By now, almost everyone has heard that President Trump has fired FBI director James Comey – but why is this such a big deal, and why did he do it?
To start, President Trump’s firing of Comey is, in fact, a big deal. While this power is within the jurisdiction of the president, only one other president has ever taken this action because the director of the FBI is supposed to be apolitical. Like judges, the director of the FBI is appointed by the president and confirmed by the senate. They do not run for their position in elections. By being free from subjection to elections, the director can remain unaffiliated with either party and remain uninfluenced by public opinion. In this way, they can properly, and without bias, carry out their work within the Department of Justice. By firing the director, the president can effectively influence which allegations are investigated by the agency by threatening to fire a director who investigates any allegations against them or their party. But despite this, there are still several legitimate reasons why a president may fire an FBI director.
The motivation, as released by the White House, was that the President took the advice to fire Comey from a memo sent to him from the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein. Rosenstein is currently acting as Attorney General since Sessions recused himself. In this memo it was stated that Comey “Release[d] derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal investigation,” which made him unfit to fill the role of director of the FBI. Essentially, this means that Trump fired Comey for his harsh treatment of Hillary Clinton while investigating her email scandal during the 2016 election. This motive was called into question by both sides of the aisle, considering that in the past Trump has praised Comey for his treatment of Clinton, in some instances even saying that he should have prosecuted her further. This motive was even further questioned after the President himself said in an interview, “I was going to fire regardless of recommendation,” which directly contradicted official statements previously made by the White House.
Many politicians are also stating that the reason Trump fired Comey was because he was no longer doing his job successfully. Democrats, Republicans, and FBI members have all come forward saying that Trump’s actions were warranted, due to the Director’s current work, but no specifics have yet been released as to why politicians and agency members were not happy with the work of the Director. On the other hand, several Democrats, Republicans and FBI members have praised the work of Comey.
Considering the timing of the event, many are questioning the relationship that the firing may have with the ties between Russia and the President. News of the firing came shortly after Comey requested more staff and money to use in the Trump-Russia investigation and just days after subpoenas were released for former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn. Earlier this year, Flynn was fired after meeting with Russian officials and lying about his meetings both under oath and to Vice President Pence. Many are theorizing that the firing could be an attempt to draw attention away from the Trump-Russia investigation, but none of these theories have been confirmed. Some are even drawing parallels between Trump’s actions and Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre during the Watergate Scandal, in which Nixon fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox. While there are many questions that are yet to be answered, the FBI has stated that they are not slowing down or stopping their investigation into the Trump-Russia ties.
While the defenders of the White House and those criticizing the White House are still present on both sides of the aisle, it is important to remember that no reason for Comey’s firing has been confirmed, and many of the motives mentioned in this article have not yet been proven.