A scandal is growing in the US following US President Donald Trump’s sudden firing of Director of the FBI James Comey. The resident of the White House ascribed his decision to Comey’s inability to effectively manage the organization. “He is a showboat, he is grandstander, the FBI has been in turmoil. I was going to fire regardless of recommendation [made by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. – Ed.],” the president said in an interview with NBC News.
All observers drew attention to one circumstance: the firing of the FBI director took place a few days after he testified in the Senate about the course of investigation into Russia’s possible interference in the US presidential election and Russia’s connections to Trump’s campaign headquarters.
In addition, president Trump acknowledged on May 11 that prior to dismissing the FBI director, he asked him whether he was under investigation.
According to analysts, such a conversation between the president and the chief of the FBI is highly inappropriate. “There is supposed to be a line that is not crossed, including asking the FBI if you yourself are the target of the investigation,” national security expert Bradley Moss said in an interview with Voice of America.
It also became known that Trump demanded “loyalty” from Comey, but the director replied he would only guarantee honesty. Perhaps the biggest surprise for many was the president’s threatening message for the former FBI director. “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press,” Trump tweeted.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham called on President Trump to turn over any recordings of his talks with the dismissed FBI director if they existed. “You cannot be cute about tapes. If there are any tapes, they need to be turned over,” Graham was quoted as saying by the NBC TV channel.
Given all this, the Comey firing has sparked talk about impeaching Trump in the US, with some observers going as far as to compare the situation to Watergate.
For its part, the administration promptly started to provide explanations for the sudden dismissal of the FBI director. Its initiator Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy Rosenstein have prepared documents which indicate that Comey committed mistakes during the investigation into e-mails of Hillary Clinton, who used a personal e-mail server during her tenure as secretary of state.
Citing various sources in Washington, media also report that Comey’s sudden dismissal was related to his desire to step up the investigation of Russian interference in the election.
The Democrats’ calls for an independent investigation into the case have become more insistent. Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is the most senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, called the Rosenstein memorandum a “political document,” apparently “hastily assembled to justify a preordained outcome.”
The Senate Democrats say they are trying to get information from the Department of Justice on whether Comey asked it to provide additional resources to investigate the Russian case.
Some Republicans have also expressed concern about the timing and causes of Comey’s sudden dismissal. The White House has asserted that Trump considered firing Comey as early as November, immediately after the country held the presidential election.
According to senior sources in the White House, Comey’s likely replacement at the helm of the FBI is former Republican Congressman Mike Rogers, a former FBI agent who headed the US House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Meanwhile, attorneys general of 20 states are calling for an independent commission to investigate the Russian interference in past year’s presidential election which ended with Trump defeating Clinton.
The Day asked American experts to comment on the possible consequences of the dismissal of the FBI director.
John HERBST, Director, Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center, Atlantic Council, Washington, D.C.; ex-ambassador of the US to Ukraine:
“The furor created by the firing of James Comey has once again returned the issue of Trump team contacts with the Russians to the front pages of American newspapers. Comey’s testimony, if and when it happens, will receive a great deal of attention. The politics of this on the Republican side is tricky. On the one hand, the Republicans do not want to weaken the President. On the other, they understand that there are unexplained contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials and businessmen.”
Aubrey JEWETT, professor, Department of Political Science, University of Central Florida:
“James Comey had few political friends left in Washington. Democrats did not like him because they felt Comey sabotaged Hillary Clinton’s chance of winning the presidency when he announced a couple of weeks before Election Day that he was reopening his investigation of her when State Department emails were discovered on a laptop computer owned by the husband of here trusted aide. Republicans did not like Comey because they felt he let Hillary Clinton off without criminal charges in the email scandal after laying out several ways that she apparently violated the law. Yet despite having few friends, when Donald Trump fired Comey, many politicians in Washington said they were shocked and disappointed. Since Comey was overseeing an investigation into connections between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia, it looked like Trump may be trying to get rid of Comey because he is leading an investigation against Trump.
“Comey’s public testimony could be a political bombshell if Comey says that Trump specifically lobbied for lenient treatment on the Russia investigation or if Comey says there is evidence that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to influence the US election. Several Democrats in Congress have already talked about starting impeachment proceedings. While currently no Republicans have talked about impeachment of the president, many Republicans in Congress still do not like President Trump and it is possible they would like to get rid of him and would rather have Vice President Mike Pence become president if they could remove Trump. This is all speculation at this point and time, but the odds of Comey making politically damaging statements against Trump seem quite high and the odds of Trump making more outrageous statements also seem high.”