Published: Sat, May 20, 2017
Hi-Tech | By Ellis Neal

Clapper: US goverment 'under assault' by Trump after Comey firing

Eight candidates for Federal Bureau of Investigation director were interviewed at Justice Department headquarters Saturday as President Donald Trump suggested a decision on a nominee to replace ousted Director James Comey could be announced within days.

The White House has said Comey's firing was unrelated to the Russian Federation probe, but in the interview with NBC News on Thursday, Trump said he knew he ran the risk that by firing Comey he would "confuse people" and "lengthen out the investigation" into ties to Russian Federation. Experts say the alleged conversations raise concerns about potential intimidation and conflicts of interest.

Clapper spoke following Trump's sudden firing of Comey last week, which drew sharp criticism because it came amid the FBI's investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election. Comey, they said, declined to make such a pledge but told Trump he would always give him "honesty".

The New York Times reported Thursday that Trump had pressed Comey for his loyalty in a January 27 dinner meeting, but that he only promised that "he would be honest with him always". But sources close to him have cast doubt on the president's account, noting it would be extraordinary for an FBI director to discuss an open investigation. Clapper said America's founding fathers had created three co-equal branches of government with checks and balances, but with Trump as president, that was now under assault and "eroding".

Lee recently suggested that Trump replace Comey with D.C. Circuit Court Judge Merrick Garland, a move that would give Trump the opportunity to fill Garland's current post with a conservative judge.

The firing of Comey already has left Trump with the dubious distinction of being the first president since Nixon to dismiss a law enforcement official overseeing an investigation tied to the White House.

"We have got to make sure that these tapes, if they exist, don't mysteriously disappear", Warner said, adding that he hopes to have Comey testify in a public hearing before his committee. Not everyone agreed with each Comey decision, but he was a popular and well-regarded director, they said.

In a series of tweets on Friday, Trump also responded to media reports questioning the credibility of White House statements on the Comey firing, which have changed over the course of the week. "All I can tell you is, well I know what, I know that I'm not under investigation. Me". The initial reason given in Comey's termination letter was that Trump was acting on the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Lawmakers from both parties reprimanded Trump's actions last week, which included shifting explanations from the White House for Comey's dismissal and an ominous tweet by Trump that warned Comey against leaks to the press because he may have "tapes" of their conversations. He did not interview Saturday, but his name is on the list of people Trump is considering.

That startling admission fanned suggestions that Trump may be interfering with the investigation and promoted Comey allies to refute Trump's account of events. He also, like Nixon, has grown increasingly isolated in the White House, recently relying on only a small circle of family members and loyal advisers while livid about the West Wing's failing efforts to get ahead of the damaging Russian Federation story, according to several people close to Trump.

"I think loyalty to the country, loyalty to the United States is important", Trump said.

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