SO MANY QUESTIONS
Was the decision by U.S. President Donald Trump’s to fire FBI director James Comey legal? Why did he do it and what did he have to say? Here are some answers to the story rocking America.
“The Democrats have said some of the worst things about James Comey, including the fact that he should be fired, but now they play so sad!” Trump tweeted. “Comey lost the confidence of almost everyone in Washington, Republican and Democrat alike. When things calm down, they will be thanking me!”
Trump had misgivings about retaining Comey as FBI director as early as his election in November, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. Although as recently as May 3, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that Comey retained Trump’s confidence. On Wednesday, however, Sanders said the Trump administration’s concerns peaked last week. Comey said at a congressional hearing that he had no regrets about his decision last July, without informing top Justice Department officials, to hold a news conference on the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s handling of her email as Secretary of State. He also said he’d do it again. Sanders said Comey had “essentially taken a stick of dynamite and thrown it into the Department of Justice by going around the chain of command.” “That is simply not allowed,” Sanders said.
Last week, Comey requested more resources from the Justice Department for his bureau’s investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, according to two officials with knowledge of the discussion. Comey made the request in a meeting last week with Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, and Senate Intelligence Committee members were briefed on the request Monday, the officials said. Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said reports that Comey had requested more funding for the Russia investigation were “totally false.” Such a request, she said, “did not happen.”
According to a series of Supreme Court decisions interpreting “the executive power,” presidents generally have the authority to remove any political appointee in a “line” agency at will, although Congress can protect appointees serving in independent regulatory commissions. FBI directors are part of the Justice Department hierarchy. While they are appointed to a 10-year term, they clearly serve at the pleasure of the president.
Senior Senate Republicans closed ranks behind Trump Wednesday. Republican leaders insisted the turmoil shouldn’t harm their legislative agenda, including overhauls of health-care and tax laws. Senator John Cornyn and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s call for a special prosecutor. “You get whiplash with Senator Schumer’s position on Comey,” Cornyn said. “One day he thinks he’s a knight on a white horse, the next day he’s the devil incarnate, so I don’t believe it’s sincere.”
Some Democrats compared Trump’s move to the “Saturday Night Massacre” of 1973, in which President Richard Nixon ordered the firing of an independent special prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal. “What we have now is really a looming constitutional crisis that is deadly serious,” Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal told CNN.
NOT A FIRST
Only one previous sitting FBI director has been fired by a president — William Sessions, by Bill Clinton, in July 1993. Sessions, however, was under fire for a number of ethical violations, including pressuring the government to pay for improvements at his house and for his wife’s travel expenses.
Former FBI director James Comey walks outside his home in McLean, Va., on Wednesday, a day after being fired by U.S. President Donald Trump.