Nothing about yesterday’s big story makes much sense. I certainly don’t claim to know why President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. The reason cited by Trump in his laughable letter to Comey firing him is utterly unconvincing. The letter said:
While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau.
I do not believe the current incumbent appreciates what he says he greatly appreciates. I also do not believe that he is “concurring” with the recommendation of the Justice Department.
The “judgment of the Department of Justice that [Comey is] not able to lead” the FBI was delivered to Trump yesterday in the form of a letter from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and a memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. I reiterate that I don’t know Trump’s real reasons, but the Sessions letter and the Rosenstein memo are both dated yesterday. To me they have all the earmarks of fake recommendations to provide cover for Trump to do what he wanted to do, which was fire Comey and appoint a replacement who will owe his job and his loyalty to the guy who appointed him.
Don’t take my word for it. Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard (no liberal and no Democrat) tweeted out the same analysis. The Kristol tweet read:
The Rosenstein memo is dated … today. So there was no real recommendation from DOJ. Trump wanted to do it, and they created a paper trail.
But why did Trump want to do it? After all, many Democrats (including Hillary Clinton) lay substantial blame on Comey for tipping the election in Trump’s favor with his famous, unprecedented last-minute announcement that he had reopened the investigation into Clinton’s infamous e-mail problems, even though there turned out to be nothing new turned up by the investigation.
Comey has continued to defend that decision in ways that don’t satisfy Clinton or most of her supporters, who suspect that the real motive was to hurt her chances of winning the election. (Personally, I don’t particularly subscribe to that theory.) But if that theory is correct, Trump owes Comey a large debt of gratitude (although appropriate gratitude is not one of his core virtues).
For his part, Trump has publicly expressed his anger and disappointment that the FBI did not recommend criminal prosecution of Clinton over the email business (which certainly would have helped Trump’s electoral chances even more).
My best guess (it’s only a guess) is that Trump feels he needs guaranteed loyalists in every position that might have influence over the ongoing investigation of the Trump-Russia-interference-in-the-election matter.
Comey, who had Republican credentials and had served in the George W. Bush Justice Department, was nonetheless appointed to the FBI directorship by President Barack Obama. It was an Obamian gesture of nonpartisanship, but also a recognition that Comey’s conduct in key Justice Department matters had suggested that Comey was a relatively nonpartisan, nonpolitical straight shooter and man of principle.
During Comey’s most recent moment in the spotlight, testifying to Congress and being pressed to explain why he did what he did on the various election-related matters, he certainly begged the nation to believe that he is that nonpartisan, nonpolitical straight-shooter, who felt “nauseous” at the possibility that some of his decisions had affected the election outcome. Personally, I halfway believed him.
Meanwhile, the question of whether Trump colluded with the Russian efforts to help him win the presidency remains. Several Trump associates are up to their neck in Russian connections. Personally, I go back and forth in my hunches over whether Trump was actively involved in the Russian collusion. Certainly nothing has been proven along those lines, but there’s a lot of smoke that might indicate fire.
In firing Comey, Trump has strengthened the argument that a serious bipartisan congressional commission staffed with nonpartisan investigators needs to be created to get to the bottom of the Russia stuff, and it needs to be populated and staffed by people Trump can’t make disappear with his famous catchphrase: “You’re fired.”