“Why now?” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York inquired. Comey testified about so-called “Russian hacking” last week and was slated to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday. It’s unclear whether he will still provide testimony now that he no longer holds an official capacity with the FBI.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) May 9, 2017
Schumer called for the hiring of a special prosecutor in the wake of a wave of Trump firings that include ex-acting Attorney General Sally Yates, ex-US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, and now Comey.
Oregon Senator Ron Wyden of the Democratic Party said the “decision to fire [Comey] now, in the midst of an investigation into Trump associates and their ties to Russia, is outrageous.”
According to a Justice Department memo, Comey’s mishandling of Hillary Clinton’s email investigation – including giving a news conference about her and singularly “usurping” the Justice Department in closing the investigation into her alleged criminal activity – was the primary reason for FBI director’s ouster. Just 11 days before the election, Comey testified before Congress that he was reopening the investigation.
“Almost everyone agrees that the director made serious mistakes,” the DOJ’s Rod Rosenstein wrote in the memorandum. “It is one of the few issues that unites people of different perspectives.”
It does not appear to be uniting them now.
Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin said Comey’s removal from office “raises the question as to whether the Russian influence in the last presidential election by the Trump campaign will also be investigated by the FBI.” What’s more, it would be a “grave constitutional” problem if Comey were fired as part of a play to “stop or undermine the FBI investigation,” Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate, said on the floor of the Senate.
Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, meanwhile, said the move to fire Comey was “Nixonian,” and joined Schumer’s call for a special prosecutor, as did Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez, who tweeted, “Trump fired the man investigating him – a deeply dangerous abuse of power. We need a special prosecutor, now.”
Number two at the DNC, Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, said, “We are witnessing a Constitutional crises unfold before our very eyes.”
“On March 20, FBI Director James Comey confirmed under oath that the FBI was investigating the Trump campaign for its involvement with Russian officials.”
With all the calls for an investigation into Russian ties to the administration, one might think the issue had been ignored. But “The Russians did it!” has been an excuse and a rallying cry for many US Democrats ever since Clinton’s election defeat. Russia’s purported interference in the US election has been pored over for months, and “proven” with only the flimsy Joint Analysis Report (JAR) from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, indicating that the FBI has been wary of activities of Russian-affiliated actors for several months.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) May 8, 2017
Despite multiple rounds of hearings, not much solid evidence has been found to support the interference allegation. When asked whether there was evidence to warrant the charges of collusion between Russian and Trump officials on May 3, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said, “not at this time.” She had received a briefing at CIA headquarters the day before.
Moscow has denied all allegations of interference, calling them “absurd.”
For its part, the White House denied accusations that Comey’s firing was politically motivated. Rosenstein, who took office just two weeks ago, is a career prosecutor who assessed the situation after joining the DOJ, the White House said.
NSA contractor turned whistleblower, Edward Snowden, equated Comey’s firing with “political interference” in the FBI’s operations. “This FBI Director has sought for years to jail me on account of my political activities. If I can oppose his firing, so can you,” Snowden tweeted.
Across the aisle from the Democrats, North Carolina Senator and Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Richard Burr found the move unsettling, “troubled by the timing and reasoning” behind Comey’s ouster.
— Richard Burr (@SenatorBurr) May 9, 2017
— Richard Burr (@SenatorBurr) May 9, 2017