A crest of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is seen 03 August 2007 inside the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building in Washington, DC.
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty

With Comey firing, Trump delivers ‘a gut punch’ to the FBI

Throughout much of the last year, before and after Election Day, Donald Trump took jaw-dropping shots at U.S. intelligence agencies, questioning their competence, judgment, and professionalism. At one point, the Republican even compared American intelligence professionals to Nazis.

The Rachel Maddow Show, 1/3/17, 9:30 PM ET

Schumer: Trump 'being really dumb' to fight with intel agencies

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer talks with Rachel Maddow about Donald Trump’s antagonistic tweeting at U.S. intelligence agencies over evidence of Russian hacking.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer talks with Rachel Maddow about Donald Trump’s antagonistic tweeting at U.S. intelligence agencies over evidence of Russian hacking.
For a president to launch these kinds of rhetorical attacks was outrageous on its face, and it creates a dangerous governing dynamic. But Trump’s tantrums were also at odds with his own self-interest. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told Rachel earlier this year, “You take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday of getting back at you. So even for a practical supposedly hard-nosed businessman, he’s being really dumb to do this.”

The comment came to mind reading the Washington Post’s report on Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, and how the news was received by Comey’s former colleagues.
Within the Justice Department and the FBI, the firing of Comey has left raw anger, and some fear, according to multiple officials. Thomas O’Connor, the president of the FBI Agents Association, called Comey’s firing “a gut punch. We didn’t see it coming, and we don’t think Director Comey did anything that would lead to this.”

Many employees said they were furious about the firing, saying the circumstances of his dismissal did more damage to the FBI’s independence than anything Comey did in his three-plus years in the job.

One intelligence official who works on Russian espionage matters said they were more determined than ever to pursue such cases. Another said Comey’s firing and the subsequent comments from the White House are attacks that won’t soon be forgotten. Trump had “essentially declared war on a lot of people at the FBI,” one official said. “I think there will be a concerted effort to respond over time in kind.”
At a press briefing yesterday, White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters, “[T]he rank-and-file of the FBI had lost confidence in their director.” There’s very little evidence to back that up, but perhaps we’re about to learn whether the rank-and-file of the FBI have lost confidence in their president.

And to borrow a phrase, they have six ways from Sunday of getting back at you.

In the broader context, I wonder how many more enemies Trump intends to make as his presidency progresses. Trump has alienated officials at the State Department, the EPA, the CIA, the FBI, and capitols in allied countries around the globe.

Given that he hasn’t quite been in office for four months, it’s the kind of track record that suggests real effort.