The Lawfare blog reported Monday that despite insistence from Trump’s administration that the FBI embraced firing Comey, the reality is that the bureau was totally taken by surprise. Even though the White House’s story is that FBI agents had “lost confidence” in former director James Comey, Nora Ellingsen reportedly spoke with around 20 of her former FBI colleagues. Ellingsen, who now reports for Lawfare, says that most of them have a positive opinion of their former boss.
Within a few days of Comey’s firing, both current and former FBI officials began to push back against the White House’s narrative that Comey had to be terminated because his agents lost confidence in his ability to lead. Then-acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. McCabe said that Comey “enjoyed broad support within the FBI” and that “the vast majority of employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection to Director Comey.”
Now Lawfare obtained has obtained emails and more than 100 pages of documents through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Among the published reactions in immediate aftermath of Comey’s termination, David Gelios, who was in charge of the Detroit field office emailed his staffers:
“I just saw CNN reporting that Director Comey has been fired by President Trump. I have no notification from HQ of any such thing. If I receive any information from HQ, I will advise. I’d ask all to stand by for clarification of this reporting. I am only sending this because I want everyone to know I have received no HQ confirmation of the reporting. I hope this is an instance of fake news.“
Special Agent Renae McDermott wrote to her staff in the Knoxville field office:
“Unexpected news such as this is hard to understand but I know you all know our Director stood for what is right and what is true!!! . . . He truly made us better when we needed it the most.”
Lawfare adds editorially that Nora Ellingsen herself served as a counterterrorism analyst at the FBI for several years and she characterized the opinion of Comey among the FBI’s rank and file “as almost universally positive.”
Ellingsen wrote, “Nearly everyone loved him,” and the “degree of consensus on this point … has been incredible.” She added:
“All of the people I talked to described having the same reaction when they heard that the director had been fired: complete shock, followed by deep sadness.”
Donald Trump isn’t often accused of being brilliant. At least, not by anyone but himself. In time, he’ll probably regret wrongfully terminating a beloved FBI director, especially as Trump was already being investigated. His ill-advised aggression toward Robert Mueller shows that he hasn’t learned his lesson.