This evening, as FBI director James Comey spoke at a bureau recruiting event in Los Angeles, a television news program behind him flashed the story: President Donald Trump had fired him.
He laughed and dismissed it as a joke. But it wasn’t. He left the room and confirmed the dismissal via telephone with The White House.
Trump’s rationale, according to a letter sent to FBI headquarters this evening, concerned Comey’s misstatement of information related to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails during his appearance before the Senate judiciary subcommittee hearing Wednesday of last week. Trump, speaking in the letter, stated:
While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.
The White House also stated that Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein recommended the firing. Rosenstein released a statement in which he maintained that he “could not defend the director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails.”
Yesterday, ProPublica reported, confirmed by anonymous sources close to the investigation and later by internal staff at the FBI, that Comey had overstated the number of emails Huma Abedin had sent to her then husband’s laptop for printing at home, some of which were purportedly classified. Comey stated that she had sent “hundreds and thousands” of emails to former congressman Anthony Weiner, “some of which contained classified information.”
She in fact had sent only a handful of emails, none of which were marked as classified at the time she sent them.
Misstatements during sworn testimony before a Senate subcommittee require immediate correction. The FBI sent a letter to this effect this afternoon, clarifying his testimony.
It is unclear at this point whether his misstatement became the final straw for Trump, leading to his dismissal, but Trump’s letter announcing Comey’s dismissal appeared logically obtuse: When has Donald Trump, or anyone within his campaign or administration, ever admonished the FBI director’s last minute announcement that he had reopened the investigation into how Secretary Clinton had handled classified emails?
This opens up a few questions surrounding this story:
- Why did Jeff Sessions involve himself in any decisions concerning Comey’s firing? Sessions had recused himself in early March from overseeing the FBI’s investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. His involvement in the firing decisions appears to carry a serious conflict of interest.
- How did Comey so clearly misinform the senate committee about Huma Abedin’s email habits? Did Comey forget, deliberately misinform the committee, or did the bureau team that investigated the issue give Comey incorrect information? Jordan Fabian of The Hill reported this evening that senior officials within the White House asked Sessions to find reasons to remove Comey. Did the bad information Comey provided in his testimony, later refuted within ProPublica’s investigation into the matter, have any relation to this?
- What’s next into the FBI’s investigation into potential Russian collusion with the Trump campaign? Certainly the FBI will continue its investigation, but bureau employees, many of whom felt loyal to Comey, expressed dismay at the possibility that Trump will appoint a director friendly to his interests which complicates the FBI’s and congress’s multiple investigations into the matter.
This story continues to process, but the bottom line is that it drastically calls attention to the necessity of having an independent investigation into the Trump/Russia connections. If there is any phone call, letter, or email progressives make or write tomorrow, it is to every congressperson on both sides of the aisle to push for the appointment of a special prosecutor to get to the bottom of all of this.