Trump Fired James Comey and Shot Himself in the Foot

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At Jeff Sessions’s urging, Trump nominated Rod Rosenstein to be deputy attorney general in early February. He was confirmed in April, just as the president’s relationship with Comey was turning toxic. The FBI director’s standing deteriorated further on May 3, when Comey vigorously defended his handling of the Clinton email investigation in an appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee. While Comey was always seen as somewhat sanctimonious, his refusal to accept the possibility that he had made a grievous mistake infuriated Democrats and vexed his new Justice Department bosses, Sessions and Rosenstein. His failure during the hearing to declare that the bureau was not investigating Trump himself, and his statement that it made him “mildly nauseous” to think that his handling of the email probe had possibly cost Clinton the race, incensed the president.

The fallout was swift. A White House official returned from a meeting with Rosenstein to inform McGahn that the deputy attorney general had been troubled by Comey’s performance and wished to discuss how to address his refusal to acknowledge—let alone correct—his errors in judgment. Trump stewed about Comey all weekend during a trip to his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, and returned to Washington clutching the draft of a letter firing his FBI director—something he had begun composing numerous times only to be talked down by Priebus and others who feared that dismissing Comey would unleash a legal and political maelstrom.

On Monday, May 8, five days after Comey’s testimony, Trump summoned Pence, Priebus, McGahn, Sessions, and Rosenstein to the Oval Office. It was a Comey-bashing session in which nearly everyone—including Rosenstein—participated with enthusiasm. The president declared that he had decided to get rid of the FBI director, and mentioned the letter he’d written. It faulted Comey for his handling of the Clinton email investigation—something Trump had praised in his personal meetings with the FBI chief—and expressed his continued irritation that Comey had failed to tell the public what he had said several times in private, that Trump was not a target of the FBI probe.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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