President Donald Trump has caused a “constitutional crisis” by firing FBI Director James Comey, a leading Democrat has warned, with Mr Comey having also been the head of an investigation into alleged ties between Moscow and the Trump campaign.
“We are witnessing a constitutional crisis unfold before our very eyes,” said Representative Keith Ellison, the Vice Chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
In terms of the Russia probe, the next head of the FBI appointed by Mr Trump “will not have the independence or confidence of the American people to continue this investigation,” Mr Ellison said.
“In order to preserve the integrity of the investigation and the government, we need a special prosecutor to probe the possible collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian government officials,” he added.
Tom Perez, the DNC Chairman said that Mr Trump’s firing of Mr Comey is a “brazen and disgraceful abuse of power.”
Shortly after the White House announced that Mr Comey had been dismissed, Senator Dick Durbin said on the Senate floor that the firing of Mr Comey raises questions “as to whether the Russian interference in the last presidential election... will also be investigated by the FBI.”
Mr Durbin called on the White House to clarify whether the investigation will continue, adding that any attempt to stop or undermine the FBI probe would “raise grave constitutional issues”.
The controversial orders Donald Trump has already issued
The controversial orders Donald Trump has already issued
1/9 Trump and the media
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer takes questions during the daily press briefing
2/9 Trump and the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Union leaders applaud US President Donald Trump for signing an executive order withdrawing the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington DC. Mr Trump issued a presidential memorandum in January announcing that the US would withdraw from the trade deal
3/9 Trump and the Mexico wall
A US Border Patrol vehicle sits waiting for illegal immigrants at a fence opening near the US-Mexico border near McAllen, Texas. The number of incoming immigrants has surged ahead of the upcoming Presidential inauguration of Donald Trump, who has pledged to build a wall along the US-Mexico border. A signature campaign promise, Mr Trump outlined his intention to build a border wall on the US-Mexico border days after taking office
4/9 Trump and abortion
US President Donald Trump signs an executive order as Chief of Staff Reince Priebus looks on in the Oval Office of the White House. Mr Trump reinstated a ban on American financial aide being granted to non-governmental organizations that provide abortion counseling, provide abortion referrals, or advocate for abortion access outside of the United States
5/9 Trump and the Dakota Access pipeline
Opponents of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines hold a rally as they protest US President Donald Trump's executive orders advancing their construction, at Columbus Circle in New York. US President Donald Trump signed executive orders reviving the construction of two controversial oil pipelines, but said the projects would be subject to renegotiation
6/9 Trump and 'Obamacare'
Nancy Pelosi who is the minority leader of the House of Representatives speaks beside House Democrats at an event to protect the Affordable Care Act in Los Angeles, California. US President Donald Trump's effort to make good on his campaign promise to repeal and replace the healthcare law failed when Republicans failed to get enough votes. Mr Trump has promised to revisit the matter
7/9 Donald Trump and 'sanctuary cities'
US President Donald Trump signed an executive order in January threatening to pull funding for so-called "sanctuary cities" if they do not comply with federal immigration law
8/9 Trump and the travel ban
US President Donald Trump has attempted twice to restrict travel into the United States from several predominantly Muslim countries. The first attempt, in February, was met with swift opposition from protesters who flocked to airports around the country. That travel ban was later blocked by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The second ban was blocked by a federal judge a day before it was scheduled to be implemented in mid-March
SANDY HUFFAKER/AFP/Getty Images
9/9 Trump and climate change
US President Donald Trump sought to dismantle several of his predecessor's actions on climate change in March. His order instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to reevaluate the Clean Power Plan, which would cap power plant emissions
Representative John Conyers, senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said that “today’s action by President Trump completely obliterates any semblance of an independent investigation into Russian efforts to influence our election, and places our nation on the verge of a constitutional crisis.”
Creating a constitutional crisis would mean that the president has disregarded checks on the executive branch.
While the president appoints the head of the FBI, the bureau is meant to be an independent and non-political agency under the Justice Department.
Democratic senator Ed Markey said the episode is startlingly reminiscent of the Saturday Night Massacre, when former President Richard Nixon dismissed Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor in the Watergate scandal. That night, the attorney general and deputy attorney general resigned in protest to Nixon firing Cox. Other Democrats have also called the situation “Nixonian”.
“We are careening ever closer to a constitutional crisis, and this development only underscores why we must appoint a special prosecutor to fully investigate any dealings the Trump campaign or administration had with Russia,” Mr Markey said.
According to documents released by the White House, Mr Trump fired Mr Comey over his handling of a separate probe into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. The White House said the president had made his decision based on recommendations from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Mr Sessions has recused himself from the Russia investigation.Reuse content