Saturday 20 January 2018

Trump accused of cover-up after ‘troubling’ firing of FBI chief Comey

US President Donald Trump (L) fired FBI Director James Comey last night
US President Donald Trump (L) fired FBI Director James Comey last night

Julie Pace in Washington

President Donald Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey last night, dramatically ousting the nation’s top law enforcement official in the midst of an FBI investigation into whether Trump’s campaign had ties to Russia’s election meddling.

In a letter to Comey, Trump said the firing was necessary to restore “public trust and confidence” in the FBI. Comey has come under intense scrutiny in recent months for his role in an investigation into Democrat Hillary Clinton’s email practices, including a pair of letters he sent to Congress on the matter in the closing days of last year’s election.

Democrats denounced Trump’s move, which some compared to the “Saturday Night Massacre” of 1973, in which President Richard Nixon fired an independent special prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal.

“Today’s action by President Trump completely obliterates any semblance of an independent investigation into Russian efforts to influence our election, and places our nation on the verge of a constitutional crisis,” said Representative John Conyers, senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.

Conyers and other Democrats renewed their calls for an independent commission or a special prosecutor to investigate Russian influence in the 2016 election.

Read more: FBI's James Comey defends Clinton email decision - but said he feels 'mildly nauseous'

Chuck Schumer, the Democratic minority leader in the Senate, has said an independent special prosecutor must appointed into the Russia investigation to “restore the American people’s faith” into the country’s justice system.

Mr Schumer said it was important for the country to have faith that an investigation as serious as this one is being conducted impartially “without a shred of bias”.

He said that should Rod Rosentein, the deputy attorney general, fail to appoint a special prosecutor, “every American will rightly suspect that the decision to fire director Comey was part of a cover up”.

Mr Schumer said he warned Mr Trump that the decision to fire Mr Comey was a mistake.

He also called it “troubling” that Jeff Sessions, the attorney general who has recused himself from the Russia investigations, had a hand in firing the FBI director who is leading those very investigations.

Trump made no mention of Comey’s role in the Clinton investigation, which she has blamed in part for the election result that put him in the White House. But in announcing the firing, the White House circulated a scathing memo, written by deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, criticizing Comey’s handling of the Clinton probe, including the director’s decision to hold a news conference announcing its findings and releasing “derogatory information” about Clinton.

Trump has ridiculed the FBI investigation, as well as concurrent congressional investigations, as a “hoax” and has denied that his campaign was involved in Russia’s election meddling.

In his letter to Comey, he asserted that the FBI director had informed him “on three separate occasions that I am not under investigation.”

The White House said the search for a new FBI director was beginning immediately.

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