Breitbart News Senior Editor-at-Large Peter Schweizer told SiriusXM host Alex Marlow the firing of FBI Director James Comey was a “good thing” on Monday’s Breitbart News Daily.
“What I tell people is, look, think about it this way: think about the next time the FBI director comes out, and there’s an announcement about a major investigation, whether it’s related to the Russian hacking of the election or some other issue,” Schweizer said. “So much of the success of that announcement and the credibility of that decision rests on who the FBI director is.”
“We can all imagine – based on the controversy relating to how he handled the Hillary Clinton email investigation, some of his misstatements on Capitol Hill – any new decision Comey would have come out with would have been fraught with controversy. It would have been immediately challenged by fifty percent of the people in Washington, D.C., depending on what aisle you’re sitting on,” he suggested.
“The point is that going forward, I just don’t think he had the standing or the credibility, because his judgment had been called into question before. I think it had to happen. I think it’s good for law enforcement,” he said.
“The timing issue I think is another question,” Schweizer added. “I don’t think the timing was great. I would also say look, it is the president’s prerogative to hire and fire who he pleases. I think one of the reasons you have this time-honored American political classic whereby people are given the opportunity to resign rather than to be fired – it’s not just, Alex, kind of a gentlemanly thing. It’s also about, are you creating more enemies? Are you creating more leakers by getting a certain group of people angry, because you have in a sense disrespected them publicly?”
“I think that by doing the firing the way it was done, and essentially the timing, it’s created a constituency now within the FBI of people who like Jim Comey who are going to be leaking more. You’re basically picking another battle or having another fight that I think you don’t necessarily need to have. It’s what we call an ‘unforced error,’ in my opinion,” he said.
Marlow said that while he approved of Comey’s firing, the White House’s media handling last week was a “disaster,” leading to crisis coverage that could make it hard for Trump to make progress on his policy agenda for some time to come.
Schweizer countered that he has criticized some apparent missteps from President Trump in the past, only to be proven wrong about their long-term impact on public relations.
“There certainly could be a method behind this that I’m not appreciating,” Schweizer said of the chaotic public relations work from the White House over Comey’s firing. “It’s hard to know precisely why he did it. We do know that when Trump makes up his mind, he takes actions, and he’s not calculating in the way that a lot of people in Washington D.C. are. That can be a good thing.”
“I think it’s probably a combination of things. I think first of all, it’s kind of frustration with sort of the lurking conversations about the election, about the decisions he made, the fact that Hillary and others continue to kind of blame that as the reason that Hillary lost, which I think is just not at all supported by the facts,” Schweizer ventured. “So I think part if it was just a desire to sort of clean house.”
“I think there’s also a frustration about the ongoing investigations,” he continued. “It’s still unclear to me whether the investigation into the election, the hacking of the election, or the hacking of the emails by Russian entities is the subject of a major FBI investigation, and what is the scope of it? So I think there was a frustration about that as well.”
“I think that whoever the new FBI director is, Alex, needs to come in and sort of be very clear: here is what we are investigating. We are investigating the actions that certain Russian actors took in hacking emails. If they are in fact still investigating people like Carter Page, and Roger Stone, and Paul Manafort, then I think there needs to be some openness about that, because there’s a lot of confusion,” said Schweizer.
“We know that law enforcement can’t telegraph every single thing that they’re doing, but I think that because of the political pitfalls around this issue, I think it would be very good for the FBI to just give some clarity as to what they are exactly looking into,” he elaborated.
“So I think it was a combination of those things. Again, I think it would have been better for this to happen later on, but the president made the decision that he made, and now a lot of it’s going to rest on who the replacement is,” he predicted.
“I think it’s a mistake to bring in an ex-politician, as it were, even if they have good law enforcement credentials, because the optics will be that this is a political move,” Schweizer advised. “I think it’s much better off to bring in somebody who has a sterling reputation, who’s not seen as partisan or political in any way. Because the replacement to Jim Comey is, in a sense, even more important than the manner in which he was fired, as far as restoring confidence that people have in the FBI.”
Schweizer said he did not have a favorite candidate to replace Comey, but was pleased to see Attorney General Jeff Sessions reviewing “a broad slate of candidates.” He mentioned former House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers, who has been endorsed by the FBI Agents Association, but repeated his disapproval of putting a current or former politician in charge of the Bureau.
“I think you’ve got a lot of people who have senior positions in law enforcement that are also being considered. I think that would be the best approach,” said Schweizer. “At the end of the day, you want an FBI director who is not the center of attention. You want the sort of ‘just the facts, ma’am’ kind of FBI director that people have confidence in, who does not become the center of the story. I think that’s part of the problem with Jim Comey. Usually when the FBI director is making headlines in American politics, that’s not a good thing. The candidate I think should be somebody who’s a professional, who doesn’t garner that kind of attention.”
Marlow asked about Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s call for a special prosecutor, and his threat to block all FBI director appointees until his demands are met.
“A special prosecutor, if we had that, it would absolutely hobble the president’s agenda and nothing would get done,” he said. “Washington would grind to a halt, and this would be the end of the Trump agenda as we know it, at least temporarily.”
“I agree with you,” Schweizer responded. “I’ve said from the beginning this ought to be looked into. The FBI ought to look into this. The problem is, for those who are pushing this theory, at this point in time what we publicly know, there’s really no evidence of any kind of crime happening.”
“You’ve got the hacking of John Podesta’s email, et cetera, which took place. There’s no evidence that was linked in any way to the Trump campaign or Trump entities, at least based on anything that I’ve seen. And then you look at the broader theory that you had guys like Carter Page and Paul Manafort, who had these commercial ties or previously had these commercial ties with Russian entities – well, they were all dismissed from the campaign before Trump even won,” he explained.
“The problem is, this is a theory in search of evidence, and there’s just no evidence at this point. I take a very skeptical of political power. I think that corruption is a human instinct and a human issue, and unfortunately it’s more widespread than we want. But I don’t see any evidence here so far that anything’s happened, so to me it’s really taking a massive leap to suggest that there should be an independent counsel when you have no evidence of any sort of remote criminal conduct. That could change six months from now, but that’s what the FBI is doing,” he said.
“Look, what people have to keep in mind is, for all the light and fury about Jim Comey being fired, the investigation that is taking place relating to Carter Page and Paul Manafort, that is done by FBI field offices, not really under the direction of the FBI director but under the direction of the Department of Justice. Those are really the people that lead the investigation. I base this on my experience with the Clinton Foundation FBI investigation,” said Schweizer.
“Field offices follow leads. They pursue evidence. And then what do they do? They go to the Department of Justice and they ask for a subpoena and other tools that they need. The decision is made by the Department of Justice that determine how those investigations proceed, not the FBI director. That’s the mechanism and the means. Thus far, there’s just no evidence of it. To me the call for an independent counsel, at this point in time, is just absolutely ridiculous,” he contended.
Looking ahead to President Trump’s upcoming international trip, Schweizer described it as the president’s “breakout tour.”
“There’s a lot of hope, particularly in regions like the Middle East, that you’re going to get some strong leadership out of Washington D.C.,” he said.
“I think the challenge that Barack Obama had was that he had a view of the world that did not appreciate the importance of leadership, the importance of political and diplomatic power. His approach to foreign policy was to generally espouse ideas in speeches, and if you made a great speech and you expressed it eloquently, then everything was good,” he recalled.
“Well, that’s not leadership. Most of the work and the heavy lifting that gets done in the world of diplomacy is done behind the scenes, and it’s based on perception. Machiavelli, probably the early diplomat that a lot of people look to, said ‘it is better to be feared than loved.’ I think in international affairs, in a dangerous world, that is certainly true,” he said.
“Donald Trump I think has a perception and a view among people around the world that is a strong leader. You don’t want to get on his wrong side. I think the Jim Comey firing in a strange way sends that message around the world. I’m not suggesting that’s why he made that decision, but the perception is that Trump is a strong leader, and I think that is going to serve him well in places like the Middle East and Asia,” Schweizer anticipated.
“That said, I hope that the president goes to these meetings not with a view that he can in effect change the world, or that he is going to fix long-simmering problems like Middle East peace,” he added. “It’s virtually impossible for an American political figure, even if you’re President of the United States, to achieve that kind of success because these are complex, deep-rooted problems.”
“The thing I think we should be looking for is the responses from foreign capitals around the world, the statements that they’re making about the visit, whether they feel good progress has been made. We’ve already heard some interesting encouraging words from Saudi Arabia in that regard,” Schweizer noted. “But on the other hand, we also need to be on guard against the fact that American presidents oftentimes feel like they are the historical figure that’s going to finally fix the problem with Middle East peace. Let’s just hope that this president doesn’t go that route.”
Marlow asked Schweizer about reports that President Trump’s promise to back out of the North American Free Trade Agreement was “derailed” by the intervention of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
“To me, this is a classic example of another unforced error,” Schweizer replied. “Look, I think that Trump laid this out in his book, The Art of the Deal. It’s been his methodology in his commercial ventures before he ran for president. And that is, if you are going to negotiate with somebody you stake out an extreme position, recognizing that you are not going to get everything in your extreme position, but it’s going to force the person you’re negotiating with to come much closer to you than you are going to move towards them.”
“Frankly, if the reporting is accurate that Jared Kushner in a sense intervened on behalf of the Canadians, he in effect completely undermined his father-in-law, the President of the United States’ negotiating posture,” he said. “In other words, the Canadians preemptively got the White House to grant concessions that I think would have been granted at the negotiating table instead, in return for something. In this particular case, it does not seem as if the Trump administration got anything in return for preemptively collapsing, as far as NAFTA is concerned.”
“If the reporting is accurate, I think it’s a big failure,” he judged. “This is part of the problem. This is part of the challenge that politicians face in general, and President Trump certainly faced. If you bring family members into the fold, which you are certainly entitled to do – and I understand the attraction, because there’s that sense of loyalty, you’ve known them for years, you’ve got these long bonds and ties.”
“The problem is, those same bonds and ties become an impediment to firing somebody if they don’t serve you well,” he cautioned. “I mean, you’re basically stuck with them. You can’t fire a family member. They’re always going to be a family member. Instead of focusing on whether a family member who’s serving in an official capacity is serving you well in that official capacity, you are instead making decisions based on emotions or familial ties. I think that’s a mistake. I’m not a big fan of politicians bringing in family members to serve in senior roles, because it creates these kinds of entangling relationships.”
Schweizer was likewise disenchanted with the way Kushner’s name and White House connections were used in the context of a program to pitch EB-5 “investment visas” to wealthy Chinese businessmen.
“They say that it was a mistake. It’s hard for me to believe that somebody in the company somewhere, or whether it was Jared Kushner’s sister who was involved in running the company or not, it’s hard for me to believe that having a PowerPoint presentation that features pictures of President Trump and of Jared Kushner as his top adviser, that those were a mistake,” he said. “Clearly there was an intention, and there was a marketing plan put together, to get Chinese investors to put money in this project because it was tied to the President of the United States or his family. I think this is a huge problem,” he said.
“I’ve been a longtime critic of the EB-5 program to begin with. It was a great idea in theory – hey, let’s have people invest in the United States. They put in $500,000, they create 10 jobs, they get permanent residence status in the United States. It’s a win-win for everybody. That was the theory when this law was passed in the early 1990s,” he recalled.
“The problem is, like everything else, it usually does not go off as it’s intended to,” he continued. “These EB-5 programs, which the Kushners use aggressively to raise capital for their real estate projects – these programs are rife with corruption. You have foreign oligarchs who are investing basically in these real estate projects so they can get permanent resident status in the United States. We’re supposed to screen them, but oftentimes we don’t know how they made their money. Are these criminals? Are these people that made their money in corrupt ways? We ultimately don’t know. We’re taking their word for it.”
“And it creates this sort of distortive marketing effect, because these people in a way are not sort of typical investors,” he explained. “What do I mean by that? Most people invest in a project or in a business because they want a certain rate of return. Well, the rate of return here is the lottery of getting permanent resident status in the United States. What does that mean? It means they can come and live here. It means their kids get in-state college tuition. There are all these perks that come with it. So they’re going to throw money at projects that aren’t even necessarily that commercially viable. What they’re really putting the $500,000 in for is to get this prize of permanent resident status in the United States, rather than the investment return itself. I just think that’s a massive distortion in the investment marketplace.”
Peter Schweizer is a senior editor-at-large for Breitbart News, president of the Government Accountability Institute, and author of the best-selling book Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich.
Breitbart News Daily airs on SiriusXM Patriot 125 weekdays from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Eastern.