Trump’s firing of FBI director sparks backlash

The president issued a letter to Comey telling him he was ‘not able to effectively lead the bureau,’ but further official statements (and tweets) have been terse and defensive.

Image by Rich Girard via / CC BY-SA 2.0

As another government official falls, the White House is scrambling to issue responses and contain growing backlash.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump fired the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, James Comey.

The New York Times reported:

The stunning development in Mr. Trump’s presidency raised the specter of political interference by a sitting president into an existing investigation by the nation’s leading law enforcement agency. It immediately ignited Democratic calls for a special counsel to lead the Russia inquiry.

Mr. Trump explained the firing by citing Mr. Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, even though the president was widely seen to have benefited politically from that inquiry and had once praised Mr. Comey for his “guts” in his pursuit of Mrs. Clinton during the campaign.

The termination letter that Trump delivered to Comey didn’t clear confusion surrounding the decision. It read, in part:

While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, 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.

It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission.

The move has prompted some to liken Trump’s decision to former president Richard Nixon’s ” Saturday Night Massacre.”

Politico reported:

Trump’s firing of the high-profile FBI director on the 110th day since taking office marked another sudden turn for an administration that has fired its acting attorney general, national security adviser and now its FBI director, who Trump had praised until recent weeks and even blew a kiss to during a January appearance.

… By ousting the FBI director investigating his campaign and associates, Trump may have added more fuel to the fire he is furiously trying to contain — and he was quickly criticized by a chorus of Republicans and Democrats. “The timing of this firing was very troubling,” said Sen. Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer tweeted the following official statement, in which Trump called the termination a “new beginning” for the FBI:

According to several accounts, Spicer and other White House staff struggled in the wake of the president’s decision to spread the news in a way that would minimize backlash. As reporters asked for the reason behind the termination, White House officials grappled with their responses.

The Washington Post reported:

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 with increasing levels of alarm, 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.

Politico reported:

Two White House officials said there was little communications strategy in handling the firing, and that staffers were given talking points late Tuesday for hastily arranged media appearances. Aides soon circulated previous quotes from Schumer hitting Comey. After Schumer called for a special prosecutor, the White House huddled in press secretary Sean Spicer’s office to devise a strategy and sent “fresh faces” to TV, one White House official said.

By Tuesday night, aides were using TV appearances to spin the firing as a simple bureaucratic matter and call for an end to the investigation. “It’s time to move on,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the deputy press secretary, said on Fox News.

Trump took to Twitter on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning to defend his decision:

Trump also used Twitter to attack the reactions of senators Chuck Schumer and Richard Blumenthal:

CNN is gathering updates and reactions on Comey’s termination, which include statements from the president and the White House.

How do you rate the effectiveness of responses following Comey’s termination, PR Daily readers? What would you have advised differently?


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