Cleaning Up Comey’s FBI – WSJ


Donald Trump

is his own worst enemy, and his


attacks on the FBI are a good example. New FBI director

Christopher Wray

seems to be undertaking a much-needed house cleaning of officials from the

James Comey

era who have damaged the bureau’s reputation, but Mr. Trump’s bumbling catcalls make that task all the harder.

A case in point is the resignation Monday of deputy director

Andrew McCabe,

which every Never Trump conspiracy theorist is blaming on the President’s machinations. The same President they claim is an idiot is apparently pulling off a Nixonian cover-up. If you’ve lost your mind over Mr. Trump, you’ll believe anything about him, even if it’s contradictory.

Mr. Wray has no choice other than to install new FBI leadership after the Comey calamity if he wants to assert control. That means removing the Comey loyalists who botched the

Hillary Clinton

email probe and may have inserted the bureau into a presidential election campaign on the basis of Russian disinformation from the

Christopher Steele

dossier. Cleaning house isn’t a conspiracy. It’s a necessity to restore the reputation of America’s premier law enforcement agency.

We’ll learn more about what happened in the Clinton email case when the Justice Department Inspector General concludes his investigation. But Mr. McCabe had done more than enough to warrant removal when he supervised the Clinton probe after his wife, Jill McCabe, had run for the Virginia state Senate in 2016 with the financial help of Clinton loyalist and then-Governor

Terry McAuliffe.

The FBI’s ethics office cleared Mr. McCabe to stay on the Clinton case, but anyone with any ethical sense would have understood the appearance of a conflict of interest. He didn’t recuse himself from the Clinton case until a week before the 2016 election. Mr. McCabe’s name has since also appeared in troubling references in the text messages between FBI paramours

Lisa Page

and Peter Strzok, the main agent on the Clinton probe.

Mr. Wray needs a deputy the public can trust, not one carrying this much political baggage. Mr. McCabe is being given vacation leave to run through March when he will be able to receive full retirement benefits for having served for 20 years. Maybe he can become a paid legal commentator on CNN.

The departure of other Comey loyalists is also encouraging. Special counsel

Robert Mueller

removed Mr. Strzok from the probe last summer once the texts were discovered, though the news was leaked only after investigators in Congress closed in on the story. The complete tale of his involvement in the Clinton and Trump probes is far from being told.

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James Baker,

whom Mr. Comey installed as FBI general counsel, was reassigned in December, according to news reports. Messrs. Baker and Comey were pals at Justice and in private business at the investment management firm Bridgewater Associates. And Mr. Wray said in a statement last week that Mr. Comey’s chief of staff, James Rybicki, had told him in December that he intends to leave.

The political canard of the year so far—the list is already long—is that criticizing the FBI’s behavior in 2016 is an attack on American institutions and an attempt to undermine Mr. Mueller. Mr. Strzok’s role and his texts have already damaged Mr. Mueller’s probe without outside help. And since when is the FBI above political oversight? The last director who achieved that sort of sovereign immunity was J. Edgar Hoover, and we know how that turned out.


Which brings us to last week’s news, and much weekend hyperventilating, that Mr. Trump considered firing Mr. Mueller last June but refrained after White House general counsel Don McGahn objected. Instead of applauding Mr. McGahn for his obvious good judgment, the press has mainly wondered if he was trying to protect himself. Maybe he was doing his job and trying to protect his client, the President, from Mr. Trump’s reckless impulses.

Firing Mr. Mueller would be self-destructive for Mr. Trump, who would look like he has more to hide than he claims. But this does not mean that Mr. Mueller is somehow above criticism. His evidence and criminal judgments are subject to scrutiny on the legal, ethical and constitutional merits.

Congress should also stay away from Senator

Lindsey Graham’s

bad idea to give unelected judges the power to second guess Mr. Trump if he did fire Mr. Mueller. This would violate the separation of powers and the President’s authority over the executive branch. If Mr. Trump dismisses Mr. Mueller, the punishment would be political for the President and probably also his party. He’d be teeing up the GOP for defeat in November—and himself for possible impeachment.

Then again, Mr. Trump hasn’t fired Mr. Mueller. And Mr. Wray should continue to clean up the Comey FBI.

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