The President of the United States of America has stunned his country. The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation has had to pay for opening a pretty kettle of fish on Russian intervention in the US Election 2016. Donald Trump’s decision to dismiss James Comey has swiftly been greeted with stout condemnation by the country’s civil society. Pre-eminently, Democratic leaders, legal observers, and security experts have drawn parallels with Watergate and “tinpot dictators”. In an extremely dubious fashion, Mr Trump has scripted a dark chapter in the country’s political history. The general perception is in itself a searing indictment of the country's 45th President; on Wednesday night his imprimatur caused greater consternation than the ban imposed on the citizens of seven Muslim countries from stepping into the US. To dismiss an “inconvenient” FBI Director has never been part of the White House furniture though in 1993 President Clinton had fired William Sessions after an internal ethics report had exposed abuse of office, notably the use of an FBI aircraft for family trips. Those helming the FBI boast a tenure of ten years, the objective being that they will be insulated from politics. Comey’s dismissal can be contextualised with reports that a grand jury had issued subpoenas in the investigation of the Trump camp’s contacts with Russian officials, and after Comey had confirmed to Congress that more than one person connected to the Trump campaign was the subject of an FBI counter-intelligence investigation. He had also indicated that he was investigating leaks from inside the FBI to the Trump campaigns. Clearly, the reflection is on the likes of Vladimir Putin, who in an incredible instance of post-Cold War coordination, had strained every nerve to ensure the defeat of Hillary Clinton. Last Wednesday night, the Kremlin was desperately anxious to wriggle out of the mess by describing Comey’s dismissal as “an internal affair that had nothing to do with Russia”. The world shall not be so readily convinced, however.
The dismissal reaffirms that trends are ominous and direly so in the cradle of democracy. Fears have already been articulated that the sacking has driven US democracy into dark and dangerous territory. The action has been compared with the “Saturday night massacre” in 1973 when President Richard Nixon dismissed Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor appointed to look into the Watergate affair. More than 40 years after, the politics of partisanship seems intended to obscure the Russian connection; in the net, it may even dismantle the certitudes of America’s national security. Mr Comey’s dismissal will scarcely airbrush the Kremlin’s meddling. Six months after the election and close to four months after his inaugural, Donald Trump’s victory must seem still more spurious… as spurious as his contrived political control over the FBI. The tragedy is America’s.