Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Will Trump say "You're Fired" to FBI director?

Yesterday directors James Comey (FBI) and Admiral Michael Rogers (NSA) were questioned by the House Intelligence Committee.

AZBlueMeanie has a lengthy summary of the hearing. The Blue Meanie headlines four Takeaways from the House Intelligence Committee hearing on Russian interference in U.S. election

  1. There is no evidence to support Donald Trump’s false tweets … that President Obama “wire tapped” Trump Tower. Period. Full stop.

  2. There is no evidence to support White House pres secretary “Baghdad Sean” Spicer’s and Trump’s false claim … that British intelligence GCHQ “wire tapped” Trump and his campaign. Period. Full stop.

  3. The FBI and intelligence agencies are conducting an investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election. …

  4. The FBI is conducting an investigation into possible “coordination” between Russia and individuals associated with the Trump campaign. Until today, the FBI had refused to privately acknowledge the existence of an investigation, let alone what it is looking into. This is the “big news” of the day from the hearing.

In a way the hearing was ho-hum because the testimony was expected, having already been reported albeit speculatively in the press. But the certainty of the testimony was nevertheless stunning. What we witnessed was senior law enforcement and intelligence officials calling the president a liar in real time on national television. As ABC’s George Stephanopolous put it just now (7:03 AM, Mar. 21) a gray cloud is hanging over the White House. And that cloud will not go away any time soon.

Some of Comey’s testimony was seriously bad news for the White House. John Cassidy reports on some of the exchanges between Comey and committee members on both sides of the aisle in James Comey’s remarkable five hours on Capitol Hill.

At one point, Michael Turner, a Republican congressman, quizzed Comey on this very question: What does it take for the F.B.I. to open a counterintelligence investigation? He only succeeded in getting Comey to confirm that the agency doesn’t act lightly.

“What is the tipping point?” Turner asked. “Don’t you need some action or some information besides just attending a meeting, having been paid to attend a conference, that a picture was taken or that you travelled to a country, before you open an investigation for counterintelligence by the F.B.I.?” Comey said that a couple of things could come into play: “a credible allegation of wrongdoing or reasonable basis to believe that an American may be acting as an agent of a foreign power.”

Comey went on to highlight the reason for the FBI’s investigation.

… he spelled it out to Denny Heck, a Democrat from Washington State, who asked Comey to explain to the American people “why we should care about Russia’s use of U.S. persons, of Americans, helping Russia destabilize our democracy.” Comey, who earned his reputation for independence when he worked in George W. Bush’s Justice Department, began by saying that he “truly believed” that America is a “shining city on a hill,” in the words of Ronald Reagan.

He went on, “One of the things we radiate to the world is the importance of our wonderful, often messy, but free and fair democratic system, and the elections that undergird it. So when there is an effort by a foreign nation-state to mess with that, to destroy that, to corrupt that, it is very, very serious. It threatens what is America. And if any Americans are part of that effort it’s a very serious matter. And so you would expect the F.B.I. to want to want to understand, is that so? And, if so, who did what?”

It was for these reasons, Comey said, that he had decided it was important to share at least some information about the investigation with the committee and the American people. “And now we are going to close our mouths and do our work to see if we can answer those questions,” he continued. “Because the answers matter.”

Will Trump retaliate with “You’re Fired?”

My focus here is on the president’s options. (1) He could just go on being Donald the Blusterous Bullshitter. (2) He could continue in his campaign to discredit the media and intelligence agencies. (3) He could fire Comey.

Yes, he could fire Comey, according to this piece in Lawnewz.com Next Words Director Comey May Hear From President Trump? ‘You’re Fired!’.

Monday’s hearing may have been the ultimate full-circle. Or perhaps the ultimate penance. James Comey, intentionally or not, almost certainly helped Trump secure his win in November. And now, his statements suggest Trump to be a liar at best and a traitor at worse. While Trump may have amused himself with tweeting in real-time today, as if the Congressional Hearing was some kind of reality show finale, I’d bet a search of his Google history would show, “can the president fire the FBI director?”

… Comey’s calling Trump out for lying about President Obama, while simultaneously confirming that the FBI is amidst an investigation over collusion with Russia is a one-two punch … Trump, a compulsively reactive person when publicly embarrassed, is likely doing far more than licking his wounds right now. But could Trump really fire James Comey?

He sure can. Under federal law, the F.B.I. director is appointed to one 10-year term – a term length purposely created such that it overlaps presidential administrations. Presidents may fire the FBI director (and Congress can impeach one) – and according to a 2014 report by the Congressional Research Service, “there are no statutory conditions on the President’s authority to remove the FBI Director.” While some FBI directors have resigned prior to the end of their terms, only one – William S. Sessions (appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1987) – was ever fired. Sessions was fired by President Bill Clinton in the wake of allegations of ethics violations, such as misuse of public funds for his private benefit.

But if Trump does retaliate against Comey, it might create a firestorm similar to that ignited by the Saturday Night Massacre of Watergate and Nixon. It’s hard to see how Congress could ignore that one.

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