There were plenty of good reasons to fire James Comey. He made a hash of the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email server. His public statements injecting himself and the bureau into the 2016 presidential campaign may well have tipped the election in Donald Trump’s favor and were improper in any case.
But despite all that, President Trump’s decision to fire Comey now is indefensible and the White House’s explanation for it is laughable, particularly considering recent declarations by Trump and his top spokesman that the FBI chief enjoyed the president’s confidence.
The only plausible explanation for the firing is that Trump and those closest to him were worried that Comey was too independent and that his next public statement might be an announcement that the president or someone in his campaign knew about and perhaps worked with the Russian hackers who tried to swing the election in Trump’s favor. Their concerns surely grew after Comey went to his bosses at the Justice Department last week to ask for funds that would allow him to intensify the Russia investigation.
It has been clear for months to many Americans – independent, Democrat and Republican alike - that this investigation needs to be insulated from the president and the Congress. The partisan air is so thick in Washington neither a congressional probe nor one controlled by officials answerable to Trump can be relied on to produce findings that will inspire public confidence. That’s why Common Cause, among other organizations, has been campaigning for the creation of an independent, nonpartisan commission and the appointment of a special prosecutor, with a staff of full-time investigators, to get to the truth – whatever it is. You’re invited to join us in that effort.
Members of both parties in Congress are now moving toward our position. A chorus of Senate Democrats endorsed the appointment of a special prosecutor within hours of Comey’s dismissal. And there also are encouraging signs of stiffening spines among the Republicans, for whom such challenges to the president carry some political risk.
Sen. John McCain, who for months has bucked Trump by calling for the congressional end of the investigation to be turned over to a select committee of lawmakers, has doubled down on that position and declared himself troubled by Comey’s firing. His fellow Arizonan, Jeff Flake, declared there was “no acceptable rationale” for Trump’s move.
North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, who as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee already is leading the most promising of several congressional probes of Russia’s meddling in the election, also said he’s troubled by Comey’s firing. He joined with the committee’s ranking Democrat, Mark Warner of Virginia, in inviting Comey to testify before the Intelligence Committee next week. Burr and Warner also pressed ahead Thursday with a hearing that included testimony from Comey’s interim successor, Deputy FBI chief Andrew McCabe.
With Republicans in control of both houses of Congress, as well as the White House, it’s critical that all of us who want the full story of what the Russians did and who, if anyone, helped them do it, encourage GOP lawmakers to stand up for a special prosecutor and an independent investigation.
Common Cause has reached out to our 800,000-plus members and supporters with an appeal that they contact their representatives to make the case for an independent inquiry. Please help us, and share the link with everyone you know. Every contact counts, but it’s particularly vital that we make sure Republican members know that the president can’t be allowed to slow or shut down this investigation.
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: Voting and Elections