The Intelligence Community and the Trump Presidency
After much anticipation James Comey released his book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership last week; within the book Comey recounts the President of the United States demanding loyalty from the FBI Director.
President Trump’s comments were disconcerting not only because his former national security directory, Michael Flynn, was being investigated at the time; but also, because commonly the FBI – along with most intelligence agencies – has remained independent from the President.
Why Is Independence Important?
The FBI has a long history of investigating members of the President’s administration, or even the President himself, thus, even though the FBI is in the executive branch, it has remained independent from the White House. Therefore, it was this independence that allowed the FBI to investigate Richard Nixon for obstruction of justice in 1972. Furthermore, in 1986 the FBI investigated the Reagan administration for the Iran-Contra scandal, which involved selling weapons to Iran during an embargo. In 1993, the Clintons were being investigated for their investments in an Arkansas development named Whitewater. In 2003, George Bush’s chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby was found guilty for perjury.
The FBI aides in our checks and balances system, thus its loyalty is to the law, and to the American people. In fact, in James Comey’s book he mentions that after President Obama had selected him to be the FBI Director and invited him to the Oval Office, Obama stated, “Once you are director we won’t be able to talk like this.” Meaning, to ensure any credibility of White House investigations led by the FBI, the President and the FBI must remain at a distance from each other.
The importance of the FBI remaining impartial to protect the rule of law should be understood by individuals on all sides of the political spectrum, and government officials should ensure that new Presidents understand the purpose of this precedent. American history has demonstrated that democracy succeeds through unbiased investigations, and we have shown that even Presidents are not above the rule of law.
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