US & Canada

FBI chief James Comey fired by Trump: How the US press reacted

FBI Director James Comey testifies before a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the "Oversight of the State Department" on 7 July, 2016. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption US media spluttered with shock as news broke that FBI director James Comey had been sacked

US President Donald Trump has fired the director of the FBI, becoming only the second president ever to do so.

The bombshell naturally dominates the US press today, but pro-Democrat and pro-Republican outlets have very different takes on why it happened.

According to the administration, James Comey was sacked over his handling of the inquiry into Hillary Clinton's emails - a line Fox News and Breitbart have pushed.

But less Trump-favouring media suggest it happened because the FBI is investigating alleged links between the Trump election campaign and Russia.

Trump 'screamed at TV clips'

The Wall Street Journal says Team Trump lost patience with Mr Comey as he failed to curb claims that the election campaign colluded with Russia before the 2016 US election - including in front of senators.

A source told the paper they wanted Mr Comey to "say those three little words: 'There's no ties'."

"Mr Trump grew unhappy that the media spotlight kept shining on the director," the WSJ reports [paywall].

Image copyright Twitter/Wall Street Journal
Image caption The WSJ said Mr Comey was considered a "show horse" by some White House aides

"He viewed Mr Comey as eager to step in front of TV cameras and questioned whether his expanding media profile was warping his view of the Russia investigation," the outlet says.

One White House aide, speaking after Mr Comey's dismissal, branded him "a show horse".

Mr Trump was also irked when the FBI chief refused to support his claims that President Barack Obama had tapped his phones in Trump Tower, Politico claims.

Advisers allegedly told the site Mr Trump was "enraged" by the burgeoning Russia investigation and "would sometimes scream at television clips".

Image copyright Politico
Image caption Politico said the president's frustrations over Comey's Russia investigation had spilled over

Politico - like the Washington Post - suggests the fallout over the firing had caught the White House unawares. It claims officials had anticipated a "win-win" because Republicans and Democrats alike have historic tensions with the FBI director.

Elsewhere, Trump scourge CNN says he had considered firing the FBI boss for at least a week before Tuesday's decision, citing White House officials and a late-night Twitter outburst on 2 May.

In an exclusive, it reveals that federal prosecutors examining alleged Russian meddling had issued subpoenas to associates of Mr Trump's former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn. The network says it got the story "hours" before Mr Comey was dismissed.

Cooper versus Kellyanne

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper also had a much re-tweeted run-in with Kellyanne Conway, one of Mr Trump's top aides, as she attempted damage control.

Asked why President Trump would praise Mr Comey while running for the presidency and fire him once elected, she said: "I think you're looking at the wrong set of facts."

"That makes no sense," Mr Cooper scoffed.

Image copyright Twitter/CNN
Image caption Kellyanne Conway broke cover after a lengthy media silence to defend her boss

Watergate 2.0?

The New York Times calls the sacking a "stunning development" and compares it to President Richard Nixon's 1973 firing of Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor looking into the Watergate scandal that would later bring him down.

It notes that relations between the president and FBI director had deteriorated into a "toxic dynamic" over at least a year.

The Economist questions the timing, observing: "The salient facts of how Mr Comey handled the investigation into Mrs Clinton's emails were well known when Mr Trump became president."

For the New York Daily News, "President Trump was thrilled with James Comey's handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails. Until he wasn't."

Image copyright Rebecca Seales
Image caption The New York Daily News said the sacking "stinks"

The Lawfare blog, which covers issues of national security and law, showed its dismay in the headline, "The Nightmare Scenario: Trump Fires Comey, the One Man Who Would Stand Up to Him." It says the FBI director serves a 10-year term "precisely... to insulate against the whims of a president who does not like what - or whom - the FBI is investigating".

'Comey was power-grabbing'

But elsewhere, commentators insist the FBI director had it coming.

The New York Post has an opinion editorial entitled, "Why James Comey had to go," accusing him of "power-grabbing arrogance".

Its columnist Michael Goodwin calls Mr Comey "the keeper of secrets, until they served his purpose" and brands the Watergate comparison cheap and lazy.

Alt-right mouthpiece Breitbart defends the timing of the firing, saying President Trump was given "breathing room" to act because "it is now clear that nothing, in fact, happened" to link Trump staffers and the Russian government.

Image copyright Breitbart
Image caption Pro-Trump Breitbart News had no problem with the timing of James Comey's dismissal

Pro-Trump Fox News focuses on who could get the top job next, while its opinion writer John Loo calls the sacking "a decision for the best interests of the nation".

"If Democrats cared about the integrity of our institutions, rather than scoring partisan points... they should applaud Trump," he adds.

Sean Hannity used his Tuesday night TV show to call Mr Comey a "national embarrassment" who should "be ashamed of himself".

He argued that the ousted FBI chief created a "two-tier justice system" by advising that Hillary Clinton should not be prosecuted for using a private email server.

The president's favourite station hasn't backed him unanimously, though.

In the hours after the announcement, Fox's Charles Krauthammer said the official reason given for the sacking was "highly implausible", branding it "almost inexplicable".

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Media captionWATCH: Trump's love-hate relationship with Comey over a tumultuous year

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