'The investigation was getting a little too close to the White House, he was feeling the heat' - U.S. Sen Martin Heinrich
Udall: Trump’s Firing of FBI Director ‘Defies logic’
‘Trump looks like he does not actually want to get to the bottom of Russia’s interference’
Reaction to Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey has been swift, both here in New Mexico and in Washington. Reaction ranged from incredulity to anger.
First, reaction from New Mexico’s congressional delegation:
U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, a Democrat who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election:
“The only logical explanation at this point is the most obvious one: that the investigation was getting a little too close to the White House, he was feeling the heat,” Heinrich said.
U.S. Rep. Tom Udall, a Democrat:
“This decision is chilling. It defies logic to believe that President Trump fired Director Comey – who is investigating both Russia’s interference in our election and the president’s campaign for its ties to that attack on our democracy – for any other reason than to interfere with the investigation.”
U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, a Democrat who represents Northern New Mexico:
“After a hundred days of President Trump’s antics, it has grown harder and harder to be shocked by his behavior. …To fire the nation’s chief law enforcement official – especially one who is in the midst of a high profile investigation into connections between the President’s top campaign advisors and agents of the Russian government – is at best irresponsible, and at worst, smacks of a cover-up.
U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat who represents Albuquerque and Central New Mexico:
“Now, more than ever, it is clear that we have to have an independent, non-partisan investigation into every allegation about Russian interference and influence, as well as the current conflict of interest issues.”
A spokesperson for U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, a Republican who represents Southern New Mexico, was not available for comment.
Reaction from Elsewhere:
The Washington Post, in a minute-by-minute timeline of how the White House’s announcement of how the firing went down, reported:
“To put it mildly, the optics of firing Comey are terrible. Trump looks like he does not actually want to get to the bottom of Russia’s interference in the U.S. election and the potential wrongdoing of his own staffers.
“In one of the hastily-arranged damage-control interviews, deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders made an especially revealing statement that underscored why so many people are worried. Asked by Tucker Carlson on Fox News how Comey’s termination will impact the Russia investigation, she replied: “I think the bigger point on that is, ‘My gosh, Tucker, when are they gonna let that go?’ It’s been going on for nearly a year. Frankly, it’s kinda getting absurd. There’s nothing there.” “It’s time to move on,” she added. “Frankly, it’s time to focus on the things the American people care about.”
Fox News focused on the president’s defense of the firing in the wake of criticism of its timing and his likely motives:
President Trump on Wednesday defended his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, saying he “wasn’t doing a good job.”
Trump’s comments were in response to reporters asking him at the White House why he fired Comey on Tuesday evening.
“Very simply, he was not doing a good job,” Trump continued.
Earlier in the day, Trump used Twitter to defend his decision and fire back at Democrats who condemned the firing, while also arguing that Democrats have been among Comey’s harshest critics.
The Smell Test
The president himself reacted on Twitter to criticism of the firing:
“The Democrats have said some of the worst things about James Comey, including the fact that he should be fired, but now they play so sad!”
Comey’s performance in the Clinton email case notwithstanding, the Los Angeles Times, in an editorial headlined, “Absolutely Nothing about James Comey’s Firing Passes the Smell Test,” wrote:
“In some other universe, Americans might be able to take at face value the Trump administration’s explanation for the abrupt firing of James B. Comey less than four years into his 10-year term as director of the FBI — that Comey had mishandled the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of State. …
“But in the real universe, that explanation seems far-fetched.”
In an analysis, The New York Times wrote that Trump’s explanation didn’t stand up:
“As director of the FBI, James Comey was known for two major investigations that shaped the presidential election. One was into Hillary Clinton’s emails, the other into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence agents.
“The question now: Which one got him fired?”
Several media outlets noted the confusion in the White House’s announcement of the firing. The Post reported on the Times’ account of how Comey learned of his firing as he made a public appearance at the FBI’s Los Angeles office:
“While Mr. Comey spoke, television screens in the background began flashing the news,” the New York Times reports. “In response to the reports, Mr. Comey laughed, saying that he thought it was a fairly funny prank.”
The timing and manner of Comey’s firing was documented in depth by The Washington Post, which had reporter Jenna Johnson on the White House grounds as the news broke:
“Sean Spicer wrapped up his brief interview with Fox Business from the White House grounds late Tuesday night and then disappeared into the shadows, huddling with his staff behind a tall hedge. To get back to his office, Spicer would have to pass a swarm of reporters wanting to know why President Trump suddenly decided to fire the FBI director. For more than three hours, Spicer and his staff had been scrambling to answer that question.
“Spicer had wanted to drop the bombshell news in an emailed statement but it was not transmitting quickly enough, so he ended up standing in the doorway of the press office around 5:40 p.m. and shouting a statement to reporters who happened to be nearby. He then vanished, with his staff locking the door leading to his office. The press staff said that Spicer might do a briefing, then announced that he definitely wouldn’t say anything more that night. But as Democrats and Republicans began to criticize and question the firing … Spicer and two prominent spokeswomen were suddenly speed-walking up the White House drive to defend the president on CNN, Fox News and Fox Business…
“After Spicer spent several minutes hidden in the bushes behind these sets, Janet Montesi, an executive assistant in the press office, emerged and told reporters that Spicer would answer some questions, as long as he was not filmed doing so. Spicer then emerged. ‘Just turn the lights off. Turn the lights off,’ he ordered. … Spicer got his wish and was soon standing in near darkness between two tall hedges, with more than a dozen reporters closely gathered around him. For 10 minutes, he responded to a flurry of questions, vacillating between light-hearted asides and clear frustration with getting the same questions over and over again.
“As Spicer tells it, (Deputy Attorney General Rod) Rosenstein was confirmed about two weeks ago and independently took on this issue so the president was not aware of the probe until he received a memo from Rosenstein on Tuesday, along with a letter from Attorney General Jeff Sessions recommending that Comey be fired. The president then swiftly decided to follow the recommendation, notifying the FBI via e-mail around 5 p.m. and in a letter delivered to the FBI by the president’s longtime bodyguard. ‘It was all him,’ Spicer said of Rosenstein.” (No serious person believes this.)”
Comey portrait:thierry ehrmann