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James Comey says Capitol riots was ‘our own Chernobyl’

Former FBI director James Comey has branded the violent siege of the US Capitol as America’s ‘own Chernobyl’, as he called for a total overhaul of the Republican Party following Trump’s exit.

Comey spoke out against the deadly riots – which he described as a ‘9/11-sized failure’ – as he reflected on Trump’s presidency in an interview with The Guardian

‘I was sickened to watch an attack on the literal and symbolic heart of our democracy, and, as a law enforcement person, I was angered. I am mystified and angry that Capitol Hill wasn’t defended,’ Comey said on Tuesday. 

‘It’s a hill! If you wanted to defend it, you could defend it, and for some reason it was not defended. I think that’s a 9/11-size failure and we’re going to need a 9/11-type commission to understand it so that we don’t repeat it.’ 

Trump

Fired FBI director James Comey has called for an overhaul of the GOP in the post-Trump era 

Comey, who was fired in 2017, responded to the Capitol riots that left five people dead, describing the siege as a '9/11-sized failure' and the United States' own 'Chernobyl'

Comey, who was fired in 2017, responded to the Capitol riots that left five people dead, describing the siege as a ‘9/11-sized failure’ and the United States’ own ‘Chernobyl’ 

Comey, who was infamously fired by Trump in 2017 amid the FBI’s investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, highlighted the president’s actions leading up to the violence, accusing him of weakening the building’s foundation over the past five years. 

‘He’s withdrawn the control rods, and that’s a recipe for a nuclear disaster, a radioactive release. That’s what you saw on Capitol Hill, our own Chernobyl, when the ugly radioactive violence and racism of America explodes in public view,’ he added. 

Comey himself had drawn criticism while under Trump’s leadership and even before his presidency, perhaps most notably when he made the decision to reopen the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails which many believed cost her the 2016 election. 

Four years on, the 60-year-old says he still believes he acted appropriately, arguing the agency could not have remained silent on the matter. 

‘I’m sure that strikes people as stubborn and righteous and all kinds of stuff, but I don’t think so. Between bad and terrible, we chose bad in a way that we had to,’ he said.

Comey reflected on his tenure during Trump's presidency during which he drew criticism for his actions

Comey reflected on his tenure during Trump’s presidency during which he drew criticism for his actions 

Comey said the GOP needs 'to be burned down or changed' in the post-Trump era. The president himself (pictured on Inauguration Day) is reportedly looking to create his own 'Patriot Party' consisting of his supporters

Comey said the GOP needs ‘to be burned down or changed’ in the post-Trump era. The president himself (pictured on Inauguration Day) is reportedly looking to create his own ‘Patriot Party’ consisting of his supporters 

Comey, who is now in the process of becoming a professor at Columbia University, believes the Trump presidency will have a long-lasting impact on the GOP which is more divided than ever.  

As a former longtime Republican who now identifies as an independent, Comey says the party as it stands ‘needs to be burned down or changed.’ 

‘Something is shifting and I’m hoping it’s the fault breaking apart, a break between the Trumpists and those people who want to try and build a responsible conservative party, because everybody should know that we need one,’ he told the paper. 

‘Who would want to be part of an organisation that at its core is built on lies and racism and know-nothingism? It’s just not a healthy political organisation.’ 

Comey’s comments come amid reports Trump himself is planning to form a new political party consisting of his supporters as he leaves the White House for good.    

The outgoing president is said to have spoken with aides about the idea of creating a ‘Patriot Party’, The Wall Street Journal first reported. It is not known how serious he is in going ahead with the idea.

Trump gave his final address to the nation on Tuesday vowing to be a continued presence on the political stage, noting his ‘movement’ is ‘only just beginning.

‘Now, as I prepare to hand power over to a new administration at noon on Wednesday I want you to know that the movement we started is only just beginning,’ he said. 

President elect Joe Biden takes the oath of office at noon on Wednesday. Trump did not host Biden at the White House for coffee after the election and will not greet him at front door ahead of the inauguration ceremony

President elect Joe Biden takes the oath of office at noon on Wednesday. Trump did not host Biden at the White House for coffee after the election and will not greet him at front door ahead of the inauguration ceremony

But his vow to stay a force in politics could cause some Republicans to squirm. Trump divided Republicans among those who supported his isolationist agenda and those who disliked his harsh rhetoric. 

Mitch McConnell on Tuesday spoke out against Trump, who he accused of ‘provoking’ the MAGA crowd who stormed the Capitol two weeks ago in his most outright denunciation of the president. 

‘The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people,’ the majority leader said in Senate floor remarks. 

The dramatic and unprompted intervention by the man who will be Republicans’ most senior leader when Trump leaves office came with less than 24 hours of his presidency remaining.  

Many Republicans want to see the outgoing president fade quietly away but others fear his supporters – 74 million cast their ballot for Trump in November – could be an influence in the party’s primaries for years to come.

Comey in his interview also warned against prosecuting Trump on a federal level, arguing that the heightened media and public attention surrounding the case would only make it harder for the country to move forward. 

‘At the end of the day, I still come down in the place that the best interests of the country would not be served by giving him that Donald Trump daily drama in our nation’s capital for three years as part of the United States versus Trump,’ he said. 

‘That would give him the oxygen and the attention that he so craves and make it so much harder for a new president to heal the country both spiritually and physically, and to get some people out of the fog of lies that they’re trapped in.

‘I just think, on balance, the country is better served by impeaching him, convicting him in the Senate and letting local prosecutors in New York pursue him for the fraudster he was before he took office. That mixture accommodates the important public interest of the rule of law being asserted, but doesn’t do it in a way that makes it impossible for a new president to move the country on.’ 

Despite the long road to recovery ahead for the US and the incoming administration, Comey said he remains ‘deeply optimistic.’ 

‘America is a wonderful, complicated, screwed-up country, but it’s always getting better. It usually gets worse before it gets better, but the better succeeds, so we make progress. I am optimistic this will be the inflection point that we so desperately needed. I wish it weren’t so, but this, I think, is going to awaken Americans to the things that matter.’


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