The Russia case, as well as two key moments, prompted Trump to change his course. This may turn out to be his Watergate.
The whole situation is made grotesque by the manner in which Donald Trump got rid of the FBI director as well as by the reasons he named to defend his decision: James Comey was sacked when a freshly nominated deputy attorney general accused him of mismanaging Hillary Clinton’s case during last year’s election campaign. The president had repeatedly praised Comey for the way he handled that very same case, so much so that he even kissed him on the cheek in public in January. The head of the federal investigation agency was fired, without even a phone call to warn him, while he was on a trip to California and Congress was in recess.
This act, marked by its unheard-of seriousness, only has one precedent in American history (moreover, one that occurred under far less controversial circumstances), and was made public through a bizarre letter. Comey learned of his dismissal over the news that aired on the screens behind him as he gave a speech in Los Angeles. Officially, he was let go because his handling of the Clinton case hurt the FBI’s credibility. However, Trump’s only priority in the letter’s short statement was to emphasize that Comey assured him three times that he was not under investigation.
The Reason behind This Change of Course
Clearly, the Russia case prompted the president to change his course. The Democrats, despite having called for Comey’s head as they blamed him for damaging Hillary Clinton’s chances during the election campaign, suspect that Comey may have found out something serious about Team Trump’s relations with Moscow. They draw a comparison with Watergate, when Richard Nixon fired Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor who was investigating that scandal, on Oct. 20, 1973. That was the beginning of the end for Nixon, who was even abandoned by the Republicans. The Democrats are now hoping for a similar outcome. Despite the abundance of evidence though, there does not seem to be irrefutable proof of collusion between Trump and the Kremlin yet.
The Key Dates
Nevertheless, rumors coming from the White House describe the president as increasingly furious over the inability of his team and his party to put this controversy to rest. This is where two crucial dates come into play. The first is March 20 of this year, when Comey informed Congress about the FBI’s formal investigation into Russiagate. The second date is less precise, but it must be placed at about two weeks ago, with the convening of a grand jury to investigate crimes allegedly committed by Michael Flynn, the former general suspected of having colluded with the Russians. Trump had chosen him to be his national security advisor and was later forced to fire him once it became known that Flynn had betrayed the trust of Vice President Mike Pence. The news of the grand jury had been kept a secret until last night. However, Trump knew about it and he was certainly enraged. A grand jury has the power to issue subpoenas, which it has already used to summon the testimony of several witnesses belonging to the administration, who now risk arrest if they do not answer all the questions.*
*Editor’s note: A person whose testimony has been subpoenaed by a grand jury under U.S. Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure may be held in contempt of court if he or she does not respond or disobeys the subpoena. The person who is subpoenaed may raise constitutional objections to the subpoena and the evidence requested.