How FBI Probe Could Dog Trump’s Presidency

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From Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton, history suggests that it is never a good thing for a president to have the FBI, with its nearly infinite resources and sweeping investigative powers, on his tail, reports Politico. FBI Director James Comey’s promise yesterday to the House Intelligence Committee to “follow the facts wherever they lead” in the bureau’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia amounted to an ominous guarantee that institutional forces beyond any president’s control will force the facts of the case to light. “Comey’s admission of an ongoing counterintelligence investigation, with no endpoint in sight, is a big deal,” said historian Timothy Naftali, the first director of the federally-run Nixon presidential library. “This is not going away.”

Given Trump’s willingness to attack any adversary – hours before Comey’s testimony, he tweeted that the suggestion of collaboration between his campaign and Russia was “fake news” – official acknowledgment of the investigation not only raises sharp new questions about the president’s own credibility, but about his willingness to continue undermining public trust and confidence in the government institutions he leads. Will the Trump White House feel hamstrung about publicly attacking Comey or trying to quash the inquiry? Trump and his aides would do well to recall the most celebrated instance of a president’s attempt to block an FBI investigation. “The obvious example that comes to mind is Watergate, when Richard Nixon famously turned to the CIA to block the FBI’s investigation,” said Julian Zelizer, a Princeton history professor. That attempt failed spectacularly. Zelizer added, “This is the kind of investigation that is never good news for an administration.” He noted that the current probe has already “consumed much of the president’s time and the doors keep opening to bigger potential problems.”

 

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