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Trump fires FBI director, uses Twitter to defend decision questioned by lawmakers
By Steve Bittenbender
Editor, Government Security News
President Donald Trump spent part of Wednesday morning using social media to defend his decision a day earlier to fire James Comey as the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“James Comey will be replaced by someone who will do a far better job, bringing back the spirit and prestige of the FBI,” the President posted as part of a series of messages on his Twitter account. “Comey lost the confidence of almost everyone in Washington, Republican and Democrat alike. When things calm down, they will be thanking me!”
It may take some time for things to calm down as news of the embattled director’s ouster caught most of Washington by surprise. Comey had drawn criticism from lawmakers for his handling of investigations related to last year’s presidential election.
Many Democrats believed Comey’s decision to reopen the case against Hillary Clinton late in the campaign opened the door just wide enough for Trump to win the election. Just last week, Comey testified before a Senate committee that it made him “mildly nauseous” that his decision may have impacted the race.
However, Democratic leaders questioned why the President chose to dismiss Comey, who still had more than half of his 10-year term left to serve.
"Director Comey's dismissal is extremely troubling,” Rep Joe Crowley, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus said in a statement Tuesday evening. “President Trump fired the man investigating him and his cohorts. I strongly support calls for the appointment of a special prosecutor.”
The news even surprised many Republican lawmakers.
“I've spent the last several hours trying to find an acceptable rationale for the timing of Comey's firing,” Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona posted on his Twitter account. “I just can't do it.”
Trump’s decision came hours after it was revealed that the FBI sent a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee correcting some of the testimony Comey gave in regards to the Clinton investigation. He relieved Comey after receiving a recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Sessions, in his memo to Trump, cited that the FBI director needs to “be someone who follows faithfully the rules and principles of the Department of Justice and who sets the right example for our law enforcement officials.” Rod Rosenstein, Sessions’ deputy attorney general, said in a letter to his boss that Comey’s mishandling of the Clinton investigation provided ample justification for his ouster.
“As a result, the FBI is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a Director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them,” Rosenstein wrote. “Having refused to admit his errors, the Director cannot be expected to implement the necessary corrective actions.”
In addition to investigating the Clinton campaign, the FBI also has been checking Trump’s campaign and its alleged ties to Russian officials suspected of interfering with the presidential election. CNN reported Tuesday night that a federal grand jury issued subpoenas for associates of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
Flynn resigned less than a month after Trump took office for failing to disclose meetings with Russian officials.
In his letter to Comey, Trump said that the now-former FBI director stated repeatedly that the President himself was not under investigation. However, the firing may lead to lawmakers setting up their own review.
“My staff and I are reviewing legislation to establish an independent commission on Russia,” tweeted Rep. Justin Amash, a Republican member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and its subcommittee on national security.
However, at least one senator believes Trump's decision won't affect the bureau's own investigation into the matter.
“Any suggestion that today’s announcement is somehow an effort to stop the FBI's investigation of Russia’s attempt to influence the election last fall is misplaced," said Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who added that Comey's handling of the Clinton case made his ouster inevutable. "The President did not fire the entire FBI; he fired the director. I have every confidence that the FBI will continue to pursue its investigation. In addition, I am certain that the Senate Intelligence Committee, on which I serve, will continue its own bipartisan investigation and will follow the evidence wherever it leads."