In this Wednesday, May 3, 2017, photo, then-FBI Director James Comey pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. President Donald Trump abruptly fired Comey on May 9, ousting the nation's top law enforcement official in the midst of an investigation into whether Trump's campaign had ties to Russia's election meddling.(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
In this Wednesday, May 3, 2017, photo, then-FBI Director James Comey pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. President Donald Trump abruptly fired Comey on May 9, ousting the nation's top law enforcement official in the midst of an investigation into whether Trump's campaign had ties to Russia's election meddling.(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Comey firing creates firestorm

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By Anna Kayser | anna-kayser@uiowa.edu

On May 9, in the wake of Sen. Chuck Grassley’s many concerns stated during the Judiciary Committee’s hearing on Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI Director James Comey was fired by President Trump.

“It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement,” Trump stated in a letter sent to Comey.

Comey was appointed to a 10-year term as FBI director in 2013 by President Obama. FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe will serve as interim director until Trump names a replacement.

The decision came at the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions; they crticized Comey’s judgment during the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server.

“The way the director handled the conclusion of the email investigation was wrong,” Rosenstein wrote in a memorandum for the attorney general. “As a result, the FBI is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them.”

Sessions then added his own thoughts in a letter and sent both his and Rosenstein’s letters to Trump.

“It is essential that this Department of Justice clearly reaffirm its commitment to long-standing principles that ensure the integrity and fairness of federal investigations and prosecutions,” Session’s letter said.

Grassley’s office issued a statement following Comey’s termination in which Grassley said Comey’s decisions over the past months, specifically in regards to the Clinton email investigation, has provided cause for concern.

“The effectiveness of the FBI depends upon the public trust and confidence,” the Iowa Republican said in a statement. “Unfortunately, this has clearly been lost.”

On April 14, Grassley sent a letter to Comey regarding the FBI and its neglect to update whistleblower guidelines in accordance with the FBI Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, which became law in December 2016. This law requires that the FBI and other agencies allow their employees to state their whistleblowing concerns with immediate supervisors without the risk of punishment. Grassley requested a response by April 27, and none was sent by the FBI.

On May 3, during the hearing, Grassley briefly addressed the issue again during his opening statement.

The statement also referenced the FBI investigation into of suspicions of connections between Trump’s election campaign and Russia and the lack of information given.

Grassley stated that while President Obama was still in office, the intelligence committee found no evidence to suggest a connection with the Trump campaign and Russia. Then, in March, Comey came forward and said that the FBI was looking into Russia potentially interfering in the election. Information on these issues was not provided to Grassley.

“A cloud of doubt hangs over the FBI’s objectivity,” Grassley said.

He said that the country need the FBI to be accountable in order to do its job in protecting the country from its most serious threats. However, since 2015, when Comey last appeared in front of the committee, attacks on the United States and its allies have continued, and controversy has prevailed in the agency.

The opening statement tone of distrust in the FBI was echoed by what came to follow during the hearing. During Comey’s testimony in the hearing, Grassley got evidently frustrated with his inability to answer questions, even raising his voice at times.

“If I, Chuck Grassley, as a private citizen, file a Freedom of Information Act, and you give me more information than you give to Sen. Chuck Grassley, how do you justify that?” Grassley said in the hearing.

Comey replied saying that it was a good question, causing Grassley to become even more upset. Comey then said he was unable to answer the question at that time.

During the hearing, Comey also testified on the FBI’s counterterrorism numbers and the Clinton email investigation. On May 9, a week after the hearing, the FBI sent out a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, clarifying Comey’s testimony.

Comey stated in his testimony that 2,000 terrorism investigations, both suspected homegrown terrorists and those connected to ISIS, are ongoing. He said that this is a subset of the FBI’s total number of counterterrorism investigations.

In the FBI’s letter, it clarified these numbers. The FBI has 300 open counterterrorism investigation of refugees who came to the United States, and those are a subset of the total number of investigations.

Comey also overestimated the number of emails related to the Clinton investigation. Comey in his testimony said that “hundreds and thousands” of emails were forwarded from Huma Abedin, the vice chairwoman of Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, to former Rep. Anthony Weiner. In the letter, the FBI stated there were only 49,000 emails that could have been relevant to the investigation, but that the exact number forwarded was not known.

Despite criticisms of how he handled the investigation into Clinton’s email server, Comey stood by his actions saying, “I wouldn’t have done anything differently. I don’t have any regrets.”