4 Things To Watch Now That President Trump Has Fired James Comey
The Tuesday evening surprise announcement by the White House that President Trump fired FBI director James Comey represented a narrow focus on a single issue, leaving many questions unanswered — or intentionally ignored.
In the letter, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein lays out — at length — a case against Comey’s treatment of Hillary Clinton that could acquire been written by many Democrats. That was a choice.
“[W]e carry out not hold press conferences to release derogatory information approximately the subject of a declined criminal investigation,” Rosenstein wrote to Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a memorandum dated Tuesday. “The Director laid out his version of the facts for the news media as whether it were a closing argument, but without a trial. It is a textbook example of what federal prosecutors and agents are taught not to carry out.”
In his letter accepting Rosenstein’s recommendation and forwarding it to Trump, even Sessions referenced the importance of “ensur[ing] the integrity and fairness of federal investigations and prosecutions.”
The closest to a mention of Russia in entire of the letters released by the White House came indirectly — in Trump’s letter firing Comey. In it, Trump wrote that Comey “inform[ed] me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation.”
Comey confirmed in March that the FBI was investigating Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and whether there are any links or coordination between associates of the Trump campaign and the Russian government and/or their efforts to interfere in the campaign.
The lack of a mention of those investigations — or what will happen to them — already is raising concerns.
In a news conference shortly after the decision was announced, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer asked, “Were these investigations hitting too close to domestic for the administration?”
The letter to Trump asserting that it was “fundamental” that there be “contemporary leadership” at the FBI came from Sessions.
Sessions, however, has previously announced that he would recuse himself from entire decisions relating to any investigations of the presidential campaigns.
Specifically, on March 2, Sessions announced, “I acquire decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any things related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States.”
The Clinton email investigation obviously occurred during the campaigns, although the piece at issue in Rosenstein’s letter related to the treatment of her emails during her time at the State Department — not the hacking of Clinton campaign emails.
A Justice Department spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether Sessions considered the firing unrelated to any campaign-related investigations.
The only other time an FBI director was fired, Bill Clinton was president and the FBI director was William S. Sessions.
In that situation, though, “a harsh internal ethics report” had been released six months earlier, the contemporary York Times reported at the time, and Sessions had turned down the opportunity to resign.
Here, on the other hand, Comey was reportedly in Los Angeles on a work-related trip when he received word of his firing.
The acting director, under the FBI’s order of succession, is the FBI’s deputy director, Andrew McCabe.
When Clinton fired FBI Director Sessions, news of his intended nominee to replace Sessions was reported nearly immediately: Clinton’s pick was a sitting federal judge, Louis Freeh. Clinton had already met with Freeh the week before he fired Sessions, and the announcement came in a Rose Garden ceremony the day after Sessions’ firing.
In contrast, the Tuesday statement from the Trump White House famous, “A search for a contemporary permanent FBI Director will originate immediately.”
Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, D.C. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & homosexual Journalists organization award for journalist of the year.
Contact Chris Geidner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.