New York, May 10 : In a move laden with ironies, US President Donald Trump suddenly dismissed James Comey, the controversial head of the FBI, who had earned the wrath of the Democratic Party for his interference in last year’s elections but was in the middle of an investigation into whether Trump’s campaign had links to Russia.
Democrats, who had blamed Comey for Trump’s victory and their candidate Hillary Clinton’s defeat, reacted swiftly to Tuesday’s firing of the powerful domestic intelligence chief by calling for an independent investigator to take over the probe into Trump’s campaign.
Trump wrote in the dismissal letter to Comey that he was firing him on the advice of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein because of his handling of the bungled Clinton investigation.
The dismissal was a continuation of the election mess affecting both parties in which Comey was embroiled.
His letter to Congress on October 28, about investigations into Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server for official work as Secretary of State, started the sordid controversy.
Clinton and the Democrats say Comey’s disclosure of the investigation – that ultimately came to naught – 11 days before the election cost her the presidency as it made some voters suspicious of her.
Comey himself admitted at a Senate hearing last week that it made him “mildly nauseous” to think that he had affected the November 8 election.
Then the mercurial Trump praised Comey, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, over the action, saying it took “guts.”
But in a political twist, with Comey launching an investigation into his own campaign, Trump turned around and made the Clinton investigation as the official reason for the firing.
Trump cited Rosenstein’s letter to him, in which he wrote, “I cannot defend the Director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken.”
But Democrats were not gloating at the turn of events — had she been elected Clinton would have herself fired Comey.
Indian American Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat, said in a statement: “No matter how you view Comey, this is not a ‘gotcha’ moment.”
Krishnamoorthi noted that Comey “was leading a counter-intelligence investigation of the President’s 2016 campaign” and called for an independent Commission or prosecutor to take over the investigation.
Republican Representative, Justin Amash, tweeted his support for an independent probe, adding his voice to the calls by several other Democratic Party leaders.
Trump, however, made a reference to the Russia probe in the dismissal letter, but only to highlight the fact that he was himself not under investigation.
“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,” Trump wrote to Comey.
In March, Comey told the House Intelligence Committee that the FBI was investigating if anyone from Trump’s campaign had coordinated with Russia the hacking of Democratic Party computers “and whether crimes were committed.
In January, Comey joined other heads of US intelligence agencies to say that Russia had interfered in the US elections. The likely beneficiary of Moscow’s actions was Trump.
CNN reported that court orders had been issued seeking records of people connected to Michael Flynn, whom Trump had fired as National Security Adviser in April.
The subpoenas issued by a grand jury were a sign that a preliminary legal process was underway. Grand jury, made up of citizens, is the first step to determine if there was a prima facie case for prosecution.
On Monday Sally Yates, who was dismissed by Trump as Acting Attorney General, told the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee that Flynn could be blackmailed by Russia.
By Arul Louis
(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected])