President Trump unceremoniously fired FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday evening. The move baffled many, including Comey, who initially thought the news of his career’s demise was an elaborate joke because Trump didn’t bother sending his breakup letter to the FBI’s D.C. headquarters until after Comey found out from the press. Now, a Politico report brings the inside story of what went down behind the White House scenes after Trump canned the FBI director, and — surprise! — it sounds like chaos.
There are multiple reasons why Trump was incensed with Comey. We’ll summarize those later, but oh, the fallout. CNN’s Dana Bash revealed that Trump believed the firing would not cause waves. Meanwhile, the New York Times dissected how Trump’s resentment against Comey built up for a year, but over the past week, he “saw an opening.” He told AG Jeff Sessions (who recused himself from the Russia probe) to find a reason to fire Comey, and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein declared that Comey’s conclusions on Clinton’s emails were indefensible. Indeed, one week ago, Trump tweet-slammed Comey for giving Hillary “a free pass for many bad deeds … the phony.”
Politico backs up the NY Times‘ timeline while digging into the Trump drama (by speaking with two of his unnamed advisors who decided to leak). The president has apparently been growing increasingly ragey over investigations into Russia-Trump ties, and he was so mad that Comey refused to bury Russia stories for him. This led Trump to get shouty at cable news shows:
He had grown enraged by the Russia investigation, two advisers said, frustrated by his inability to control the mushrooming narrative around Russia. He repeatedly asked aides why the Russia investigation wouldn’t disappear and demanded they speak out for him. He would sometimes scream at television clips about the probe, one adviser said.
It’s all too believable from a guy who regularly throws tantrums (still) at rallies and on Twitter. To complicate matters, Trump apparently thought firing Comey would begin to solve the Russia problem, but he was “taken aback” by the reaction of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who swiftly called for an independent prosecutor to take up the Russia probe in Comey’s absence. Schumer wasn’t alone — over 25 other members of Congress did the same in a matter of hours. And Trump kinda lost it:
By Tuesday evening, the president was watching the coverage of his decision and frustrated no one was on TV defending him, a White House official said. He wanted surrogates out there beating the drum. Instead, advisers were attacking each other for not realizing the gravity of the situation as events blew up … Two White House officials said there was little communications strategy in handling the firing, and that staffers were given talking points late Tuesday for hastily arranged media appearances.
So, Trump trucked out Sarah Huckabee Sanders to Fox News and Kellyanne Conway to CNN, where she simply earned an eyeroll from Anderson Cooper, who wasn’t there for her spin. Trump was unable to do anything about the late-night comedy reaction to his fateful decision, which is arguably the most controversial thing he’s done as president. And the fallout isn’t even close to over yet. Buckle up for more over the coming weeks.
Why did Trump fire Comey in the first place, really? It’s hard to wade into Trump’s irrational head, but more than likely, there are four reasons: (1) Comey wouldn’t back up Trump’s bogus wiretapping accusations against Obama; (2) Comey declared that the FBI found no criminality by Hillary Clinton while using a private email server; (3) Comey told the Senate he was “mildly nauseous” at the possibility that he helped Trump become president; and (4) Comey was leading an FBI probe of the Russia thing, plus the fact that Trump could fire Comey. He’d probably fire Congress for its ongoing Russia investigations if he could! Maybe he’ll try to do that next.