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May 10, 2017

James Comey Is Out at the F.B.I. Here’s What Happens Next

President Trump’s firing on Tuesday of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, drew an immediate backlash, both for how he did it — Mr. Comey found out from television — and for the implications of what it means for the Justice Department investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
James B. Comey

James B. Comey

At the White House

Mr. Trump must search for a new F.B.I. director. An announcement will not be made on Wednesday but is likely by the end of the week because Mr. Trump intends to fill the vacancy quickly, a White House official said Tuesday night. Whomever Mr. Trump chooses will be subject to Senate confirmation.

How Democrats and Republicans are spinning it

Democrats quickly coalesced around a call for an independent prosecutor to take over the investigation into Russian meddling in the election, expressing distrust in the Justice Department.

“The only way the American people can have faith in this investigation is for it to be led by a fearless, independent special prosecutor,” said the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York.

As Republican lawmakers learned of the firing Tuesday night in scattershot fashion, no unified party message emerged. Some backed Mr. Trump and expressed support for a new start. Others were dubious.

The Senate investigation

The Senate Intelligence Committee, which is conducting its own investigation into Russian tampering in the election, has faced mounting calls for an independent investigator that were, until now, largely partisan.

Mr. Comey’s firing upended the politics of the committee and prompted some Republicans to echo those sentiments.

Even before the firing, the panel had requested records from a number of Mr. Trump’s associates to analyze their connections to Russia. Officials familiar with the investigation have said that the committee is prepared to issue subpoenas to get the records.

Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the committee, would not say when, or if, subpoenas might come.

At the F.B.I.

This is the first time an F.B.I. director has been fired since 1993, when President Bill Clinton dismissed William S. Sessions, saying he could no longer “effectively lead the bureau.”

Until Mr. Trump appoints a new director, the deputy director, Andrew G. McCabe, will oversee the F.B.I., including the continuing Russia investigation.

While the director is not usually involved in the day-to-day operations of the Russia investigation, whomever Mr. Trump selects as the next director will have the ability to influence the investigation by adding or pulling resources.

The new director will also have to confront the task of winning over rank-and-file agents. While some of Mr. Comey’s decisions were controversial, he was popular among the staff, and the public way that he learned about his termination — from a television screen while he was speaking to F.B.I. employees in Los Angeles — will probably stay in their minds.

 

Text by The New York Times
 

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