President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday, and White House officials are attempting to use Democrats as political cover.
Shortly after announcing that Trump fired Comey, the White House distributed a list of articles listing instances in which top Democrats criticised Comey.
The White House linked reporters to statements from Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer saying that he had “lost confidence” in Comey over his decision to alert Congress during the final weeks of the 2016 election to reopening an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information.
The White House also sent two articles from The Hill noting displeasure with Comey from top House Democrats, including a write-up of Rep. Adam Schiff’s comments on CNN saying Comey “has a very week argument” for why he alerted Congress to an investigation into Clinton’s email server, while not doing the same for an investigation into the Trump campaign’s potential ties to Russia.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein addressed a public letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions noting Comey’s decision to publicly explain in July his recommendation not to prosecute Clinton over her use of a private email server while she served as secretary of state.
The deputy attorney general said Comey was “wrong to usurp the attorney general’s authority” by going public with the FBI’s recommendation to not bring charges against Clinton for her use of the server. He also wrote that the FBI suffered “substantial damage” to its credibility in the past year as a result of Comey’s actions related to the Clinton investigation.
“It is not the function of the director to make such an announcement,” Rosenstein wrote. “At most, the director should have said the FBI had completed its investigation and presented its findings to federal prosecutors. The director now defends his decision by asserting that he believed Attorney General Loretta Lynch had a conflict. But the FBI director is never empowered to supplant federal prosecutors and assume command of the Justice Department.”
Though Democrats have repeatedly criticised Comey’s decision to publicly reopen the investigation into Clinton just days before the presidential election — which was separate from his announcement in July — many Democrats quickly slammed Trump’s decision to fire Comey amid the former director’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
Ranking Member of the House Oversight Committee Rep. Elijah E. Cummings called for “immediate emergency hearings” to investigate Comey’s firing, saying it was “mindbloggling” that Sessions was involved in firing Comey after he said he’d recuse himself from any investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russia ties.
“There is now a crisis of confidence at the Justice Department, and President Trump is not being held accountable because House Republicans refuse to work with us to do our job,” Cummings said. “Congress must restore credibility, accountability, and transparency to this investigation and finally pass legislation to create a truly independent commission.”
Allan Smith contributed reporting.
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