After the shocking announcement that Donald Trump had followed through on his threat to fire FBI Director James Comey, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called it what is certainly appears to be: a cover-up.
The White House shocked the nation Tuesday night with the announcement that Donald Trump had fired FBI Director James Comey. But the announcement is only the beginning.
The supposed justification for the firing — that Comey mishandled the bureau's investigation of Hillary Clinton's emails by publicly trashing her — is not ringing true with anyone, least of all Democrats in Congress.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer gave a powerful condemnation of the White House's action:
SCHUMER: The first question the administration has to answer is, "Why now?" If the administration had objections to the way Director Comey handled the Clinton investigation, they had those objections the minute the president got into office. But they didn’t fire him then. Why did it happen today?
We know the House is investigating Russian interference in our elections that benefited the Trump campaign. We know the Senate is investigating. We know the FBI has been looking into whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians, a very serious offense.
Were these investigations getting too close to home for the president?
It is troubling that Attorney General Sessions, who had recused himself from the Russian investigation, played a role in firing the man leading it. So what happens now? Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein sat in the Judiciary Committee and promised to appoint a special prosecutor at the appropriate time. That time is right now.
The American people’s trust in our criminal justice system is in Rosenstein’s hands. Mr. Rosenstein, America depends on you to restore faith in our criminal justice system, which is going to be badly shattered after the administration’s actions today.
This is part of a deeply troubling pattern from the Trump administration: They fired Sally Yates, they fired Preet Bharara, and now they fired Director Comey, the very man leading the investigation. This does not seem to be a coincidence.
This investigation must be run as far away as possible from this White House, and as far away as possible from anyone that President Trump has appointed. Given the way the president fired Director Comey, any person who he appoints to lead the Russia investigation will be concerned that he or she will meet the seem fate as Director Comey, if they run afoul of the administration.
The American people need to have faith that an investigation as serious as this one is being conducted impartially, without a shred of bias. The only way the American people can have faith in this investigation is for it to be led by a fearless, independent, special prosecutor.
If Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein does not appoint an independent special prosecutor, every American will rightly suspect that the decision to fire Director Comey was part of a cover up.
As Schumer noted, the Trump administration was well aware of Comey's handling of the Clinton investigation "the minute the president got into office." In fact, during the campaign, Trump was singing a very different tune about Comey and his publicizing of the FBI's review of Clinton's emails immediately before the election.
In October, Trump praised Comey for "having guts." In fact, he repeatedly and gleefully talked about Comey and the FBI's investigation. In January, after Trump took office, Trump lauded Comey in the Oval Office and gave him a hug and a handshake.
It is quite difficult to believe Trump now thinks those actions he had praised so many times justify firing Comey.
Schumer is hardly the only Democrat sounding the alarms for an immediate independent investigation into not only Trump's campaign and potential collusion with Russia, but with the administration's moves Tuesday night that suggest the White House is engaged in a cover-up.
New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called the firing "a direct attack on the integrity and independence of the FBI," comparing it to President Nixon's infamous Saturday Night Massacre.
Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey also described it as "Nixonian" and said that deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein "must immediately appoint a special prosecutor to continue the Trump/Russia investigation."
Likewise, Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who said this moment should erase "any doubt about an independent special prosecutor."
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand tweeted, "Trump is throwing our democracy into chaos by trying to shut down an investigation."
The Democrats calling for an independent investigation are absolutely right, of course. Unfortunately, their colleagues across the aisle appear to be putting party over country. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Roy Blunt have expressed their support of Comey's firing, despite growing questions about why Comey was fired now for reasons of which the Trump administration was well aware in January.
According to New York Times reporter Michael S. Schmidt, the White House had been working with Attorney General Jeff Sessions since "at least last week" to find an acceptable reason to fire Comey.
It could not be clearer that the Trump administration is engaging in highly suspicious behavior. The reasons for that behavior are as yet unknown. But the need for an independent investigation has never been more urgent.