In a remarkable and unnerving spectacle, the president who benefited from Russian interference in the election has fired the man leading the investigation into said interference, FBI Director James Comey. Even more incredibly, the dismissal was based on the recommendation of a man who was supposed to have recused himself from all matters dealing with the Russian investigation because of his own contacts with them, Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Events have taken a dark turn in a White House whose actions are increasingly reminiscent of the Nixon administration during Watergate. Comey’s dismissal means President Trump now can appoint the person who will continue the investigation of his administration’s – and possibly Trump’s own – links to an adversarial nation whose actions may have helped bring him to power.
Congress has dragged its feet until now, but it must face one indisputable conclusion – and quickly. It must appoint an independent prosecutor to conduct this investigation, one who is wholly divorced from and not answerable in any way to the executive branch. GOP lawmakers must also put aside – as their predecessors did decades earlier – their own squeamishness about taking action perceived as hostile to a president of their party. They must bring Comey in for detailed questioning about the circumstances surrounding his dismissal.
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The administration lobbed this bombshell with what has become its trademark cavalier style, followed by an immediately muddying of facts and reason. A career public servant was sacked as if he were week-old trash, told on a moment’s notice by Trump that “you are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately.” What follows is among the many puzzlements that must be untangled. Trump states that even though Comey had assured him on three separate occasions that he was not being investigated, “I nevertheless concur with the judgement (sic) of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.” Why connect Trump’s investigative status with Comey’s sudden unworthiness to lead the bureau?
The answer to that question is one of the many the American people now must rely on Congress to learn.