In case you’ve been living under a rock (and if you have, oh boy, do we envy you), on Wednesday afternoon, President Trump sent FBI Director James Comey packing. The rationale provided at the time came from a memo drawn up by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, which accused Comey of mishandling the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.
But the timing of the decision has been criticized as suspicious, if not outright damning, for a number of reasons that are pretty evident — regardless of whether you side with Team #MAGA or Team “Can We Impeach Him Yet?”
First, it takes some seriously willful amnesia to believe that Trump would dislike the way Comey dealt with Hillary Clinton’s email scandal. He basically thanked Comey for it in October, when Comey announced that the FBI would be renewing its investigation into Clinton’s activities (a decision, by the way, that may have been the tipping point in Trump’s victory).
Second, Comey requested more resources from the Justice Department mere days before he was basically canned on live TV. Those resources, of course, were meant to help expand the FBI’s investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
It certainly looks like Trump got rid of Comey because he was afraid of what the FBI might uncover. The White House disagrees and would generally feel more comfortable if everyone just cooled it on the whole Russia thing, thank you very much.
But their argument thus far hasn’t been very convincing to many people. The reason is that almost nothing they’ve said about Comey’s firing has been consistent or coherent.
The list of revisions on Comey’s firing continues to grow, but here are some of the claims that have surrounded this clusterf**k:
• Rosenstein’s memo was the reason Comey was fired.
• Actually, no: Rosenstein’s memo had nothing to do with the reason Comey was fired.
• People within the FBI “had lost confidence in their director.”
• Actually, no: Comey “enjoyed broad support within the FBI.”
• Rosenstein threatened to quit when it become apparent that Comey’s firing would be blamed on him.
• Actually, no: Rosenstein definitely isn’t quitting, and he has no plans to quit.
• The president’s decision to fire Comey was “quick and decisive.”
• Actually, no: The president’s decision to fire Comey was the culmination of months of disappointment in the director’s abilities.
It would obviously help if White House staff members could present one narrative that everyone agrees on. The fact that they can’t (and keep stepping on each other’s toes) kind of maybe definitely makes it seem like they’re making this all up as they go along.
At the very least, the White House seems completely unable to cajole Trump into saying anything that would make this situation less of a headache for them.
On Thursday, the president flat-out told NBC News that “this Russia thing” was a major part of his thought process in firing Comey, adding yet another contradiction to the story, in case you lost track. (And really, who could blame you if you had?)
Then, on Friday morning, Trump poured gasoline on this bonfire by composing one of his famously persuasive Twitter rants. He claimed that the “Russian collusion” narrative was made up by Democrats. The president suggested that the White House should cancel press briefings because there is no way they could keep up with his “active” lifestyle. And to top it all off, he threatened Comey by hinting that there may be secret tapes of their conversations together.
Either this is all one big, botched attempt at a cover-up, or the Trump administration is just way more incompetent than we had previously thought. Neither option should make us feel anything less than mildly nauseous.