Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper issued a stern warning Sunday about the state of the US government after President Donald Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey last week, saying he thinks US institutions are “under assault.”
“I think in many ways our institutions are under assault both externally — and that’s the big news here is the Russian interference in our election system — and I think as well our institutions are under assault internally,” Clapper said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Pressed by anchor Jake Tapper if he meant US institutions were under assault internally from the President, Clapper responded, “Exactly.”
Clapper called on the other branches of the federal government to step up in their roles as a check on the executive.
“The founding fathers, in their genius, created a system of three co-equal branches of government and a built-in system of checks and balances,” Clapper said. “I feel as though that is under assault and is eroding.”
Democrats and several Republicans in Congress have publicly mulled pressing the Department of Justice to appoint a special prosecutor or establishing an independent investigative body that could look into allegations of potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign in what the US intelligence community says was Moscow’s efforts to influence the US election.
The Senate must confirm a new FBI director once Trump names a candidate; that FBI director will take a lead role in the Russia investigation.
Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee advocated on “Fox News Sunday” that Trump appoint Judge Merrick Garland to head the FBI. Josh Holmes, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said later on the program that the Republican leader had just called him to say he would support Garland for FBI’s top spot.
Garland was President Barack Obama’s pick to replace Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia after Scalia’s death last year. If appointed and confirmed as FBI director, Garland’s appointment would create a vacancy on the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which has jurisdiction over the DC area and federal agencies, making it one of the highest legal authorities in the country short of the Supreme Court.