President Donald Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey in May 2017 sparked debates about whether he was obstructing the investigation into contacts between his presidential campaign and the Russian government.
According to a report from The Associated Press, the FBI also feared that possibility —and scrambled to develop a contingency plan to protect evidence gathered in the Russia probe if Trump decided to clean house and install his own loyalists at the bureau:
The plan was crafted in the chaotic days after Comey was fired, when the FBI began investigating whether President Donald Trump had obstructed justice and whether he might be, wittingly or not, in league with the Russians. The goal was to ensure that the information collected under the investigations, which included probes of Trump associates and possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign, would survive the firings or reassignments of top law enforcement officials. Those officials included special counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed eight days after Trump fired Comey in May 2017.
Andrew McCabe, who became acting director after Comey was fired, asked investigators to develop a plan to ensure evidence would be protected, said the person, who was not authorized to talk about those discussions publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press. A plan was then created, according to the person, who would not provide specifics. A second person familiar with the talks, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, also said the FBI discussed preserving evidence so that it would outlast any firing or effort to stymie the investigation.
Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who served as acting director in the aftermath of Comey’s dismissal and who himself was fired by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions in early 2018, has recently opened up about his decision to order an investigation into the president directly, which he said put the Russia investigation on “solid ground.” At the time, Republican leaders did not object to the probe, but the public revelations about it have caused fresh howls of outrage from Trump supporters and the president himself.
Trump’s contempt for the independence of federal law enforcement was a grave threat to the rule of law. The fact that the FBI had to plan for an attack at the hands of their own president is a disgrace.
IMAGE: James Comey (R), a Republican who served in the Bush Justice Department, speaks alongside outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller after being nominated by President Barack Obama (not pictured) to replace Mueller, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, June 21, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Reed/File Photo