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Was FBI boss Comey sacked over Trump-Russia links?

There is nothing quite as dramatic or theatrical to witness as a full-blown Washington political scandal. This whole one-industry town is consumed by outrage and fury.

The TV networks have gone into meltdown, news anchors are aghast, breathless Senators race to the microphones, and partisans take to Twitter.

Some are calling it a coup. Others say it has reduced America to the status of a banana republic.

That is where we are this morning. The comparison being drawn - inevitably, if not necessarily accurately - is with the Saturday Night Massacre of October 1973, the event that doomed Nixon's Presidency.

In that drama, Nixon fired the special prosecutor who was investigating Watergate to try and suppress the story. The rest is history.

Last night President Trump ignited a similar firestorm. By icily dismissing the FBI Director James Comey, Trump became the first President in American history to sack an FBI chief who was actively investigating the conduct of the White House.

The termination letter from President Donald Trump to FBI Director James Comey Credit: AP Photo/Jon Elswick

It came completely out of the blue. Comey was in California and heard about it via TV reports while he was addressing FBI agents. How completely humiliating for America's top law enforcement agent - a man who was just three years into a 10 year term.

Trump allies are now claiming that Comey was fired because of his misjudgements over the Hillary Clinton email affair. That seems patently absurd given that as a candidate Donald Trump had lavishly praised that FBI probe.

If Trump was so troubled by Comey's performance last year, why was the FBI Director kept on in his post in January? Almost no one accepts that desperate narrative.

It has led to the broad suspicion that Comey was sacked because he was getting close to revealing what he knew about links between the Trump White House and Russia.

Comey was in California and heard about his dismissal via TV reports while he was addressing FBI agents. Credit: AP Photo/Alex Brandon

The pressure is now building to appoint a special independent investigator with broad authority to examine the whole Russian connection.

At this point, the story is on rocket boosters. No one knows where it will lead.

Trump may be fine. Perhaps he replaces Comey with a respected law enforcement professional and the investigations continue and find nothing. Certainly, Comey has few friends in this town - and certainly no Democrats admire him.

But it's equally possible that Trump's spectacularly risky announcement defines a beleaguered and defensive Presidency, and that he can never again escape the cloud of suspicion.