Something terrible is happening in politics. Whenever someone fires a lawyer, he is severely punished. The latest example is when President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Trump had plenty of reasons. In my opinion, the biggest reason is that Comey’s decisions regarding the Hillary Clinton investigation embarrassed the FBI so much that many of his employees were giving him resignation letters. The result of Comey’s firing is that Trump is being accused of obstruction of justice.
Did Trump obstruct justice? According to the Ohio Bar, “The acts by which justice is obstructed may include bribery, murder, intimidation, and the use of physical force …” Is this a case of intimidation? One does not intimidate an investigator by replacing him with someone who is likely to be more competent. This is a bogus charge, but it sure gets a lot of press.
Is such retaliation for a firing unprecedented? No. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, when he was Texas Governor, was indicted by a grand jury convened by the so-called Public Integrity Unit, part of a district attorney’s office, for vetoing a bill that would have sent funding to that unit. In other words, he concluded that they were worthless, so they attacked him. This unit was responsible for indicting former House Majority Leader Tom Delay on bogus charges and was run by someone who had recently been convicted of drunk driving. Ultimately, the charges against Perry were ruled unconstitutional and dropped. Perry was exonerated, but not without significant expense and damage to his career.
Another example is when former President George W. Bush fired eight US Attorneys in 2006. His advisor, Alberto Gonzales, helped him gather facts to justify the dismissals. The Democrats in Congress were outraged over the firing. Somehow, they focused on Gonzales and interrogated him mercilessly about this during his Attorney General confirmation hearings. After Gonzales became Attorney General, they continued to attack him and ultimately hounded him from office. No good deed goes unpunished.
Was the firing justified? In 2010, the Obama Justice Department concluded “Evidence did not demonstrate that any prosecutable criminal offense was committed with regard to the removal of [US Attorney] David Iglesias. The investigative team also determined that the evidence did not warrant expanding the scope of the investigation beyond the removal of Iglesias.” In other words, firing Iglesias was legal and the department did not need to bother checking out the other seven firings.
In all three cases, people who believed that the fired lawyers were angels sought vengeance on the firers. Apparently, if you wish to avoid retribution, you should never fire lawyers. How can you cope with such a restriction? Never HIRE lawyers. Since this is not feasible in the case of prosecutors, the best that we can do is to keep them on a short leash, like rabid pit bulls. Do not let them make press announcements about the status of investigations, like Comey did. Do not let them leak confidential memoranda to newspapers, like Comey did. Above all, do not believe that they have your political views just because they registered with the same political party as yours, like Comey did.
Think of lawyers this way. Lawyers are like recreational drugs. Starting to use them is easy. Maintaining the habit is expensive. Stopping cold turkey is agonizing.
I will now drown my sorrows in a lawyer joke book.