Pavlich: Politicizing the FBI

Pavlich: Politicizing the FBI
© Greg Nash

When President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey two weeks ago, he argued the bureau was falling apart and essentially that a toxic political environment had been created by the man who led the agency during the 2016 presidential campaign. Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle wanted him gone and had heavily criticized his decisions when they didn’t benefit their narrative or point of view.

“He’s a showboat; he’s a grandstander; the FBI has been in turmoil. You know that, I know that, everybody knows that. You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil, less than a year ago. It hasn’t recovered from that,” the president told NBC News in a recent interview.

“The rank and file of the FBI had lost confidence in their director,” deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in defense of her boss.

But while Comey was disliked politically, he was lauded inside the FBI for his professionalism.


Testimony given by acting Director Andrew McCabe directly contradicted the president’s assessment of the FBI and how agents felt about their boss.

“Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day,” McCabe said. “The vast majority of FBI employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection to Director Comey.”

Regardless, there’s no doubt the fog of politics surrounded the agency as politicians continually demanded commentary about ongoing investigations.

Former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats seek leverage for trial Davis: Trump vs. Clinton impeachments – the major differences Sharice Davids to vote for Trump impeachment articles: 'The facts are uncontested' MORE didn’t help matters by repeatedly distorting the FBI’s criminal investigation into her mishandling of classified information. On the campaign trail, Clinton and her team repeatedly referred to the investigation as a simple security review or inquiry, which was a total misrepresentation of the matter to American voters.

Because of the lie, Comey eventually broke down his wall of silence on the issue, telling reporters he wasn’t sure what “security inquiry” the Clinton team was referring to.

“I don’t even know what that means, a ‘security inquiry.’ We do investigations here at the FBI,” Comey said in May 2016.

During the campaign, Comey was regularly called before Congress for routine FBI oversight hearings, yet endured politically charged questions about ongoing investigations by lawmakers looking for cable news sound bites and attention. Comey’s testimony was even used in political advertisements.

When he testified shortly before his firing earlier this month, Comey said it made him sick to think the FBI’s decisions could have impacted the outcome of an election. If he was a political person, he wouldn’t have had such a feeling. It was an unnatural, uncomfortable and forced situation brought on by the polarized environment at the time.

“It makes me mildly nauseous to think that we might have had some impact on the election,” Comey said to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

As the search for a new FBI director continues, it is imperative the person chosen to replace Comey be a quiet, experienced law enforcement professional. Respectfully, politicians considered for the position, whether it be Sen. John CornynJohn CornynLive coverage: DOJ inspector general testifies on Capitol Hill Hillicon Valley: Apple, Facebook defend encryption during Senate grilling | Tech legal shield makes it into trade deal | Impeachment controversy over phone records heats up | TikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings Apple, Facebook defend encryption during Senate grilling MORE (R-Texas) or former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), only further fuel the accusation that the bureau is no longer focused on their mission. Instead, it is assumed the focus is on making politically beneficial decisions. That sentiment ultimately leads to corruption and distrust. The FBI is better than that, should not be used as a political football, and thousands of agents who work for the bureau deserve more.

Comey made mistakes, but they weren’t made out of self-interest. To deny he wasn’t put into political positions by lawmakers on Capitol Hill or on the campaign trail would be placing blame in the wrong place.

If lawmakers are truly concerned about the FBI becoming too political, they should stop putting the FBI and its leaders into political positions.


Pavlich is the editor for and a Fox News contributor. The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.