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Opinion: Comey firing Trump’s latest flip-flop raises real-world questions

Trump's famous reality TV one-liner took on new meaning when he fired FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday


If there has been one consistent feature of US President Donald Trump’s time in office so far, it has been inconsistencies. The firing of FBI Director James Comey is the latest in a long list of erraticisms that have baffled and worried the international community.

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By Daniel Warner

One day Taiwan is important, but soon after Trump announces no change in the United States’ One China Policy. For a while, Russian President Vladimir Putin was a potential ally; later, the 45th US president appointed advisors who are strongly anti-Russian. Trump has also retreated from his position on NATO, announcing he intends to attend an upcoming summit after declaring the alliance “obsolete” in January.

‘You’re fired!’

Citizen Donald Trump created a public persona by firing people as a hard-nosed businessman in the reality television show “The Apprentice.” Each firing was the highlight of the show. Reports indicateexternal link that President Trump expected a similar reaction to his surprise dismissal of FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday.

Instead, the move has stunned Washington and the world, raising numerous questions about objectivity in ongoing investigations over Russian meddling in US elections as well as the president’s innocence. The removal of Comey will only add to the growing global unease about Trump’s impulsive actions, ethical conduct and respect for institutions.

Dr. Daniel Warner is a Swiss-American political scientist. He is Assistant Director for International Relations at DCAF, the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces. He joined DCAF in 2011 after a long career at the Graduate Institute in Geneva.


James Comey has been a controversial figure since he investigated breaches of secrecy in then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s e-mails. Many believe that his announcement that the investigation was being re-opened just before the November 8, 2016 election influenced the vote outcome. At the time, candidate Trump praised Comey for having “a lot of guts”.

The e-mail justification

Seven months later, President Trump changed his mind about the FBI director, as he has done about so many issues. In his letter firing Comey, the president wrote, “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau."

In another letter released by the White House, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote, “I cannot defend the director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s e-mails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken.”

Clearly, President Trump and the Deputy Attorney General are justifying Comey’s dismissal with his handling of the Clinton e-mails. But that investigation is over. So why fire him now? The timing is especially suspect considering that the FBI is in the midst of an investigation of candidate Trump and his associates’ relationships with Russian officials during the presidential campaign.

Is impartiality still possible?

Since the director of the FBI is generally supposed to be above politics, Comey’s investigation into possible Russian election meddling was considered to be the most apolitical of several ongoing inquiries. Both the Senate and House of Representatives also have committees looking into Russia’s involvement, but they have been mired in partisanship and oversight challenges. Democrats are now defending Comey, afraid that the Republican- dominated Senate and House of Representatives will not carry out neutral investigations. Members of both political parties are calling for a special prosecutor to carry on the work Comey had begun.

But no such special prosecutor has yet been named. Comey’s firing brings up serious questions about whether an apolitical inquiry is even possible. Simply naming his successor will surely result in a political fight.

As he has done on numerous occasions, President Trump continues to startle, challenge traditions and undermine the rule of law. Firing the FBI director is not just the climax of some reality show. It has real-life consequences that will affect the entire US government and further diminish the country’s image around the world. 

​​​​​​​The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of 

Opinion series publishes op-ed articles by contributors writing on a wide range of topics – Swiss issues or those that impact Switzerland. The selection of articles presents a diversity of opinions designed to enrich the debate on the issues discussed.

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