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Trump to FBI Director James Comey: You’re fired!

May 10, 20175 mins
Data and Information SecuritySecurity

Reactions about Trump firing Comey.

As shocking as it is, President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey yesterday, despite the agency investigating possible collusion with Russia to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.

Trump’s letter to Comey stated: “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgement of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”

Trump said new leadership was needed to restore “public trust and confidence” in the FBI.

Comey found out he was fired from TV news

But that’s not how Comey found out he was fired. While speaking to agents in the FBI’s LA field office about recent “corrected” testimony to lawmakers about how classified information ended up on the laptop of former congressman Anthony Weiner, Comey glanced at TV screens in the room and saw on the news that Trump had fired him. CNN reported that Comey made a joke at the time and then called FBI headquarters. Sure enough, he was fired.

The White House said President Trump fired Comey based on recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jess Sessions.

Worse than Watergate?

Nevertheless, all hell broke loose in Washington. Less than a week after House Republicans approved a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, and Democrats on the House floor taunted the Republicans by singing, “Na, na, na, na, hey, hey, hey, good-bye”—as if suggesting those Republicans would be voted out of their seats—lawmakers’ started comparing Trump’s firing of Comey to the Watergate scandal. Accusations of a new Watergate and the “Nixonian” move by the Trump administration grew to a crescendo. In the words of a GOP aide’s text message seen by CNN, “This is a shitshow.”

Attorney Richard Painter, who served as chief White House ethics lawyer under George W. Bush, told Rolling Stone that Trump firing Comey was “worse than Watergate.”

“We cannot tolerate this—for the President to be firing people who are investigating him and his campaign and its collusion with the Russians,” he says. “It’s a lot worse than Watergate. Watergate was a third-rate burglary. It was purely domestic in nature. This situation involves Russian espionage, and we’ve got to find out who is collaborating.”

Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe

President Trump appointed FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe as acting FBI director until Trump nominates a new FBI director. McCabe has a background in investigating counterterrorism.

A year ago, McCabe told the Los Angeles Times that while Comey was focused on high-profile issues such as the San Bernardino shooter’s encrypted iPhone, for McCabe, the “scariest thing” at the time was the “broadening and intensity of the terrorism threat, the crowd-sourcing of terrorism, the flood of propaganda, the enormous number of folks who have become swept up in that propaganda.” Like Comey, McCabe is concerned with the FBI “going dark” by being unable “to keep tabs on suspected terrorists who communicate with encrypted apps and emails.”

In the long haul, Trump will likely replace Comey with another who will wage war on encryption and want to increase surveillance. Trump said the replacement will be “someone who will do a far better job, bringing back the spirit and prestige of the FBI.” Trump will, that is, if he is still around.

Comey’s firing sparks call for immediate emergency hearings

In an emailed statement, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD 7th District), ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said:

Congress needs to have immediate emergency hearings to obtain testimony directly from Attorney General Sessions, the deputy attorney general, and FBI Director Comey. The White House was already covering up for Michael Flynn by refusing to provide a single document to Congress, and now the President fired the one independent person who was doing the most to investigate President Trump and his campaign over allegations of coordination with Russia.

It is mindboggling that the Attorney General—who claimed to have recused himself—was directly involved in the decision to fire Director Comey according to the White House itself. 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. Congress must restore credibility, accountability, and transparency to this investigation and finally pass legislation to create a truly independent commission.

Late night hosts react to Comey getting the axe

On the lighter side of all this, on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Kimmel compared Trump firing the director of the FBI to O.J. “firing Judge Ito halfway through the trial.”

The Daily Show host Trevor Noah said, “Wow, Trump fired the FBI director! Like, you can’t just fire the FBI director. I mean if he’s gone, who’s going to investigate Russia’s ties to — Ohhhhhhhhhhh.”

Stephen Colbert on The Late Show asked if Trump had forgotten about the Clinton emails that Comey talked about before the election. Trying to imitate Trump’s voice, Colbert said, “Thanks for the presidency, Jimmy. Don’t let the door hit ‘ya where the Electoral College split ‘ya.”

ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.