In a surprise move, President Donald Trump on Tuesday fired FBI Director James Comey, with Justice Department officials citing Comey's bungled handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe as a main reason for his departure, as Democrats charged it was more of an effort to short circuit a probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections, which they say might have ties to the Trump Campaign.
It was only the second time an FBI Director had been fired - the first was when President Bill Clinton ousted William Sessions (no relation to Jeff Sessions, the current Attorney General).
Let's look more closely at the Comey firing:
1. No apologies from President Trump for firing Comey. Whether or not the White House expected such a big reaction to the firing of the FBI Director, President Trump was his usual self on this story, as he went on Twitter to jab at Democrats over Comey. The White House even put out quotes from top Democrats - which were critical of Comey - to make the case that Democrats shouldn't mind his removal.
2. For many Republicans, this was overdue. While Washington, D.C. was stunned by the Trump move, some of his most ardent supporters were very pleased, and even more so enjoyed the President's words to the outgoing FBI Director. "I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors," Mr. Trump wrote to Comey. One interesting part of this letter is in the second paragraph, where the President notes that Comey told him - three times - that he was not the target of any investigation. "Best. Termination. Letter. Ever," tweeted Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY).
3. Once upon a time, Trump liked and didn't like Comey. During the 2016 campaign, both parties went back and forth on the FBI Director like a pair of kids going up and down on a playground seesaw. When Comey said there would be no charges against Clinton over her email server, Trump was not pleased. When Comey re-opened the probe before Election Day to check out new emails, Trump praised him. "It took guts for Director Comey to make the move that he made," Trump said at a rally in Michigan.
4. Once upon a time, Democrats liked and didn't like Comey. During the 2016 campaign, there were plenty of Democrats - and Hillary Clinton campaign officials - who wanted to see James Comey leave town in manacles, convinced he had put his thumb on the scale for Donald Trump. Even last week at a Senate hearing, several Democrats made clear their aggravation with Comey. But when the President fired Comey, suddenly some of those same critics turned instantly into Comey defenders. But some Clinton aides say that's not really what's at work.
5. Democrats ramp up calls for a special prosecutor. When it comes to questions about Russia, and 2016 election ties to the Trump Campaign, Democrats quickly called for a special prosecutor in the wake of the firing of the FBI Director, something they've been pushing for since the November elections. "The President’s sudden and brazen firing of the FBI Director raises the ghosts of some of the worst Executive Branch abuses," said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
6. Some Republicans express concern about Comey firing. There were GOP voices who were not on board with the firing of the FBI Director by President Trump. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) said he found the timing "very troubling." Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) labeled part of Mr. Trump's letter to Comey, "bizarre." The Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) was even more blunt: "I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey’s termination," Burr said. Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) said the public deserves "an explanation for his immediate firing."
7. What happens to the Russia investigation? Technically, nothing changes with the FBI's Russia probe, as career officials who have been involved with it in the National Security Division, along with the U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, will push ahead with their probe. But the White House was making clear what it thought should happen - that investigations into the Russia matter should be wrapped up. Remember - Comey was fired less than 24 hours after Mr. Trump had tweeted that investigations into any Trump-Russia links were a "total hoax."
8. Comey has stood by his handling of the Clinton email case. Just last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Comey defended how he handled the matter during the 2016 campaign, basically saying he felt like he needed to speak out, because to stay quiet - as normally would happen - might send a signal that something (or someone) was being protected by the FBI. "Even in hindsight, and this has been one of the world's most painful experiences, I would make the same decision," Comey said.
9. What were the reasons given for his firing? The White House issued a three page rundown by Rod Rosenstein, the new Deputy Attorney General, that spelled out the case against Comey, accusing him of violating norms of the Justice Department, and ignoring guidelines for how to handle investigations which don't lead to criminal charges. "Almost everyone agrees that the Director made serious mistakes," Rosenstein wrote.
10. Nixon Library trolls Twitter on Comey. A few weeks ago, it was the Carter Library that poked at President Trump, by noting Jimmy Carter's 100 day record in terms of laws passed, executive orders issued and approval rating in the polls. Then, as news of the Comey firing spread on Tuesday, the Nixon Library in California did its best to spread some smiles on Twitter, saying President Trump had just done something that even Mr. Nixon had not.
Look for this story to keep bubbling for several days - especially since President Trump will meet on Wednesday with the Russian Foreign Minister.
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