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How Comey's Firing Will Or Won't Affect The Russia Investigation


The firing of James Comey affect or not the FBI's ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election? We turn now to Asha Rangappa. She's a former FBI special agent. She's currently the associate dean for admissions at the Yale Law School and joins us from New Haven. Thanks so much for being with us.

ASHA RANGAPPA: Thanks for having me.

SIMON: Does the dismissal of Mr. Comey hamper or slow down the investigation?

RANGAPPA: No. There is a lot of organization and structure and regulation as you might imagine around how investigations are conducted. So his departure, in terms of the sequence of the investigation, would not really have an immediate impact anyway.

SIMON: If they were so inclined, could a successor shut down the investigation?

RANGAPPA: I don't see how it could. A case that's this big would really reach out into so many different directions. There would be other field offices involved with it. The federal courts are involved with it. Other intelligence agencies within the IC here in the U.S. and foreign intelligence agencies with whom we're sharing information since we know that this is also a global threat. So I don't think a single person at this point would be able to clamp down on the investigation.

SIMON: Do you have any feeling for what morale is like at the agency this week?

RANGAPPA: I think that people are angry. That's the sense that I have. In some ways, it's carried them out, I think, of a different form of low morale when the FBI was caught in the political crosshairs. I think there is actually more sympathy now for the FBI in terms of what has happened to Comey despite their previously being a lot of disagreement about how he handled the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

SIMON: When you talk about the way in which Mr. Comey was summarily dismissed - I mean, it's the right of the President of the United States to do that, isn't it? No explanation necessary.

RANGAPPA: As a legal matter, that's right. But I think we've seen that even in far more controversial scenarios, not necessarily with the FBI, but just with political appointees, generally, discussions are had behind closed doors. Someone is given an opportunity to resign. There's a way that these things are executed to allow people some dignity, I guess.

SIMON: Recognizing that you want to be careful about this, but I've got to ask you, as a former FBI special agent, do the terms - the matter of Mr. Comey's dismissal suggest to you somebody was trying to stop him from doing something pretty quickly?

RANGAPPA: I can't really speculate on motives. As a practical matter, I mean, as we've discussed already, that wouldn't affect anything. And in many ways, while Comey still has to protect the integrity of ongoing investigations - he can't compromise that. He can't leak classified information. He can opine on things in a less impartial way than he could before. So I think, in some ways, he's less constrained now than he was before.

SIMON: Asha Rangappa is a former FBI special agent who specialized in counterintelligence investigations. She's now at the Yale Law School. Thanks so much for being with us.

RANGAPPA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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