New White House crisis recalls Watergate scandal

World Today

New White House crisis recalls Watergate scandalIn this photo taken May 8, 2017, FBI Director James Comey speaks in Washington. President Donald Trump has fired Comey. In a statement released Tuesday, May 9, Trump says Comey’s firing “will mark a new beginning” for the FBI. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Donald Trump’s firing of the head of the FBI has sent shock waves across the world.

James Comey discovered his dismissal on TV – as he prepared to widen a major inquiry into Trump’s ties with Russia and the hacking of the U.S election.

And Trump’s not the first U.S. President to remove a key official while a sensitive investigation is underway.

CGTN’s Owen Fairclough has more.

New White House crisis recalls Watergate scandal

Donald Trump’s firing of the head of the FBI has sent shock waves across the world. James Comey discovered his dismissal on TV - as he prepared to widen a major inquiry into Trump’s ties with Russia and the hacking of the U.S election. And Trump's not the first U.S. President to remove a key official while a sensitive investigation is underway. CGTN’s Owen Fairclough has more.

Hours after President Donald Trump fired him, James Comey returned to Washington, D.C. and straight into the eye of the latest storm to engulf the White House.

Comey was sacked as he led an inquiry into the Trump administration’s connections with Russia –  at the time, the Kremlin was accused of trying to swing the presidential election in Trump’s favor by hacking the campaign of his opponent Hillary Clinton.

The Comey affair is quickly drawing comparisons with Richard Nixon in the mid 1970s – who is the only U.S. President to resign while in office.

Nixon fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Cox was responsible for investigating the White House cover-up of spying on Democratic opponents as part of Nixon’s re-election campaign. The inquiry triggered his demise.

“The FBI conducted nearly 1500 interviews for nine months until March 1973. I was assured by those charged with conducting the investigation that no one in the White House was involved,” Nixon said during a White House broadcast.

For Patrick Eddington, Policy Analyst in Homeland Security and Civil liberties at the Cato Institute, the parallels with the Comey inquiry are striking.

“We know now, of course, that President Nixon understood that the footsteps were getting louder and closer and so Nixon went to the Attorney General and told him to fire Cox. He refused and resigned. Nixon then went to the Deputy Attorney General who also refused and resigned. Then he finally found a willing partner in the Solicitor General. But the episode for Nixon only hastened his decline,” Eddington said. 

As the Nixon links began to circulate on social media,  the Nixon library pointed out Nixon never fired an FBI Director.

But former U.S. President Bill Clinton did – he removed William Sessionsin 1993 for abusing his office for personal gain.

Even if there is a precedent for Trump’s action, the sudden termination caused consternation in Washington, D.C. and beyond.

But it’s also led to Trump achieving a rare feat: as he hosted Russia’s foreign minister at the White House, he’s simultaneously united both Democrats and Republicans in outrage over a firing that’s merely intensified demand for answers about his administration’s ties to Russia.