NEW YORK (CBS Local) — A year ago today, President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey and announced “a new beginning for our crown jewel of law enforcement.”
Since then, Trump has been outspoken about reach and authority with the agency, especially since the launch of Robert Mueller’s special investigation into the 2016 U.S. presidential election, questions about bias around the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email servers, and character attacks on both sides.
The true impact of Comey’s ouster may not be realized until Mueller’s investigation (and any fallout from it) concludes.
“Since we don’t yet know the outcome of the Mueller inquiry, it’s difficult to fully assess the impact of the Comey firing. But it’s already clear that Trump’s decision to dismiss the FBI director produced a wide-ranging investigation that has drained a great deal of time and energy from Trump’s presidency,” Dr. Larry Sabato, Director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, told CBS Local. “There are even some similarities to Watergate, though we aren’t at that level of scandal yet, and may never get there.”
Some think Watergate comparisons are over-blown. Earlier this year, civil liberties attorney Alan Dershowitz pointed out in an interview with CBS 11 that Comey was fired at the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who eventually appointed Muller as special counsel. “I think Rod Rosenstein is concerned more about his reputation than anything else. I don’t understand why he’s not recused,” said Dershowitz. “He is the key witness in the firing of Comey.”
Dershowitz said if he were President Trump’s lawyer, Rosenstein would be the first witness he would call asking him, “Rod Rosenstein, you wrote the memo… you justified the firing… explain how you justified the firing. Did the President tell you to do it? Did you tell the President to do the firing?”
In February, Trump lashed out at the FBI, saying the agency “missed all of the many signals” sent by the suspect in the Florida school shooting and arguing they are “spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.”
Trump said on Twitter: “This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign – there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!”
The FBI’s acknowledgment that it mishandled a tip prompted a sharp rebuke from its boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and a call from Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott, a Trump ally, for FBI Director Christopher Wray to resign.
For his part since being fired, Comey has been far from quiet. During his two days of testimony before Congress, the former FBI head directly suggested push to launch the Russia investigation led to his firing.
“There’s no doubt that it’s a fair judgment, it’s my judgment, that I was fired because of the Russia investigation,” he said. “The nature of the FBI and the nature of its work requires that it not be the subject of political consideration and, on top of that, you have the Russia investigation itself is vital because of the threat.”
Trump’s legal team fired back, citing documents that Trump’s campaign was not under investigation.
In April, the former FBI head suggested Trump may be “morally unfit to be president,” and revealed his assumption that Hillary Clinton was going to win the 2016 presidential election.
This assumption, Comey says, influenced his decision to send a letter to Congress in October 2016, just before the election, in which he revealed that new emails had surfaced that “appear to be pertinent” to the FBI’s closed investigation of Clinton’s use of a private email server.
Some have claimed this disclosure was seen as a factor in Clinton’s loss.
Comey’s speaking out prompted a series of tweets from the president, labeling Comey a “slimeball” and “WORST FBI Director in history, by far,” while Trump said he “hardly even knew this guy.”
In Comey’s book “A Higher Loyalty,” the former FBI head said the president’s leadership was “ego driven and about personal loyalty.”
Comey said an early meeting felt like “Sammy the Bull’s Cosa Nostra induction ceremony,” referring to mobster Sammy Gravano, one of John Gotti’s old henchmen.
In his memo about the second meeting with Trump, Comey wrote how the president asked about his future, saying “so what do you want to do?” Comey said Trump told him “about 20 people” wanted Comey’s job, but the president would understand if Comey “wanted to walk away after all he had been through.”
And then Comey’s actual memos reached Capitol Hill last month, as members of Congress sought answers about Clinton’s email servers once and for all.
Two sources told CBS News’ chief White House correspondent Major Garrett the president approved the transmission of the memos after receiving recommendations from top Justice Department officials.
The president tweeted that night saying the memos “show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION.”
The animosity appears to have gone both ways, as last week FBI lawyer Lisa Page resigned in the wake of her public affair with FBI agent Peter Strzok and the revelation of the couple’s anti-Trump text messages.
As for Comey, he took to twitter to reflect on his year since leaving the agency.
“Missing the people of the FBI today,” he wrote. “Thank you for your commitment to truth and for all the good you do for this country.”