DOJ veteran says "mistakes have consequences" for FBI Director Comey

Former Bush adviser on Comey firing

President Trump's firing of FBI director James Comey on Tuesday sent shock waves through Washington and the agency. But according to CBS News senior national security analyst Fran Townsend, who spent 11 years working in the Justice Department and was national security adviser to President George W. Bush, Comey violated Justice Department guidelines "about how you handle investigations and public pronouncements" in relation to the FBI probe of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's email servers.

"Mistakes have consequences, and I think Jim Comey is suffering," Townsend said Wednesday on "CBS This Morning." "I should tell you, I've known him for more than 30 years. He is smart. He is ethical. He is honest, and so I think it's really unfortunate the way to see him go."

FBI officials "stunned" by James Comey firing

She also called the timing of the dismissal "unfortunate."

"Would we have been asking this question if the president had dismissed him on day one?" Townsend said. "I think from the administration's point of view, they gave him the chance to kind of try and right the ship -- that is, the FBI that was in turmoil after the Clinton email investigation was concluded -- and he hasn't done that. So I think the timing of it is what raises people's concern."

But Townsend said much of the language being used surrounding Comey's firing is "very inflammatory."

"'Grotesque abuse of power,' 'Nixonian' -- all of this sort of language is unfortunate," Townsend said. "This is a hundred-year-old organization, the FBI. It's staffed by career men and women who spent decades and devote themselves to these investigations. And by the way… the very same agents who are investigating the Russia claims yesterday are investigating today. Subpoenas are going out. Prosecutors are involved."

In a memorandum for the attorney general titled "Restoring Public Confidence in the FBI," Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote Tuesday: "I cannot defend the Director's handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton's emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken." He continued: "The Director was wrong to usurp the Attorney General's authority on July 5, 2016 and announce his conclusion that the case should be closed without prosecution."