The legitimate reasoning behind FBI Director James Comey’s firing this week has been debated ever since the axe came down. There will probably be many more conflicting statements from the White House and various sources before everything is sorted out, but until then the precipitating event that led to Comey’s dismissal can’t be unanimously identified. Whether it was that he mishandled the Hillary Clinton email investigation, didn’t reveal important information to the White House when it was requested, or voluntarily end the investigation into Trump and Russia, one thing that is sure is that Trump had his mind set on firing Comey and followed through on it.
Now, a new report from the New York Times offers up another theory: that Comey refused to put his full loyalty behind Trump and for that he paid the price. According to the report, Trump and Comey sat down for a private dinner together at which Trump pressed the director to swear loyalty to the President and his administration. As a member of government who is traditionally, and rightly, supposed to be outside of any presidential loyalties that arise in the administration, Comey correctly declined to do as asked. According to the Times, he told the president that he would give him honesty but not loyalty, to which the president asked whether it would be “honest loyalty” and the answer from Comey was reportedly that he would not be “reliable” in the way that Trump was asking him to be.
The White House, naturally, is disputing these facts with deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee saying,
“We don’t believe this to be an accurate account. The integrity of our law enforcement agencies and their leadership is of the utmost importance to President Trump. He would never even suggest the expectation of personal loyalty, only loyalty to our country and its great people.”
One interesting additional point is that this supposed dinner is alleged to have taken place the night that the first travel ban was signed, which makes the idea of pressuring an FBI Director for political loyalty all the more unsettling.
Earlier, Trump claimed that “regardless” of the recommendation he did or did not get from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, he was planning on firing Comey anyway. This could be the reason why a recommendation for or against the move didn’t really matter in the end.