It's genuinely rare to be able to say you're living in a historic moment, one already being compared with some justification to Watergate. But that's where we find ourselves in the aftermath of President Trump's stunning dismissal of FBI Director James Comey.
There's a huge amount to unpack here, but here's what is perhaps the single most important fact: The president of the United States, whose campaign is under FBI investigation over its potential ties to Russia, just fired the head of the FBI — the person in charge of that very investigation.
Mounting evidence that multiple members of the Trump campaign were in direct contact with Russian intelligence in the runup to the election — and in several cases subsequently lied about it — has been at the center of a simmering scandal that Trump has been unable to shake. His sudden decision to oust Comey ensures that scandal will bedevil the rest of the Trump presidency — and, potentially, bring it to a premature close.
Let's pause and note that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said that Comey was ousted over his grievous mishandling of the FBI's Hillary Clinton email probe, a gaffe that may have cost Clinton the presidency and that has been the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Justice Department's own internal watchdog. Comey drew new criticism earlier Tuesday when the FBI was forced to walk back his false assertions that Clinton aide Huma Abedin had improperly forwarded thousands of emails to her husband, Anthony Weiner.
The FBI chief may have deserved to lose his job over how badly he bungled the Clinton probe — which included breaking with historical precedent and disclosing, just 11 days before the election, that he was reopening the probe into her email servers — but imagine if he had been fired by a President Hillary Clinton. Republicans across Capitol Hill would be making immediate calls for her impeachment.
Initial comments from powerful Republicans like Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Corker suggest that the GOP is in a wait-and-see mode and hasn't yet decided to break with Trump. Still, the Comey firing is already leading to calls for a special prosecutor capable of issuing subpoenas without needing the approval of Republican-led committees in the House and Senate.