The Firing of James Comey

Now that I’ve set a CPU on fire, I can start typing up something about this. I’m a bit late to the table, but that means I have a bit more information. In no particular order:

Whew! Capitol Hill is nearly as hot as my CPU right now.

Bonus track!

He 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. […]

But the fallout seemed to take the White House by surprise. Trump made a round of calls around 5 p.m., asking for support from senators. White House officials believed it would be a “win-win” because Republicans and Democrats alike have problems with the FBI director, one person briefed on their deliberations said. Instead, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told him he was making a big mistake — and Trump seemed “taken aback,” according to a person familiar with the call.

By Tuesday evening, the president was watching the coverage of his decision and frustrated no one was on TV defending him, a White House official said. He wanted surrogates out there beating the drum. Instead, advisers were attacking each other for not realizing the gravity of the situation as events blew up.”

Last one, promise.

Politico described the mood last night at [Roger] Stone’s house in Florida as “elated.” Another former Trump adviser under investigation as part of the Russia probe, former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page, also applauded the move.

While Stone was jubilant, Politico reports that “shock dominated much of the FBI and the White House.”

I LIE, though to be fair that’s currently in style. Also, I have to update a line-item above, Comey’s been invited to testify privately next week and despite early reports it looks like his successor will take his place during the public hearings this week. Plus:

Three interesting items, one of which is only tangentially related to the above.

In the weeks before President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, a federal investigation into potential collusion between Trump associates and the Russian government was heating up, as Mr. Comey became increasingly occupied with the probe.

Mr. Comey started receiving daily instead of weekly updates on the investigation, beginning at least three weeks ago, according to people with knowledge of the matter and the progress of the Federal Bureau of Investigation probe. Mr. Comey was concerned by information showing possible evidence of collusion, according to these people.


Trump was angry that Comey would not support his baseless claim that President Barack Obama had his campaign offices wiretapped. Trump was frustrated when Comey revealed in Senate testimony the breadth of the counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s effort to sway the 2016 U.S. presidential election. And he fumed that Comey was giving too much attention to the Russia probe and not enough to investigating leaks to journalists.

The known actions that led to Comey’s dismissal raise as many questions as answers. Why was Sessions involved in discussions about the fate of the man leading the FBI’s Russia investigation, after having recused himself from the probe because he had falsely denied under oath his own past communications with the Russian ambassador?

Why had Trump discussed the Russia probe with the FBI director three times, as he claimed in his letter dismissing Comey, which could have been a violation of Justice Department policies that ongoing investigations generally are not to be discussed with White House officials?

And how much was the timing of Trump’s decision shaped by events spiraling out of his control — such as Monday’s testimony about Russian interference by former acting attorney general Sally Yates, or the fact that Comey last week requested more resources from the Justice Department to expand the FBI’s Russia probe?


When President Donald Trump hosted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office on Wednesday just hours after firing the FBI director who was overseeing an investigation into whether Trump’s team colluded the Russians, he was breaking with recent precedent at the specific request of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The chummy White House visit—photos of the president yukking it up with Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak were released by the Russian Foreign Ministry since no U.S. press was allowed to cover the visit—had been one of Putin’s asks in his recent phone call with Trump, and indeed the White House acknowledged this to me later Wednesday. “He chose to receive him because Putin asked him to,” a White House spokesman said of Trump’s Lavrov meeting. “Putin did specifically ask on the call when they last talked.”

I didn’t know this.

The most famous leaker in US history — the pseudonymous Deep Throat, who gave sensitive information on the Nixon administration to Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in 1972-3 during the Watergate scandal — was later revealed to be Mark Felt, who was associate FBI director at the time.

Interestingly, Felt’s motivation for leaking about Watergate wasn’t whistleblowing: He wasn’t motivated by some patriotic sense of duty to protect American democracy. Rather, he believed he was acting to protect the FBI’s independence from Nixon’s attempts to rein it in.

If that culture is still in place, the FBI could go to war with Trump. That seems probable, and the first shots may have already been fired.

FBI agents raided the Annapolis offices of a GOP fundraising outfit, Strategic Campaign Group, with links to Trump. The director, Kelley Rogers, has been employed by Penn National Gaming, a company with ties to the Trump Taj Mahal. The Senate Intelligence Committee reportedly has been looking into money laundering penalties levied against the Taj in 2015.

One of Strategic Campaign Group’s senior advisers, Dennis Whitfield, is also a director of the political consulting firm Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly. Founders Paul Manafort (a former Trump campaign chairman) and another longtime Trump adviser, Roger Stone, are reportedly under investigation for connections to Russian involvement in the 2016 election.

Remember when Trump said “I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation?”

Trump narrated those three occasions to [Lester] Holt. The first came at a dinner between the two men in which Trump said Comey seemed to be trying to keep his job, in the face of Trump’s public criticism.

“I had dinner with him,” Trump said. “He wanted to have dinner because he wanted to stay on … Dinner was arranged. I think he asked for the dinner. And he wanted to stay on as the FBI head, and I said, ‘I’ll consider it. We’ll see what happens.’ But we had a very nice dinner, and at that time he told me you are not under investigation.”

Trump acknowledged that Comey has said the FBI is investigating links between his campaign and Russia, but said he was not personally involved, and that Comey had reiterated that in two separate phone calls. “In one case I called him and one case he called me,” the president said.

Except that directly contradicts what Comey has shared with friends and associates.

As they ate, the president and Mr. Comey made small talk about the election and the crowd sizes at Mr. Trump’s rallies. The president then turned the conversation to whether Mr. Comey would pledge his loyalty to him. Mr. Comey declined to make that pledge. Instead, Mr. Comey has recounted to others, he told Mr. Trump that he would always be honest with him, but that he was not “reliable” in the conventional political sense. […]

By Mr. Comey’s account, his answer to Mr. Trump’s initial question apparently did not satisfy the president, the associates said. Later in the dinner, Mr. Trump again said to Mr. Comey that he needed his loyalty. Mr. Comey again replied that he would give him “honesty” and did not pledge his loyalty, according to the account of the conversation.

But Mr. Trump pressed him on whether it would be “honest loyalty.” “You will have that,” Mr. Comey told his associates he responded.

That New York Times story also drops this interesting tidbit.

Mr. Comey described details of his refusal to pledge his loyalty to Mr. Trump to several people close to him on the condition that they not discuss it publicly while he was F.B.I. director. But now that Mr. Comey has been fired, they felt free to discuss it on the condition of anonymity.

This meshes with what other people have suggested, that Comey is a master at setting up a defensive paper trail. It apparently has Trump spooked and reaching for distractions.

The FBI isn’t exactly elated, either, with some agents scrambling to finish the Russian probe before Trump can kill or starve it.

An intriguing update on Comey’s testimony.

He declined an invitation to speak to a closed session of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday and was replaced on a panel testifying before that committee last Thursday by his temporary replacement, Andrew McCabe.

Comey’s associates say that he is not seeking publicity and that they believe an open session before Congress is the most appropriate setting. He would not be commenting on specifics of the investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election and would likely discuss issues about his record.

Here we go. It needs independent confirmation, but still:

Mr. Comey wrote the memo detailing his conversation with the president immediately after the meeting, which took place the day after Mr. Flynn resigned, according to two people who read the memo. The memo was part of a paper trail Mr. Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president’s improper efforts to influence a continuing investigation. An F.B.I. agent’s contemporaneous notes are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations. Mr. Comey shared the existence of the memo with senior F.B.I. officials and close associates. The New York Times has not viewed a copy of the memo, which is unclassified, but one of Mr. Comey’s associates read parts of the memo to a Times reporter.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” […]

Mr. Comey created similar memos — including some that are classified — about every phone call and meeting he had with the president, the two people said. It is unclear whether Mr. Comey told the Justice Department about the conversation or his memos.