Trump firing of FBI Director Comey unleashes a firestorm

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The director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, James Comey, was fired Tuesday, setting off a firestorm throughout the media, Congress and the internet.

President Donald Trump, in a blunt letter to Comey Tuesday, told him: “I have received the attached letters from the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General of the United States recommending your dismissal as the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, I have accepted their recommendation and you are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately.”

The president added, “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”

The attached letter signed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, gave the following evaluation, referencing a memorandum by Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein:

“… I have concluded that a fresh start is needed at the FBI. It is essential that this Department of Justice clearly reaffirm its commitment to longstanding principles that ensure the integrity and fairness of federal investigations and prosecutions. The Director of the FBI must be someone who follows faithfully the rules and principles of the Department of Justice and who sets the right example for our law enforcement officials and others in the Department. Therefore, I must recommend that you remove Director James B. Comey, Jr. and identify an experienced and qualified individual to lead the great men and women of the FBI.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions letter May 9

Director Comey had been speaking to a group of FBI employees in California when he learned he had been fired. Media reports say he saw mention of his dismissal on TV screens but initially thought it was a prank.

The Trump administration’s position is that Comey’s dismissal was the result of his handling of the investigation into Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s email server. Democrats have rejected that explanation suggesting Comey was fired for his ongoing investigation of Russia’s interference with the 2016 election and a possible Trump-Russia connection, and that Trump was trying to shut down the FBI Russia investigation. Democrats have demanded that a special prosecutor be appointed.

Some of Trump’s fellow Republicans, including Sen. John McCain, called his dismissal of Comey troubling. Tuesday night before a group at the Munich Security Conference, McCain stated, “This scandal is going to go on. I’ve seen it before … This is a centipede. I guarantee you there will be more shoes to drop, I can just guarantee it. There’s just too much information that we don’t have that will be coming out.”

Today, in a letter to the Inspector General of the Justice Department, House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz requested that the department expand the scope of its review “to include the facts and circumstances surrounding the removal of Director Comey.”

Wednesday morning Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, spoke before the Senate to defend the President’s actions.

The White House held a press briefing Wednesday afternoon before Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, standing in for Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Sanders said that President Trump had been thinking about firing Comey since Election Day. According to the Deputy Press Secretary, “The President has lost confidence in Director Comey and, frankly, he’d been considering letting Director Comey go since the day he was elected.”

“Director Comey made a pretty startling revelation that he had essentially taken a stick of dynamite and thrown it into the Department of Justice by going around the chain of command,” Sanders said.

CNN has reported that sources claim Trump had grown increasingly agitated about the ongoing Russia probe, and was “white hot” angry at Comey for his testimony last week.

The New York Times has also reported that days before being fired, Director Comey had requested a significant increase in resources for the bureau’s investigation into Russia’s interference into the presidential election.

White House officials have said that a turning point came when Comey refused to preview his planned testimony to a Senate panel for top Trump aides.

Trump took to Twitter to defend his position:

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) appeared on CNN stating that, “What we have now is really a looming constitutional crisis that is deadly serious.” Blumenthal has stated that Trump’s firing of Comey “may well produce impeachment hearings.”

President Trump responded by attacking Sen. Blumenthal on Twitter, referring to him as “Ritchie” and raising the issue of his service in Vietnam.

Trump also tweeted a video compilation of calls for Comey’s dismissal.

Adding flame to the fire, today Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, announced that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence had issued a subpoena for former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn.

According to the release, “The subpoena requests documents relevant to the Committee’s investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 election.  The Committee first requested these documents in an April 28, 2017 letter to Lieutenant General Flynn, but he declined, through counsel, to cooperate with the Committee’s request.”

Republican Sen. James Lankford, a member of the Senate intelligence committee, told Fox News Wednesday evening that the panel had “subpoenaed a large number of documents.”

The act of a president removing the head of the FBI is extremely unusual and has happened only once in U.S. history. In 1993, then-President Bill Clinton removed FBI director William Sessions from his office after he refused to step down in the wake of an ethics investigation.

According to the Guardian, former FBI agents said the abrupt firing of Director Comey was shocking and disturbing. One recently retired agent, who served for 26 years, said, “Although they [the White House] have said publicly that they’re trying to restore faith in the FBI and the integrity of its leadership, it is, by all appearances, just the opposite.”

CNN released a farewell letter from Comey today to fellow agents and friends:

What happens now?

According to the Federal Register, if an FBI director dies, resigns or is removed from office, the deputy director is named acting director. Until President Trump appoints, and the Senate approves, a new FBI director, Deputy Director Andrew McCabe will be acting director.

After McCabe,  the line of succession continues as follows: Associate Deputy Director of the FBI (David Bowdich); Executive Assistant Director for Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services (Paul Abbate); Assistant directors in the following order: Counterterrorism Division (Bradley “Grant” Mendenhall), Criminal Investigative Division (Stephen E. Richardson), Counterintelligence Division (Bill Priestap), Washington Field Office (Andrew Vale), New York Field Office (William F. Sweeney, Jr.) and Los Angeles Field Office (Deirdre Fike).

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LIMA CHARLIE NEWS, NEW YORK BUREAU, with Anthony A. LoPresti

2217 ZULU+5 MAY 10 2017

(CNN, THE NEW YORK TIMES, and THE GUARDIAN CONTRIBUTED TO THIS REPORT)

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