Comey, chaos … crisis? Trump enters new province after most explosive week yet

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Trumps decision to fire James Comey stunned Washington, upset the bureau, and brought Russia back into focus. How much more can Republican take?

Ill met by moonlight, a dozen reporters and cameramen peered into the darkness. Where was Sean Spicer ? The press secretary had given a Tv interview at 9pm then disappeared behind an awning, apparently conferring with colleagues. Journalists waited on the drive. The White House glowed behind them. This is so weird, one said. Its like hunting a puppy and then killing it.

A couple of minutes later Spicer emerged on a route operating along a fence and hedgerow. He was caught in a blinding illuminate and asked the cameramen to turn it off. Relax, enjoy the night, have a glass of wine, he said jocularly. Spicer then spent 12 minutes trying to explain why Donald Trump had taken the most explosive the actions of his young presidency: axing the director of the FBI.

But the rationale that Spicer presented that Trump had been acting on the recommendation contained in the us attorney general and his deputy was shredded by the president himself two days later. He had already decided that James Comey must go regardless of the recommendation , Trump said, because he was a grandstander and a showboat.

The man who sealed his reputation by telling reality Tv demonstrate contestants Youre fired! had now done it to Americas top law enforcement official, creating a public relations misfortune. Comey was only the second FBI director to be dismissed. Not since Richard Nixon had a US president fired the person resulting an investigation bearing on himself.

That investigation is investigating Russian interference in last few years election with potential Trump campaign collusion. The removal of Comey inspired accusations of a cover-up, warnings of a constitutional crisis, and comparisons with the Watergate scandal that brought Nixon down. The chairperson fuelled the flame by indicating he had videotapes of his conversations with the FBI director.

Even for Trump, the inveterate rule-breaker, it was outrageous new province. It inspired anew the issues to: just how much is the Republican party able and willing to tolerate? With an acceptance rating of 35%, hes a liability in the 2018 elections , not an asset, said Rick Tyler, the former communications director for Senator Ted Cruz, a rival of Trump in the party primaries. At some point theyre going to have to tell the president: shape up or ship out.

Less than a week earlier, Trump had welcomed dozens of Republican House members to the Rose Garden at the White House to celebrate the passage of a healthcare bill. It seemed to be a moment of respite, of getting on track, of building peace with the party. Hey, Im president! Trump said. Can you believe it?

There was no hint of what was to come. Contrary to Spicers rationale, Trump had decided Comeys fate long ago. He was, according to multiple US media reports, raged by the FBIs directors dogged pursuing of the Russia investigation, ease in the media spotlight( FBI directors are supposed to keep a low profile ), insouciance when it came to White House leaks and failure to back the presidents accusation of wiretapping against Barack Obama.

Sean Spicer in the darkness on Tuesday night. Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/ AP

Last weekend, it seems, Trump decided to pull the trigger. The Washington Post reported: At his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump groused over Comeys latest congressional evidence, which he thought was strange, and grew impatient with what he viewed as his sanctimony, according to White House officers. Comey, Trump figured, was using the Russia probe to become a martyr.

When he returned to the Oval Office on Monday, Trump summoned attorney general Jeff Sessions and his deputy Rod Rosenstein and told them to stimulate the example against Comey in writing. With Sessions having recused himself from the Russia investigation over his contacts with the Russian ambassador, it was left to Rosenstein to do the heavy lifting in a memoranda that quoth the FBI directors mishandling of last years Hillary Clinton email investigation.

On Tuesday afternoon, Trump called senior members of both parties to inform them of his decision. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic minority leader in the Senate, told him: You are making a big mistake. But the president ran ahead anyway. There have been many political earthquakes since Trump was sworn in on 20 January but this hit a new spike on the Richter scale.

The crude method of dismissal also caused disquiet. Shortly before Spicers maneuvers in the dark on Tuesday night, the FBI director had been addressing staff in Los Angeles when news of his termination flashed up on TV screens. At first he giggled, guessing it was a prank, the New York Times reported, but then his staff intervened, he stopped speaking and, in a side office, learned it was no joke.

When the Guardian asked Spicer why the dismissal had not been done in person or by phone, as is customary in most walkings of life, he said only that a message had been sent by hand to FBI headquarters and electronically. Some commentators felt the hurried nature of the deed and basic lack of politenes spoke volumes.

A political novice governing by gut instinct, Trump appeared to have made arguably his biggest misjudgment yet. He seemed to think that Comeys unpopularity on both sides of the aisle( Clinton has blamed him for her loss) would make it a win-win for him; instead it was a spectacular lose-lose. He told Justice with Judge Jeanine on Fox News: I guess I was a little bit surprised, because all of the Democrats, I entail, they disliked Jim Comey. They didnt like him. They wanted him fired or whatever. And then all of a sudden, they come out with these glowing reports. Appear, its politics.

Charlie Sykes , a conservative author and broadcaster, said: Its stunning they didnt think it would be this controversial. Its an example of his ignorance of American political history and the norms and traditions of the system.

What he failed to consider was the Russia question. Reports emerged that Comey had been accelerating the investigation and trying more resources as he is more and more concerned about evidence of collusion. Democratic senator Dick Durbin of Illinois said: I believe the Comey operation was inhaling down the neck of the Trump campaign and their operatives, and this was an effort to slow down the investigation.

Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, told HBO: If there was no there there, James Comey would still have a job.

On Tuesday night, Democrat after Democrat lined up to use the word Nixonian and draw parallels with the so-called Saturday Night Massacre when, in 1973, Nixon sought to fire Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor leading the Watergate investigation, triggering resignations and then Coxs dismissal. Many demanded the appointment of a special attorney to look into Russiagate.

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