UPDATE 12:34 p.m.
The New York Times and others are reporting that just days ago Comey asked Justice Department officials for a significant increase in money and personnel to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. The Times attributes its information to three congressional sources briefed on the request.
The timing of Mr. Comey’s request is not clear-cut evidence that his firing was related to the Russia investigation. But it is certain to fuel bipartisan criticism that President Trump appeared to be meddling in an investigation that had the potential to damage his presidency.
The F.B.I. declined to comment. But Sarah Isgur Flores, the Justice Department spokeswoman, said “the idea that he asked for more funding” for the Russia investigation was “totally false.” She did not elaborate. (New York Times)
President Donald J. Trump’s surprise firing of FBI Director James Comey instantly brings back the sick-to-the-stomach feeling of former President Richard Nixon’s infamous Saturday Night Massacre.
Once again, a president under investigation for suspected illegalities in his election has fired the man leading the investigation against him.
Once again, an existential question hovers over Washington and the nation at-large: Can the president be above the law? And if not, how is he to be held to account?
Trump’s stated reasons for firing Comey, as expressed in a memo prepared by Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — that Comey was unfair to Hillary Clinton by discussing her mishandling of emails in a press conference, though he declined to recommend her prosecution — makes no sense. If that were the reason, why now, 100-plus days into Trump’s presidency? And why should Trump, who led avid crowds in choruses of “Lock her up!” fire anyone for any lack of kindness to Hillary Clinton?
On the other hand, Trump gave Comey the boot on Tuesday afternoon just hours after CNN learned that federal prosecutors had issued grand jury subpoenas to associates of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn as part of the probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Comey publicly confirmed the existence of that probe at a Senate hearing last week, disclosing that the investigation was being led jointly by the Alexandria U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
The subpoenas represent the first sign of a significant escalation of activity in the FBI’s broader investigation begun last July into possible ties between Trump campaign associates and Russia.The subpoenas issued in recent weeks by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alexandria, Virginia, were received by associates who worked with Flynn on contracts after he was forced out as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014, according to the people familiar with the investigation. (CNN.com)
The worry now, by some Republicans in Congress as well as Democrats, is whether a Justice Department headed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who concurred in Comey’s firing despite saying he would recuse himself from the both the Russia meddling and Clinton email matters, can be trusted to continue this investigation.
The investigation is crucial not for the purpose of damaging the president for partisan purposes, but to understand the depth of a foreign adversary’s interference in the exercise of American democracy.
It is imperative now that Congress regain its bearing as a co-equal branch of government and authorize or organize an independent investigation of Russia’s meddling in the election, and the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with those efforts.
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