By Miriam Raftery
Photo: Comey official FBI portrait
May 10, 2017 (Washington D.C.) – President Donald Trump has fired the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director over the weekend, stating that he has “lost confidence” in James Comey. Comey was scheduled to testify this Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee on the FBI investigation into Russia’s hacking of the U.S. presidential election.
Speculation had been rampant that Comey was directing the FBI to seriously investigate Trump’s own ties to Russia. Now, some are suggesting Trump’s firing of Comey amounts to a cover-up intended to obstruct justice, reminiscent of Richard Nixon firing Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox.
A New York Times article states, “The stunning development in Mr. Trump’s presidency raised the specter of political interference by a sitting president into an existing investigation by the nation’s leading law enforcement agency. It immediately ignited Democratic calls for a special counsel to lead the Russia inquiry.”
Ironically, before the election Comey had been accused by some liberals of swaying the election to Trump, since Comey issued an announcement that the FBI was reopening its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails shortly before the election before ultimately clearing her of any criminal wrongdoing.
Trump previously praised those actions and encouraged crowds at his rallies to shout “Lock her up” regarding Clinton, his Democratic rival.
In his letter to Comey, the President states, “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau.” The letter reveals that Attorney General Jeff Sessions pushed for the firing.
In a separate letter by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Rosenstein claims, “I cannot defend the director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails.”
Adding to concerns over the Trump administration’s entanglements with Russia, Comey's firing comes just one day after former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates told senators that she had warned the Trump administration that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was vulnerable to being blackmailed by Russia. Yates told Senators, "To state the obvious: You don't want your national security adviser compromised with the Russians."
A Grand Jury in Virginia has issued subpoenas for records related to Flynn’s actions, the New York Times reports.
Legal analyst Paul Callan, in a piece published by CNN, says Trump is “playing with fire” by firing Comey amid the investigation into himself. Callan likens the action to Nixon. He writes, “In firing FBI director James Comey, the 45th President of the United States may well have set in motion a series of events that could lead to more controversy and potentially even his impeachment less than a year after being sworn into office.”
Even some Republicans are now criticizing Trump’s firing of Comey.
Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona posted on Twitter on Sunday, “I’ve spent the last several hours trying to find an acceptable rationale for the timing of Comey’s firing. I just can’t do it.”
But other Republicans are defending Trump’s action. Former rival Marco Rubio, Republican Senator from Florida, voiced confidence Trump would choose a high caliber replacement and said though surprising by the firing, he respects that “It’s a decision the president’s made,” Salon reports.
Senate Democrats responded by calling for a special prosecutor, CBS News reports. As of Monday morning, 36 of the 46 Democratic Senators have joined the call for a special prosecutor.
California’s senior Senator Dianne Feinstein issued a blistering statement which reads, “The real question we face today is whether Director Comey was fired because of the Clinton email investigation—which could have happened in January—or whether he was fired because of the FBI’s investigation of Trump connections to Russia. If Director Comey was fired to stifle the FBI’s Russia investigation—and the timing of this action makes that a real possibility—that simply can’t be allowed to happen.
“Toward that end, I plan to work closely with Senator Blumenthal on the appointment of an independent prosecutor. I will also support Deputy AG Rosenstein in the appointment of a special counsel who should be far removed from the politics of this place.
“Americans expect to have faith in the ability of the Justice Department to carry out a high-level investigation without interference from the White House. I can’t yet say whether what the president told me is all there is to this, but I can say the Russia investigation was broad and far underway, and it must be allowed to continue.”
California’s junior Senator Kamala Harris also joined the call, writing on Twitter, “We cannot wait any longer to have a special prosecutor to oversee the FBI's Russia investigation.”
A petition has been started by the activist group Color of Change urging the Senate to "Call Fired FBI Director James Comey to testify on Russia's connections to Trump."
Deborah Sherman, who started the petition, states, “For generations, Black people have fought to protect the freedom to vote and to force the US government to live up to the promise of our democratic ideals. Foreign governments colluding with US campaigns to impact the outcome of our elections disrespects the years of tireless work voting rights advocates have fought and died for and cheapens the value of their struggle.”
She adds, “We owe it to the past and to the future to ensure the integrity of our elections and have a public airing of the facts about foreign influence into our elections and Trump's involvement. The safety of our country may be at risk and the future of our democracy is at stake.”