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After President Donald Trump fired FBI director James Comey on Tuesday, The New York Times editorial board painted a grim picture of the state of the US’s democracy in a biting perspective.
“This is a tense and uncertain time in the nation’s history,” the board wrote of Trump’s decision to fire Comey.
“The president of the United States, who is no more above the law than any other citizen, has now decisively crippled the FBI’s ability to carry out an investigation of him and his associates.”
“There is no guarantee that Mr. Comey’s replacement, who will be chosen by Mr. Trump, will continue that investigation; in fact, there are already hints to the contrary,” The Times’ editorial board said.
White House officials appeared to telegraph as much on Tuesday night. Deputy White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders said during an interview on Fox News that it was “time to move on” from the investigations into whether any Trump associates colluded with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential election.
And in his dismissal letter to Comey, Trump wrote: “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occassions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau.”
The Times’ editorial urged US officials to appoint an independent prosecutor to take over the Trump-Russia investigation.
The editorial echoed much of the sentiment heard from Republicans and Democrats in the hours following Comey’s firing – specifically that the action could both threaten the status of the Russia investigation while also placing an even sharper focus on Trump, his administration and allies, and their potentially illicit connections to the Kremlin.
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In firing Comey, Trump effectively placed the ongoing investigation into the hands of FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe and the Justice Department’s deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, despite having recused himself from all inquiries concerning Russia, participated in the decision to dismiss Comey, who was the most prominent face of the Russia investigation.
Observers and historians have sounded alarms about some of the events unfolding in the early months of Trump’s presidency. His firing of former acting attorney general Sally Yates, the dismissal of a number of US attorneys, and now, Comey’s firing, have all been cited as atypical.
To that, The Times’ editorial board warned: America “has reached an even more perilous moment.”