Evening Trump-Comey Roundup


Let’s finish the evening with a quick roundup of all the shoes that dropped today. By Trumpian standards it was actually a calm day, but not totally free of shoes. First up is deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who testified before Congress today about how and why he came to write a memo justifying President Trump’s firing of James Comey. How did it go?

Rosenstein says he knew that Trump planned to fire Comey, and provided a memo justifying it at Trump’s request. This was apparently typical of Trump’s relationship with the Justice Department: they work for him, so of course they should provide him with anything he needs. The same seems to have been true of the FBI. Ben Wittes tells us what was going on between Comey and the Trump administration during its early days:

Comey was preoccupied throughout this period with the need to protect the FBI from [] inquiries on investigative matters from the White House. Two incidents involving such inquiries have become public: the Flynn discussion and Reince Priebus’s query to Andrew McCabe about whether the then-Deputy FBI Director could publicly dispute the New York Times’ reporting regarding communications between Trump associates and Russian officials. Whether there were other such incidents I do not know, but I suspect there were. What I do know is that Comey spent a great deal of energy doing what he alternately described as “training” the White House that officials had to go through the Justice Department and “reestablishing” normal hands-off White House-Bureau relations.

This fits with everything we know. Trump just doesn’t understand the concept of the FBI being an independent agency free of presidential interference. Comey knew this and prepared diligently for his meetings with Trump:

Comey was very apprehensive heading into a dinner with the president in late January, because of his previous encounters with Trump during the transition and immediately after the inauguration, according to one associate.

….Before going to the dinner, Comey practiced Trump’s likely questions and his answers with a small group of his most trusted confidants, the associates said, in part to ensure he did not give Trump any ammunition to use against him later. The director did not take notes during the dinner with the president, but there were times, one associate recalled, when after meeting with Trump, Comey started writing notes as soon as he got into a car, “to make sure he could accurately record what was said.’’

In the Trump administration, the Justice Department is an arm of the White House, and the FBI is expected to follow the president’s direction. The weird part of this is not that Trump believes it—of course he does—but that plenty of other folks in the White House seem to believe it too. At the very least, you’d think Reince Priebus would know better, but he’s as bad as the rest. There hardly seems to be anyone in the entire building with any genuine knowledge of how the government works and how other people are likely to react to Trump’s actions. Very peculiar.