President Donald Trump set off a chain reaction throughout Washington on Tuesday, after making the sudden announcement that he had fired FBI Director James Comey.
As the head of the FBI, Comey had been leading the investigation into potential ties between Trump’s campaign staff in the 2016 Presidential election and officials within the Russian government believed to have taken part in a concerted effort to help the president win the election.
According to the White House, Comey was fired over his mishandling of the Hillary Clinton email scandal, another prominent issue believed to have factored into Trump’s victory over the one-time front-runner, Clinton. Though this claim has prompted accusations that the termination was actually a part of a cover-up effort intended to hinder the FBI’s probe into Russian collusion, as Trump had previously praised Comey for his handling of the Clinton email scandal both in person and in the press.
“Trump praised him for the work on the email investigation, so that’s not it,” said Austin Berglas, a former FBI supervisory agent on hacking cases. “I think he realized the extent of the Russia investigation under way and moved him out. To me, that’s the only logical explanation right now.”
Comey publicly announced that the Clinton email investigation should be closed in July of 2016, well before the election actually took place, but then retracted that statement and announced the re-opening of the case only 11 days before the nation was set to vote. The new investigation was prompted by the discovery of e-mails that had been backed up on a personal computer, and although it ultimately proved fruitless, the reopening of the investigation is believed to have had a negative effect on Clinton’s chances at winning the vote.
Democrats now claim that terminating Comey over his actions last November seems like a suspicious bit of timing, as the investigation into Trump’s own potential legal issues is now underway and the Clinton email scandal is a relative moot point.
The president took to Twitter last week to voice his frustrations over Comey, calling him the “best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton.
“FBI Director Comey was the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton in that he gave her a free pass for many bad deeds!” he wrote on Twitter. “The phony Trump/Russia story was an excuse used by the Democrats as justification for losing the election. Perhaps Trump just ran a great campaign?”
In a letter hand delivered to Comey’s office by Trump’s former body-guard, Keith Schiller, President Trump explains that the decision to terminate Comey came as a result of a memo sent to him by the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and endorsed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“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 reads.
Rosenstein’s letter cites Comey’s choice to announce a close to the investigation in July, claiming that it was never within his power to dictate such a closure and should have fallen within the purview of federal prosecutors, as well as his announcement to reopen the investigation just prior to the election, explaining that “the goal of a federal criminal investigation is not to announce our thoughts at a press conference.”
The letter goes on to cite prominent officials within the Department of Justice.
“Perhaps most troubling… is the precedent set by this departure from the Deparment’s widely-respected, non-partisan traditions,” an included quote from former Deputy Attorney General Donald Ayer read.
Despite claiming that Trump terminated Comey to protect the non-partisan reputation of the FBI, many in the nation’s capital remain unconvinced, and are now calling for the appointment of a special prosecutor to head the investigation into Russian collusion independent from presidential oversight – as it will be the White House that appoints a new FBI director, amounting to a notable conflict of interest.
“This is Nixonian,” Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey said in a statement. “Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein must immediately appoint a special counsel to continue the Trump/Russia investigation.”
“We are careening ever closer to a Constitutional crisis, and this development only underscores why we must appoint a special prosecutor to fully investigate any dealings the Trump campaign or administration had with Russia,” said Sen. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, in a statement.
However, the FBI itself continues to operate, and the investigation into Trump is certainly ongoing despite cutting the head off the snake, leaving many Republicans satisfied that the investigation will continue with little hindrance without the involvement of Comey’s oversight.
Image courtesy of USA Today