure hyperbole. Even worse is that, on Sunday, Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, said that a new FBI director wouldn’t be considered unless a special prosecutor was appointed to join the House, Senate and FBI in investigating if there was any connection between Team Trump and the Russians.

At this point the only thing a special prosecutor would do is slow down the investigation and any congressional action on the Trump economic agenda. This proves once again that Schumer’s priority is his party, rather than the country or the people of New York State.