American democracy is “under assault” on separate fronts from President Donald Trump and Russia, the former U.S. intelligence chief warned Sunday, expressing dismay over the abrupt firing of FBI director James Comey amid a probe into Moscow’s meddling in U.S. elections and possible ties with the Trump campaign.
As Trump works to fast-track Comey’s successor, lawmakers from both parties urged him to steer clear of any politicians for the job and say he must “clean up the mess that he mostly created.”
“I think, in many ways, our institutions are under assault, both externally – and that’s the big news here, is the Russian interference in our election system,” said James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence. “I think as well our institutions are under assault internally.” When he was asked, “Internally, from the president?” Clapper said, “Exactly.”
Clapper spoke following Trump’s sudden firing of Comey last week, which drew sharp criticism because it came amid the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Clapper said America’s founding fathers had created three co-equal branches of government with checks and balances, but with Trump as president, that was now “eroding.” The White House had no immediate comment. No White House aide appeared on the Sunday news shows, leaving Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to defend Trump.
“The president is the CEO of the country. He can hire and fire whoever he wants,” she said. Lawmakers from both parties reprimanded Trump’s actions, which included shifting explanations from the White House for Comey’s dismissal and an ominous tweet by Trump that warned Comey against leaks to the press because he may have “tapes” of their conversations. The lawmakers called for a new FBI director without any political background and said Trump would need to hand over to Congress any taped conversations with Comey, if they exist.