Trump fires Comey
May 11, 2017

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein threatened to quit after the White House pinned President Trump's decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey on his recommendation, a person close to the White House told The Washington Post.

The White House released letters from Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday that made the case for firing Comey; in his memo, Rosenstein said he could not defend Comey's "handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton's emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken." (Sessions, who has recused himself from Justice Department investigations into Russia and the Trump campaign, "should not have recommended Comey's firing, and he should not be involved in the selection of Comey's replacement," Washington University law professor Kathleen Clark tells The Wall Street Journal.)

While Trump said he fired Comey because of the recommendations of Rosenstein and Sessions, several people close to the situation said Trump had already made up his mind to fire Comey when he asked Rosenstein and Sessions to write out their cases against the FBI director. When the White House publicly made it sound like it was Rosenstein who pushed for Comey's dismissal and Trump merely took his recommendation, Rosenstein threatened to resign, the Post says. The report does not say why he decided not to quit. The Department of Justice declined to comment. Catherine Garcia

May 10, 2017

Former FBI Director James Comey didn't mince words when describing President Trump to associates: He was "outside the realm of normal" and "crazy," people with knowledge of his conversations told The New York Times.

Comey and Trump were never in sync; the president was angry that Comey didn't back him up on his baseless claim that former President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower, and he didn't think Comey did enough to stop leaks coming from the FBI, while Comey, besides thinking Trump was "crazy," worried he was a loose cannon who said inappropriate things, especially on Twitter, the Times reports. Trump was also outraged when Comey, during a hearing on Capitol Hill, said he was "mildly nauseous" at the thought that the way he handled Hillary Clinton's email investigation tipped the election to favor Trump, and that motivated him to fire Comey. "With a president who seems to prize personal loyalty above all else and a director with absolute commitment to the Constitution and pursuing investigations wherever the evidence led, a collision was bound to happen," Daniel C. Richman, a Comey adviser, told the Times.

Trump said he thought Comey's dismissal would go over well with Democrats, who didn't like how he bungled the Clinton case, and Trump was shocked when Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who had been critical of Comey, told him during a phone call Tuesday it was a mistake. In another twist, chief strategist Stephen Bannon, no fan of the FBI, had urged Trump to hold off on the firing of Comey because of the timing, but Trump was supported by Vice President Mike Pence, son-in-law Jared Kushner, and chief of staff Reince Priebus, the Times reports. Read more about the unraveling of this hate-hate relationship at The New York Times. Catherine Garcia

May 10, 2017

In the weeks before he was abruptly fired by President Trump, former FBI Director James Comey was becoming increasingly concerned by information that showed possible evidence of collusion between Russia and members of the Trump campaign, and started asking for daily updates rather than weekly ones, several people with knowledge of the matter told The Wall Street Journal Wednesday.

Comey began spending more and more time on the investigation, giving updates to top members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and he asked Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, for more personnel to work the investigation, the WSJ reports; a Justice Department spokeswoman claims this never happened. The White House has insisted that Trump spent the past few months considering firing Comey, and the timing has nothing to do with the Russia investigation, but people with knowledge of the matter have told several news outlets that Trump had grown "increasingly agitated" with Comey for not quashing the investigation.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has also asked the Treasury Department office that investigates financial crimes for information tied to associates of Trump and people who had links to his campaign, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said. Investigators want to know more about companies that have done business with Trump or members of his family, people with information on the matter told WSJ, like his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who ran a real estate company. This is being done so investigators can better understand any business connections Trump might have with foreign companies and any ties to the Russian government. Catherine Garcia

May 10, 2017

If you were shocked by the news that President Trump had fired FBI Director James Comey, you were in good company — so was James Comey, everyone at the FBI, most members of Congress, and apparently almost everyone in the White House. Trump and his top advisers who did know, Politico reports, were mostly surprised that not everyone thought firing Comey was a great idea. "White House officials believed it would be a 'win-win' because Republicans and Democrats alike have problems with the FBI director," Politico says, citing a person briefed on their deliberations. "By Tuesday evening, the president was watching the coverage of his decision and frustrated no one was on TV defending him. ... Instead, advisers were attacking each other for not realizing the gravity of the situation as events blew up."

In fact, Trump had been planning to oust Comey for at least a week, The New York Times and CNN report, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions had been charged with finding a good pretext. The president was increasingly incensed at the FBI's investigation into his orbit's ties to Russia during the election, Politico and The Wall Street Journal report. With understaffed investigations languishing in Congress, the FBI's investigation was the most active and serious.

Trump specifically "grew unhappy that the media spotlight kept shining on the director," and "questioned whether his expanding media profile was warping his view of the Russia investigation," White House officials tell The Wall Street Journal. "A person with knowledge of recent conversations said they wanted Mr. Comey to 'say those three little words: There's no ties,'" and he did not. Trump was also angry that Comey "wouldn't support his claims that President Barack Obama had tapped his phones in Trump Tower" and refused to prioritize inquiries into the leaking of information that made Trump look bad, Politico reports, but the main irritant was Russia:

[Trump] 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. [Politico]

You can read more at Politico, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. Peter Weber

May 10, 2017

The New York Times editorial board does not have much faith in President Trump choosing a new FBI director who will continue the bureau's investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election.

In a harsh op-ed, the Times editorialists rejected the White House's claim that James Comey was fired over his mishandling of the probe into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server, calling it "impossible to take at face value." While Comey "deserves all the criticism heaped upon him for his repeated missteps in that case," Trump was very vocal about his excitement when Comey, just days before the election, notified Congress that he was reopening an investigation into her emails. "He brought back his reputation," Trump said at the time. "It took a lot of guts." Beyond that, the editorial board noted, Trump could have fired Comey right after he was inaugurated.

Instead, the Times aruges, Comey was "fired because he was leading an active investigation that could bring down a president." Where congressional Republicans are stalling investigations, "Mr. Comey's inquiry was the only aggressive effort to get to the bottom of Russia's ties to the Trump campaign," and it snared such close Trump allies as former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, longtime friend Roger Stone, onetime foreign policy adviser Carter Page, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had to recuse himself from the case after it came to light that he did not disclose two meetings with Russia's U.S. ambassador during the campaign. Given all that, plus the dismissals of Comey, acting Attorney General Sally Yates, and almost every U.S. attorney, the editorial board said, "the need for a special prosecutor is plainer than ever," as the American people "require a thorough, impartial investigation" into Russian election meddling. Read the entire op-ed at The New York Times. Catherine Garcia

May 10, 2017

On CNN Tuesday night, Jake Tapper ran through the official White House explanation for why President Trump made the "stunning" decision to fire FBI Director James Comey: that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had recommended sacking Comey because of how he'd handled the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server, and hadn't owned up to his mistakes. Then Tapper laid out some of the "problems" with the official explanation, "according to those who are skeptical of this decision and this president."

"First, President Trump shares zero of Rosentein's concerns about allegedly how unfair Comey was to Hillary Clinton," Tapper said. "In fact, the only problem that President Trump has ever had about Comey's behavior relating to Hillary Clinton was that he did not charge her with a crime." And Trump was openly gleeful when Comey broke Justice Department protocol to announce a brief re-opening of the investigation right before the election.

"It's as if we're expected to have all been blinded by that flashy memory-eraser thing from Men in Black and we wouldn't remember all the times that Trump expressed concern that Comey didn't charge Hillary and then praised him for raising questions about her last October and afterwards," Tapper said. In case Will Smith or Tommy Lee Jones got to you already, Tapper played some footage of Trump praising and embracing Comey. "Then of course, let us not forget the additional context that the FBI is in the middle of investigating whether anyone in the Trump campaign orbit had anything to do with the Russian government attempts to interfere in the U.S. elections last year." He ended by naming some of the Republican skeptics of Trump's move, including the ghost of Richard Nixon. Peter Weber

May 10, 2017

The firing of FBI Director James Comey has no bearing on the investigation into possible ties between Russia and President Trump's campaign, Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday — an investigation she believes should be shut down because it's "absurd."

Speaking to Fox News' Tucker Carlson, Sanders said that the investigation will continue through the Justice Department and Senate and House committees, so there won't be any changes or disruption, but that's not what matters. "I think the bigger point on that is, my gosh, Tucker, when are they gonna let that go?" she asked. "It's been going on for nearly a year. Frankly, it's kinda getting absurd. There's nothing there."

As far as Sanders is concerned, "it's time to move on, and frankly, it's time to focus on the things the American people care about. They're not worried about this false narrative the media continues to drive." She made her comments on a split screen, with Fox News airing next to her O.J.-style footage of Comey in an SUV barreling down a Los Angeles freeway. Watch the video below. Catherine Garcia

May 9, 2017

As a shocked country waited for its leader to make his first statement since the surprise firing of FBI Director James Comey, President Trump finally broke his silence late Tuesday night — not with words of comfort, but rather a slam against a senator.

"Cryin' Chuck Schumer stated recently, 'I do not have confidence in him (James Comey) any longer.' Then acts so indignant. #draintheswamp," Trump tweeted. On Tuesday evening, Schumer, the Senate minority leader, held a press conference where he questioned the timing of Trump firing Comey and suggested the possibility of a "cover-up" — and judging by Trump's tweet, this appeared to get under the president's skin. While Trump's message didn't offer any comfort for those who believe they are witnessing a constitutional crisis, on the plus side, he did spell "indignant" right. Catherine Garcia

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