Why James Comey’s dismissal is testimony of Donald Trump’s dirty hands
The past 10 days in the American political spectrum have been marred by one scandal after another. The latest controversy has been triggered by President Donald Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey. This ushered in a new sense of chaos into an administration that is less than four-months-old and has already had to face a fair share of outrage stemming from the Muslim ban and other controversial cabinet appointments and legislative actions.
The firing of Comey has intensified a crisis of credibility with the Trump administration, and more importantly it has raised fears on possible obstruction of justice being carried out by the president pertaining to federal investigations linking members of Trump’s presidential campaign and political administration to Russia.
The manner in which director Comey’s dismissal was carried out and the official reasons given for the sacking itself raised a number of questions. The initial official communication cast Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as the prime mover of the decision to fire Comey. However, a day later in an interview, President Trump himself admitted that he had made the decision to fire Comey regardless of Rosenstein’s recommendation.
Later, the deputy White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Comey was fired because he had committed “atrocities” in the Hillary Clinton email server probe and that “he wasn’t doing a good job”. The mixed communication messages by the members of the administration raised speculation that the main reason for the dismissal is related to multiple ongoing congressional and federal investigations into President Trump and his aide’s ties with Russia.
Many reports and insider accounts have indicated that investigations into the possibility of Russian interference during the presidential elections last year have been greatly troubling President Trump. The New York Times reported that,
“Rather than ignoring the Russia investigation and focusing on priorities like health care and taxes, he keeps drawing more attention to the subject with intemperate Twitter posts, angry interviews and actions like the firing of Mr Comey.”
This seems to suggest that the investigations are worrisome to President Trump, either because the investigations undermine the electoral win from Trump’s own perspective, or maybe because there is a possibility that he may have taken certain actions with negative political and legal ramifications.
The controversy with Russia was further exacerbated with Trump’s meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, the day after Comey’s sacking. The meeting happened behind closed doors in the Oval Office with no presence from the American media. However, it was later revealed that a Russian state media photographer was allowed inside due to misleading credentials.
In a series of leaks that came to the fore this week, it has been revealed that during the meeting, President Trump inadvertently revealed classified information to the Russian officials which entailed information pertaining to the fight against the Islamic State (IS) which was provided to the White House by a close American ally. This raised fears that the intelligence sharing relationship with the American ally would be negatively affected, and America’s interests in the Middle East will be harmed.
Another major controversy relating President Trump with Russia is in connection with the investigation into the former national security advisor to the president, Michael T Flynn. Flynn was removed 24 days into the job after misleading Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of phone conversations he had with the Russian ambassador to the US. Moreover, in recent reports, it has been revealed that Flynn was working as a paid lobbyist for the Turkish government and was under investigation for it, facts which were known by the Trump transition team while appointing him to a crucial position in the administration.
In another leak this week, it was revealed that President Trump asked FBI Director Comey to drop his investigation into Flynn, a fact that was documented by Comey in a memo. This is being seen as the clearest evidence that President Trump has tried to influence investigations which has drawn parallels to the Watergate scandal with President Richard Nixon and has further questioned the credibility and intentions of President Trump and his administration.
The firing of FBI Director Comey, coupled with revelations on investigations and the manner in which the Trump administration has handled the events, has cast grave doubts on the integrity of American democracy and governance within the US and globally. The FBI has a crucial role to play in national security and enforcement of civil rights and if the integrity of the agency is brought into question in its dealing with the American government, it can lead to increasing turmoil in a highly charged political atmosphere.
All of these events come at the start of a crucial week where President Trump is going on his first overseas tour to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Italy and Belgium with crucial agendas at stake in the Middle East and Europe.
The manner in which the administration has handled the recent crises threatens to overshadow important areas in foreign policy that require concerted attention and that affect millions of lives globally in terms of economic and political significance. The recent attempts by the Trump administration to gaslight and take actions that question a commitment to the rule of law are extremely troubling and highlight the unusual nature of this administration.
The justice department yesterday appointed Robert Mueller, a former FBI director, as special counsel to oversee the investigation into Trump administration’s ties with Russia. In the wake of Attorney General Jess Session’s recusals with the investigations, Rod Rosenstein took the decision which can hopefully alleviate the crisis of confidence into the investigation and lead to a just outcome free from interference.
It is of crucial importance that President Trump and his administration are continued to be held accountable for their actions and culmination of the investigations. Moreover, the administration’s response to them will be crucial events to keep an eye on moving forward in terms of maintaining the American government’s commitment to accountability and rule of law.