(NEWS CENTER) -- The decision by President Trump to fire FBI Director James Comey has many people looking for precedent, and focusing on Watergate.


One of the key moments in that scandal in the early 1970s was when President Richard Nixon fired Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, who was investigating the Watergate scandal and had subpoenaed Nixon's Oval Office tape recordings.

Christopher Beam spent years working at the National Archives transcribing many of those tapes.

He is a former director of the Muskie Archives at Bates College, and currently teaches history at USM and Central Maine Community College.

Beam says he's puzzled by the timing of the Comey firing. He says "it strikes me as politically inept. I don't know why he did it, and I don't see what real political benefit he would get. Why not just wait, let Comey sit there and do his thing, and then find some deed or misdeed he can hang on him?
"And then come up with this rather lame excuse that he was doing it because of what Comey did nine months before to Hillary Clinton's campaign."

Beam says there are echoes of Watergate in what President Trump has done, but he says it is too soon to know how this will unfold.

"Looking at it from the outside it looks like Comey was getting dangerously close to whatever ties Trump and his associates had with the Russians. And of course coming on the heels of the dismissal of Michael Flynn for lying to the vice president about his contacts with Russian officials, it really does look suspicious."