President Trump Fires F.B.I. Director Comey
A thinly veiled lie or a drastic change of heart?
By Talat Aman
The Progressive Teen Staff Writer
THIS TUESDAY, JAMES COMEY SAW HIS TEN-YEAR TERM LIMIT AS DIRECTOR OF THE F.B.I. cut short. For the second time in recent history, the President of the United States has used their power to fire the Director of the F.B.I. However, this occurrence has drawn a lot more controversy from both Democrats and Republicans, as Comey was the top-leading official in an F.B.I. case to determine whether or not there was collusion between the Russian government and Trump’s advisers.
Comey was nominated to head the Federal Bureau of Investigation by President Obama in 2013. Despite being a Republican, Obama nominated Comey to the position and stated that Comey had the “fidelity to values that make us who we are,” as well as his belief that Comey would carry on the legacy of his predecessor, Robert S. Mueller III.
Since being confirmed by a 93–1 senate vote on July 22nd, 2013, Comey had been on his way to serving as Director of the F.B.I. for one 10-year term. For approximately two years, Comey had performed his role without experiencing a single personal blunder that would have threatened or brought controversy to his career.
For the most part, Comey was praised by both Democrats and Republicans as being a person that did what he thought was right rather than being influenced by politics. For that reason, Comey was a respected leader in the United States government with little controversy regarding the public opinion. However, his name soon became one that was covered nonstop by national news.
“For the most part, Comey was praised by both Democrats and Republicans as being a person that did what he thought was right rather than being influenced by politics.”
The root of the controversy regarding Comey begins in 2015, when a New York Times report revealed that former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton may have broken some rules by using a private e-mail server during her career at the state department. This report led to another report confirming this by the Associated Press, displaying this story on the headlines of almost every national news source. Concerns of Clinton accidentally exposing confidential information were quickly used as rhetoric by her opponents — and it was working. To many people, Clinton was untrustworthy and incapable of running the world’s largest superpower.
After many news reports, aggravated voters, and political foes, the concern of the mishandling of classified materials escalated quickly. On May 26th, 2015, a federal judge ordered the State Department to release approximately 30,000 emails on a rolling basis. On July 24th, 2015, it was revealed that the emails included classified information.
Clinton supporters found both the investigation and notion that Clinton purposely put the country at risk an unreasonable argument. “It’s very clear that she followed the law and she followed the rules … and so there’s nothing there except politics,” commented Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA). This view was seen by the vast majority of the left. They saw it as an engineered scandal that should not have existed, but did for the sole purpose of hurting Clinton’s credibility and campaign. Many on the right, however, saw it differently. “My sense of trust is a little bit lost,” said Rand Paul.
On July 6, 2016, Comey spoke for 15 minutes and stated that “there is evidence that [Clinton staffers] were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.” This critical statement, followed by a blistering amount of examples of carelessness, ended with Comey saying that “no charges are appropriate in this case.” Comey, however, soon faced backlash from both sides this time. The left kept their stance the same: Clinton acted legally and there should be no more discussion. Some on the right, including Trump, were appalled that Clinton was not recommended to be charged by Comey. “What she did is far worse than what Gen. [David] Petraeus did, and he’s gone down in disgrace. What she did is criminal,” expressed Trump.
This seemed to be the end of all problems at the time. A criminal investigation was launched on July 10, 2016, but by the time midsummer had arrived, the investigation was over. A new problem, however, loomed. It seemed evident that Russia was getting involved with U.S. politics. In the fall of 2016, a certain group of Russian hackers had hacked the D.N.C., exposing a string of controversial emails. Subsequent leaks showed that Russia was focused on gaining momentum with meddling with the U.S. election to tip it in favor of Trump.
“Russian meddling soon became an issue that came to light in the White House Situation Room. Comey argued that getting involved with investigation of Russian meddling was not a smart decision, as the election was looming ahead.”
WiikiLeaks released thousands of hacked emails on the night of Oct 7, 2016 from the private email account of John D. Podesta. Embarrassing messages and Wall Street speeches soon led the F.B.I. to take another look at the Russian situation.
Anthony D. Weiner, former NY Congressman, was found to have exchanged sexually charged messages with a minor. Authorities seized his computer and found hundreds of thousands of emails that had belonged to his then-wife, Ms. Huma Abedin, saved to his computer. Emails linked to Clinton’s email server then led to another question: could there have been classified emails that had been missed?
It was two weeks before the election. At that point in time, most people were convinced that Clinton would win the presidency. Keeping this in mind, the logic was — according to Michael Steinbach of the F.B.I. — that the F.B.I. had already told Congress there was no evidence of intentional mishandling. If they opened up to the public at this moment, it would cause political outrage. However, if the F.B.I. revealed this investigation after Clinton was to win, and there was important evidence, it would bring shame to the F.B.I. “How do we say to the American public: ‘hey, we found some things that might be problematic. But we didn’t tell you about it before you voted’? The damage to our organization would have been irreparable,” said Steinbach. The investigation had shown, again, no intentional mishandling of emails.
This angered the left. Many argued that this cost Clinton the election. Others on the right, however, were still chanting “lock her up.”
Comey’s reputation was now in question. He had done something that has never happened before: he got the F.B.I. involved in politics and had possibly shifted the tides of the election. He faced controversy from both wings. Bernie Sanders said to George Stephanopoulos, “ I think it would not be a bad thing for the American people if [Comey] did step down.”
This was all within the span of October 28th to November 8th.
In March of 2017, Comey confirmed that they are and have been investigating possible collusion between Trump aides and the Russian government. The investigation began in July of 2016. The reveal of the basis of this investigation has been controversial and troubling.
FAST FORWARD ABOUT TWO MONTHS, and Trump fires Comey on May 9th, 2017. Rationale and planning of canning Comey is covered by a fog of confusion. Different officials have stated different rationales and intentions. Shortly before 6:00 PM EST on Tuesday night, Trump’s letter to Comey was released.
White House officials stated Tuesday night that Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Deputy Attorney General, Rod J. Rosenstein, pushed for the firing. A letter released by the White House from Rosenstein stated, “I cannot defend the director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails.” However, there is no evidence that Comey and the F.B.I. had attempted to mishandle the Clinton investigations; all things considered, it seemed that there was not much more reasonable action to take with them.
This led people like Sen. Bernie Sanders to conclude that Trump may have fired Comey due to the ongoing investigation between Trump’s aides and Russia. “What is the administration hiding?” he asked. Sanders had suggested in the past that if Comey stepped down, it would not be that bad. However, this is different. There are multiple people suggesting that Trump fired Comey either to delay the investigation with Russian collusion or retaliate against it.
The true reasons for the firing of Comey are still unknown. Kellyanne Conway, in an interview with Anderson Cooper, stated, “President Trump made the right decision at the right time to accept the recommendation of the Deputy Attorney General and the Attorney General.” However, this statement completely contradicts what Trump remarked. Mike Pence made a similar statement, suggesting Trump “took the advice of the Deputy Attorney General.” However, Trump has stated multiple times afterwards that he had made the decision to fire Comey by himself, and that he was going to do it regardless. This cloud of confusion is still being dealt with between the media and the White House at this moment.
Whatever the rationale was, people on both sides of the political spectrum are confused and angry. Congressman Richard Burr of North Carolina stated, “I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey’s termination.” The White House has found itself in a state of disorder, and if they want to keep both Republicans and Democrats at ease, they have to think of something to clean up the mess that it has created.