Via the Free Beacon, this is funnier when you realize that the liberals who stand in line for tickets to this show doubtless see themselves as better informed and more politically savvy than the average benighted American. How could they not be? They watch Colbert.
— The Late Show (@colbertlateshow) May 10, 2017
He does his best to play off the reaction, joking that there must be a lot of Trump fans in the crowd. Not true. It’s just that low-information Democrats have spent the past seven months being told that Comey cost them the election and reacted accordingly upon learning of his misfortune. The point of these late-night shows is to immolate the left’s villain du jour, after all; Colbert mentioned a recurring villain du jour, so they responded in the way they’ve been trained. It’s a Two Minutes Hate with laugh lines. The problem in this case is that Comey is now suddenly a martyr to anti-Trumpers, not a villain: The president firing the guy who’s investigating whether some of his campaign staffers had ties to Russian intelligence is … problematic. Colbert understood that. The dimmer bulbs who adore him needed a minute to piece it together.
The word from the White House today about the strange timing of firing Comey is that they had to wait for deputy AG Rod Rosenstein to be confirmed. Trump couldn’t fire Comey himself or it would look like he was trying to derail the Russia probe; Jeff Sessions couldn’t do it either since he’d already kinda sorta recused himself from all Russia-related matters. Rosenstein, a longtime prosecutor with bipartisan cred who joined the DOJ just two weeks ago, would be enlisted to make the case that Comey had badly damaged the FBI’s credibility with his Hillary outbursts last year and simply had to go. The behind-the-scenes reporting, though, suggests that there were other things on Trump’s mind besides Comey’s credibility. Which makes sense, since Trump’s only problem with Comey’s handling of the Hillary matter until now was that he didn’t indict her last summer:
[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…
Trump had grown angry with the Russia investigation — particularly Comey admitting in front of the Senate that the FBI was investigating his campaign — and that the FBI director wouldn’t support his claims that President Barack Obama had tapped his phones in Trump Tower…
Trump, as one White House official noted, believed Comey was too soft on Clinton — not too unfair, as Rosenstein’s letter Tuesday indicated.
Sources also told the Journal that it’s the Russia probe that’s bugging Trump:
Frustration was growing among top associates of the president that Mr. Comey, in a series of appearances before a Senate panel, wouldn’t publicly tamp down questions about possible collusion with Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race. A person with knowledge of recent conversations said they wanted Mr. Comey to “say those three little words: ‘There’s no ties.’”
The Times reported last night that the White House and DOJ had been chatting about firing Comey for the past week and that “Mr. Sessions had been charged with coming up with reasons to fire him.” If Trump felt Comey needed to go because he had lost the public’s confidence, why did Sessions need to “come up” with reasons to can him? That’s the reason, supposedly. And if this is all about Hillary and Comey’s mishandling of that matter, why was Sarah Huckabee Sanders out there for the White House last night calling for an end to the Russia probe and telling everyone to “move on”? If you want to reassure people that firing Comey isn’t about obstructing the investigation, the message should have been the opposite — “the FBI will continue its work,” “we want to get to the bottom of Russian influence as much as anyone,” etc. They went out of their way to make the firing look shadier than it needed to look.
If they wanted a politics-free dismissal of Comey, they should have waited until the Russia probe was concluded. Having Rosenstein drop the axe won’t remove suspicions of foul play. Now they’re going to get blowback, and not just from Colbert or Chuck Schumer or John McCain. For instance, it’s hard to believe that this story appearing on CNN last night was a coincidence given the timing. Comey allies are going to start leaking to embarrass Trump. As for Rosenstein, whose reputation as a by-the-book lawman is now in question (if he and Sessions had been carefully deliberating about Comey, why was his memo dated yesterday?), read this interesting Twitter thread from a former DOJ staffer who’s worked with him in the past. Rosenstein’s desire to rehabilitate the DOJ’s and FBI’s reputations may be more sincere than Trump would prefer: This guy thinks Rosenstein may end up supporting a special prosecutor in the Russia matter, which is going to make things … awkward with the White House.