President Donald Trump was justified in firing James Comey as FBI director, freeing him to make a "fresh start" with the agency, former Attorney General William Barr wrote in The Washington Post on Friday.
Comey erred in July during the 2016 presidential campaign when he announced the outcome of an investigation into Hillary Clinton and her use of a private email server while serving as secretary of State under former President Barack Obama, Barr explained.
"With an investigation as sensitive as the one involving Clinton, the ultimate decision-making is reserved to the attorney general or, when the attorney general is recused, the deputy attorney general. By unilaterally announcing his conclusions regarding how the matter should be resolved, Comey arrogated the attorney general’s authority to himself," Barr, who served as attorney general from 1991 to 1993, wrote.
"It is not surprising that Trump would be inclined to make a fresh start at the bureau and would consult with the leadership of the Justice Department about whether Comey should remain," he added.
Once Comey made the announcement about the Clinton investigation, his "basic misjudgment boxed him in, compelling him to take increasingly controversial actions giving the impression that the FBI was enmeshed in politics."
His handling of the Clinton email investigation "made Comey himself the issue, placing him on center stage in public political discourse and causing him to lose credibility on both sides of the aisle," Barr wrote, adding, "It was widely recognized that Comey’s job was in jeopardy regardless of who won the election."
Barr assured investigations would continue, including the Clinton email scandal and claims of Russian involvement in U.S. elections, and the agency would "do a thorough and professional job regardless of who is serving as the bureau’s director."
Nevertheless, Barr explained from his near daily work with the FBI as attorney general and deputy attorney general the U.S. was fortunate to have "the finest law-enforcement organization in the world — one that is thoroughly professional and free of partisanship." He described Comey as an "an extraordinarily gifted man who has contributed much during his many years of public service."
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