WASHINGTON — Massachusetts US Senator Elizabeth Warren, a frequent foil of President Trump during the campaign and since his election, said Wednesday that the firing of James Comey shows Trump’s “disregard for the rule of law.’’
In an interview with the Globe in her office as shock and confusion swirled around the Capitol, the Democratic senator said Comey was fired by Trump because of the ongoing investigation into contacts between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.
“Donald Trump has shown his disregard for the rule of law,’’ said Warren, who is sometimes mentioned as a possible challenger to Trump in 2020. “He has tried already to put himself above the law, but this was the kind of move that no one saw coming.’’
She said Comey was fired not because of Comey’s decision during last year’s campaign to publicly discuss Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server for classified material while secretary of state. “This was not about Hillary Clinton,’’ she said. “This was about Russia.’’
She added: “How does he think he can maintain any credibility when he fires the person who is leading [an] investigation into criminal behavior that he or his campaign may have engaged in?”
A Trump Justice Department official cited Comey’s public discussion of the criminal investigation into the Clinton e-mail issue in justifying the firing of Comey after Comey had served just three years and eight months of his 10-year term as FBI director.
Warren said the memo written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein urging Comey’s dismissal did not reflect a thoughtful examination of Comey’s actions by a law enforcement professional.
“It reads like a press release, not like a measured explanation of why someone has been fired,’’ said Warren, a former Harvard Law School professor. “It’s a deeply political document. It’s totally outside the context of what the Department of Justice should do.’’
The Trump administration’s top law enforcement officer, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, recused himself from the Russia investigation because of his own contacts with the Russian officials while a member of the US Senate and his failure to mention them at a congressional hearing.
Rosenstein, as deputy attorney general, has oversight responsibility of the FBI inquiry led by Comey.
“By providing this fig leaf that the reason for the firing was Comey’s treatment of Hillary Clinton, Sessions seems to think that lets him get back into the [investigative] process,’’ Warren said. That “suggests Sessions was never outside the loop of Comey’s investigation into Trump’s activities related to Russia.’’
Some of Trump’s critics have suggested that Congress should consider impeaching the president, but Warren said Wednesday that is not her chief concern at the moment.
“What I want to see here is an investigation between ties on Russia and Trump,’’ she said. “I think that’s where we keep our focus for now.”