What to make of the shocking news that Donald Trump has fired the director of the FBI James Comey? Senior Democrats are calling it a ‘Nixonian’ cover up of the Bureau’s probe into Trump’s links to Russia. It is easy to see what they mean. The abrupt move has strong echoes of the famous ‘Saturday Night Massacre’ during the Watergate scandal. As Senator Richard Blumenthal put it, “President Trump has catastrophically compromised the FBI’s ongoing investigation of his own White House’s ties to Russia.” It doesn’t look good.
As usual with Trump, though, it seems impossible to figure out quite what he is up to. If he really wanted to conceal his ties to Russia, why would he do something quite so dramatic? He can’t really be that stupid can he? At the hearings for the next FBI Director, Democrats will now fire endless questions about the alleged collusion between Moscow and Trump’s campaign team. It seems extremely foolish to draw so much attention, even for this reckless administration, unless of course Trump really does have nothing to hide.
But then the White House’s explanation for the firing seems equally dubious. The White House is making out that Comey was fired not because of the Trump/Russia probe, but because he damaged Hillary Clinton.
The administration has said that it acted on the advice of Jeff Sessions — the Attorney General, who funnily enough has recused himself from the Trump/Russia investigation after it emerged he had held meetings with the Russian ambassador to Washington — and Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General.
In a memo, Rosenstein recommended that Comey was removed because of his handling of the investigation into Clinton’s email scandal. The memo said that Comey’s publication of “derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal prosecution” was ‘gratuitous’. The subject there being Hillary Clinton.
Are we really meant to believe that? Who knows?