Opinion: What we don’t know about Trump’s firing of Comey

Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe listens on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, during the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on major threats facing the U.S. (AP Photo / Jacquelyn Martin)

At several points in the Trump administration, I’ve been tempted to invoke a 24-hour rule: Don’t comment on anything done or said by (or about) him until 24 hours have passed, because the facts and circumstances almost always change within that timeframe. By as much as 180 degrees.

The current firestorm surrounding his firing of James Comey as FBI director is making me wonder if 24 hours is long enough.

Comey’s acting successor, Andrew McCabe, testified on Capitol Hill this morning. It turns out, a lot of what’s come out of the White House to defend Comey’s ouster, as well as from various news stories describing nefarious reasons behind the decision, fell apart as McCabe testified.

Let’s start with the anti-Trump reports. As we all “know” by now, Comey was fired after requesting more resources for the investigation into Russia and last year’s election. Right?

Said McCabe:

(A Justice Department spokesman has also denied that request as “totally false.”)

OK, but surely Comey’s firing is having a chilling effect on the investigation. Right?

Maybe at the level of individual agents, but could that possibly be true of FBI leaders like himself?

Well, if they did in the future, McCabe would have to feel pressured to keep that to himself. Right?

All in all, the narrative that the Trump White House sought to squelch the Russia probe by firing Comey took a big hit with McCabe’s testimony. But those weren’t the only talking points to suffer Thursday (via Politico):

“Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe on Thursday said his fired predecessor, James Comey, had not lost the confidence of rank-and-file FBI agents, contradicting a claim by the White House.

“‘Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day,’ McCabe said at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.

“White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday said the president, Justice Department and Congress had all lost confidence in Comey. ‘Most importantly,’ she added, ‘the rank-and-file of the FBI had lost confidence in their director.’

“McCabe told senators he did not agree with that characterization, adding that it ‘has been the greatest privilege and honor of my professional life to work with him.’

“He also rebuked Sanders in her description of the FBI’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. On Wednesday, Sanders called the probe ‘probably one of the smallest things that they’ve got going on their plate.’

“McCabe on Thursday said the FBI considers the Russia probe ‘a highly significant investigation.'”

About the only claim by the administration that McCabe didn’t shoot down was the president’s assertion that the director had assured him “on three separate occasions” he was not the subject of an investigation; McCabe said he couldn’t comment on conversations Trump and Comey might have had (more on that in a moment). McCabe also conceded that some agents had voiced their displeasure with how the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information while secretary of state had ended:

***

But wait, there’s more. Just as I was wrapping up this post, Trump sat down for an interview with NBC News. Among the things he said:

That second one is a doozy, because it contradicts a key message coming from the White House the past couple of days: that Trump fired Comey after receiving the deputy AG’s letter outlining how Comey had mishandled the Clinton investigation (leading to a whole different thread of 1) reports the deputy AG, Rod Rosenstein, threatened to quit because of the way the White House was portraying his memo, and 2) Rosenstein denying the same). It does leave open the possibility the White House commissioned the Rosenstein memo to justify what Trump was already determined to do, but that doesn’t look much better.

The third one also is worth a few moments. Consider first just how disheartening it is that the president of the United States needed to ask such a question in the first place. Next, consider what Comey might have meant — assuming Trump is being truthful about their exchange. I haven’t spent much time covering the justice system, but from the experience I do have, it’s my understanding a person may not be the subject of an investigation … right up until the moment he is. In other words, these things sometimes change as the facts collected change. That’s not to say Trump certainly will be the subject, or a subject, in the Russia investigation, or another inquiry, as time goes on. But neither can we say he certainly won’t be, even if that was true on those occasions when he and Comey spoke.

***

Where does all this leave us? Here are a few possibilities:

  1. Trump really did fire Comey for justifiable reasons, and the impact that might have on the Russia investigation is an unfortunate side effect that the agency and Congress need to manage, preferably under the leadership of a new, respected, independent FBI director.
  2. Trump hoped firing Comey would be enough to slow or shut down the Russia investigation, but won’t go further than that.
  3. Trump is intent on obstructing the Russia investigation, and Comey’s firing is just the first step.

I’m sure you can think of others. Here’s the point: We don’t yet have a lot of solid information with which to judge the president’s action — in support or opposition. To the extent people are exonerating Trump or indicting him, they’re mostly just reflecting their previous opinions of him. I realize we live in a world where people expect not just instant information in these kinds of stories but instant judgment on them, but sometimes that’s just not possible.

 

Reader Comments 0

587 comments
breckenridge
breckenridge

May 12 - Controversial evangelist Franklin Graham attempted to connect the murder of Christians abroad to the “persecution” of conservative religious Americans on Friday, lumping together the plight of those slaughtered for their faith to those who wish to refuse service to same-sex couples.

Graham made the controversial observation this morning during an appearance on Fox News, where he was asked to respond to a recent declaration by Vice President Mike Pence that “No people of faith face greater hostility or hatred than followers of Christ.”

“Last year…close to 90,000 Christians documented that were killed for their faith,” Graham said, without citing a source for his claim. “In the last 10 years close to a million. This is genocide that is taking place.”

Can't connect the dots? That's because there aren't any.


Pence, by the way, totally sucks.  Which is why we need Trump to go the distance.

breckenridge
breckenridge

May 15 - A new NBC/WSJ poll over the weekend showed that just 29 percent of adults approve of Trump's firing of James Comey. And nearly half of Americans say that the new GOP-led health care plan is "a bad idea."

Okay. Then that means there is a lot of potential upside! 

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@breckenridge

What you are not listing is that only 38% do not approve despite of the relentless 24/7 pounding by the MSM.

You can chalk that up to the looney left and never Trumpers.

The rest of us, yawn.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

Mark says "Unlike him, I have not made any prediction". You only make weak accusations, so of course you can't make any predictions. More stupid posts from Mark.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@SGTGrit My, my, you are getting weaker and weaker, sillier and sillier. 

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

MSM and LibProgs are making a big deal of Trump firing Comey, but what they are not saying is the root of their lunacy.

Trump has been very successful "undoing" many of Obama's F'ups.

Illegal immigration into the country is way down.

Obama's jail bird release is a thing of the past.

The pipelines are proceeding.

DeVos is working to right the ship of education.

Obamacare is waiting in the Senate to have its head chopped.

The list goes on.

The bottom line is, it really is not about a Russian Collusion or firing Comey.

No

It's about the Dems losing and them watching the little playhouse under Obama being destroyed.

All we need to do now is find a way to stop abortions and gay marriage and their heads would literally explode solving our problem with them for a very long time.

breckenridge
breckenridge

@JohnnyReb 

Abortion is not a conservative issue.  And those that thing it is are dumpster diving social conservative scum of the earth.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@breckenridge @JohnnyReb

You are correct only in the sense that abortion is an issue on both sides of the political aisle.

However, anti-abortion, pro-life is definitely a conservative issue.

And there you go again with that moral conflict of yours.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

The libprogs are hoping against hope for a couple of unlikely outcomes. First they hope they can bring down Trump and his presidency with fake news about Russian collusion. Secondly they hope Trump's support base will turn against him with all the fake news that their allies in the MSM are throwing out. The latter hope only emboldens the Trump base and the former is a false hope based on fact. This will cause a huge backlash where the far-left party will see their effort backfire and Americans will punish them once again in the mid-term election and again in 2020. The message was clearly delivered in Novembers election. America is sick and tired of the far-left that now owns the Democrats.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@SGTGrit Sounds like someone who is trying to convince himself.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@SGTGrit @MarkVV Another stupidity from the former successful I.T. sales and marketing professional . Unlike him, I have not made any predictions.

Starik
Starik

@MarkVV @SGTGrit It's amazing to me that there are still people who have failed to recognize what Trump is - a world class narcissist who is also fundamentally dishonest and a successful sociopath, a master of BS. Nothing else.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@Starik @MarkVV @SGTGrit  Don't know about Trump, but a lot of people failed to recognize those traits in Obama, for a long time.

BreakingFakeNews
BreakingFakeNews

Trumps incompetency causes each of his self inflicted calamities to replace and overlap another calamity/ scandal in the news and so good luck trying to spend any quality time figuring out what the hell he is doing on any one of them. 


But firing the FBI chief did take Jarred and his sister out of the news with their Chinese New Jersey Investment scheme. 

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@AndyManUSA#45  Trumps conservative policies putting America first has resonated with what voters have expected. The Democrats only appear as obstructionists to getting the nation back on track.

MarkVV
MarkVV

Harold D Gray wrote that both democrats and republicans were idiots. I called it a stupid generalization, and he took exception tom that. So let’s see.

First let’s set aside the apparent illiteracy. There are a very few, if any, people in this country who are not BOTH democrats AND republicans. The people called democrats believe that source of power should be the people and that we should solve problems democratically, and people are republicans when they believe in the republican form of government. (let’s forget some ignorant people, like SGTGrit, who do not understand even that.) Any monarchists around?
So let’s assume that what Harold D Gray meant was people in the context of the two major political parties. But which people? I do not know any “card-carrying” Democrats or Republicans, I suppose there are some. Or should it mean those who vote for representatives belonging to either party, rather than those voting for Independents or representatives of the other small parties? But what if people vote for representatives of different parties for different positions? Are they idiots in one instant, and non-idiots in then next one? Or when they switch from between, say, Democrat to Independent, are they changing from idiots to non-idiots just like that?

Perhaps Harold D Gray meant only the members of Congress? Cannot he find a single person in any of the parties who does not deserve to be called an idiot?

I repeat: A stupid generalization.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@MarkVV  The gibberish you wrote and write most every time you post on this blog exemplifies abject stupidity. BTW...todays Democrat party believes in large centralized government and far-left ideology. To their leadership the rank and file only represent the masses that require government to control and guide their lives. A Democrat party that believed in power vested in the people died a long time ago.

breckenridge
breckenridge

But we do not know what the FBI probe is finding — if anything. And we assume the president does not know either.

So for now, at least, Comey's firing, in itself, is not the fire.

The closest thing we've found to an actual blaze is the escalating temperature within the Oval Office. It is President Trump, with his actions and his communications on TV and on Twitter, who has brought the heat and made inevitable the comparisons to the Watergate crisis of the early 1970s.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@breckenridge

Come back to see us when you have something, anything even close to Watergate.

You people just don't know how to take no for an answer.

It probably goes back to receiving participation trophies and a parent(s - if you had two) who let you become spoiled brats.

bu22
bu22

@JohnnyReb @breckenridge http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/trump-cant-win-the-press/article/2622997  "The mania over James Comey's firing would carry more weight if the press didn't behave this way every time President Trump signed an order, wrote a tweet or flushed a toilet." <or got a 2nd scoop of ice cream!!!!>.

"Political commentators, news organizations and lawmakers on both sides had been calling for Comey's ousting for months for his bizarre, inconstant approach in conducting the sensitive investigations into Hillary Clinton's emails and then Trump's election campaign.

But now that he's gone, the media act like America just lost its favorite uncle.

Everyone is now used to the simple fact that no matter what he does, Trump cannot win the press. And that's why no one should look to it for an indication of whether he's doing anything right.

Depending on what mood the Washington media wake up in on any given day, Trump is either dumb and expected to screw up (i.e. Charles Blow wittily referring to Trump in every column as "president" in quotes) or it's, Hey, why isn't he doing everything like a normal president? Constitutional crisis!"

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

Happy Mothers Day to all the Moms out there.

breckenridge
breckenridge

As I've stated many times before the American far-left is a clear and present danger to America.

Sarge you are a perfect example of the success Roger Ailes at Fox News had in achieving his goal - to divide America and demonize political opponents.

Congratulations. 

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@breckenridge

Wong again.

All Ailes did was give Conservatives a channel where they might actually watch the news and not throw a shoe at the TV.

The divide already existed.

The divide grows wider, not because of Conservatives but due to the lunacy currently on display by your side.

Bookman writing and the AJC publishing a call to impeach Trump is but one example.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@JohnnyReb @breckenridge  Breckenridge just spews out rhetoric on subjects he doesn't really understand not unlike Mark. Breck's to young to understand anything about the division that exists today. Because we're a free and open society there have always been opposing views and sides on just about everything in our society, however, what we have today is division that's crippling us. The division we have today began in the 60's with the sexual revolution, anti-Americanism, pacifism and the disrespect for American traditional values. It has progressed quite rapidly with the lefts successful take over of the Democrat party.

Starik
Starik

@SGTGrit @JohnnyReb @breckenridge There's also the disappearance of moderates from both parties. I think the downfall started with Viet Nam. People lost faith in government then and rightfully so. It never came back.

Harold D Gray
Harold D Gray

The republicans think the democrats are idiots. The democrats think the republicans are idiots. The sad truth is they are both right.

Harold D Gray
Harold D Gray

The truth is what you think the truth is - stupid is as stupid are - from here and now and from afar - but here you are for all to see from now and on to eternity...

MarkVV
MarkVV

@Harold D Gray Another generalization, which is - well, what else can you call it than stupid?

bu22
bu22

@Harold D Gray The Democrats think their own followers are idiots.  This Russia conspiracy makes me think they are correct.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

It takes a person beyond all reason to believe there was not and does not exist sufficient evidence to indict Hillary Clinton.

There are people in jail now convicted of far less.

While Trump has basically stated he does not want to pursue Hillary, perhaps the new FBI director, urged by his team who built the case, and Sessions will change the Donald's mind.

It would be comeuppance for all the whining and crying of Dems about Trump's firing of Comey that Hillary be put in an orange jumpsuit where she belongs.  

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@Finn-McCool @JohnnyReb

You can rest assured if it was up to me the charges would go to a grand jury.

And, there is no doubt there would be an indictment.

It's what she deserves but instead the looney side applauds her.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

As I've stated many times before the American far-left is a clear and present danger to America.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@SGTGrit You may repeat it as many times as you want, this is a free country, but it will still remain as stupid as the first time.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@MarkVV @SGTGrit

The last two mid-terms and recent presidential election supports the Sargent.

And at the rate Dems are going, you won't be able to elect a dog catcher.

Even your party leader has voiced concern you can't get anyone elected.

But you go right on believing your it, just like Obama had you believe "we are the ones you have been waiting for."

MarkVV
MarkVV

@JohnnyReb @MarkVV @SGTGrit Sargent claimed that “the American far-left is a clear and present danger to America,”

 and you claim that he is right, and that “the rate Dems are going, you won't be able to elect a dog catcher.”

Even a child – but not you -would see that if Dems cannot elect anybody, they are no danger. But if you insist on adding something differently stupid, but also stupid to Sargent’s, it is a free country.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@MarkVV @JohnnyReb @SGTGrit

You are very free with the word stupid.

My counter is, only a stupid person would not see Dems can't handle being out of control.

Especially the faction that loots and burns.

Next them them is MSM and the Dem base.

Hillary loses and you go bat s h  t crazy.

bu22
bu22

@Starik @MarkVV @JohnnyReb @SGTGrit There's not as many of them, certainly not in political office.  Only about 35 in the Freedom Caucus in the House.  Very few like that in the Senate.