The last 24 hours in Washington has brought to bare a political name and time in our country’s history that makes most shudder.
Before his dismissal, FBI Director James Comey was leading probes into Trump associates’ connections to Russia during the 2016 election.
To many lawmakers, the FBI director’s firing was reminiscent of when then-President Nixon fired Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor charged with investigating the Watergate scandal.
Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts said of the Comey dismissal, "President Trump's firing of Director Comey sets a deeply alarming precedent as multiple investigations into possible Trump campaign or administration collusion with Russia remain ongoing, including an FBI investigation. This episode is disturbingly reminiscent of the Saturday Night Massacre during the Watergate scandal and the national turmoil that it caused."
Here’s what Markey gets wildly wrong. Trump associates Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort are under investigation, an investigation, according to a source at the FBI, that will continue despite political talking points that it will end. The president is NOT under direct investigation, and any notion of “collusion” between Mr. Trump and Russia has been widely rebuked as having any merit by those who have classified clearance.
Nixon, you probably recall, WAS under investigation. His phones had been “wiretapped” as part of the Watergate scandal. Evidence suggests Trump’s phones have been “surveilled" as well, although as noted, he is not under investigation.
Trump firing Comey is Clintonian. Bill Clinton was the last president to fire an FBI director and under very similar circumstances.
Trump firing Comey is not Nixonian.
The Russia Investigation Will Continue
An independent counsel and commission should be appointed to continue the Russia ties investigation. But a special prosecutor seems over the top.
Senators on both sides of the aisle are calling for assurances that the process be transparent and thorough, and the president should replace Comey with a no nonsense, apolitical FBI director, someone capable of seeing that investigation through.
According to a former FBI agent, regardless of the agency’s leadership, the Russia investigation will continue. “The director doesn’t run the investigation, the assistant director doesn’t run it, and the unit chiefs don’t run it. There’s a case agent or a series of case agents assigned to run it all the way through.”
Vice President Mike Pence noted Comey's dismissal had "nothing to do with the Russian Investigation."
If the president proffers a replacement that is less than transparent, given the wariness with which prominent senators and representatives have so far viewed the firing, it could have serious repercussions. Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz said the firing of Comey was appropriate but noted, “Who the President appoints is key. If he appoints a man or a woman of great integrity, this date will not go down in history because we will have been proved wrong that it was some kind of a cover-up.”
Why Was Comey Fired?
First, he was President Obama’s appointment.
Second. Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail scandal left much to be desired. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote, “Comey was wrong to close the investigation into whether Clinton should be prosecuted for running a private e-mail server from her New York residence when she was secretary of state. The director laid out his version of the facts for the news media as if it were a closing argument, but without a trial. It is a textbook example of what federal prosecutors and agents are taught not to do.”
Third. Comey’s failure to direct the agency to pursue those responsible for the leaking of classified materials and the unmasking of American citizens, both criminal offenses. Several times in the past few weeks the president has pointed to his frustrations over the FBI’s lack of interest and investigation into these matters.
In a prepared White House statement the president wrote, “The FBI is one of our nation’s most cherished and respected institutions, and today will mark a new beginning for our crown jewel of law enforcement.”
FBI Deputy Director Andrew McAbe will assume the acting director role, unless a special prosecutor is appointed to oversee the FBI probe, as some Democrats have called for.
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