By Brian Nowak
On Tuesday, May 9th, President Donald Trump fired James Comey, the director of the FBI. Comey was about 4 years into his 10 year term at the bureau. He is only the second FBI director to ever be fired by a president.
The investigation into Donald Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign relating to its involvement with Russia has been going on for months now. Paul Manafort, the former manager of the Trump campaign, and Michael Flynn, former National Security Director, are among those under investigation.
Michael Flynn resigned on February 13th, less than one month into his tenure. The White House claims the firing was due to Flynn’s lying to vice president Mike Pence. The New York times, however, reported on the 14th that several members of the Trump campaign had contacts with Russian intelligence. Multiple European allies have confirmed repeated contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russian intelligence, according
Trump Fired Comey just days after Comey asked for more resources to investigate the relationship between Russia and the Trump campaign. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was among those who are said to have helped make the decision to fire FBI director Comey. Sessions was an early and strong supporter of Donald Trump who had promised to recuse himself from questions relating to the Russian investigation.
Initially, the Whie House said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein called for Comey being fired, but President Trump’s own statements contradict that. Less than two weeks after being confirmed by the United States senate in a 94-6 vote, Rosenstein has become a divisive figure.
Calls for Rosenstein to recuse himself from the Russian investigation are growing. Rosenstein denies reports he threatened to resign in the wake of the White House changing its story on why the FBI director was fired.
President Trump is alleged to have asked for the former FBI director’s personal loyality during a dinner just one week after Trump became president on January 20th. Comey told the president that he would always be honest with him, but that he would not be “reliable” in the typical political sense.
Trump said that he was reassured by Comey during this dinner, and on two other occasions, that he was not under FBI investigation. The president clarified his remarks by claiming he, personally, was not under investigation. Trump differeniated himself from the political campaign organized to elect him president in November of 2016.
In an interview with Lester Holt, President Trump claimed the FBI was “in turmoil.” He refered to Comey as a “showboat” and a “granstander.” Trump said he had already made the decision to fire Comey, regardless of the decision Rosenstein made, saying “there’s no good time to do it.” Trump’s comments contract initial reports that the firing came as a result of Rosenstein’s recommendation.
It’s against this backdrop that the President’s tweet from May 12th needs to be taken into consideration. From Trump: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
President Trump’s implication that conversations in the White House are being recorded has led lawmakers to call for clarification on the comment. On May 14th, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said the White House has to “clear the air” about the existence of tapes containing conversations in the White House. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, said that recording White House conversations was “not necessarily the best idea.”
Democrats have been much more direct on the issue of potential tapes. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said Trump must immediately provide Congress with any tapes. Shumer also warned that destruction of any tapes or recordings would be a violation of federal law.
Historian Allan Lichtman told Newsweek on May 12th that President Trump could arguably be impeached now. “Arguably he’s already obstructed justice and already violated the emoluments clause [regarding receiving gifts from foreign governments]. I’m not saying we should impeach him now, I’m calling for an impeachment investigation.”
Democrat Maxine Waters has openly called for impeachment, and a number of other Democrats have discussed the possibility. Jared Huffman, Tulsi Gabbard, Joaquin Castro, Keith Ellison, Al Green, John Yarmouth, Richard Blumenthal, Mark Pocan, and Jamie Raskin are among those who have discussed the possibility of impeachment.
The investigations into Trump’s campaign and those associated with it are ongoing. Only time will tell if the findings lead to impeachment or something more.