Comey Comey Comey Comey. Let’s catch up. Why exactly did Donald Trump fire the guy, anyway?
Spicer claimed yesterday Comey firing initiative came from Rosenstein: “all him. No one from WH. DOJ decision.”
Sanders today: it was Trump
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) May 10, 2017
Right. Yesterday’s official narrative was that, out of the blue, Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein recommended Comey’s termination, and Trump was like whatevs. Let’s do it. Today the story has changed:
The White House just sent out this “official timeline” of Trump’s decision to fire Comey. pic.twitter.com/UinibGNfJ7
— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) May 10, 2017
Last Wednesday was the day Comey falsely testified that Huma Abedin had forwarded “hundreds and thousands” of emails to her husband. But Trump didn’t know it was false at the time, so obviously that had nothing to do with his “strong inclination” to fire Comey. What’s more, this new timeline was released only after McClatchy posted an account of Monday’s meeting, which forced the White House to make up a new story. So what exactly was it about Comey’s testimony that bothered Trump so much?
NBC News: Multiple FBI insiders say they believe James Comey was fired because he would not end Russia investigation, Pete Williams reports.
— Tom Winter (@Tom_Winter) May 10, 2017
Those FBI guys are pretty sharp! Yeah, it was Russia. And not just since last Wednesday, either. Here is Maggie Haberman in the New York Times:
By Monday, capping off months of festering grievances, Mr. Trump told people around him that he wanted Mr. Comey gone….Mr. Trump was adamant, denouncing Mr. Comey’s conduct in both the Clinton and Russia investigations, and left aides on Monday with the impression that he planned to take action the next day.
….The hostility toward Mr. Comey in the West Wing in recent weeks was palpable, aides said, with advisers describing an almost ritualistic need to criticize the F.B.I.’s Russia investigation to assuage an anxious and angry president….Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime informal adviser to Mr. Trump who has been under F.B.I. scrutiny as part of the bureau’s investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, was among those who urged the president to fire Mr. Comey, people briefed on the discussions said.
The Washington Post confirms all this in interviews with “more than 30 officials at the White House, the Justice Department, the FBI and on Capitol Hill, as well as Trump confidants and other senior Republicans”:
Every time FBI Director James B. Comey appeared in public, an ever-watchful President Trump grew increasingly agitated that the topic was the one that he was most desperate to avoid: Russia….At his golf course in Bedminster, N.J., Trump groused over Comey’s latest congressional testimony, which he thought was “strange,” and grew impatient with what he viewed as his sanctimony, according to White House officials. Comey, Trump figured, was using the Russia probe to become a martyr.
….Trump was angry that Comey would not support his baseless claim that President Barack Obama had his campaign offices wiretapped. He was frustrated when Comey revealed in Senate testimony the breadth of the counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s effort to sway the 2016 U.S. presidential election. And he fumed that Comey was giving too much attention to the Russia probe and not enough to investigating leaks to journalists.
….George Lombardi, a friend of the president and a frequent guest at his Mar-a-Lago Club, said: “This was a long time coming. There had been a lot of arguments back and forth in the White House and during the campaign, a lot of talk about what side of the fence [Comey] was on or if he was above political dirty tricks.”
And it turns out there was something else gnawing away at Trump:
Trump, angered by press coverage of the Russia investigation and Gen. [Michael] Flynn, has asked senior staff and the White House counsel’s office multiple times if it was appropriate to reach out to the fired National Security Adviser, according to a source close to Flynn and a Trump administration official with direct knowledge of the exchanges.
Needless to say, Trump has been forbidden from talking to Flynn since Flynn is under investigation by Trump’s Department of Justice, and talking to him could be construed as witness tampering. So Trump is cut off from Flynn and growing more and more “isolated” within the White House, according to increasingly Nixonian press reports.
And how is the public responding to all this? We’ll know in a few days. But Trump is already suffering in the polls, and Quinnipiac adds insult to injury by asking people the first word that comes to mind when they think of President Trump:
This is a trickier question than it seems. I myself tend to gravitate toward idiot, but I’m not happy with it. Nor is Trump quite a prototypical asshole. But what exactly is he? What single word best describes him? I just can’t come up with one.