WASHINGTON – In a surprising and stunning move Tuesday, President Donald Trump fired James Comey as head of the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
The abrupt firing of Comey throws into question the future of a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible connections to Russia, and immediately raises suspicions of an underhanded effort to stymie a probe that has shadowed the administration from the outset.
In his letter to Comey, Trump said the firing was necessary to restore “public trust and confidence” in the FBI. The administration paired the letter with a scathing review by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein of how Comey handled the investigation into Democrat Hillary Clinton’s email practices.
Democrats likened Tuesday’s ouster to President Richard Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre” and renewed calls for the appointment of a special prosecutor, and some Republicans also questioned the move.
Senator and minority leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) made a statement Tuesday afternoon, asking if the investigation from the FBI was getting too close to home for the president, resulting in the firing. He also called it troubling that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had recused himself from the Russia investigation, played a role in firing the man leading it. And he said the firing shatters the American people’s faith in our criminal justice system, and urged Rosenstein to appoint a special prosecutor immediately to restore that faith.
“This is part of a deeply troubling pattern from the Trump administration. They fired Sally Yates. They fired Preet Bharara. And now they’ve fired Director Comey, the very man leading the investigation. This does not seem to be a coincidence,” Schumer said. “This investigation must be run as far away as possible from this White House and as far away as possible from anyone that President Trump has appointed… The American people need to have faith that an investigation as serious as this one is being conducted impartially, without a shred of bias. The only way the American people can have faith in this investigation is for it to be led by a fearless, independent special prosecutor. If Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein does not appoint an independent special prosecutor, every American will rightly suspect that the decision to fire Director Comey was part of a cover-up.”
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) also sent a tweet out following the firing, calling for an independent special prosecutor to investigate the Trump Administration’s ties to Russia.
Meanwhile, Rep. Tom Reed (R-Corning, NY 23) – who represents Chautauqua County in Washington, released a brief statement on the firing Wednesday morning.
“The FBI Director serves at the pleasure of the President and I am confident that this action will ensure the FBI will be the righteous and just organization it needs to be for all Americans. As Americans, we all care about a fair and non-politicized examination of the facts and that our principles are protected,” Reed said.
If the deputy attorney attorney general decides not to appoint a special prosecutor, Congress could initiate to appoint a special prosecutor by passing a law, as it did in 1978, when the Ethics in Government Act was passed. The law dictated that a three-judge panel based at the US Court of Appeals in DC would appoint the counsel. The law, which was reauthorized several times until its sunset in 1999, was used more than a dozen times to initiate investigations, including most famously in the 1990s when it led to the appointment of attorney Kenneth Starr to oversee investigations in to President Bill Clinton. Such a law would have to be either signed by Trump or, in the event of a presidential veto, overridden by a two-thirds majority of both houses of Congress.
Congress could also launch its own investigation into the executive branch without legislation because such authority is implicit in the Constitution.
However, with both the Senate and House controlled by Republicans, it appears it would be very unlikely they would move forward with a full-throttle push to investigate a President from their own party, even when the investigation would involve alleged collusion with a foreign government to help sway the outcome of a United States Presidential Election.