Former White House Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon, has criticized US President Donald Trump’s decision to fire the former FBI Director, James Comey.
In an interview Bannon said that decision was probably one of the biggest political mistakes made in modern political history.
The consensus amongst the intelligence community in the US is that members of the Russian government interfered with the US elections. In March 2017, then-FBI director, James Comey noted that the agency was investigating possible collusion between Russian government and the Trump campaign.
A lot of the controversy has centered on the appointment of General Michael Flynn as the National Security Adviser. The then Acting Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates (who was also incidentally fired by Mr. Trump), warned the White House that Flynn was likely “compromised” and could be a target for blackmail by the Russians. Additionally, it also came into light that he may have misled the Vice President, Mike Pence, of the nature of his conversation with the Russian Ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. Reportedly, US President Donald Trump had urged Comey against investigating Flynn; a request that Comey ignored. On May 9th, 2017, Trump fired Comey from his position.
Comey, during his testimony in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee confirmed that Trump during his meetings with Comey had expressed “hope” that the FBI would drop its investigations against Flynn. Many lawmakers in the country criticized the President’s actions and said that this showed that the White House tried to influence an ongoing investigation. Trump has also been accused of trying to obstruct the course of justice.
Comey’s firing resulted in former FBI director, Robert Mueller being appointed as the special counsel to oversee the investigations. Mueller has has impaneled a grand jury as part of his investigations. It is considered the first step while pursuing possible criminal charges.
Steve Bannon has often been cited as one of the driving forces behind Donald Trump’s successful presidential campaign. The Executive Chairman of a news agency called the Breitbart News, he has been accused of promoting bigotry and alt-right values. He joined the administration as the White House Chief Strategist when Trump was sworn into office.
On August 18th, 2017, it was announced that he would leave the White House. According to Bannon, the decision to leave was mutual. However, media reports revealed that he left due to falling out of favor with the President.
On September 2017, Bannon appeared in a wide-ranging interview in a show called 60 Minutes. When asked if he considered Comey’s firing to be the biggest mistake in political history, he responded, “That probably would be too bombastic even for me, but maybe modern political history. I don't think there's any doubt that if James Comey had not been fired, we would not have a special counsel, yes. We would not have the Mueller investigation. We would not have the Mueller investigation and the breadth that clearly Mr. Mueller is going for.”
The White House has responded to Bannon’s criticisms noting that the President stood by his decision. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “It's been shown in the days that followed that the president was right in firing Director Comey. Since his firing, we've learned new information about his conduct that only provided more justification for that firing including giving false testimony, leaking privileged information to journalists, [and] he went outside the chain of command and politicized an investigation into a presidential candidate.”
Our assessment is that Steve Bannon’s criticism signals that even former powerful allies of the President have begun to publicly question his decisions. Bannon is still the Executive Chairman of one of the most influential right-wing news outlets in the country and will be able to affect a section of the public’s opinions on Trump. This should be a cause of concern for the administration.