Actually, says Jake Tapper’s source, there were two reasons. The Russia investigation was accelerating and Comey refused to give Trump any guarantee of personal loyalty. Which, if you were trying to cook up the most cartoonishly damning theory of Trump’s motives, is exactly what you’d come up with. Imagine the president asking the director of the FBI to reassure him of his “loyalty” under any circumstances, let alone in the middle of an investigation into whether his associates colluded with Russia to influence a presidential election. Sinister quotient: 9/10.
Here’s an alternate theory for the firing from Rich Lowry, though. Doesn’t the sheer scope of the incompetence in how it was handled suggest that Trump wasn’t trying to tamp down the Russia investigation? If that was the goal, asks Lowry, who the hell would have done it this way?
The firing will draw more attention to Comey than ever before, at least in the short term; it won’t shut down the Russia investigation, which will continue as before, just with a new leader at the top; it will stoke even more suspicions about Russia and magnify any new revelations; it might well embroil the White House in a contentious confirmation battle that re-litigates the Comey firing and focuses on the Russia controversy; and if there isn’t a confirmation battle, it will only be because Trump picks someone with a sterling reputation who is pledged to follow Russia wherever it leads. So if this is an attempted cover-up, it will almost certainly back-fire.
Trump actually mentioned the Russia investigation, gratuitously and foolishly, in his termination letter to Comey, drawing even more attention to it and generating more suspicion about his motives. The only nefarious reason for him to risk all of the blowback described by Lowry in firing Comey is if he had reason to believe that the FBI was on the verge of discovering something hugely incriminating. But even then, alienating the Bureau by decapitating it almost certainly isn’t going to stop that incriminating info from coming out. Either the new director will stand up for the FBI’s integrity by insisting on proceeding with the investigation or disgruntled Comey loyalists, angry at the attempted obstruction, will leak the incriminating material to the media. After three months of damaging natsec leaks, Trump of all people should know by now how hard it is to keep bad news bottled up. Making enemies of the FBI should only make it harder.
On the other hand:
If you think Trump was right to fire Comey you should answer:
1) Do you believe stated reason for firing?
2) If not, why lie about reason?
— Atticus Goldfinch (@AtticusGF) May 10, 2017
By the way, the clip below isn’t just a matter of Tapper reading off a teleprompter. He reported this story for CNN, which is significant insofar as he’s a big cheese at the network. If Comey himself was going to whisper to a reporter about what he thinks Trump’s motives were, it figures that he’d choose a name he knows. That is to say, the “source close to Comey” here might be Comey himself. And if it is — if Comey believes that Trump canned him over the Russia investigation and is prepared to publicly level that charge (eventually) — then Trump’s political headache is going to get much bigger. Here’s Tapper’s segment followed by Sarah Huckabee Sanders filling in for Sean Spicer and accusing Comey of having committed political “atrocities” in his time at the Bureau. That was a blip in an otherwise smooth performance today. Spicer’s performance last night, which involved hiding behind some bushes outside the White House and asking cameramen to turn off their lights, was … not as smooth. And allegedly the White House noticed.
— The Lead CNN (@TheLeadCNN) May 10, 2017