The DOJ insists this isn’t true but at least five different news outlets have sources whispering to them that it is. From the Times:
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…
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.
Let’s go back to the timing of this. Assume that Trump’s motives were pure. Many people really had lost faith in Comey over the past year, after all; bringing in a new director unblemished by political damage is a perfectly reasonable thing to do to restore public faith in the FBI. The question is when to do it. Trump could have done it on Inauguration Day: Critics would have howled that he was short-circuiting the Russia probe as his first official act, but lining up a respected replacement with bipartisan cred (like Patrick Fitzgerald) would have reassured people. And there would have been a plausible non-political explanation for the timing in that case. As a brand new president, Trump didn’t want to waste a moment in “draining the swamp” of a public official whose credibility had been lost. Replacing Comey ASAP would have been a matter of setting the tone for his new administration. Out with the bitterness and suspicions of the 2016 campaign, in with good government.
Or Trump could have gone the other way. He could have left Comey in place until the Russia investigation was concluded, thanked him for his work, then declared that it’s best for the country at this point to start fresh with a new director. There would have been a non-political explanation for the timing in that case too. I wanted to replace Comey immediately after I became president, Trump could have said, but I knew if I yanked him while the Russia probe was ongoing that people would have thought I was trying to obstruct it. No one wants someone whose credibility has been battered leading the FBI for a moment longer than is necessary, but the Russiagate investigation made a delay necessary. Now that it’s over, it’s time for Comey to step aside.
What’s the non-political argument for firing him now? The White House is stressing that they had to wait until Rod Rosenstein was in place at the DOJ so that a “neutral” official could render a verdict on Comey. But Rosenstein’s involvement doesn’t do much to rebut the charge that this was a political firing designed to block the Russia probe. On the contrary, it raises suspicions that he was eager to please his new bosses, Trump and Sessions, by giving them a ruling on Comey that they wanted for their own political reasons. Even if Trump’s motives are pure, as a matter of basic competence it would have been wise for him and Rosenstein to hold off a bit on firing Comey knowing how it would look if they booted him right after he’d just asked for more resources for the Russia probe. Just like it also would have been wise not to hold a White House photo op on the very next day with Russia’s foreign minister and the toad who got caught talking to Mike Flynn about sanctions:
Ambassador Kislyak and President Trump / Посол С.Кисляк и Президент Д.Трамп pic.twitter.com/Ckkx2YL9KX
— Russian Embassy in USA 🇷🇺 (@RusEmbUSA) May 10, 2017
Doing that today amounts to grand-scale trolling of anyone who thinks the president firing the guy who’s investigating his associates before the investigation’s over looks bad. The timing’s even weirder when you remember that Trump was building a head of steam on other policy matters:
AHCA in some form probably no worse than 50-50, up from DOA, special election in GA looking okay. Huge self-inflicted gunshot wound. 2/2
— Sean T at RCP (@SeanTrende) May 10, 2017
“They just barely got the tiniest bit of momentum going after the House health care bill, and now it’s like the engine has fallen out of the car,” an outside advisor told Axios. “The Russia thing will now go on forever. And the rationale in the letter was preposterous. This was a tremendous miscalculation.” Democrats are energized, Trump is under new suspicion, the White House is reportedly in “total and complete chaos.” The execution of the firing — not just the timing but the total lack of reassurance that the Russia probe will continue with effective leadership — is incompetent and self-defeating, even if Trump had the best non-political intentions.
Exit question: Did Rosenstein grant Comey’s request for more resources for the Russia investigation? If so, the White House should be trumpeting that fact. It’d go a long way towards reassuring people about his and Trump’s motives.