Yesterday, President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, who was leading a criminal investigation into whether Trump’s campaign advisers and business associates colluded with the Russian government to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. It is the first time a sitting FBI director has been terminated since 1993. As the basis for the termination, Trump cited a memo prepared by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that criticized Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email practices. During the campaign, Trump had, at times, commended Comey’s work on that investigation.
According to the New York Times, just days before his firing, Comey requested a significant increase in money and staffing for the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. Comey made this request to Rosenstein, who now oversees the Russia investigation following Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal from the matter. Comey later briefed members of Congress on the request.
The sudden firing has drawn criticism from both Democrats and Republicans. Shortly after the decision was announced, Senator Jeff Flake tweeted: “I’ve spent the last several hours trying to find an acceptable rationale for the timing of Comey’s firing. I just can’t do it.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer stated that the Russia investigation “must be run as far away as possible from this White House.” On the other hand, many Republicans have defended Trump’s decision. For example, Senator Chuck Grassley stated that Comey had lost the “public trust and confidence” necessary to run the FBI.
Trump must now appoint a new director to lead the FBI. Until he does so, Deputy Director Andrew McCabe will lead the agency and its Russia investigation, with Rosenstein continuing to oversee the matter. For months, Democrats have called for a special prosecutor to conduct the investigation.
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