In a final spasm of irony, FBI Director James Comey was fired this afternoon over his inappropriate and inaccurate public statements regarding the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails from her time as Secretary of State.
The order came after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein issued a memorandum taking Comey to task for “serious mistakes” that united “people of diverse perspectives” in a “nearly universal judgment” against him. Listing several former attorneys general and deputies to decry Comey’s decision to ignore Department of Justice policy, Rosenstein said “We should reject the departure and return to the traditions.”
Comey has “refused to admit his errors,” Rosenstein said. Attorney General Jeff Sessions moved quickly to concur with his findings, whereupon Donald Trump signed another letter dismissing the FBI director.
As noted above, Comey brought this disgrace upon himself. The final straw was his “inaccurate” testimony to a Senate committee last week in which he badly “misstated” the facts regarding Clinton emails found on a laptop belonging to former congressman Anthony Weiner.
But for Trump, now fighting his own war against the deepening scandal of Russian influence in his presidential campaign and administration, Comey’s last mistake is a convenient opportunity to put someone in charge of the FBI who will see things his way. Speculation immediately centered on campaign ally Rudy Giuliani, who has his own conflicts of interest regarding Russian mobsters and money.
Comey’s error is also convenient to Sessions, who was forced to recuse himself from oversight of all investigations into Trump’s Russian influences, including a counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign itself.
In short, by repeatedly exercising the double standard that doomed Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, Comey may very well have enabled a power grab that dooms American democracy. It is not clear what Andrew McCabe, the acting FBI Director, will do now.
Trump has either BIGLY Saturday Night Massacred himself here…or he’s consolidated power & is beyond any law.
We’ll know soon which it is.
— John Schindler (@20committee) May 9, 2017
Remember AG Sessions, who recused himself from Russia investigation, has fired the leader of that investigation, Director Comey
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) May 9, 2017
Dem Dick Durbin says AG not saying if will continue FBI investigation into Russia and possible links with Trump associates. @StevenTDennis
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) May 9, 2017
“The FBI investigation could be terminated at this point,” Durbin said, per @StevenTDennis
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) May 9, 2017
Spicer says Trump has engaged a DC law firm to send a certified letter to Lindsey Graham stating that he has no Russian financial ties.
— Lachlan Markay (@lachlan) May 9, 2017
— Bradley P. Moss, Esq (@BradMossEsq) May 9, 2017
Republican reactions have been mixed.
“Given the recent controversies surrounding the director, I believe a fresh start will serve the FBI and the nation well,” Sen. Lindsey Graham wrote in a statement following the news. “I encourage the President to select the most qualified professional available who will serve our nation’s interests.”
But Sen. John McCain expressed “disappointment” in the decision, saying that it underlines his previous call for a special commission to investigate Trump’s Russian influence scandal.
Comey’s “removal at this time will raise questions,” said Sen. Bob Corker. “It is essential that ongoing investigations are fulsome and free of political interference until their completion.”
Across the aisle, Democrats were more united in their sense of alarm.
“While the White House is under investigation by the FBI, firing the head of the FBI raises massive questions, and the Senate should get to the bottom of it,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse.
Sen. Mark Warner called the decision to fire Comey “shocking” in his own statement. “The administration insists there’s no ‘there there,’ yet President Trump has so far fired the acting Attorney General, nearly every US attorney, and now the Director of the FBI,” he said.
Appearing on NPR this evening, Warner added that Deputy AG Rosenstein has lost his confidence and said of the Trump administration that “I do question its commitment to the rule of law.” Until now, Rosenstein has been widely seen as apolitical and independent.
With Washington spiraling into constitutional crisis, calls for a special prosecutor are mounting. So are comparisons to the “Saturday Night Massacre,” when President Richard Nixon fired the independent prosecutor looking into Watergate.
Media reactions are still rolling in, but almost uniformly negative. “This is a gross abuse of power…this is not something withing the American political tradition…this is not normal, this is not politics as usual,” Jeffrey Toobin told Wolf Blitzer on CNN.
Strong words from Jeffrey Toobin: “a grotesque abuse of power by the president…This is the kind of thing that goes on in non-democracies” pic.twitter.com/IXc9rdLgHd
— David Mack (@davidmackau) May 9, 2017
If the Trump administration thought they could end all controversy by taking advantage of the moment, they were sorely mistaken. Today’s events are likely to have the exact opposite effect, magnifying the flames of scandal into an all-consuming inferno — or necessitating a turn towards dictatorship and the demise of our Constitution.
Source w knowledge of wh discussions tells me senior officials did not think firing james comey would be a big political explosion.
— Dana Bash (@DanaBashCNN) May 9, 2017
Cummings calls for immediate emergency hearings with Sessions, Deputy AG and Comey pic.twitter.com/ey3Sqm5jwo
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) May 9, 2017
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