Trump's firing of FBI chief ignites political storm

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director James Comey.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director James Comey. PHOTO: REUTERS

US President Donald Trump has stunned the Washington political establishment with his sudden firing of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director James Comey.

The move came on the recommendation of senior Justice Department officials in memos cited by Mr Trump, which said Mr Comey had bungled a probe into Mrs Hillary Clinton, hurting the FBI's credibility.

But the timing of the sacking, as the FBI was investigating whether Mr Trump's key associates might have coordinated with Russia to interfere with last year's US presidential election, raised suspicions that the real target was the FBI's probe into the alleged Russian links.

Yesterday, the leader of the minority Democrats in the Senate, Mr Chuck Schumer, appealed for the appointment of a special prosecutor to lead a Trump-Russia probe.

"We know director Comey was leading an investigation in whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians - a serious offence," he said. "Were those investigations getting too close to home?"

Moments earlier, Republican Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, by contrast, noted that two investigations of the Russia issue by the Senate and FBI are ongoing.

A new investigation will "only serve to impede" current work in discovering what the Russians might have done, including developing countermeasures to see that "it doesn't occur again", he said.

But some Republicans were concerned. Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr said: "I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of director Comey's termination."

The morning after he fired Mr Comey, Mr Trump tweeted: "Comey lost the confidence of almost everyone in Washington, Republican and Democrat alike. When things calm down, they will be thanking me!"

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 11, 2017, with the headline 'Trump's firing of FBI chief ignites political storm'. Print Edition | Subscribe