Could the James Comey crisis spur Trump's impeachment?

The stunning and dubiously-timed removal of FBI director James Comey by President Donald Trump has many wondering if the president may be looking at an end to his presidency less than a year after it began.

"The constitutional crisis is not far off," said John Culhane, an H. Albert Young Fellow in constitutional law at Delaware Law School. "But we can't look to the constitution for answers, it's intended to leave a lot unsaid."

He added that there is a risk of governmental paralysis if the Congress is not willing to rein in the president, but that "in the past, like with Watergate, Republicans after a certain point might realize that they need to defend the interest of the public."

The Los Angeles Council just this week petitioned Congress to investigate Trump's potential violation of the Foreign Emoluments Clause, which prohibits the president from accepting financial benefits from a foreign power. It is the latest action taken by activists seeking Trump's ouster by way of impeachment or the invocation of the 25th amendment, which enables the replacement of a president deemed mentally unfit to serve.

RELATED: American FBI directors through the years

American FBI directors through the years
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American FBI directors through the years
J. Edgar Hoover: 1924-1972
William Sessions: 1987-1993
James Comey: 2013-2017
Robert S. Mueller III: 2001-2013
William D. Ruckelshaus (Acting): April 1973 - July 1973
Clarence M. Kelley: 1973-1978
William H. Webster: 1978-1987
Louis J. Freeh: 1993-2001
William J. Burns: 1921-1924
Thomas J. Pickard (Acting): June 2001-September 2001

"It's now up to Congress to save the Constitution by initiating impeachment proceedings. Trump can't say 'You're fired' to the House of Reps," tweeted Laurence Tribe, a professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School. "Trump has crossed the line. He is covering up high crimes and misdemeanors," he added.

That mission has been made more complex, but also more pressing for Congress since Trump fired Comey, ostensibly for his mishandling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation during the 2016 presidential campaign —positions that Trump at the time, and even as recently as last week, had praised.

Democrats, as well as a growing number of Republicans, have been calling for an independent investigator to take over the probe into the president's campaign's possible ties with Russia, which experts say is becoming increasingly jeopardized with every passing hour.

"Given the way the president fired Director Comey, any person who he appoints to lead the Russia investigation will be concerned that he or she will meet the same fate as Director Comey if they run afoul of the administration," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer after news of Comey's dismissal broke on Tuesday. "The only way the American people can have faith in this investigation is for it to be led by a fearless, independent special prosecutor."

Comey was made aware of his firing from TV reports as he was making a speech to the FBI in Los Angeles. He initially thought it was a prank.

"While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau," read a letter from Trump, which was delivered to the FBI headquarters on Tuesday.

The move, which has inspired comparisons to Watergate and the stepping down of President Richard Nixon, came as Trump and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov were meeting in Washington on Wednesday. The visit was closed to the press.

Comey is the latest official to be fired in a blaze of controversy. In January, Trump fired his acting attorney-general Sally Yates, ostensibly due to her failure to defend the president's controversial immigrant ban in court. Just days before, Yates had told the White House that Michael Flynn, who resigned as national security advisor because of a failure to disclose illegal cash payments, may have been blackmailed by Russia, according to a Yates testimony this week. In March, Trump fired U.S. attorney Preet Bharara.

Trump has attempted to ward off suspicions of malpractice by saying he personally is not under investigation, failing to address the fact that it is still his aides, campaign, and White House staff who are suspected of having improper dealings with adversary foreign intelligence service.

Comey, who made enemies of both the left and the right, was seen by many as one of the remaining bastions of political independence connected to Trump's tumultuous administration.

"Regardless of how you think Director Comey handled the unprecedented complexities of the 2016 election cycle, the timing of this firing is very troubling," said Republican Senator Ben Sasse, who is also the chairman of the Judiciary Committee's Oversight Committee. He said that he has "reached out to the Deputy Attorney General

RELATED: Key players in Trump-Russia connection allegations

Key Trump officials, advisers of note in the Russia probe
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Key Trump officials, advisers of note in the Russia probe

Tom Barrack

The close friend to Donald Trump and CEO of private equity firm Colony Capital recommended that Trump bring in Paul Manafort for his presidential campaign.

R. James Woolsey

Woolsey, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), has cooperated with Mueller's investigation and worked with Michael Flynn and was present at a meeting where they discussed removing the controversial Turkish Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen from US soil. 

(Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The former senior Trump campaign official and White House adviser was present and crucial during the firings of Michael Flynn and James Comey.

The former head of the Trump transition team following the 2016 election has said previously that he believes he was fired due to his opposing the hiring of Michael Flynn as national security adviser.

Jeff Sessions

Former U.S. senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama joined Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser in February 2016. Sessions was nominated to be U.S. attorney general by President Trump and was then confirmed by the Senate. Reports then emerged that Sessions had spoken twice with Sergey Kislyak while he was senator -- a fact that he left out of his Senate hearing testimony. Instead, he said in writing that he had not communicated with any Russian officials during the campaign season. Sessions defended himself saying he had spoken with Kislyak specifically in a senate capacity.

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort signed on as Donald Trump's campaign manager in March 2016. A longtime Republican strategist and beltway operative, Manafort had previously served as an adviser to former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich -- a pro-Russia leader who was violently ousted in 2014. Manafort resigned from his campaign position in August 2016 amid questions over his lobbying history in Ukraine for an administration supportive of Russia. The former campaign manager reportedly remained in Trump's circle during the post-election transition period.

Michael Flynn

Gen. Michael Flynn was named President Trump's national security adviser in November of 2016. Flynn reportedly met and spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, at one point discussing sanctions. Flynn originally told Vice President Pence he did not discuss sanctions -- a point the Department of Justice said made the national security adviser subject to blackmail. Flynn resigned from his position in February.

Donald Trump

2016 election winner Donald Trump is at the center of special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russia's handlings.

Sam Clovis

Clovis, a former member of the Trump campaign, arrives on at the U.S. Capitol December 12, 2017 to appear before a closed meeting of the House Intelligence Committee. Clovis worked with George Papadopoulos, a former Donald Trump campaign foreign policy advisor who struck a plea deal on charges of lying to the FBI.

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Roger Stone

Stone is a longtime Republican political consultant who served as a campaign adviser to Trump who continued to talk with the then-GOP candidate after stepping away from his adviser role. Stone claimed last year that he had knowledge of the planned WikiLeaks release of emails pertaining to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. Stone recently admitted to speaking via direct message with "Guccifer 2.0" -- an online entity U.S. officials believe is tied to Russia. Stone says the correspondence was “completely innocuous.”

Carter Page

Page worked for Merrill Lynch as an investment banker out of their Moscow office for three years before joining Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser. During his time with Merrill Lynch, Page advised transactions for two major Russian entities. Page has called Washington "hypocritical" for focusing on corruption and democratization in addressing U.S. relations with Russia. While Page is someone Trump camp has seemingly tried to distance itself from, Page recently said he has made frequent visits to Trump Tower.

J.D. Gordon

Before Gordon joined the Trump campaign as a national security adviser in March 2016, he served as a Pentagon spokesman from 2005 through 2009. Like others involved in Trump-Russia allegations, Gordon met with ambassador Kislyak in July at the Republican National Convention, but has since denied any wrongdoing in their conversation. He advocated for and worked to revise the RNC language on and position toward Ukraine relations, so it was more friendly toward Russia's dealings in the country.

Former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo (L)

Caputo waves goodbye to reporters after he testified before the House Intelligence Committee during a closed-door session at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center July 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. Caputo resigned from being a Trump campaign communications advisor after appearing to celebrate the firing of former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Denying any contact with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign, Caputo did live in Moscow during the 1990s, served as an adviser to former Russian President Boris Yeltsin and did pro-Putin public relations work for the Russian conglomerate Gazprom Media.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Stephen Miller, White House Senior Advisor for Policy

Jason Miller
Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer
Eric Trump
Donald Trump Jr.
Ivanka Trump
White House Senior adviser Jared Kushner
Executive assistant to Donald Trump Rhona Graff
White House Communications Director Hope Hicks
Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski
US Vice President Mike Pence
Katrina Pierson
K.T. McFarland
Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci

CNN has reported that grand jury subpoenas were issued for Flynn associates in regards to the question of Russia collusion. It has also reported that the Senate Finance Committee is seeking financial records of the Trump team, including Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner and their dealings with Russians. If confirmed, those moves would indicate that the Russia investigation is advancing into the next stages.

"The question before us now is whether Trump will get away with it," wrote Benjamin Wittes and Susan Hennessy in the Lawfare Blog. "There is no question that the President has the legal authority to remove the FBI director. But there's also no question that removing the FBI Director in the midst of a high-stakes investigation of Russian influence in the inner circle of the President's campaign and White House is a horrifying breach of every expectation we have of the relationship between the White House and federal law enforcement."

The post Could The Comey Crisis Spur Trump's Impeachment? appeared first on Vocativ.

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