'A President Who Doesn't Play by Any Rules'

International media react to the Comey firing.

Cameras record former FBI Director James Comey during a news conference in Boston, Massachusetts on November 18, 2014. 
Cameras record former FBI Director James Comey during a news conference in Boston, Massachusetts on November 18, 2014.  (Brian Snyder / Reuters )

President Trump’s abrupt firing Tuesday evening of FBI Director James Comey sent American media and lawmakers scrambling to make sense of what had happened. The termination came as the FBI continued to investigate the possibility of collusion between people involved in Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia, and it hit front pages across the nation.

The story had international reverberations as well, in countries ranging from America’s allies to its adversaries, on and off the front pages. In Germany, Der Spiegel, like some U.S. commentators, dubbed the event “The Tuesday Night Massacre,” in reference to former President Richard Nixon’s order to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox during the Watergate scandal. (That incident was a “massacre” because it resulted in the resignation of the attorney general and his deputy, both of whom refused to carry out the firing on Nixon’s behalf. Tuesday, Comey alone was fired.) The weekly magazine noted that, while the White House denied allegations the move was related to Comey’s role overseeing the investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election, “few believe it.” German tabloid Bild also likened the incident to what happened under Nixon, calling the event “so dramatic.”

In France, the center-left daily Le Monde newspaper dubbed the event Trump’s “coup de force” against the FBI, noting that while the U.S. president’s decision was said to be motivated by Comey’s mismanagement of the case surrounding Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s private emails, “the American press does not believe” it.

The Netherland’s Het Parool: “Fear of deception after dismissal of FBI chief”

The front page of Amsterdam-based daily newspaper Het Parool on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. (Newseum)

In the U.K., the BBC queried whether Comey’s firing could be part of a cover up, noting that “no-one—in Congress, in conservative circles, even in the FBI itself —seemingly had an inkling of what was in store.” An op-ed by Laurence Douglas in the left-leaning Guardian called the firing “a brazen attack on the rule of law,” noting that “even if innocent of collusion, Trump has done something almost as bad—he has undermined investigative independence, a mainstay of rule-based governance.” Writing in the conservative weekly magazine The Spectator, Freddy Gray questioned if the incident warranted its Nixon comparisons. “As usual with Trump, though, it seems impossible to figure out quite what he is up to. If he really wanted to conceal his ties to Russia, why would he do something quite so dramatic? … It seems extremely foolish to draw so much attention, even for this reckless administration, unless of course Trump really does have nothing to hide.”

In Israel, an analysis by the left-leaning daily newspaper Haaretz offered a sharp rebuke of the U.S. president’s decision, adding that the move “created a crisis of confidence in the resilience of U.S. democracy and in the ability of checks and balances to repel a direct assault on the rule of law by a president who doesn’t play by any rules.” The Times of Israel described Comey as “the FBI director who prided himself on his squeaky-clean reputation” who “was catching criticism from all directions.”

Canada’s The Globe and Mail

The front page of Canadian daily newspaper The Globe and Mail on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. (Newseum)

In China, the state-run Xinhua news agency framed the decision to fire Comey as an abrupt surprise, “even to those at the center of the country’s political machinery.” The independent Hong Kong-based daily South China Morning Post offered a similar framing of the affair, which it called a “stunning maneuver” amid the FBI’s Russia investigation.

In the Russian media, there were stories portraying the drama as one pitting Trump against detractors seeking to further tie the U.S. president to Moscow in the public eye. The daily newspaper Izvestia said the move “provoked sharp criticism in the liberal media,” which it said attributed Comey’s dismissal to the “hand of Moscow.” Pravda noted that “interestingly, Comey was fired on the eve of the talks between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US President Trump.”