In an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, President Trump countered the narrative of his own communications team by claiming that he intended to fire FBI Director James Comey all along – regardless of the recommendation from Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein. Aside from clear inconsistencies in the White House communication about the decision, timing, and reason for the firing, the President’s reasons for firing Comey are concerning because they have little to do with how well he was doing his job.
“Look, he’s a showboat. He’s a grandstander. The FBI has been in turmoil. You know that. I know that. Everybody knows that.” Donald Trump to NBC’s Lester Holt.
Two parts of this statement are particularly interesting and deserve further analysis:
- Turmoil – Trump’s statement that the FBI has been in turmoil is not backed up by any evidence. As a large organization with over 35,000 employees all over the world, the FBI has successfully kept Americans safe and worked closely with other intelligence agencies to solve and prevent crimes. Simply saying it is in turmoil does not make it true even while Trump tries to make Holt complicit in the assertion by including “You know that. I know that. Everybody knows that.” Further, the Rosenstein memo used to justify Comey’s firing does not speak to turmoil – focusing instead on the procedures surrounding the Clinton email investigation.
- Showboat – While it’s true that most FBI directors prefer to work quietly outside the glare of the political arena, Comey had little choice as his investigations last year were highly political in nature. In fact it was Donald Trump who repeatedly praised, then lambasted, and then again praised the director essentially thrusting him into the political spotlight.
The “showboat and grandstand” argument for firing Comey is further problematic given Trump’s disdain for those who use his fame to raise their own profiles. Adviser Steve Bannon most recently fell out of favor with the president for apparently encouraging a lengthy article and cover for Time on Bannon’s influence in the White House. During a White Hoouse ceremony early in his tenure honoring law enforcement and first responders, President Trump remarked on Director Comey’s fame:
Trump could have spoken to the importance of an apolitical FBI; he chose instead to make it personal by making claims that many in Congress who had worked with Comey over the years vehemently disagreed with.
Richard Burr (R-NC) who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee pushed back on Trump’s characterization of Comey in remarks Wednesday afternoon: “I find him to be one of the most ethical, upright, straightforward individuals I’ve had the opportunity to work with. The lion’s share of FBI employees respect the former director.”
The “showboat and grandstand” argument may mean something personally to Donald Trump. It means little, however, to those who respect Comey’s integrity or those who are concerned about the future of the FBI’s investigation into Russian election tampering and possible Trump campaign collusion.
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