Political Insider

An AJC blog about Atlanta politics, Georgia politics, Georgia and metro Atlanta election campaigns. Because all politics is local.

Hank Johnson looks to check Trump for firing Comey


It’s been three months since President Donald Trump stunned Washington by firing FBI Director James Comey, who was investigating Russian meddling in last year’s election. A new bill from Lithonia Congressman Hank Johnson is looking to limit the commander-in-chief’s ability to do something similar in the future.

The Democrat’s “FBI Director Integrity Act” would significantly curtail Trump – or any future president’s – ability to sack the head of the law enforcement agency at will. The bill would instead require presidents to first have “good cause” that the director has violated the FBI or Justice Department’s code of conduct, been convicted of a crime, misappropriated money or property or made an intentionally false statement.

“A free and independent federal law enforcement agency is critical to upholding our democracy, and all the values we cherish as Americans,” Johnson said in a statement. His office added that the legislation is meant to “ensure the integrity” of ongoing investigations into Russian meddling and possible contacts with the Trump campaign, a probe the president has described as a “witch hunt.”

FBI directors are nominated by presidents and confirmed by the Senate to serve 10-year terms, a process that’s designed to insulate the bureau's leaders from politics. But the president is still allowed to fire the FBI director at will, which Trump did back in May after it was reported that Comey would not vow his loyalty.

The Senate has since confirmed Atlanta attorney Christopher Wray to lead the bureau.

Johnson's legislation has little chance of advancing in the GOP-controlled Congress, but the six-term Democrat isn’t alone in looking to prevent another situation similar to Comey's firing.

Amid fear that Trump could order the firing of former FBI Director Robert Mueller, who is leading the Russia investigation, Republican and Democratic senators have introduced bills that would require a judicial review should the president fire the special counsel.

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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that impact Georgia.