Trump Contradicts Vice President, White House Staff On Comey Firing

 

President Trump said today that he had planned to fire FBI Director James Comey this week no matter what others said. That contradicted the initial explanations of Vice President Pence and White House staff and raised the the possibility obstruction of justice into the ongoing criminal probe of Russian influence on his campaign.

President Donald Trump officialOn the morning "Today" show on May 11, Trump told NBC TV's Lester Holt that Comey was a "showboat" whom he planned to fire "regardless" of what Justice Department officials might want.

The explanation thereby contradicted what Pence (shown below left) and the White House communications staff had been telling the public about the reasons for Comey's sudden firing May 9 as he led the FBI's probe into Russian influence peddling with the Trump 2016 presidential campaign, including interference with the elections.

Mike Pence

Trump said also that Comey wanted to stay in the job and told the president during a dinner and then in two phone calls that Trump was not under investigation.

White House news correspondents tried to question Trump's deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders during the afternoon White House press briefing conference about the administration's initial claim that Comey was fired on the basis of a recommendation by the newly appointed Deputy Attorney Gen. Rod Rosenstein.

Another line of questions was whether Trump and Comey violated Justice Department policy (and possible criminal law) by discussing the president's potential liability for crimes, particularly when the president had the ability to make a deal by rewarding the probe's leader by continuing him in office.

Sanders, the deputy press secretary, organized much of the press briefing on other topics. She falsely told the media that she would answer "all" their questions and denied that any significant discrepancy existed between the original White House explanation of Comey's firing and Trump's explanation.

Huckabee said the Comey firing was part of the White House attempt to end the FBI's probe of Russian influence as soon as possible "with integrity." Whether she knew it or not, her admission that the firing was tied to Comey's probe, and not that Comey had been too mean to presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, could draw a dangerous link to obstruction of justice, as reported here: Sarah Huckabee Sanders admits Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice by firing James Comey.

Huckabee abruptly ended the conference by walking away from the podium while ignoring a barrage of shouted questions from reporters she had failed to call upon. 

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) responded by describing Comey as "one of the most ethical, upright, straightforward" FBI officials he had ever had the pleasure of working with. Burr (shown in an official photo) further contradicted Sanders by saying that he believed that Comey enjoyed the confidence of fellow FBI personnel before Trump fired the director March 9 while Comey was traveling and just four years into Comey's 10-year-term.

At a hearing today before the committee, Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe also contradicted the president by saying that he holds Comey "in the highest regard," that the vast majority of FBI enjoyed a deep connection with Flynn and that such support continues to "today."

No previous president has ever fired an FBI director except for President Bill Clinton's non-controversial dismissal of a director, William Sessions, who had been placed under investigation for ethics violations by a previous Republican boss, Attorney Gen. William Barr, and Justice Department internal investigators.

Other commentators exploded after NBC interview with allegations (or at least pointed questions) that Trump's actions presented conflict of interest on multiple grounds because the probe involved major financial, election, counter-espionage and disclosure scandals involving close advisors to Trump, including former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

Explosive Reaction To Trump Interview

News commentators reacted to the White House briefing by denouncing Trump's staff as deceitful, arrogant, incompetent and, in the case the Trump, as possibly breaking laws forbidding obstruction of justice, a charge weighed in impeachment discussions involved both Presidents Richard Nixon (who resigned before impeachment) and Bill Clinton. 

In the NBC interview, Trump told Holt, according an account in Politico in a story by Madeline Conway headlined Trump says it was his call to fire ‘showboat’ Comey:

“He made a recommendation,” Trump continued, referring to Rod Rosenstein (shown in a C-SPAN photo), the deputy attorney general who wrote a memo criticizing the FBI director’s handling of an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state. “He's highly respected. Very good guy. Very smart guy. The Democrats like him. The Republicans like him. He made a recommendation. But regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey.”

The White House had previously claimed that Trump fired Comey following the recommendation of the Justice Department. But multiple news outlets, including Politico, have reported that Trump was upset with Comey over the ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia and was looking for a reason to fire him.

“He's a showboat, he's a grand-stander, the FBI has been in turmoil,” Trump told Holt of Comey. “You know that, I know that. Everybody knows that. You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil. Less than a year ago, it hasn't recovered from that.”

Trump also repeated his claim that Comey personally told him he was not under investigation by the FBI for possible connections to Russia. News reports in the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal have cited anonymous sources describing that assertion as inaccurate.

“I actually asked him. I said, 'If it's possible, would you let me know am I under investigation?' He said, 'You are not under investigation,’” Trump told Holt. Trump said Comey relayed that message once in person, at dinner, and twice over the phone. Trump said he called Comey once and Comey called him in another instance.

Among many side-stories and ironies:

  • Comey is a longtime prosecutor and Justice Department official, who 15 years ago held the same position as Rosenstein now of deputy attorney general.
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he has no plan to approve an independent inquiry via a commission or prosecutor, according to a Washington Post story, Washington Post, Mitch McConnell just shut down any hopes Democrats had of an independent Russia investigation.
  • The New York Times reported Comey sought more resources for Russia probe days before firing, officials say. "As furor grew," wrote reporters Elise Viebeck, Ed O'Keefe, Sean Sullivan and Paul Kane, Republicans and Democrats said the FBI director's dismissal will frustrate bipartisan efforts to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election. Unnamed Justice Department spokespeople denied the story​, which will undoubtedly be further explored by the media and at least some officials.
  • Trump provoked puzzlement and controversy by meeting at the White House with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (shown below at far left in a Tass photo with the president) and Russia's ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak (shown at far right), but banned U.S. media.

The only photos were from Russian media invited by its foreign office and distributed via the state news service Tass, whereas U.S. media were excluded.

Yet it was unreported contacts with the ambassador, Kislyak, that led to Trump's firing of his National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and the recusal from further involvement in the Russian probe by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, a Democrat from California and the state's former attorney general, undertook her first nationwide broadcast interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, and called for Sessions to resign for participating in Comey's firing when he was supposed to have recused himself.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, said in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer that the inquiries raises the possibilities of a "cover-up" and a "looming constitutional crisis." Blumenthal (shown in an official photo) said the probe could lead to Trump's impeachment, although he noted that probes were at an early stage. "I think one of the precipitating factors in his dismissal was his request for additional resources."

 Blumenthal, a member of the intelligence committee and former U.S. attorney and state attorney general for Connecticut, said he doubted that Comey would have used the words claimed by Trump to rule out the possibility of investigating Trump personally. The reasons? He said it would have been "improper" and also because an investigation always has the possibility of new evidence until it is concluded."

Blumenthal said that continues to advocate for an independent investigation and that he wants Sessions and Rosenstein to appear before the Senate to answer questions about their recent conduct.

 
Contact the author Andrew Kreig
 

 

Related News Coverage

(Arranged below in reverse chronological order)

Russia Influence-Peddling, Comey Firing Scandals

New York Times, In Private Meeting, Trump Demanded Comey’s Loyalty, Michael S. Schmidt, March 12, 2017. At a private dinner just after Mr. Trump took office, Mr. Comey demurred when asked to pledge his loyalty. Associates say Mr. Comey now believes it ultimately played a part in his dismissal.

New York Times, Trump Warning to Comey Prompts Questions on ‘Tapes,’ Peter Baker and Michael D. Shear, March 12, 2017. President Trump warned James B. Comey that he had “better hope” that there are no tapes of their conversations. The White House later refused to say whether the president tapes his visitors.

New York Times, A Look at the Contenders to Be the Next F.B.I. Director, Maggie Haberman and Jeremy W. Peters, March 12, 2017. FBI logoAmong the choices being discussed at the White House are J. Michael Luttig, a former judge; Senator John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican; and Representative Trey Gowdy, officials said.

Washington Post, Trump’s lawyers outline president’s Russian income but provide no documents, Rosalind S. Helderman, May 12, 2017. The White House released a letter from two tax attorneys for President Trump claiming that his only income from Russian sources in the last 10 years came from fees for hosting the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and sales of a mansion, condo units and golf games to Russians.

Washington Post, Trump says he was thinking of ‘this Russia thing’ when he decided to fire Comey, Devlin Barrett and Philip Rucker, May 11, 2017.​ Recounting his decision to dismiss the FBI director, the president told NBC News “I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats.” His account flatly contradicts the White House’s initial version of events and undercuts denials by his aides that the move was influenced in any way by his growing fury with the ongoing Russia probe.

Washington Post, Trump’s lawyers outline president’s Russian income but provide no documents, Rosalind S. Helderman, May 12, 2017. The White House released a letter from two tax attorneys for President Trump claiming that his only income from Russian sources in the last 10 years came from fees for hosting the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and sales of a mansion, condo units and golf games to Russians. 

Washington Post, The real test of our tolerance for Trump comes now, Michael Gerson, May 11, 2017. This was always the main question: Would President Trump go beyond mere Twitter abuse and move against institutions that limit his power?

By any reasonable standard, we now have an answer. Trump’s official rationale for firing FBI Director James B. Comey — that the president was suddenly seized with outrage at the shocking treatment of Hillary Clinton by the FBI during the election — is false in a typically Trump-like way. It requires his supporters to demonstrate their loyalty by defending the indefensible. This is apparently the manner in which Trump identifies true believers. They must be willing, when instructed, to say that 2+2=5. On cable television.

In fact, according to media accounts, Trump has been in a spittle-flinging rage since Comey’s March 20 testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, in which he confirmed the existence of an investigation of Russian influence on Trump’s inner circle. On May 2, Trump tweeted that the “Trump/Russia story” is “phony.” On May 9, Trump fired Comey. The president removed a perceived threat, threw an active FBI investigation into chaos and raised the prospect of a Trump stooge being appointed in Comey’s place.

Palmer Report, Sarah Huckabee Sanders admits Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice by firing James Comey, Bill Palmer, May 11, 2017. Sarah Huckabee Sanders temporarily took over White House Press Secretary duties this week from Sean Spicer, and today she uttered words that may end up being looked back on as having ended Donald Trump’s presidency. During her briefing today, she flat out admitted in exact words that Trump fired FBI Director James Comey because he wanted the Russia investigation to end. There’s a legal term for that. It’s called obstruction of justice.

Politico, Trump says it was his call to fire ‘showboat’ Comey, Madeline Conway, May 11, 2017. President Donald Trump on Thursday described former FBI Director James Comey as a "showboat" and said he intended to fire him "regardless" of what Justice Department officials suggested. “I was going to fire regardless of recommendation,” Trump told NBC News’ Lester Holt in an interview scheduled to air later on Thursday, two days after Comey’s abrupt firing.

“He made a recommendation,” Trump continued, referring to Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who wrote a memo criticizing the FBI director’s handling of an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state. “He's highly respected. Very good guy. Very smart guy. The Democrats like him. The Republicans like him. He made a recommendation. But regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey.”

The White House had previously claimed that Trump fired Comey following the recommendation of the Justice Department. But multiple news outlets, including POLITICO, have reported that Trump was upset with Comey over the ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia and was looking for a reason to fire him.

“He's a showboat, he's a grand-stander, the FBI has been in turmoil,” Trump told Holt of Comey. “You know that, I know that. Everybody knows that. You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil. Less than a year ago, it hasn't recovered from that.”

Trump also repeated his claim that Comey personally told him he was not under investigation by the FBI for possible connections to Russia. News reports in the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal have cited anonymous sources describing that assertion as inaccurate.

“I actually asked him. I said, 'If it's possible, would you let me know am I under investigation?' He said, 'You are not under investigation,’” Trump told Holt. Trump said Comey relayed that message once in person, at dinner, and twice over the phone. Trump said he called Comey once and Comey called him in another instance.

Background

New York Times, An Open Letter to the Deputy Attorney General, Editorial Board, May 11, 2017. Rod Rosenstein has more authority than anyone else to restore Americans’ confidence in their government.

Dear Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein:

It’s rare that any single person has to bear as much responsibility for safeguarding American democracy as you find yourself carrying now. Even before President Trump’s shocking decision on Tuesday to fire the F.B.I. director, James Comey, a dark cloud of suspicion surrounded this president, and the very integrity of the electoral process that put him in office. At this fraught moment you find yourself, improbably, to be the person with the most authority to dispel that cloud and restore Americans’ confidence in their government. We sympathize; that’s a lot of pressure.

Given the sterling reputation you brought into this post — including a 27-year career in the Justice Department under five administrations, and the distinction of being the longest-serving United States attorney in history — you no doubt feel a particular anguish, and obligation to act. As the author of the memo that the president cited in firing Mr. Comey, you are now deeply implicated in that decision.

New York Times, Nixon Library Tweet That Trolled Trump Was Inappropriate, Officials Say, Staff report, May 11, 2017. The federal agency that oversees presidential libraries said this Twitter post, made by the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, was inappropriate.

Baltimore Sun, FBI raids office of Republican campaign consultant in Annapolis, Michael Dresser, May 11, 2017. The FBI raided a Republican campaign consultant's Annapolis office Thursday, leading Maryland Republican lawmakers to say they won't work with the firm. Kelley Rogers, president of Strategic Campaign Group, said a half-dozen FBI agents arrived at his Main Street office at about 8:30 a.m. with a warrant to search and seize records.

An FBI spokeswoman confirmed the agency conducted "law enforcement activity" along Main Street in Annapolis but would not be more specific. Agents on the scene, dressed in plainclothes, confirmed they were with the FBI but referred all other questions to a spokeswoman. They left the building shortly after 4 p.m., carrying files and a computer with them. Rogers, whose firm has worked with campaign committees for Maryland Senate and House of Delegates candidates, said the FBI investigation concerns work the firm performed during the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial campaign of former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican (shown at right and now a regular commentator on CNN).

May 10

New York Times, Before Comey’s firing, Trump’s animus toward him boiled over into fury, officials say, Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker, FBI logoDevlin Barrett and Robert Costa​, May 10, 2017. President was said to be frustrated by FBI director’s focus on Russia and lack of attention to leaks. Accounts from more than 30 officials at the White House, Justice Department and on Capitol Hill indicate that the president was angry that James Comey would not support his baseless claim that President Obama had his campaign offices wiretapped. And he fumed that Comey was giving too much attention to the Russia probe and not enough to investigating leaks to journalists.

New York Times, Comey sought more resources for Russia probe days before firing, officials say, Elise Viebeck, Ed O'Keefe, Sean Sullivan and Paul Kane​, May 10, 2017. As furor grew, Republicans and Democrats said the FBI director's dismissal will frustrate bipartisan efforts to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election.
 

Russia’s official news agency photographed President Trump’s meeting with Sergey V. Lavrov in the Oval Office on Wednesday. The American press was denied access. Credit Alexander Shcherbak/TASS, via Getty Images  

New York Times, Trump Bars U.S. Press, but Not Russia’s, at Meeting With Russian Officials, Julie Hirshfeld Davis, May 10, 2017. When President Trump met with top Russian officials in the Oval Office on Wednesday, White House officials barred reporters from witnessing the moment. They apparently preferred to block coverage of the awkwardly timed visit as questions swirled about whether the president had dismissed his F.B.I. director in part to squelch the investigation into possible ties between his campaign and Moscow.

But the Russians, who have a largely state-run media, brought their own press contingent in the form of an official photographer. They quickly filled the vacuum with their own pictures of the meeting with Mr. Trump, Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and Sergey I. Kislyak, Moscow’s ambassador to the United States.

Within minutes of the meeting, the Foreign Ministry had posted photographs on Twitter of Mr. Trump and Mr. Lavrov smiling and shaking hands. The Russian embassy posted images of the president grinning and gripping hands with the ambassador. Tass, Russia’s official news agency, released more photographs of the three men laughing together in the Oval Office.

The White House released nothing. The result was a public relations coup of sorts for Russia and Mr. Lavrov in particular, who not only received a collegial Oval Office welcome from the president, but the photographic evidence to prove it. By contrast, when Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson traveled to Moscow last month, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia kept him waiting for hours before granting him an audience at the Kremlin. Then, too, Mr. Tillerson left his American press contingent behind.

New York Times, Russian Meeting Comes at Awkward Time, David E.Sanger and Neil MacFarquhar, May 10, 2017. Amid an inquiry into his campaign’s foreign ties, President Trump welcomed Russia’s foreign minister to the Oval Office.

Washington Post, James B. Comey, Sally Yates and Preet Bharara were all law enforcement officials until President Trump fired them — and they were all investigating Trump or his administration at the time of their firing, Peter Stevenson, May 10, 2017.

Washington Post, Rod J. Rosenstein, a longtime prosecutor, signed the letter that served as the rationale for firing the FBI director, Michael Kranish and Lynh Bui, May 10, 2017. To many who have followed the career of Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, the longtime prosecutor’s starring role in drama surrounding the ouster of FBI Director James B. Comey has left them surprised — and a little bit baffled.

Rosenstein, who took office last month, has been spared much of the criticism being aimed at President Trump and his top lieutenants. But Rosenstein’s authorship of the memo that was used as a justification for Comey’s firing has prompted some to wonder whether the Justice Department’s No. 2 was fully committed to firing the FBI director — or whether he was drawn into a White House plan to thwart the FBI’s investigation of potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Washington Post, Before Comey’s firing, Trump’s animus toward him boiled over into fury, officials say, Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker, Devlin Barrett and Robert Costa​, May 10, 2017. President was said to be frustrated by FBI director’s focus on Russia and lack of attention to leaks. Accounts from more than 30 officials at the White House, Justice Department and on Capitol Hill indicate that the president was angry that James Comey would not support his baseless claim that President Obama had his campaign offices wiretapped. And he fumed that Comey was giving too much attention to the Russia probe and not enough to investigating leaks to journalists.

Washington Post, Comey sought more resources for Russia probe days before firing, officials say, Elise Viebeck, Ed O'Keefe, Sean Sullivan and Paul Kane​, May 10, 2017. As furor grew, Republicans and Democrats said the FBI director's dismissal will frustrate bipartisan efforts to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election.

New York Times, Just Days before firing, Comey asked to expand Russia inquiry, Matthew Rosenberg and Matt Apuzzo, May 10, 2017. Days before he was fired, James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, asked the Justice Department for a significant increase in resources for the bureau’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the presidential election, according to three congressional officials who were briefed on his request.

Mr. Comey asked for the resources last week from Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, who also wrote the Justice Department’s memo that was used to justify the firing of Mr. Comey this week, the officials said.

Mr. Comey then briefed members of Congress on the meeting in recent days, telling them about his meeting with Mr. Rosenstein, who is the most senior law enforcement official supervising the Russia investigation. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself because of his close ties to the Trump campaign and his undisclosed meetings with the Russian ambassador.

The timing of Mr. Comey’s request is not clear-cut evidence that his firing was related to the Russia investigation. But it is certain to fuel bipartisan criticism that President Trump appeared to be meddling in an investigation that had the potential to damage his presidency. In his briefing with members of Congress, Mr. Comey said he had been frustrated with the amount of resources being dedicated to the Russia investigation, according to two of the officials. Until two weeks ago, when Mr. Rosenstein took over as deputy attorney general, the investigation was being overseen by Dana Boente, who was acting as the deputy and is now the United States attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

James Comey

Mr. Comey (shown in a file photo) has said he was hoping that he would find a supportive boss in Mr. Rosenstein, and according to the officials, pressed for more resources so he could accelerate the investigation, which is also examining possible collusion between Trump associates and the Russian interference campaign. It was unclear how Mr. Rosenstein reacted to the request, or whether the White House was informed of it.

WhoWhatWhy, Analysis: Trump’s Even More Desperate Reason for Comey Firing, Matthew Harvey and Russ Baker, May 10, 2017. WhoWhatWhyWhoWhatWhy offers its unique perspective on why Trump took the rash step of firing FBI Director James Comey — based on knowledge gained in producing two major exclusive investigations. Trump’s firing of James Comey yesterday proves that even those who carry water for the president are not safe. Trump is in greater peril, it seems, by the hour. And in response, the long knives are out for anyone who is less than 100 percent dependable.

He needs unquestioned loyalists around him — especially in the office that could send almost anyone to prison. After all, Trump and his cronies are investigable for so very many things, from questionable business dealings and conflicts of interest to tax matters to allegedly colluding with the Russian government.

Comey, under criticism for his own actions, faced significant public pressure to demonstrate that the FBI does its job. That could not have sounded good to Trump. As it happened, just hours before the Comey news broke, WhoWhatWhy had published a lengthy investigation into the back story to Comey’s most famous — or infamous — act. It chronicled how Trump’s close surrogates and media allies pressured the FBI director to reopen the Hillary Clinton email investigation. Evidence strongly suggests that this surprising move days before the election was decisive in Trump’s unexpected victory.

The White House said that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is recused from involvement in the FBI's probe of Russia contacts with Trump officials because of contacts with Sessions himself, approved the firing, as did the recently confirmed Deputy Attorney Gen. Rod Rosenstein, shown in a file photo.

CQ Roll Call, Chaffetz Asks DOJ to Investigate Comey’s Departure, Rema Rahman, May 10, 2017.  Now that he’s indicated he’s not running for re-election, Chairman Jason Chaffetz is wielding the gavel he controls on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to willfully go after the Trump administration.

Newsweek, Rudy Giuliani as Next FBI Director? Former Mayor Due at White House But Insists He Isn’t Being Considered, Jason Le Miere, May 10, 2017. Rudy Giuliani has denied that he is a candidate to be the new, permanent FBI director, despite saying that he was scheduled for a meeting at the White House Wednesday. The former New York City mayor and presidential candidate was rumored by many to be a possible choice to replace James Comey after he was controversially fired by President Donald Trump Tuesday evening.

Consortium News, Watergate Redux or ‘Deep State’ Coup? Robert Parry, May 10, 2017. Exclusive: Official Washington is abuzz, comparing President Trump’s ouster of FBI Director Comey to President Nixon’s Watergate cover-up, but there is a darker “deep state” interpretation of these events. President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday reflected a growing concern inside the White House that the long-rumored scheme by “deep state” operatives to overturn the results of the 2016 election may have been more than just rumors.

The fear grew that Comey and other senior officials in the U.S. intelligence community had concluded last year that neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump was a suitable future president, albeit for different reasons. I’m told that Clinton was seen as dangerously hawkish and Trump as dangerously unqualified, opinions privately shared by then-President Barack Obama. The Comey firing is already backfiring on Trump. It’s only going to get worse.

Washington Post, President Trump has surrounded himself with sycophants and amateurs who are either unwilling or unable to tell him no, James Hohmann, March 10, 2017.  

Justice Department logoNew York Times, Don’t Be Complicit, Republicans, Peter Wehner, May 10, 2017. President Trump’s firing of James Comey, the 7th director of the F.B.I., was an abuse of power. Republicans — Republican lawmakers and especially the congressional leadership — need to say so. But that is hardly enough. Words must be followed by actions. At a minimum, Republicans must insist on a congressional select committee or independent commission to investigate Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election and any collusion between the president, his associates or campaign officials and Vladimir Putin’s Russia. What is now in the shadows needs to be brought into the light.

Among the reasons we can confidently conclude that the president abused his power is that the White House’s explanation for the expulsion of Mr. Comey was transparently false, even ludicrous. The reason the Trump administration gave for firing Mr. Comey this year is the exact same reason for which Mr. Trump praised Mr. Comey last year: the former F.B.I. director’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server.

Washington Post, After meeting with Trump, Russian foreign minister again denies interference in U.S. election, Amber Phillips, May 10, 2017. 

Washington Post, Mitch McConnell just shut down any hopes Democrats had of an independent Russia investigation, Amber Phillips, May 10, 2017. President Trump just cut off the head of Washington's most apolitical investigation of his presidential campaign associates' connections with Russia. To make up for it, Democrats think Congress should appoint a special investigator unbeholden to them or the Trump administration. Except, it looks as though that's not going to happen.

May 9

Richard NixonNew York Times, Watergate’s Saturday Night Massacre Redux, Peter Baker, May 9, 2017. Mr. Trump’s decision drew instant comparisons to President Richard M. Nixon’s firing of the special prosecutor looking into the so-called third-rate burglary that would eventually bring him down. (Nixon is shown in an official photo.)

New York Times, Deputy Attorney General’s Memo Breaks Down Case Against Comey, Charlie Savage, May 9, 2017. When President Trump fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director on Tuesday, the White House made public a memorandum from Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, recommending the dismissal. The firing was highly fraught because the F.B.I. is investigating contacts between members of the Trump campaign and Russia.

Mr. Rosenstein, who served as the United States attorney in Maryland under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, has a reputation as a by-the-book, nonpartisan prosecutor. In his memo, Mr. Rosenstein focused on the continuing fallout of Mr. Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.

It portrays anger at Mr. Comey as a rare source of bipartisan agreement. “Over the past year, however, the F.B.l.’s reputation and credibility have suffered substantial damage, and it has affected the entire Department of Justice. … I cannot defend the Director'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. Almost everyone agrees that the Director made serious mistakes; it is one of the few issues that unites people of diverse perspectives.”

CQ Roll Call, Comey Firing Spurs Calls for Special Prosecutor in Russia Probe, Joe Williams and Niels Lesniewski, May 9, 2017. The firing of FBI Director James B. Comey brought renewed calls from both House and Senate Democrats for a special prosecutor to investigate alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election. The announcement on Tuesday night came as a surprise to many lawmakers, but reaction was swift. Even some Republicans said the timing of the termination would raise questions.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer told reporters that President Donald Trump called personally to inform him of the decision to fire Comey, a move the New York Democrat called a “big mistake.” Schumer said that the time has come for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint a special prosecutor in the Russia probe, a move that several other Democrats also called for.

“It is deeply troubling that the President has fired the FBI director during an active counterintelligence investigation into improper contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia,” Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a statement. “The President’s actions today make it clear to me that a Special Counsel also must be appointed.”

House Democrats reacted with equal severity. “This is not what an innocent person would do; this is an abuse of power, and shows a consciousness of guilt,” Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., said in a statement. “Nobody recommended by this administration can be trusted to oversee this investigation, and so the need for an independent bipartisan commission is now more urgent than ever.”

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn quickly refuted the need for a special prosecutor and called Rosenstein “competent to lead that effort.”

Washington Post, Trump fires FBI’s Comey; officials say he mishandled Clinton email probe, Devlin Barrett, May 9, 2017. Officials said FBI Director James B. Comey was dismissed after senior Justice Department officials concluded he had violated department principles and procedures by publicly discussing an investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of private email. Just last week, President Trump publicly accused Comey of giving Clinton, his Democratic challenger for president, “a free pass for many bad deeds” when he decided not to recommend criminal charges in the case.

Comey was fired as he is leading a counterintelligence investigation to determine whether associates of President Trump may have coordinated with Russia to meddle with the presidential election last year. That probe began quietly last July but has now become the subject of intense debate in Washington.

Rod Rosenstein Deputyty Atttorney GeneralIt is unclear how Comey’s dismissal will affect that investigation. “The president has accepted the recommendation of the Attorney General and the deputy Attorney General regarding the dismissal of the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” Spicer told reporters in the briefing room. Spicer also said that Comey was “notified a short time ago.” This is effective “immediately,” he said.

The White House said that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is recused from involvement in the FBI's probe of Russia contacts with Trump officials because of contacts with Sessions himself, approved the firing, as did the recently confirmed Deputy Attorney Gen. Rod Rosenstein, shown in a file photo.

Washington Post, Democrats hate Comey. But they hate the fact Trump fired him even more, Amber Phillips​, May 9, 2017. Comey was likely the last chance Democrats had of having an apolitical investigation into whether Trump campaign associates colluded with Russia during the 2016 election.
 
Washington Post, Trump needed a really good excuse to fire James Comey. Comey gave it to him, Aaron Blake, May 9, 2017. While the FBI director’s termination happened rather quickly — mere hours after it was revealed that Comey gave faulty testimony to Congress — it wasn’t altogether a shock.