Media fallout has been blistering in the wake of President Trump’s abrupt decision to fire FBI Director James Comey late Tuesday.
The question on the lips of many is: “Why now?” The administration’s rationale that Comey mishandled the investigation of Hillary Clinton last summer leads to the question: Why wasn’t the decision to fire him made during the transition?
Most Republicans believe the action was long overdue. But Democrats within minutes compared the firing to the Nixon-era “Saturday Night Massacre,” referring to President Nixon’s orders to fire independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox during the Watergate scandal. They are now, led by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, banging the drum for a special prosecutor.
President Trump responded to Schumer in typical Trumpian fashion:
Cryin' Chuck Schumer stated recently, "I do not have confidence in him (James Comey) any longer." Then acts so indignant. #draintheswamp
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 10, 2017
CNN legal analyst Jeff Toobin called Trump’s decision to fire Comey a “grotesque abuse of power,” never-Trumper David Frum hyperventilated on Twitter (“ it’s a coup”), and MSNBC’s Chris Matthews said he detected “a little whiff of fascism.” Senator Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pennsylvania) also pounded the Watergate theme: “This is Nixonian,” he said.
Those are some of the tamer reactions. Resistance leader and GQ writer Keith Olbermann’s hot take on Twitter is not suitable for a family blog.
Comey reportedly first heard the as the news as it flashed on television screens during a meeting he was having with agents in Los Angeles.
The 56-year-old had been in the middle of speaking to the bureau employees when the breaking news alert came flashing across the TVs, according to ABC News.
An FBI official who was in attendance told LA Times reporter James Queally that despite the circumstances, Comey “kept on talking.”
“He was caught flat-footed,” the official said.
According to The New York Times, Comey was caught so flat-footed that he thought it was some kind of joke.
In response, Mr. Comey laughed, saying it was a fairly funny prank.
Then his staff started scurrying around in the background and told Mr. Comey that he should step into a nearby office.
Adding to the intrigue is leaked news that federal prosecutors have issued grand jury subpoenas to associates of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. The feds are seeking business records as part of the ongoing probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
The subpoenas represent the first sign of a significant escalation of activity in the FBI’s broader investigation begun last July into possible ties between Trump campaign associates and Russia.
The subpoenas issued in recent weeks by the US Attorney’s Office in Alexandria, Virginia, were received by associates who worked with Flynn on contracts after he was forced out as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014, according to the people familiar with the investigation.
Robert Kelner, an attorney for Flynn, declined to comment. The US Attorney’s Office in Alexandria, the Justice Department and the FBI also declined to comment.
Investigators have been looking into possible wrongdoing in how Flynn handled disclosures about payments from clients tied to foreign governments including Russia and Turkey, US officials briefed on the matter have told CNN.
The Flynn inquiry is one piece of the broader investigation, which FBI Director James Comey testified in a Senate hearing last week is led jointly by the Alexandria US Attorney’s Office and the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
Meanwhile, the attorney who was leading the Justice Department’s investigation into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election announced her resignation last month (no reason was given).
Mary McCord, acting assistant attorney general and principal deputy assistant attorney general for national security at the Justice Department, will step down from her position in May, NPR reported Thursday.
Carrie Johnson writes McCord told her staff in a written message that she will leave the department “to pursue new career opportunities.”
As for why Comey was fired, Fox News chief Washington correspondent James Rosen had one of the best takes:
“James Comey was fired because to too many sets of eyes — in the Congress, within the ranks of the FBI, out there in the great American public and most notably at the White House and in the Department of Justice — James Comey had become a law unto himself,” he said, adding that this seemed to be demonstrated in congressional hearings where “Comey seemed to make up Comey’s rules as Comey went along.”