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10 May 2017

Donald Trump’s sacking of James Comey is a terrifying power grab – but it could be the end of him

The removal of the protective balm of so many Republicans so early means that the Democrats - and the world - can hope that the Trump administration proves to be short-lived.

By Stephen Bush

It would take a heart of stone not to laugh. James Comey, the director of the FBI whose last-minute intervention in the presidential race probably cost Hillary Clinton the election, has been sacked by Donald Trump.

Comey is just the second FBI chief to be sacked by the President, after Bill Clinton did the same in 1993.

Although Trump cited Comey’s much-criticised decision to deliver that press conference in which he announced that he was re-opening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server just days before the election, he is being widely accused of doing so to undermine the FBI’s investigation into Russian involvement in the American election. That the decision was signed off by Trump’s Attorney-General, Jefferson Sessions, who has been forced to recuse himself from the investigation of Russia’s involvement, adds to the sense that this is in fact a cover-up and power grab. 

Politico has a remarkable account of the lead-up to the sacking, in which the President raged at the TV and demanded that stories about Russian involvement in his election win be brought to an end.

As the margin of Trump’s electoral college victory was so small, anything which reduced Clinton’s popular vote lead – just 36,000 votes would have tipped the election her way – can be fairly said to be decisive. Her own errors, Comey’s intervention, Russian involvement, etc.

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But the most important and unwritten story was of the loyalty of most mainstream Republicans, though Trump underperformed almost every Republican running that night. The most important thing to note from the Comey story is that Republican politicians are breaking ranks to criticise the decision, and very few of them could be said to be “moderate” or anything like it.

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The fundamentals of American politics still favour Trump in 2020 – a first-term incumbent, his party only four years in power, etc. – but his own record-breaking unpopularity and the removal of the protective balm of so many Republicans so early means that the Democrats – and the world – can hope that the Trump administration proves to be short-lived.