WASHINGTON D.C. (AP) — President Donald Trump’s stunning firing of FBI Director James Comey throws into question the future of a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible connections to Russia. It also raises suspicions of an underhanded effort to stymie a probe that has shadowed the administration from the outset.
Democrats likened Tuesday’s ouster to President Richard Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre” and renewed calls for appointment of a special prosecutor. Some Republicans also questioned the move.
In his letter to Comey, Trump said the firing was necessary to restore “public trust and confidence” in the FBI. The administration paired the letter with a scathing review of Comey’s work by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, including his decision to hold a news conference announcing the bureau’s findings and releasing “derogatory information” about Clinton.
President Trump defends his firing of the FBI Director, asserting in a flurry of tweets Wednesday that Republicans and Democrats “will be thanking me.” Trump did not mention any effect the firing might have on the probe into contacts between his 2016 campaign and Russia.
Instead, Trump tweeted that he’ll name a replacement “who will do a far better job, bringing back the spirit and prestige of the FBI.”
While Comey has drawn anger from Democrats since he reopened the email investigation in the closing days of last year’s campaign, they didn’t buy that justification for his firing. Several Republicans joined them in raising alarms of how it could affect probes into possible coordination between Trump associates and Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election.
In one of the strongest statements by Republicans, Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, says, “I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey’s termination… His dismissal further confuses an already difficult investigation by the committee.”
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer told Trump in a phone call he thought dumping Comey was a mistake. On Wednesday, Trump labeled the Senate minority leader “‘Cryin’ Chuck Schumer.'”
Trump will now appoint a successor at the FBI, which has been investigating since late July, and who will almost certainly have an impact on how the investigation moves forward and whether the public will accept its outcome.