As the White House scrambled to explain President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, one of the main reasons given was that the nation’s top law enforcement agent had lost the support of his own rank and file. At best, that assertion has little basis in reality, according to the two people in the best position to know, Politico reports. More likely, they said, available anecdotal evidence suggests that it’s flat out wrong. The heads of the two associations representing current and retired FBI agents, analysts and other personnel said that by all available measures, Comey enjoys enormous support among the 35,000 people who worked for him, and the many thousands of others who have retired or left the bureau. “His support within the rank and file of the FBI is overwhelming,” said Thomas O’Connor, a working agent who is president of the FBI Agents Association.
Comey’s firing “was described to me today by at least three agents as a gut punch to the organization,” said O’Connor, a counterterrorism agent in the FBI’s Washington, D.C., field office. He said neither agents, nor the association “saw this coming,” and didn’t think Comey did anything to deserve such treatment. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “Most importantly, the rank and file of the FBI had lost confidence in their director.” O’Connor disputed Sanders’ characterization: “I believe that that is not the perception of the FBI at all.” The two associations representing agents have been getting a steady flow of calls, emails and texts this week, virtually all of them lamenting Comey’s firing. The FBI Agents Association, with 13,000 members, issued a statement urging caution in the naming of a new FBI director given the job’s importance, and praising Comey for his “service, leadership, and support for Special Agents during his tenure.” Nancy Savage of the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI, said many current and retired agents were hopping mad, not only about Comey’s firing, but also over how it was handled, with the FBI director finding out via a TV monitor while delivering a speech to agents in Los Angeles.