President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey throws a cloud of doubt over the bureau’s investigation into allegations of Trump campaign ties to Russia. The FBI and three congressional committees have been investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and possible Trump connections. As head of the FBI, Comey had been leading the complex counterintelligence investigation that has dogged the Trump White House since Inauguration Day. The White House said Tuesday its search for a new FBI director had already begun. And the person Trump appoints will likely have a huge impact on how the investigation moves forward and whether the public will accept its outcome. But given concerns by members of Congress in both parties over Comey’s dismissal, it’s unlikely a permanent director will be in place soon. A new director chosen by Trump could decide to drop the FBI investigation altogether, or not pursue it as aggressively as Comey has. He or she could also decide not to fully cooperate with the congressional investigations, which rely on information from the FBI.
Timothy Flanigan, a former assistant attorney general in the George W. Bush administration, said, “It does seem to me, however, that, if investigations are underway, they will likely continue.” He said acting FBI directors have limited abilities to derail an ongoing investigation. Still, Democrats immediately pushed to try to ensure the evidence collected so far was preserved.
In a letter to the FBI and the Justice Department, six Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee asked the agencies to preserve all records related to the probe and to Comey’s firing. That is needed to “protect the integrity” of the investigation, the Democrats wrote.
Trump said his decision to fire Comey had nothing to do with Russia. But the impact of removing an independent FBI director who was leading an investigation with potentially dire ramifications was not lost in the dramatic removal of the nation’s top law enforcement official.