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Trump fires Comey: F.B.I. investigation at stake

Comey+swears+in+to+a+Senate+Judiciary+Committee+hearing+in+Washington+on+May+3.%0A
Comey swears in to a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington on May 3.

Comey swears in to a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington on May 3.

Comey swears in to a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington on May 3.

Nicole Gordon, Author

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WASHINGTON — On May 9, President Trump fired F.B.I. Director James Comey, who was leading the criminal investigation into Trump’s advisers’ possible collusion with the Russian government during the 2016 election.

President Trump defended his decision to fire Comey by blaming the director’s poor handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server use. On Twitter, Trump accused Comey of being “the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton,” and said he gave her “a free pass for many bad deeds.” Prior to this, Trump had praised Comey for his “guts” in his relentless pursuit of Clinton during the campaign.

Although Trump framed the action as being for the good of the country, Comey’s dismissal may benefit the president politically and raises questions about the president’s power to interfere with an ongoing investigation. Officials at the White House said that Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, pushed for Mr. Comey’s dismissal. But many in Washington believe that the president was behind the carefully planned effort to remove Comey from the F.B.I.

Recently, revelations about Comey’s interactions with the president surfaced after it was discovered that Comey kept secret files and notes about his encounters with Trump. According to an unnamed source from USA Today, Comey was suspicious of Trump’s motives and believed he could be trying to influence an F.B.I. investigation.

Trump allegedly pulled Comey aside on Feb. 14 and said, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” referencing the investigation into Michael Flynn, the former U.S. National Security Advisor. Flynn and other top campaign advisors are suspected of illegal contact with Russia to sway the 2016 election.

But President Trump denies any knowledge of an F.B.I. investigation into his administration and refuses to cite that as the reason for letting Comey go. In a letter to Comey dated March 9, Trump said, “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.”

Other Republicans in Washington are not as supportive of firing Comey and believe it was an impulsive decision that could cause ramifications for the party. Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., said on Twitter that he supports the establishment of an independent commission to investigate Trump’s connection to Russia. He called President Trump’s claim that Comey had cleared him three times “bizarre.”

Director Comey had served four years of a ten year term that was established by Congress. He was granted an unusually long tenure so he would be protected from political pressure. The president has the power to fire the F.B.I. director for any reason, but Comey is only the second director in Bureau history to be fired. William Sessions was fired by President Bill Clinton in 1993 after a report that claimed Sessions was “evading taxes and refusing to cooperate with an investigation of a home mortgage loan,” said the New York Times.

F.B.I. agents were enraged by the loss of Comey and openly worried that Trump would appoint someone closely connected to the White House to lead the Bureau. If an ally of the administration is in charge, the integrity of political investigations could be compromised by pressure from the executive branch. Director Comey was widely liked by F.B.I. agents, even those who criticized how the Clinton email investigation was handled. He was regarded as a good manager and independent director, said the New York Times.

A source close to Comey told CNN that the former F.B.I. director now believes that Trump was trying to influence him and the investigation into the administration’s contact with Russia. The source said that it will be difficult to prove that Trump committed the crime because “You have to have intent in order to obstruct justice in the criminal sense” and “intent is hard to prove.” After Memorial Day there will be a hearing in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee where Comey will testify publicly.

At a news conference Thursday, Trump angrily denied that he had asked Comey to end the investigation and labeled the inspection of his campaign contact with Russia a “witch hunt.” Robert Mueller, a lawyer and former F.B.I. director, has since been named special counsel for the case and will continue where Comey left off.

Although nothing is official, there is compelling evidence against President Trump that suggests he tried to persuade former F.B.I. Director James Comey to drop the investigation into Michael Flynn. Comey’s reluctance may have led to Trump firing him, which is an almost unprecedented use of presidential power that entangles politics with justice.

Works Cited

Johnson, Kevin, and David Jackson. “Analysis: ‘You’re fired’ may backfire. Untethered James Comey now Trump’s greatest threat.” USA Today. Gannett Satellite Information Network, 17 May 2017. Web. 21 May 2017.

Schneider, Christian. “Donald Trump fired James Comey because he doesn’t believe rules apply.” USA Today. Gannett Satellite Information Network, 17 May 2017. Web. 21 May 2017.

Shear, Michael. “F.B.I. Director James Comey Is Fired by Trump.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 09 May 2017. Web. 21 May 2017.

Sterling, Joe. “Bill Clinton fired an FBI director 2 decades before Trump.” CNN. Cable News Network, 10 May 2017. Web. 21 May 2017.

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Trump fires Comey: F.B.I. investigation at stake