TRUMP AXES COMEY:

U.S. pres­i­dent fires FBI direc­tor amid probe into cam­paign’s alleged ties to Rus­sian med­dling

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - JULIE PACE

WASH­ING­TON — U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump abruptly fired FBI Direc­tor James Comey Tues­day, dra­mat­i­cally oust­ing the na­tion’s top law en­force­ment of­fi­cial in the midst of an FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether Trump’s cam­paign had ties to Rus­sia’s elec­tion med­dling.

In a let­ter to Comey, Trump said the fir­ing was nec­es­sary to re­store “public trust and con­fi­dence” in the FBI. Comey has come un­der scru­tiny in re­cent months for his role in an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton’s email prac­tices, in­clud­ing a pair of let­ters he sent to Congress on the mat­ter in the clos­ing days of last year’s elec­tion.

Trump made no men­tion of Comey’s role in the Clin­ton in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which she has blamed in part for the elec­tion re­sult that put him in the White House. But in an­nounc­ing the fir­ing, the White House cir­cu­lated a scathing memo, writ­ten by deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein, crit­i­ciz­ing Comey’s han­dling of the Clin­ton probe, in­clud­ing the direc­tor’s de­ci­sion to hold a news con­fer­ence an­nounc­ing its find­ings and re­leas­ing “deroga­tory in­for­ma­tion” about Clin­ton.

The fir­ing of an FBI direc­tor is ex­ceed­ingly rare. Democrats slammed the move, com­par­ing it to for­mer pres­i­dent Richard Nixon’s “Satur­day Night Mas­sacre” de­ci­sion to fire the in­de­pen­dent spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor over­see­ing the Water­gate in­ves­ti­ga­tion, prompt­ing the res­ig­na­tions of the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s top two of­fi­cials.

“Out­ra­geous,” said Ore­gon Se­na­tor Ron Wy­den, call­ing for Comey to im­me­di­ately be sum­moned to tes­tify to Congress about the sta­tus of the Trump-Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Trump has ridiculed the FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion, as well as con­cur­rent con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tions, as a “hoax” and has de­nied that his cam­paign was in­volved in Rus­sia’s elec­tion med­dling. In his let­ter to Comey, he asserted that the FBI direc­tor had in­formed him “on three sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions that I am not un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

The White House said the search for a new FBI direc­tor was be­gin­ning im­me­di­ately.

Tues­day’s stun­ning an­nounce­ment came shortly af­ter the FBI cor­rected a sen­tence in Comey’s sworn tes­ti­mony on Capitol Hill last week. Comey told law­mak­ers that Huma Abe­din, a top aide to Hil­lary Clin­ton, had sent “hun­dreds and thou­sands” of emails to her hus­band’s lap­top, in­clud­ing some with clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion.

On Tues­day, the FBI said in a two-page let­ter to the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee that only “a small num­ber” of the thou­sands of emails found on the lap­top had been for­warded there while most had sim­ply been backed up from elec­tronic de­vices. Most of the email chains on the lap­top con­tain­ing clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion were not the re­sult of for­ward­ing, the FBI said.

Some law­mak­ers wel­comed news of the dis­missal.

“Given the re­cent con­tro­ver­sies sur­round­ing the direc­tor, I be­lieve a fresh start will serve the FBI and the na­tion well,” said Repub­li­can Lindsay Gra­ham of South Carolina, chair of a Se­nate Ju­di­ciary sub­com­mit­tee in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Rus­sian cam­paign in­ter­fer­ence.

Sen. Dianne Fe­in­stein of Cal­i­for­nia, the top Demo­crat on the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, said Trump called her Tues­day af­ter­noon to in­form her of his de­ci­sion.

“The next FBI direc­tor must be strong and in­de­pen­dent and will re­ceive a fair hear­ing in the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee,” she said in a state­ment.

Comey, 56, was nom­i­nated by pres­i­dent Barack Obama for the FBI post in 2013 to a 10-year term. That ap­point­ment does not en­sure a direc­tor will serve the full 10 years, though Comey is only the sec­ond FBI chief to be fired.

Praised by both par­ties for his in­de­pen­dence and in­tegrity, Comey has spent three decades in law en­force­ment. But his prom­i­nent role in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign raised ques­tions about his judg­ment and im­par­tial­ity. Though the FBI did not rec­om­mend charges against Clin­ton for mis­han­dling clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion, Comey was blis­ter­ingly crit­i­cal of her de­ci­sion to use a per­sonal email ac­count and pri­vate In­ter­net server dur­ing her four years as sec­re­tary of state.

Clin­ton’s ad­vis­ers were stunned by Trump’s de­ci­sion. For­mer cam­paign spokesper­son Brian Fal­lon said “the tim­ing and man­ner of this fir­ing sug­gest that it is the prod­uct of Don­ald Trump feel­ing the heat on the on­go­ing Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion and not a well thought out re­sponse to the in­ap­pro­pri­ate han­dling of the Clin­ton in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

GETTY IM­AGES FILE PHOTO

James Comey, seen here in a 2016 file photo, has been abruptly ter­mi­nated as direc­tor of the FBI by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

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