The fallout from FBI director James Comey’s dismissal appears to be just getting started.
Multiple news outlets on Wednesday night began detailing the months, weeks, and days leading up to President Donald Trump’s bombshell decision to kick Comey out of the bureau. The action has already produced shockwaves worldwide but, as told by a number of US officials, the worst may be yet to come.
Reaction from Justice Department and FBI officials ranged from “raw anger” to fear, according to The Washington Post. Trump “essentially declared war on a lot of people at the FBI,” said one official cited by the newspaper.
“I think there will be a concerted effort to respond over time in kind,” the unnamed official said. It was not immediately clear what that official was implying.
Amid the White House’s conflicting narratives in the immediate aftermath of Comey’s firing, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was said to have threatened to resign, The Post said, citing an unnamed source close to the White House, after Rosenstein was painted as the “prime mover” of the decision to get rid of Comey.
The narrative emerging from sources cited by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Post on Wednesday described Trump as having grown increasingly angry with Comey, who was the most visible US official in ongoing investigations of potential collusion between Trump associates and Russia.
“To a president obsessed with loyalty, Mr. Comey was a rogue operator who could not be trusted as the FBI investigated Russian ties to Mr. Trump’s campaign,” The Times reported.
Comey gave explosive testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, offering broad themes of some of the FBI’s work in the Trump-Russia investigation. During that testimony, Comey also said that it made him “mildly nauseous” knowing that his handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe last year may have had an impact on the US presidential election.
That admission, The Times said, set Trump off: “Mr. Trump burned as he watched, convinced that Mr. Comey was grandstanding.” The president reportedly took Comey’s remark as a slight against his November electoral victory.
The Russia probe has remained a thorn in Trump’s side. The president has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing — at points chastising lawmakers and the US intelligence community’s work on the matter.
Multiple people have been entangled in the Russia investigation, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was subpoenaed by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday.
Carter Page, once a Trump foreign-policy adviser, is also among the persons of interest, as well as former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who during his confirmation hearings failed to disclose campaign-trail meetings he had with a Russian ambassador, has recused himself from Russia-related investigative matters.
In his dismissal letter to Comey on Tuesday night, Trump claimed that Comey informed him, “on three separate occassions,” that he was not under investigation,but according to Comey associates cited by The Wall Street Journal, that assertion was inaccurate.
“They said Mr. Comey never gave Mr. Trump any such guidance, which would violate longstanding policies on criminal investigations.”
“That is literally farcical,” one associate said of Trump’s assertion.
The accounts were given as the Justice Department interviewed five candidates to take over as interim FBI director on Wednesday. Current acting director Andrew McCabe was among the them, in addition to FBI managers from Chicago and Virginia The Journal reported.
A permanent replacement will require Senate confirmation, a process that may be fraught with conflict in a deeply divided chamber.
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