Trump Fires Comey and Begins the Cover-Up In Earnest

President Donald Trump’s stated reason for sacking FBI Director James Comey can be quickly dismissed. Comey’s clumsy handling of the Hillary Clinton emails case during the election campaign helped to hand Trump the presidency. Had Trump genuinely and magnanimously been concerned by the effect of Comey’s conduct on his opponent, he would have fired him as soon as he took office. Instead, he praised Comey’s actions to the skies, having previously used them to inspire chants of “lock her up” and urged him to continue pursuing the investigation. The Clinton email case is clearly not why Comey was removed.

It is equally clear that Trump’s ties to Russia warrant a full and independent investigation. Indeed, what is known already would, in more normal times, be sufficient to push a president out of office. America’s intelligence and law enforcement agencies have established that there was massive, covert Russian interference in the election designed to help Trump win the presidency.

Simultaneously, several senior Trump campaign operatives have been shown to have had inappropriately close and inadequately explained ties to Russia, including substantial personal financial rewards that they have attempted to cover-up. These individuals include retired General Michael Flynn (who was initially appointed National Security Advisor but soon sacked, ostensibly for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russian officials), Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, Foreign Policy Advisor on Russia, Carter Page, and all-purpose attack dog Roger Stone.

the President has torpedoed the impartiality of the FBI

In addition, the numerous credible allegations contained in the report compiled by former British intelligence officer, Christopher Steele, remain worthy of follow-up. As do the murky indications of Russian financing to shore up Trump’s businesses during times of trouble. Trump and some of the family members working for his companies made loose comments themselves about such funding before they knew he might one day become President.

Trump’s sacking of Comey bears obvious comparison with Richard Nixon’s firing of Watergate Special Prosecutor, Archibald Cox – a desperate attempt to stop an independent investigation that only increased pressure for his impeachment.

Now that the President has torpedoed the impartiality of the FBI probe into his activities, the appointment of a Special Prosecutor is now the only credible way to carry out an independent investigation of Trump-Russia too.

Trump will, of course, fight tooth and nail against an appointment that could bring down his presidency. His chances of preventing an independent investigation being concluded are greater than were Nixon’s.

Whilst Tricky Dicky could call on partisan support, particularly during the early stages of the Watergate scandal, the situation is far worse today. A Special Prosecutor can only be appointed by the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, - a hardcore Trump acolyte who provided the formal recommendation that Trump fire Comey and is also tainted by Russian links – or Congress.  

full exposure of Trump’s Russia links could prematurely end his presidency

Sadly, the increasingly extreme Republican caucuses that are currently the majority in both Houses of Congress, have spent most of the past decade demonstrating that they put personal and party interests ahead of the country’s. This was farcically demonstrated by the previous Chair of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, during its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Nunes was caught making night-time visits to the White House, seemingly to brief and take instructions from those he was supposed to be investigating, and generally did everything in his power to sabotage the process he was officially leading.

There have been some suggestions that the Trump Administration is “surprised” by the furore stirred up by its sacking of Comey. Swallowing this line requires a belief in their naivety and incompetence that is not credible, even for them. On this, they know what they are doing. And they are doing it either as part of a desperate rearguard action to stop the investigation or, as has often been their standard operating tactic, to create a distraction from something even more egregious.

There are no convincing reasons to doubt that Comey was fired because Trump fears what the FBI investigation would have revealed, perhaps very soon. Based on the evidence already uncovered and in the public domain, there is little doubt either that full exposure of Trump’s Russia links could prematurely end his presidency.

What remains open to question are whether the US’s deeply compromised governing institutions are still up to the task of protecting the nation from presidential wrongdoing.


More about the author

About the author

Paul Knott began his working life in a hut on Hull's King George Dock before globetrotting for two decades as an unlikely British envoy. His "instructive and funny" (Alan Johnson MP) book about his experiences, "The Accidental Diplomat", is out now.

He is also the Chief Foreign Correspondent for the Sabotage Times and contributes to publications such as The Telegraph, Forty-20 and When Saturday Comes.

All that travel has failed to shift Paul's inherited old Labour instincts.

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