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Donald Trump’s Firing of James Comey Is an Attack on American Democracy

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Trump’s firing of the F.B.I. director, James Comey, amounts to a premeditated and scary attack on our system of federal government. CreditPHOTOS BY MARK PETERSON/ REDUX FOR THE BRAND-NEW YORKER

At a time like this, it is essential to express things clearly. On Tuesday evening, Donald Trump acted like a despot. Without warning or justification, he summarily fired the independent-minded director of the F.B.I., James Comey. Comey had been supervising an examination into whether there was any collusion between Trump’s Presidential project and the federal government of Russia. With Comey out of the way, Trump can now pick his own man (or lady) to run the Bureau, and this individual will have the authority to close down that investigation.That is exactly what has actually taken place.

It amounts to a premeditated and terrifying attack on the American system of government. Rather possibly, it will introduce a constitutional crisis. Even if it does not, it represents the most unnerving turn yet in what is a distinctively unnerving Presidency.Things like this are not expected to happen in a liberal democracy, particularly in one that takes pride, as the United States does, in safeguards put in location against the arbitrary exercise of power. The F.B.I. is suggested to be an independent agency, above and beyond partisan politics and personal grudges.(That is why its directors are selected for ten-year terms.)The President is expected to respect this self-reliance, especially when it pertains to matters in which he has, or could have, an individual interest.There is little in American history that compares to, or justifies, what Trump has actually now done. In recent times, the only possible precedent is the Saturday Night Massacre, of October 20, 1973, when Richard Nixon fired the special district attorney investigating Watergate, Archibald Cox. Perhaps, Trump’s Tuesday Afternoon Massacre was even more troubling. In 1973, the 2 top law-enforcement officials in the land– the Chief law officer, Elliot Richardson, and his deputy, William Ruckelshaus, refused to bring out Nixon’s dictatorial order to end Cox. It was left to the wretched Robert Bork, who was then the Solicitor General, to do the deed.In contrast, Trump’s Chief law officer, Jeff Sessions, was a central figure in the ouster of Comey. In March, Sessions– a close political ally of Trump’s– was forced to recuse himself from the Russia examination after it emerged that he had actually stopped working to divulge conferences with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to Washington. But this recusal didn’t prevent Sessions from promoting Comey’s termination. In its public declaration announcing the shooting, the White Home stated,”President Trump acted on the clear suggestions of both Deputy Attorney general of the United States Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.”Of course, the ultimate responsibility lies with Trump. In a short letter to Comey, which the White House likewise released, he stated, “While I greatly value you notifying me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under examination, I however accept

the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are unable to effectively lead the Bureau. It is necessary that we discover brand-new leadership for the FBI that brings back public trust and confidence in its important police mission. “As Trump has amply shown in the past, hardly anything he says can be taken at face worth, and whatever in his letter should be treated skeptically, specifically his claims about exactly what Comey told him. Exactly what we understand for sure is that Comey, in his March 20th testament on Capitol Hill, confirmed that the F.B.I. was carrying out a criminal examination into”any links in between individuals connected with the Trump project and the Russian government and whether there was any coördination between the project and Russia’s efforts.”Although Comey declined to go into much information about the investigation, he verified that it had been going on considering that last July, and he offered the unique impression that, wherever it led, it would be pursued with vigor.We also know that Comey provided a blunt public dismissal of Trump’s claims on Twitter that Barack Obama ordered U.S. spy firms to wiretap Trump Tower throughout the election project.”I have no information that supports those tweets, and we have looked thoroughly inside the F.B.I., “Comey said, during his testimony.This, certainly, is the relevant context of Comey’s termination.

By contrast, the two other documents that the White Home released on Tuesday to justify Trump’s action– a letter from Sessions to the President, and a three-page memorandum from Rosenstein to Sessions– smacked of a desperate and unconvincing effort to cook up a pretext.In his letter, Rosenstein, who hitherto had a credibility as an independent official, disagreed with Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal e-mail server. He focussed in specific on the July 5, 2016, press conference at which Comey announced that the Bureau had actually closed its examination without recommending any charges, while at the exact same time criticizing how Clinton and her aides had actually managed categorized information. This, Rosenstein said, was”a book example of exactly what federal district attorneys and agents are taught not to do.”He likewise raised Comey’s subsequent announcement, on October 28, 2016, eleven days prior to the election, that the F.B.I. was re-opening the Clinton case because of the discovery of countless e-mails on Anthony Weiner’s laptop. Rosenstein called the statement a departure from the agency’s tradition of preventing public remark during an election season.Many observers would concur with a minimum of some of Rosenstein’s points about the Clinton examination– however so exactly what? Are we seriously being asked to countenance the concept that Trump fired Comey because he didn’t treat Hillary Clinton relatively? The very same Trump who seized upon Comey’s interview last July and utilized it to buttress his claims that Clinton ought to be jailed. The very same Trump who, on October 31st, stated, “It took guts for Director Comey to make the relocation that he made because of the sort of opposition he had.”Until the White Home comes up with a

less ridiculous justification for its actions, we can just assume that Trump fired Comey because the Russia examination is closing in on him and his associates, and he understood that he didn’t have much sway over the F.B.I. director. That is the most basic theory that fits the realities. And it is a cause for fantastic alarm.Ever considering that Trump took office, many individuals have actually fretted about his commitment to democratic norms, the Constitution, and the guideline of law. From the rash promulgation of his anti-Muslim travel ban onward, he has done little to salve these concerns. Now he

has imitated one of the authoritarian leaders he so admires– a Putin, an Erdoğan, or an el-Sisi. Congress should limit him and reassert the principles of American democracy by selecting an independent special prosecutor to take control of the Russian investigation. If the legislature won’t act unprompted– and the preliminary signs are that many of the G.O.P. intends to yield to the President’s abuse of his power– it will be incumbent on the American individuals to register their protests forcefully, and to put pressure on their chosen officials. Trump is a threat. He needs to be stopped.


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