Trump sacking of FBI Director Comey creates ‘Watergate moment’ for President, critics say
Wednesday - 10/05/2017 15:47
PRESIDENT Trump’s critics have likened his shock move to sack FBI Director James Comey to the infamous “Saturday Night Massacre” and dubbed it Trump’s own “Watergate moment”.
They were referencing the events of October 1973, when President Richard Nixon ordered the sacking of Archibald Cox - the special prosecutor who was investigating the burglary that would eventually end his presidency.
Yesterday Mr Trump 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.
As Washington deals with the fallout from the unexpected move, Mr Trump today met with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, adding to intense speculation over the reasons behind Mr Comey’s termination. The President’s critics have suggested it was an attempt by Mr Trump to interfere with the FBI’s investigation into possible collusion between members of his campaign team and the Russians.
Today the New York Times reported that Mr Comey had sought more money and staff to help with the Russia investigation just days before he was fired. He made that request to Mr Rosenstein - who then wrote the letter used to justify Mr Comey’s sacking.
Asked why he fired Mr Comey at the White House today, Mr Trump replied: “Because he wasn’t doing a good job. Very simply, he was not doing a good job.”
The President also defended his move in a series of tweets.
Comey lost the confidence of almost everyone in Washington, Republican and Democrat alike. When things calm down, they will be thanking me!
During today’s meeting, incidentally, Mr Trump and Mr Lavrov discussed Syria and the fight against terrorism, in a follow-up from Mr Trump’s phone call with Vladimir Putin one week ago.
Mr Lavrov joked about the dominant news of the day in an earlier meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, saying: “Was he fired? You’re kidding. You’re kidding.”
Mr Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was “an entirely domestic matter” for the US.
In the letter, Mr Trump claimed Mr Comey had told him on three separate occasions that he was not personally under investigation, and the firing was due to a lack of confidence in the FBI’s handling of 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 Mr Comey into the election campaign just 11 days before the vote. It waqs widely seen as a benefit to Mr 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.
However others have backed the move with Republican Lindsey Graham saying the “fresh start will serve the FBI and the nation well.”
Senator John McCain has said he was “disappointed” in the decision and called for a “special congressional committee to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.”
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.