Five story lines to watch in Trump-Comey fight


President Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey may be the political news story of the year.

Here are five lines of the story to watch as it unfolds.

What will Comey say?

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) told MSNBC on Friday that Comey would not testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee next week, despite an invitation to brief the panel in a closed setting.

Comey has weighed in this week’s dramatic events only by a letter to FBI employees so far, telling his colleagues that he’s long-believed “a president can fire an FBI director for any reason.”

{mosads}Associates of the FBI director, however, have leaked information to the media, including that at a private dinner, Trump asked Comey whether he had his loyalty. The White House on Friday denied that story.

As long as the fight between Trump and Comey is on the front burner, more leaks are possible.

While Comey was a controversial figure, the nature of his firing appears to have angered people in the FBI.

The president had a manila envelope delivered to Comey’s office in Washington — when the director was in California, speaking to bureau employees. He reportedly found out when televisions in the room began broadcasting the news of his dismissal.

Bureau employees were reportedly shell-shocked by the unexpected dismissal and angered by the way in which Trump delivered Comey’s pink slip.

If the president continues to criticize the former director — or presents a version of events that FBI employees feel misrepresents the bureau — onlookers suspect that those leaks will continue.

“You have members of the law enforcement community that have an ability not only to communicate directly to the public, but also to communicate to members of Congress — and the oversight committees,” said Kevin Madden, a GOP strategist and former public affairs official in George W. Bush’s Justice Department.

What will Rod Rosenstein say and do?

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote the memo the White House initially used as Trump’s rationale for firing Comey.

He’ll be in the spotlight next week, when he is set to brief all 100 senators on the situation.

Rosenstein has faced mounting pressure to appoint a special prosecutor to handle the Russia investigation, a push that Democrats have made for months but has been renewed by the outrage over Comey’s firing.

On Thursday, twenty state attorneys general penned a letter to Rosenstein urging him to immediately appoint an independent special counsel.

Rosenstein was confirmed in a bipartisan 94-6 vote, but his decision to write the memo appeared to offend many Democratic supporters.

His own credibility is now at risk, and there are signs that the deputy attorney general is not entirely happy with how the White House has described his role in the affair.

Will GOP continue to back Trump?

Comey’s firing divided Republicans in the Senate.

Most senators offered some degree of support for Trump, but a number expressed reservations or even said they were troubled by the firing.

In the House, Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) called on the Justice Department inspector general to investigate the circumstances surrounding Comey’s ouster, while Rep. Justin Amash (Mich.) became the second Republican to cosponsor a bill setting up an independent commission to investigate Russian election interference.

Trump will survive this controversy as long as his party backs him, and all signs suggest they will.

But the fractures are worrisome for the embattled White House.

What will happen with the FBI investigation?

Comey’s firing raises major doubts about the future of the FBI’s investigation into Russian election interference, including potential links between Trump associates and Moscow.

Trump himself has said the Russian investigation, which he has repeatedly denigrated as unnecessary, was a reason for the firing. Democrats see it as part of an effort to close the probe.

Republican lawmakers and the FBI itself insist the probe will go forward.

“Ma’am, we don’t curtail our investigations,” Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe said this week in response to questioning from Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).

But with Comey’s exit, and Trump’s subsequent threats about tapes of conversations he had with the former FBI director, there are real questions about whether the probe will be serious.

Will Trump be able to restrain himself on Twitter?

Trump has arguably made the political crisis surrounding Comey worse with his Twitter habit.

His tweets Friday that Comey had better watch out in case there were tapes of his conversations with the president underlined comparisons already being made to the Watergate crisis. President Richard Nixon famously taped his Oval Office conversations, which ended up backfiring on him. 

Trump further undermined the credibility of his embattled press shop by raising the specter of cancelling the daily White House press briefing because his spokespeople aren’t accurately representing him.

When Trump feels threatened, he punches back hard to preserve himself. But the tweets have instead deepened his troubles.

Tags FBI Jason Chaffetz Justin Amash Mark Warner Russia Susan Collins
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