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Editorial: Comey Firing Is the Symptom, Not the True American Problem

The abrupt firing of any high-ranking Justice official who is in the middle of an investigation of “the Executive” branch should give us all pause.
Image: Trump walks down the Colonnade of the White House
President Donald J. Trump walks down the colonnade of the White House after returning on Marine One, in Washington on Jan. 26, 2017.Michael Reynolds / EPA, file

“An enlightened citizenry is indispensablefor the proper functioning of a republic.Self-government is not possible unless thecitizens are educated sufficiently to enablethem to exercise oversight.”—Thomas Jefferson

America is in trouble.

The abrupt firing of any high-ranking Department of Justice official who is in the middle of an investigation of “the Executive” branch should give us all pause.

The firing of the FBI Director, who was heading said investigation, by “the Executive” should serve as a sharp wakeup call to all Americans that we are in danger of possible authoritarian rule. James Comey learned of his termination when he was presented a letter hand-delivered by Trump's personal body guard to the Los Angeles field office.

The highest ranking law enforcement official was blindsided.

There can be no doubt that the former FBI Director had lost his credibility in many circles in Washington and within some circles in the FBI itself. Many believe, that President Obama should have fired Comey last year for his abject defiance of former Attorney General Loretta Lynch when he decided to hold a press conference about Hillary Clinton’s email investigation last October.

Citing Lynch’s “conflict of interest,” Comey took it upon himself to be the man in the white hat and apprise the American public of the renewed investigation.

Beyond that defiance, Comey displayed an apparent love of the national spotlight versus the anonymity most FBI Directors honor. (Comey had six years left of the 10-year term at the pleasure of the President—a tenure that spans presidential administrations in order to shelter from political pressure.)

Combine that with his inaccurate characterization of Huma Abedin’s alleged handling of classified information in Congressional testimony late last month and his seeking more funds for the Russia investigation that Trump sees as "fake news," Comey became an easy target for the president to fire.

Comey had compromised himself.

While the White House said Wednesday that Trump "had been considering letting Director Comey go since the day he was elected," Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s memo to Attorney General Jeff Sessions ultimately triggered the firing:

“The director was wrong to usurp the Attorney General's authority on July 5, 2016, and announce his conclusion that the case should be closed without prosecution. It is not the function of the Director to make such an announcement. At most, the Director should have said the FBI had completed its investigation and presented its findings to federal prosecutors.The Director now defends his decision by asserting that he believed attorney General Loretta Lynch had a conflict. But the FBI Director is never empowered to supplant federal prosecutors and assume command of the Justice Department. There is a well-established process for other officials to step in when a conflict requires the recusal of the Attorney General.”

The point is this: The FBI is a large government entity that does not need one man at the top to run properly. The agency is made up of good, honorable and noble non-partisan, non-political career servants who will faithfully discharge their duty to get to the bottom of the “Trump-Russia” investigation.

Related: Comey Had Asked for More Money for FBI’s Russia Investigation

We the people must have faith in the process, and push our elected representatives to conduct oversight hearings as is their Constitutional duty. The duty of “oversight” rests with Congress, not with the FBI. This is an important distinction to note.

The crisis is that too many Americans have no clue how their government works, and what our responsibilities are to safeguard it from tyranny.

Yet, it is not hyperbole to suggest that the Republic is falling. Or that a government by and for the people of the United States is quickly eroding.

This latest action by President Trump is not the crisis itself as many have suggested over the past 24 hours. Trump’s actions are consistent with his knee jerk, erratic, say anything campaign tactics and his policies of the past 110 days.

The real crisis is that 50 percent of Americans sat out the 2016 election. The real crisis is that 53 percent of white female voters gave Trump their vote despite him being accused by a dozen women of sexual harassment and after being caught speaking crassly on audio-tape about the female anatomy and what should be done with it.

The real crisis is that too many black male citizens are being gunned down by police (the latest a 15-year-old boy in Texas shot while sitting in a car unarmed), with no outrage on the part of all citizens. The crisis is that the American people don’t have proper health care coverage, or for small business owner’s affordable premiums.

Image: James Comey on March 20, 2017
FBI Director James Comey testifies before the House Intelligence Committee hearing into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election on March 20, 2017.Joshua Roberts / Reuters, file photo

The real crisis is that tens of millions of Americans still live in desperate poverty. The crisis is that millions of Americans are permanently unemployed. The real crisis is that we do not honor our First Amendment and the importance of a Free Press, and Free Speech for all (not just some) of our citizens.

The real crisis is that too many Americans have no clue how their government works, and what our responsibilities are to safeguard it from tyranny.

Ever since the tumultuous 2016 campaign, the American Republic appears to be crumbling. But the truth is that “we the people” must face the fact that America has been in a moral mid-life crisis long before we elected Donald J. Trump President of the United States.

America does not need another Special Prosecutor who will spend millions of taxpayer dollars and find no culprit. Congress has the sworn duty to uphold the Constitution.

Sophia A. Nelson, Esq., is an award winning author and journalist. Nelson is also an award winning/best-selling author of three non-fiction books and a "Corporate Diversity Champion" award winner for her groundbreaking work in corporate diversity strategies and training for the Fortune 100.

"E Pluribus One: Reclaiming Our Founders' Vision for a United America" by Sophia A. Nelson
"E Pluribus One: Reclaiming Our Founders' Vision for a United America" by Sophia A. NelsonCenter Street 2017

Editor Note: The excerpt below comes Nelson's book, “E Pluribus One: Reclaiming Our Founders’ Vision for a United America.” (Center Street 2017)

There is one huge misconception that we must address about our form of government, and that is the notion that America is a democracy. It is not.

America is a republic. A republic is a representative government ruled by law (in our case the U.S. Constitution). A democracy, on the other hand, is ruled by the majority, or, as our Founders saw it, mob rule.

Democracies focus on the needs of the good of the public, or, in other words, the majority. A republic recognizes the rights of individuals. In our form of government, we recognize the rights of the majority as well as the minority. We have a system of checks and balances. A judiciary, an executive, and a legislative body of government.

Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution states: “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion.”

The word democracy is not mentioned in the Constitution at all.

Along with more warnings from others, James Madison warned us of the dangers of democracies with this quote:

“Hence it is that democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and in general have been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. A republic, by which I mean a government in which a scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect and promises the cure for which we are seeking.”

Our nation, then, was born from men and women who understood that those who would be governed best, must be governed least.