One of the oddest parts of President Trump's short letter informing FBI Director James Comey that he'd been "terminated," purportedly on the advice of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and especially Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, was when Trump noted his great appreciation that Comey had informed him "on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation."
Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) found that assertion "bizarre" and a reason to establish an independent commission on Russia's role in the 2016 election; comedian Stephen Colbert said it was "like carving your alibi on the murder weapon." One Comey associate told The Wall Street Journal that the idea of Comey telling Trump he isn't under investigation "is literally farcical."
Informing Trump about an ongoing criminal investigation involving him and his associates would violate longstanding Justice Department policies — though, to be fair, Comey's violation of Justice Department policies was the stated rationale for his firing. Still, regarding Trump's claim about Comey exonerating him to his face, "people familiar with the matter said that statement is not accurate, although they would not say how it was inaccurate," The Washington Post reports. On Tuesday night, Comey associates were more specific to The Wall Street Journal:
[Comey] was careful not to release information to the president about the ongoing probe into Russia's alleged meddling in the U.S. election, however, because Mr. Comey believed doing so would cross ethical and legal boundaries, according to the associates. Mr. Comey told associates before the election and in December that he knew he could be fired but wouldn't let such fears affect his decision making. He also urged agents investigating Russia's meddling in the election not to worry about politics or how their probe might affect those in power, an associate said. [The Wall Street Journal]
According to several reports — including one in The Washington Post based on "the private accounts of 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" — Trump fired Comey because he was tired of seeing him on TV talking about Russia and the Trump campaign. According to an official White House timetable of events handed out Wednesday, Trump became "strongly inclined" to fire Comey after watching him testify about the Russia investigation last week. Peter Weber