Trump sacking of FBI Director Comey creates ‘Watergate moment’ for President
Wednesday - 10/05/2017 19:21
PRESIDENT Trump’s shock move to sack FBI Director James Comey has seen his critics liken it to the “Saturday Night Massacre” and dubbed it Trump’s own “Watergate moment”.
Now, he will meet with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in the Oval Office, in the first face-to-face contact he has had with Russians since becoming leader.
On Tuesday, the President signed a letter terminating Mr Comey’s 10-year appointment early, saying he acted based on “clear recommendations” from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“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,” he said.
Critics swiftly compared the move to Richard Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre” in October 1973 when he ordered Archibald Cox to be sacked - the special prosecutor investigating the burglary that would eventually end his Presidency.
As Washington deals with the fallout from the unexpected move, the Lavrov meeting has added to intense speculation over the reasons behind Mr Comey’s termination.
The pair expected to discuss Syria and the fight against terrorism in a follow up from President Trump’s phonecall with Putin one week ago.
In the letter, Mr Trump makes clear Mr Comey had told the President he was not personally under investigation, and the firing was due to a lack of confidence in the FBI’s handling over Hillary Clinton’s emails.
That investigation over whether Ms Clinton had broken the law over keeping State Department emails on a private server forced a late intervention by Comey into the election campaign just 11 days before the vote that was widely seen as a benefit to President Trump.
Now, the fact Mr Comey has been sacked on the advice of Attorney Jeff Sessions - who was forced to recuse himself from the investigation after having been found to have lied over his links with Russia - has many crying foul.
Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward Markey said it was “disturbingly reminiscent of the Saturday Night Massacre during the Watergate scandal and the national turmoil that it caused.”
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee said “the echo of Watergate is very strong here.”
News website Vox described it as a “historic moment” that “will bedevil the rest of the Trump presidency - and potentially, bring it to a premature close.”
“Every White House scandal eventually reaches a turning point, one in which historians later look back on as the moment that ultimately determined whether a president survived or was forced from office. We are now at that moment,” it said.
Presidential historian Michael Beschloss told AP the move shows Trump’s clear willingness to disrupt the system charged with keeping the president accountable.
“That’s why this is unprecedented,” he said. “He’s showed signs of not having a great deal of respect for the system by which this investigation has been operating.”
Republican Senator Richard Burr, who is overseeing one of the congressional investigations into Russia’s election interference, said: “I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Comey’s termination.”
President Trump has also sacked Attorney General Sally Yates after she refused to implement his travel ban and his vowed “see you in court” to judges who have opposed his moves.
FBI Directors are appointed for 10-year terms and Comey was appointed by President Obama in 2013.
The last person to fire an FBI Director was Bill Clinton over questions about the use of planes for personal purposes.