Huffman ties Comey firing to Russian probe
The announcement of FBI director James Comey’s firing came just hours before Rep. Jared Huffman, D- San Rafael, was about to convene a “holding the president accountable” town hall meeting in San Rafael.
“This was an important and timely conversation before this afternoon, and here we are faced with another bombshell from President Donald Trump,” Huffman said. “He decided at this moment, just as investigations were beginning to get a little closer to his inner circle, that it was time to fire the FBI director.”
More than 800 filled Angelico Hall at Dominican University of California, where the event was held. An aide to Huffman said an additional 300 people had sought seats at the event. People have been showing up in droves to Huffman’s town hall meetings since Trump was elected in November. In December, more than 800 people filled the gymnasium at San Rafael High School and in March some 2,000 people filled Marin Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium in San Rafael for a midday event.
Tuesday’s town hall featured a panel discussing various ways that Congress, the courts, and constituents can hold the executive branch accountable for ethical and legal violations.
The panelists were Sara Eisenberg, a San Francisco deputy city attorney; Margaret Russell, associate professor of law at Santa Clara University School of Law and a member of the ACLU national board of directors; and Caroline Fredrickson, president of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy.
Russell expressed skepticism regarding Trump’s stated reason for firing Comey.
“I understand that the explanation, perhaps pretext, talks about the performance of James Comey in the discussion of the Hillary Clinton emails,” Russell said. “If you believe that is really it, then you can believe I’m purple.”
Huffman was asked about the role that Attorney Jeff Sessions played in deciding to fire Comey and whether Sessions should be sanctioned for it.
“I literally heard about this firing in the car on the way over here,” Huffman said, “so I don’t know the details of how involved Jeff Sessions was.”
Fredrickson referenced the letter that Trump sent to Comey notifying him that he was fired. In the letter Trump says he received letters from both Sessions and Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, recommending that he fire Comey.
Fredrickson paraphrased what Trump wrote next in the letter.
She said, “He wrote, ‘I know you told me three times that you’re not investigating me but I’m still firing you.’”
Fredrickson said, “Trump kind of underlines the subtext of what is leading to the firing even as he claims he somehow has room in his heart to feel compassion for Hillary Clinton.”
Audience members also asked panelists what could be done to ensure that a special prosecutor is appointed to continue the investigation into connections between Trump associates and the Russian government.
Russell said, “I don’t see an independent prosecutor or independent counsel as being a panacea.”
She said that person could be manipulated or fired.
“You remember Archibald Cox and the Saturday night massacre,” she said, referring to President Richard Nixon’s dismissal of independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox.