FBI

Trump Admits He Would Have Fired Comey Regardless of What the DOJ Said

The president abandons a cover story that made liars of his spokesmen.

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NBC News

In an interview with NBC yesterday, President Trump admitted that his initial explanation of his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey—that he acted based on the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein—was not true. "I was going to fire Comey," Trump told Lester Holt. "Regardless of [the] recommendation, I was going to fire Comey." That admission contradicts what Trump said in his letter to Comey on Tuesday:

I have received the attached letters from the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General of the United States recommending your dismissal as Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I have accepted their recommendation and you are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately.

Trump also admitted that the FBI's investigation of Russian meddling in the presidential election, which includes the possible involvement of the Trump campaign, was on his mind when he fired Comey. "When I decided to just do it," he said, "I said to myself…this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won." But Trump also offered a new reason for giving Comey the boot, calling him a "showboat" and "grandstander" whose thirst for the spotlight had left the FBI "in turmoil."

In the two days after Trump sacked Comey, the administration told so many contradictory stories about what happened that it can be hard to keep track of them. A review of the shifting explanations underlines Trump's incompetence as a con man:

Wednesday, May 3

"The president has confidence in the director," White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer assures reporters.

Tuesday, May 9

At an afternoon press briefing, Spicer is asked whether Trump still has "full confidence" in Comey. "I have no reason to believe—" Spicer says before interrupting himself to note that "I have not asked the president since the last time we spoke about this."

A few hours later, Spicer issues a statement announcing Comey's dismissal, saying "President Trump acted based on the clear recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions."

Trump's letter to Comey includes a three-page memo in which Rosenstein criticizes the way Comey handled the FBI's investigation of Hillary Clinton's email practices as secretary of state. Rosenstein says Comey flouted well-established Justice Department practices by holding a press conference to reveal the FBI's findings and by publicly reopening the investigation 11 days before the presidential election. "The way the Director handled the conclusion of the email investigation was wrong," Rosenstein says. "As a result, the FBI is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a Director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them. Having refused to admit his errors, the Director cannot be expected to implement the necessary corrective actions."

Trump also appends a letter from Sessions. The attorney general, who last year repeatedly defended Comey's handling of the Clinton investigation, nevertheless says "the reasons expressed by the Deputy Attorney General in the attached memorandum" have led him to conclude that "a fresh start is needed at the leadership of the FBI."

Referring to the genesis of Rosenstein's recommendation, Spicer says, "It was all him….No one from the White House. That was a DOJ decision."

Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway tells CNN's Anderson Cooper the president "took the recommendation of Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, to whom the FBI director reports."

Wednesday, May 10

"President Trump made the right decision at the right time to accept the recommendation of the deputy attorney general and the attorney general," Vice President Mike Pence tells reporters on Capitol Hill in the morning. "The president took strong and decisive leadership here to put the safety and the security of the American people first by accepting the recommendation of the deputy attorney general to remove Director Comey as the head of the FBI."

A few hours later, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders offers a revised narrative. "The president, over the last several months, lost confidence in Director Comey," Sanders tells reporters. "The DOJ lost confidence in Director Comey. Bipartisan members of Congress made it clear that they had lost confidence in Director Comey. And most importantly, the rank and file of the FBI had lost confidence in their director. Accordingly, the President accepted the recommendation of his Deputy Attorney General to remove James Comey from his position."

Sanders says Trump "did have a conversation with the Deputy Attorney General on Monday, where they had come to him to express their concerns." Trump then asked Rosenstein to "put those concerns and their recommendation in writing." She says Rosenstein's description of the "atrocities" that Comey committed by "circumventing the chain of command at the Department of Justice" encouraged Trump, who had been "considering letting Director Comey go since the day he was elected," to finally act.

Asked if Rosenstein, who had been in office less than two weeks, "decided on his own, after being confirmed, to review Comey's performance," Sanders says, "Absolutely." Asked if "the president had already decided to fire James Comey" and "asked the Justice Department to put together the rationale for that firing," she says, "No."

Thursday, May 11

Testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe contradicts Sanders' claim that "the rank and file of the FBI had lost confidence in their director." Not so, McCabe says: "Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the F.B.I. and still does….The vast majority of FBI employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection to Director Comey."

In his NBC News interview, Trump contradicts Sanders' claim that Sessions and Rosenstein persuaded him to finally fire Comey. "Regardless of [the] recommendation," Trump tells NBC News, "I was going to fire Comey." Although Trump concedes that the Russia probe, which he denounced as a "taxpayer-funded charade" on Monday, played a role in his decision, he says he wants the investigation to continue. "If Russia or anybody else is trying to interfere with our elections," he says, "I think it's a horrible thing, and I want to get to the bottom of it."

At a briefing after reporters have seen the NBC interview, Sanders tries to make "the sequence of events" leading to Comey's dismissal "perfectly clear to everyone." Her timeline omits the implication that Trump would not have fired Comey if Sessions and Rosenstein had not recommended it.

Noting that the president's remarks are inconsistent with what Sanders and his other representatives have been saying, a reporter asks, "Were you guys in the dark?" Not at all, Sanders says, although it sure sounds like they were: "I hadn't had a chance to have the conversation directly with the President…I'd had several conversations with him, but I didn't ask that question directly, 'Had you already made that decision?' I went off of the information that I had when I answered your question. I've since had the conversation with him, right before I walked on today, and he laid it out very clearly. He had already made that decision."

The problem with the latest clarification is that Trump himself presented his decision as a response to the advice he got from Sessions and Rosenstein. Spicer, Conway, Pence, and Sanders all took their cues from him. ABC News reports that Rosenstein "was so upset with the White House for pinning the firing of FBI Director James Comey on him…that he was on the verge of resigning." That threat may explain why Trump decided to come clean, since the resignation of an official whom the White House had presented as a model of rectitude would have made a disastrous P.R. situation even worse. But the head-spinning reversal reinforces the impression that Trump was trying to impede the Russia investigation and confirms something we already knew: The president is a terrible liar—both in the sense that he does it all the time and in the sense that he is bad at it. In light of the former fact, we are lucky for the latter.

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  1. Pathological liars gonna pathologically lie. Works in business. Trump is running the government like a business, an outsider if you will. Draining the swamp he is.

    1. Trump’s an amateur at lying. Most politicians would have kept to their story for at least this news cycle to pass. Hilary certsinly eould have never revealed the trurh, ever, sge eoukd have just come up with a new lie once the old one was not working.

      1. Hilary certsinly eould have never revealed the trurh, ever, sge eoukd

        I tried Google Translate for Swedish but it did not work …

  2. “Oh! what a tangled web we weave/When first we practice to deceive!”

    Pledging loyalty to this guy means you’re to tell lies and more lies.

    1. And then one day you look in the mirror and you’ve become Kellyanne Conway.
      And if you do the right thing, you kill yourself.

  3. “The president has confidence in the director,”

    this is known as the dreaded vote of confidence. grownups know it means start updating your resume.

  4. I kind of miss the Glibs. An article like this one would have flooded the place in gallons of salty ham tears. Then the threats to leave forever and withhold their $10 pledges…good times.

  5. ABC News reports that Rosenstein “was so upset with the White House for pinning the firing of FBI Director James Comey on him…that he was on the verge of resigning.”

    Rosenstein denies it. I guess this is an inconvenient fact for Sullum and the rest the deep state-fluffing center-right “resistance”.

    1. It’s fascinating how many outright lies are being told by reporters who should otherwise know better. (Not to say that the administration isn’t doing the same, that’s basically the job of the Press Secretary.)

      They’re burning up what little credibility they had left. Now, when an actual ‘anonymous source’ comes forward with real wrong doing by the Trump campaign there won’t be a lot of non-partisans who are going to believe them. Or maybe they will, since apparently nothing said about Trump is unbelievable.

      We are seeing large, supposedly ‘non-partisan’ outlets publishing little more than gossip as concrete fact and then places like Reason pick it up without asking a single question. What ever happened to rational skepticism and reason? I feel like this outlet needs to change it’s name to something more accurate, like ‘Feelz Magazine’.

      1. The lamestream press long ago passed that mile marker. I no longer believe anything they publish. Not that I disbelieve everything they say – it’s just that they no longer have any credibility. If a news item is of interest (mostly, what passes for “news” is of NO interest) I check it elsewhere before giving it any credence.

        When it comes to Trump, I’ve gone deaf – not because I’m a Trump supporter who will not hear any criticism, but because the press has beaten the anti-Trump drum so loudly, my ear drums have burst. The lamestream media no longer has any pretense or claim of impartiality – something that went overboard the moment Trump won.

  6. Republicans are red, Democrats are blue. Trump is a moron, Obama is too. Happy Mother’s Day.

    1. Hey now, that kind of rational poxing of both houses ain’t gonna fly around here, mister.

    2. Agreed. Makes it hard to work up any outrage.

      1. Moral relativism, cynicism, resignation…the hallmarks of modern libertarianism.

        1. You’ve got the straw man on the ropes! Give him a left! Another left!

          1. In this case, I think the straw man is employing the rope a dope strategy…

  7. I kind of miss Obama. He was such a smooth liar. Most of the time you couldn’t tell if he was lying or just ignorant.

    1. You overlook the healing power of “and”…

  8. Trump Admits He Would Have Fired Comey Regardless of What the DOJ Said

    Yeah, that is so sweet.

    By the way, while everybody was being distracted by that shiny object, the cookie elf just told his 94 U.S. attorneys to start prosecuting low level drug dealers again, because someone is in love with putting whole populations in jail.

    You should hear the ghoulish drug warriors on Fox & Friends salivating over this…

    1. THIS!

    2. You should hear the ghoulish drug warriors on Fox & Friends salivating over this…

      I did hear it this morning, as well as a call for vigorously enforcing mandatory minimum sentences to show those weed-smokers who’s boss in this town. And then I threw up in my mouth a lot. “Ghoulish” doesn’t begin to describe the monsters “libertarian-leaning” Fox News invites to the sofa as “contributors.”

      1. When asked by quintessential blonde boobie, Ainsley Earhardt, how the new policy would be enforced if prisons are overflowing, former Drug Czar Bill Bennet answered: “Build More Prisons!”

        Build up the demand, and the supply shall appear as if by magic! Shovel-ready, baby!!

        1. “If you build it they will come”

          /Killing Fields of Dreams

      2. The only libertarians at Fox are Kat Timpf, Stossel, Kennedy and judge Napolitano. The rest are as “libertarian” as Trumpistas are libertarian.

        1. What about Shep Smith?

          1. Shep seems to march to a different, more stoned drummer.

  9. Look, sometimes Trump just says stuff.

    1. His nickname at prep school was Bugger Buddy.

  10. Reason apparently has a problem with simple logic. It is obviously possible to 1. have wanted to fire Comey and to have been intent on doing it and 2. actually fire him in response to and accordance with a recommendation from the DOJ.

    The cosmotarians at Reason enjoy a panty-bunching DC kerfuffle as much as anyone, I guess.

    I’m not impressed Jacob.

    1. DRACO IS NOT IMPRESSED, JACOB.

      1. SHOW ME YOUR WAR FACE!
        AAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGG
        You don’t scare me, work on it!

    2. Exactly. The claim that the rank and file in the FBI loved him is doubtful, at best. Investigators work their asses off to build a case against Clinton, and he tossed in the trash due to political reasons.

      1. Sheriff Bart: “The claim that the rank and file in the FBI loved him is doubtful, at best.

        Yet McCabe testified to exactly that–and he did so under oath. Are you therefore suggesting that he did a Clapper and perjured himself?

      2. I’m sure more than a few FBI agents were disgusted by the decision to not prosecute the Queen of Criminals and Double Agents. I used to think McCain was the Manchurian Candidate… but with Hitlery… no reason there can’t be two of them.

    3. Glib sighting.

      1. Retard sighting.

        1. Ooh, wicked burn!

    4. Yeah, only a cosmotarian wouldn’t buy that Trump fired Comey because the DOJ told him he was too harsh on Hillary. I mean, that would require not believing something Donald Trump said. Who would do such a thing?!!!

      1. On being too harsh on Hitlery: Anyone notice that all the critics of Comey (whom we all “know” caused Hitlery to lose the election) – those calling for his blood/head/other assorted body parts – are now bemoaning the fact that Trump fired such a Good and Faithful Servant of the People?

    5. Thank you. Your take is more objective than the author.

    6. This is just about the only reasonably intelligent comment I have read on this entire thread. I’m not impressed with Jacob’s analysis in this particular case, either. Thanks, Draco.

  11. “But Trump also offered a new reason for giving Comey the boot, calling him a “showboat” and “grandstander” ”

    In order to make this part of his statement most effective, Trump practiced while looking in the mirror.

  12. The Trumpistas have become so precious. One gets the distinct impression that the only news about Trump they can tolerate is written in the language of “3d-Chess Master Trump Perfectly Executes Immutable Preconceived Plan”. And then they whine about “fake news”. You get what you ask for, I guess.

  13. Changing the story and the timeline continually is the sign of a very bad liar. The minority president’s narcissism is showing. All those officials including the AG and his assistant who backed the original story that he fired Comey based on their recommendations have now been shown to be dishonest. How many times will these people be willing to carry water for a leader who abandons them and makes them look venal? Why change the story now? Many doubted the original version, now the doubts are gone- eliminated by the President, himself, to what purpose?

  14. Comey’s relevance was terminated when President Obama announced “There will be no charges filed”.
    “The rule of law, the separation of powers, and the strength and hallmarks of American democracy are at stake” Chuck must have missed Comey’s relevance being terminated when President Obama announced on national television, “There will be no charges filed” mid investigation of Crooked Hillary. Since that pronunciamento the FBI Director has been an empty suit yearning to be free. Why else would he continue to make irrelevant and occasionally inaccurate public statements before congress? Maybe Chuck doesn’t understand the concept of the president’s cabinet serves “at the pleasure of the president. Comey, Yates, Flynn, and Clapper had to go now, with Chuck gone in ’18.

  15. Comey’s relevance was terminated when President Obama announced “There will be no charges filed”.
    “The rule of law, the separation of powers, and the strength and hallmarks of American democracy are at stake” Chuck must have missed Comey’s relevance being terminated when President Obama announced on national television, “There will be no charges filed” mid investigation of Crooked Hillary. Since that pronunciamento the FBI Director has been an empty suit yearning to be free. Why else would he continue to make irrelevant and occasionally inaccurate public statements before congress? Maybe Chuck doesn’t understand the concept of the president’s cabinet serves “at the pleasure of the president. Comey, Yates, Flynn, and Clapper had to go now, with Chuck gone in ’18.

  16. a) “I was going to fire Comey,” Trump told Lester Holt. “Regardless of [the] recommendation, I was going to fire Comey.”

    That admission contradicts what Trump said in his letter to Comey on Tuesday:

    b) I have received the attached letters from the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General of the United States recommending your dismissal as Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I have accepted their recommendation and you are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately.

    Get so tired of #fakenews lies.

    a) and b) do not contradict each other. You can plan to fire someone, then receive a recommendation that they be fired, and accept the recommendation.

    I’m not going to go through every line of this bullshit. Just one more

    “The president has confidence in the director,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer assures reporters.

    You don’t publicly kneecap your employees before you’ve actually fired them. Duh.

    “Oh yeah, I have no confidence in him. He’s a bum. I’m deciding whether to dump his ass. Probably next week.”

  17. The POTUS is out of control; it’s time for impeachment proceedings.

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