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Was The Russia Investigation The Real Reason For Comey’s Firing? It Sure Seems Like It

Trump Russia

Politico reveals what was going on behind the scenes in the week before yesterday afternoon’s surprise firing of F.B.I Director James Comey and, not surprisingly, it had a lot to do with the ongoing investigation of Russian interference in the election and the ties between Russia and the Trump campaign:

President Donald Trump weighed firing his FBI director for more than a week. When he finally pulled the trigger Tuesday afternoon, he didn’t call James Comey. He sent his longtime private security guard to deliver the termination letter in a manila folder to FBI headquarters.

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.

Trump’s firing of the high-profile FBI director on the 110th day since the president took office marked another sudden turn for an administration that has fired its acting attorney general, national security adviser and now its FBI director, whom Trump had praised until recent weeks and had even blew a kiss to during a January appearance.

The news stunned Comey, who saw news of his dismissal on TV while speaking inside the FBI office in Los Angeles. It startled all but the uppermost ring of White House advisers, who said grumbling about Comey hadn’t dominated their own morning senior staff meetings. Other top officials learned just before it happened and were unaware Trump was considering firing Comey. “Nobody really knew,” one senior White House official said. “Our phones all buzzed and people said, ‘What?'”

By ousting the FBI director investigating his campaign and associates, Trump may have added more fuel to the fire he is furiously trying to contain — and he was quickly criticized by a chorus of Republicans and Democrats. “The timing of this firing was very troubling,” said Sen. Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican.

Trump had grown angry with the Russia investigation — particularly Comey admitting in front of the Senate that the FBI was investigating his campaign — and that the FBI director wouldn’t support his claims that President Barack Obama had tapped his phones in Trump Tower.

Bipartisan criticism of Comey had mounted since last summer after the director delivered lengthy statement outlining why no charges would be brought against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server.

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 one anotherr for not realizing the gravity of the situation as events blew up. “How are you not defending your position for three solid hours on TV?” the White House aide asked.

Two White House officials said there was little communications strategy in handling the firing, and that staffers were given talking points late Tuesday for hastily arranged media appearances. Aides soon circulated previous quotes from Schumer hitting Comey. After Schumer called for a special prosecutor, the White House huddled in press secretary Sean Spicer’s office to devise a strategy and sent “fresh faces” to TV, one White House official said.

By Tuesday night, aides were using TV appearances to spin the firing as a simple bureaucratic matter and call for an end to the investigation. “It’s time to move on,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the deputy press secretary, said on Fox News.

CNN meanwhile is reporting that a Grand Jury convened in connection with the ongoing investigation has begun issuing subpoenas:

Washington (CNN) Federal prosecutors have issued grand jury subpoenas to associates of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn seeking business records, as part of the ongoing probe of Russian meddling in last year’s election, according to people familiar with the matter. CNN learned of the subpoenas hours before President Donald Trump fired FBI director James Comey.

The subpoenas represent the first sign of a significant escalation of activity in the FBI’s broader investigation begun last July into possible ties between Trump campaign associates and Russia.

The subpoenas issued in recent weeks by the US Attorney’s Office in Alexandria, Virginia, were received by associates who worked with Flynn on contracts after he was forced out as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014, according to the people familiar with the investigation.
Robert Kelner, an attorney for Flynn, declined to comment. The US Attorney’s Office in Alexandria, the Justice Department and the FBI also declined to comment.

Investigators have been looking into possible wrongdoing in how Flynn handled disclosures about payments from clients tied to foreign governments including Russia and Turkey, US officials briefed on the matter have told CNN.

The Flynn inquiry is one piece of the broader investigation, which FBI Director James Comey testified in a Senate hearing last week is led jointly by the Alexandria US Attorney’s Office and the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

Flynn was forced to resign as Trump’s national security advisor in February after failing to disclose the nature of phone discussions with Russia’s ambassador in Washington, Sergey Kislyak.

Congressional investigators have also accused Flynn of possibly breaking the law by not properly disclosing a $45,000 payment for an appearance he made at an event in Moscow to celebrate Russia Today. The Russian government-funded news outlet that US intelligence agencies say played a key role in disseminating stolen emails intended to damage the candidacy of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

Adding to all of this, The New York Times reports that Comey was asking for more money to expand the Bureau’s investigation just days before the firing.In other words, as

In other words, as Kevin Drum notes, the decision to fire Comey had nothing to do with what seems to be the after-the-fact arguments made by Deputy Attorney General Ron Rosenstein in the Justice Department memorandum released yesterday that the real reason for Comey’s firing had to do with his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server. Somewhat bizarrely, that memorandum echoed many of the complaints that Democrats have made about Comey since the election, especially as it relates to the letter that Comey sent to Congress just over a week before the election in which he revealed that the investigation had been reopened due to the discovery of additional emails on a laptop used by Clinton aide Huma Abedin and her husband. At the time, Trump praised Comey and said it took “a lot of guts” for him to come forward despite the political criticism that he would take for his letter. To believe today, six months later as the Bureau is in the midst of an investigation of Trump’s campaign that the President decided to fire him based solely on the issues surrounding the investigation of Hillary Clinton, and using an argument that sounds like it came from Clinton supporters, simply doesn’t pass the credibility test. Instead, it seems clear to me that Trump acted in a fit of pique in reaction to a Russia investigation that he clearly can’t control on his own and which continues to control the news cycle no matter how hard he and his supporters try to change the subject. Further evidence of this can be seen in the fact that Trump’s letter to Comey advising him that he had been fired stated that Comey had allegedly told Trump on three occasions that he was not a target of the F.B.I.’s investigatin. This would be very surprising if it were true since Comey has generally taken the position of not commenting in response to questions about who may or may not be a target of an ongoing investigation. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Trump is trying to cover anything up, of course, but that’s certainly how it looks to the outside world, and it’s like to spur that investigation on and to

The reaction to last night’s events has been about what you expect, although there have been several surprises. On Capitol Hill, Democrats in the House and the Senate who have spoken publicly on the matter have been basically united in their condemnation of the move in the wake of last week’s testimony from Comey confirming that Trump’s campaign was part of the F.B.I.’s investigation into Russian interference with the election. Many of them have begun calling for a special prosecutor or independent commission, or both, to investigate both these matters and the circumstances behind Comey’s firing. On the Republican side, the reaction has been more mixed. Several Republicans, such as Senators John McCain and Ben Sasse, Jeff Flake, and Richard Burr and Members of Congress such as Michigan Congressman Justin Amash, South Carolina Congressman Mark Sanford, Virginia Congressman Barbara Comstock have spoken out against it. On the other hand, many other Republicans have seemingly rallied around the President, including Senators Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham as well as others who dodged questions about whether or not they believe that the firing of Comey makes the need for a special prosecutor all the more apparent.  Additionally, just this morning as the Senate opened for business Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made a basically milquetoast statement that seemed to stand behind the President and call on the Senate to act quickly to approve the confirmation of a new F.B.I. Director once the President has made his selection known. As of the time I’m writing this, though, most Republicans on Capitol Hill have been silent in response to direct questions or have simply not appeared in public or released any public statements on the matter.

On the opinion and editorial pages, the reaction seems to be overwhelmingly negative. Dana Milbank, for example, speculates that the move could turn the anti-Trump wave into a tsunami by emboldening Trump critics on both the left and the right to keep up the pressure on the White House, call for the House and Senate to step up their investigations into the Russia matter, and lend some degree of mass support for the calls for a special prosecutor or independent investigation. Ruth Marcus comments that the decision and the circumstances surrounding it, coming as it does less than a week after Comey’s revelations about the investigation into Trump’s own campaign, should leave all Americans feeling just a bit nauseous over what is happening in the White House.  Eugene Robinson calls it a thuggish abuse of executive power, a notable comment given the eight long years that just ended during which conservatives complained loudly about what they saw as President Obama’s overly zealous extension of Executive Branch authority on a wide variety of issues. The editors of The New York Times, meanwhile, note that the decision casts doubt on the validity of any investigation of the election and the Trump campaign that is conducted by anyone at the Justice Department. Finally, Reason’s Eric Boehm says that the decision looks “very, very bad” for the Trump Administration and joins others in calling for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate all of the issues regarding Russian interference in the election and any ties to between Trump officials or advisers. Boehm continues:

We don’t know whether Comey’s firing is a shrewd political calculation designed to cover-up something Trump doesn’t want the world to know—“Nixonian” has been the word of evening on cable news—or whether it was the impulsive decision of a president who appears to lack much concern for the prestige of the office he holds or for the limits of its powers.

On the question of whether Trump broke laws or whether Comey’s firing was part of a cover-up, Trump deserves to be treated as innocent until proven guilty. The same principle does not apply to the political ramifications of Tuesday’s firing.

Trump should lose any benefit of the doubt that he’s been getting from members of Congress and the general public.

That highlighted sentence is perhaps the most important thing that anyone has said in reaction to yesterday’s events. In ordinary times, a President’s decision to fire an F.B.I Director, while it would be extraordinary, is deserving of at least some benefit of the doubt. Even though the Director’s position is meant to be somewhat politically independent, hence the reason that the term for Directors runs for a period guaranteed not to coincide with any one particular Presidency, it is still a position that serves ‘at the pleasure of the President.’ This means that a President who has good reason to do so can and should remove a Director from office when appropriate and replace him with someone better suited for the role. There comes a time, though, when a President’s decision on issues like this loses that status, and this is one of those times. Firing the Director of the F.B.I. in the middle of an investigation that could implicate people close to the President himself is not only inappropriate, but it raises many of the same questions that were raised by Nixon’s decision to fire Archibald Cox. As was the case back then, it should be the impetus not to back away from the investigation of this matter, but to make sure that it continues until we get answers to all of the relevant questions. That may include the need for a special prosecutor independent of the Justice Department to oversee the investigation, and it most certainly includes investigations by the House and Senate to make sure that the public is made aware of all relevant facts surrounding what appears to have happened in connection with the recently concluded elections. The integrity and legitimacy of the Republic demand no less, and attention should now turn to Congress and the White House to make sure they do the right thing.

Note: The original version of this post was updated to add a link to the New York Times report that Comey had asked for an increase in funding for the Russia/Trump investigation just days before being fired.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. HarvardLaw92 says:

    it raises many of the same questions that were raised by Nixon’s decision to fire Archibald Cox

    Exactly. Just when you thought that this administration, which has been in office less than 125 days, couldn’t get any more paranoid alcoholic Nixon. These people evidently can’t help but cough up the ball.

    It took Nixon four years & some change (and arguably longer) to get to this point, and a long time for the public in general to turn on him. It hasn’t taken Trump even four months …

    Never interrupt your enemy when he’s shooting himself in the face

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  2. Scott says:

    Fresh news is going to rolling in all day. The latest from the failing NY Times:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/10/us/politics/comey-russia-investigation-fbi.html?_r=0

    Comey asked for a substantial increase in resources for his investigation.

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  3. cian says:

    I’m guessing this is the critical moment. If republicans don’t put patriotism ahead of party, the survival of American democracy ahead of an out of control president, then there is no knowing where this mad man will take the country.

    McConnell has already nailed his colors to the burning mast but others may find their soul and push the investigation in the right direction. Anything less and Bannon and the Koch brothers will know the game is truly on and the dismantling of the administrative state will begin in earnest. It’s hard not to think of March 1933, when the Nazi party passed the enabling act, allowing them to ignore the courts and pass their own laws. To quote our great Nobel winner ‘It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there’.

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  4. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Look…it doesn’t matter whether the Russia thing is the reason, or not.
    What this episode brings into sharp relief is that DJT is unfit for office.
    If he does have something to hide on Russia, then he is unfit for office.
    If he doesn’t have something to hide on Russia then he is incredibly…no…indescribably incompetent. An emotionally stunted, feeble-minded authoritarian who is mostly just using the office for personal gain, and is unfit for office.
    Either way he has to go for the good of the Republic. This newest crisis is simply another crisis of his making. He is manifestly unable to cope with any outside crisis in a competent manner.
    More and more Republicans are going to have to come to that conclusion, if they care about this Country.

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  5. Gustopher says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl: And again, when you ponder the age old question of “stupid or evil?”, with this administration the answer is clear — stupid AND evil.

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  6. Yank says:

    @HarvardLaw92: The one common theme in every Trump scandal so far is the utter incompetence of everyone in the White House.

    Scary thing is that Trump has relatively inherited a healthy economy and government (thanks 44!). So he hasn’t yet had to deal with a crisis that wasn’t of his own making. I fear what might happen to the country when that happens.

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  7. HarvardLaw92 says:

    I was just recalling what Clayton Kirkpatrick and the Chicago Tribune had to say about Nixon towards the end of Watergate:

    It is a lack of concern for morality, a lack of concern for high principles, a lack of commitment to the high ideals of public office that make the transcripts a sickening exposure of the man and his advisers. . . . He is humorless to the point of being inhumane. He is devious. He is vacillating. He is profane. He is willing to be led. He displays dismaying gaps in knowledge. He is suspicious of his staff. His loyalty is minimal.

    It sure feels like it’s October, 1973 all over again …

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  8. al-Alameda says:

    Why do I have the feeling that once Republicans pass their beloved tax cuts and finalizing the hollowing out of health care … that they might actually entertain a special prosecutor?

    I’m sure that many of “Freedom Caucus” “patriots” would rather have Mike Pence commandeering their radical agenda than Donald Trump.

    I suppose that a lot of extremely negative polling surrounding this issue and the 2018 mid-terms might also cause them to reconsider trying to whitewash the Russia Investigation business.

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  9. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Adding to all of this, The New York Times reports that Comey was asking for more money to expand the Bureau’s investigation just days before the firing.

    Also the WaPo.
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/05/10/comey-sought-more-money-for-russia-probe-days-before-he-was-fired-officials-say/?utm_term=.458b6d785c1a
    BOOM
    I doubt that Comey would have been looking for more resources if there were nothing there, right?
    Lester Holt of NBC is supposed to be interviewing Trump today. I hope he brings his man-pants. That is…if Don the Con doesn’t cancel.
    In the meantime I think we are going to see near constant leaks. FBI and DOJ people are, by-and-large, patriots. And true patriots are not happy about what is happening to the Republic at the hands of this imbecile.

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  10. john430 says:

    Let the chips fall where they may in the investigations. I do, however, find it amusing that Democrats recently wanted Comey’s head but now are outraged at Trumps’ firing him. How many ways do you guys want it?

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  11. john430 says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl: Dary’ls other brother Daryl and Imbecile is an oxymoron.

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  12. Jake says:

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 23

  13. Moosebreath says:

    I tend to agree with Josh Marshall’s take:

    “Let’s walk through just the hows and whys of the news itself.

    Because Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe, it devolved to the Deputy Attorney General. That’s Rosenstein.

    Rosenstein was confirmed for the position on April 25th. So he’s been in office for roughly two weeks.

    In that period, he received Comey’s request for what appears to have been an expanded probe – that’s what more money and people means. And with that request under advisement he penned a memo, at the request of the Attorney General, justifying the firing of Comey. The precise order of events we do not yet know. But it’s all in a very tight timeframe – about two weeks.”

    This is amazing ugly.

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  14. the Q says:

    If only the Dems could tweet like the Donald it would go something like this:

    #fat sarah is at it again..no, not eating like a pig (I guess it runs in the family) but asking us Dems to “move on”. If only she would “move on” to the salad bar maybe she wouldn’t have more Chins than a Chinese phone book. #trylapband.

    Gosh, this tweeting insults can feel so good….if you’re an infant.

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  15. Aelio says:

    Democrats didn’t want Comey fired, just as Democrats haven’t wanted Trump impeached. It takes a lot of effort to make those things happen. I do think that some Democrats wanted to try to work with Trump in order to give the country their best shot. I really want to see though how Democrats will start asking for Trump to resign. Trump has not released his tax returns yet. What does Russia know, that the American media is collectively unaware of? We know that Russia hacked Republican politicians too, it was not just Democrats. And we know that Trump has business ties to Russian banks, when most banks had been avoiding making deals with him as he would bankrupt on their faces. I feel that the Trump circle has been trying hard to find business deals like in China, exactly to avoid going to Russian shores for that again.

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  16. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Anyone think Dumb Don makes it to the mid-terms?

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  17. Moosebreath says:

    @john430:

    Response outsourced to Laura Clawson:

    “Here’s the thing, guys: It’s possible to think Comey acted unprofessionally and unpardonably and created a disaster for the nation and still see a wee small problem when the disaster he created fires him on a flimsy pretext while said disaster or his close associates are under investigation by the guy being fired.

    There were good reasons and bad reasons to fire Comey, and Trump and Sessions’ attempt to convince Democrats and anyone else that they were firing him for good reasons is laughable. So the question everyone’s asking is, what are the bad reasons? And the answer everyone is coming up with is Russia, and that is not a good look. That is, in fact, a really, really bad look. A scary one, even.”

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  18. Moosebreath says:

    @john430:

    “Dary’ls other brother Daryl and Imbecile is an oxymoron.”

    And john 430 does not know what oxymoron means.

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  19. michael reynolds says:

    Yes, obviously this is all about Russia. At this point you have to be an imbecile or a liar to deny it.

    The Republican Party cannot be relied on to be patriotic. They can be relied upon to assist Trump in his cover-up. Only a dramatic move in the polls will change that, and given that those still supporting Trump are either imbeciles or liars, that’s not likely to happen. The 40% are no longer in contact with reality – see the increasingly sad @MBunge. The 40% would reject a video recording of Trump actually taking money from Lavrov’s hands. The 40% have so much of their fragile egos tied up in Trump as Savior that his numbers will probably never go below 35%.

    So it comes down to Republican House members and Senators who are up in 2018. If they don’t start seeing some very bad polls, this cover-up and obstruction of justice may well succeed.

    This, by the way, completes the case for the depravity of the GOP and its supporters. They no longer believe in democracy. They no longer believe in the United States. They are actively in many cases, passively in others, going about the business of destroying American democracy.

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  20. CSK says:

    Well, John McCain isn’t happy with Trump: “This scandal is going to go on. I’ve seen it before. This is a centipede. I guarantee you there will be more shoes to drop, I can just guarantee it. There’s just too much information that we don’t have that will be coming out.”

    He wants a special congressional committee to take charge of the investigation.

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  21. Yank says:

    @john430: Are conservatives just being willfully obtuse or are they too stupid to juggle two different opinions?

    If this were truly about his mishandling about the Clinton email saga, then Comey should have been dismissed months ago. The issue here is timing and the only thing that makes sense is the Russia investigation.

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  22. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @john430:
    Way to regurgitate the talking points.
    I guess that, to you and the people who tell you what to think, calling for the resignation of someone who had botched an investigation and violated DOJ guidelines seems exactly the same as the POTUS firing someone who is actively investigating him and is in fact stepping up that investigation; issuing subpoenas and requesting more money and personnel.
    That’s because you are a poster child for the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

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  23. Slugger says:

    @john430: I, for one, want it the right way. I want full disclosure and appropriate actions taken with regards to a foreign power meddling in our elections. I don’t want this investigation to be decapitated. Comey’s disclosures were unprofessional and, yes, merited firing, but he appears to have thought a little political meddling is ok; whereas outright selling out to the Russians was a step he could not take. Let’s follow this trail to its conclusion and then talk about his job performance.
    Why is anyone ok with Trump surrounding himself with people who made bank with Russia? Why do you hate America, John? Or should I say Ivan?

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  24. CSK says:

    Anne Coulter has just Tweeted this:

    “Comey firing is a red herring to distract from the fact that Trump hasn’t started building the wall.”

    ReplyReply

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  25. Argon says:

    @john430:

    I do, however, find it amusing that Democrats recently wanted Comey’s head but now are outraged at Trumps’ firing him. How many ways do you guys want it?

    Apparently, that’s what Trump is reported to have expressed some confusion about, after receiving some blowback. But he’s not much for nuanced or deep thought.

    It is possible to simultaneously:
    1) Want Comey to have been fired for his pre-election handling of the Clinton investigation, and
    2) Believe that Comey was actually fired for completely different, inappropriate reasons.

    The timing is problematic, as even Republican leaders noted.

    Edit: Moosebreath noted the same, earlier.

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  26. Pch101 says:

    @Yank:

    In modern day America, conservatism provides a safe space for stupid people. Idiots seek out the comfort of their own kind and have formed a political culture club that enables their dumbness.

    The inability to see shades of grey and nuance is part of the appeal. For example, John8675309 simply can’t fathom that Comey could have simultaneously been reckless in one context, while dealt with inappropriately in another. He’s aggressively stupid.

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  27. rachel says:

    Donald Trump, the idiot, is like a man who has just burned his house down to kill a mouse because he is too dumb to buy a mousetrap or poison. Am I glad the mouse is gone? Yeah sure! Mice are disease-carrying vermin! Do I think burning the whole house down was smart because there was this one non-terrible result? No, FFS.

    ETA: and lets not forget that he planned to do this for a week before he went and did it. This is a rare and wonderful flavor of stupid.

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  28. MarkedMan says:

    @CSK:

    Well, John McCain isn’t happy with Trump

    Good for him. He’s lived through a lot of these scandals. McConnell’s endorsement of Trump surprised me. You would think that he would have learned by now that throwing in with Trump is always a mistake. And sure enough, only hours after bending over for the Donald, the revelation about the firing followed a request by Comey for more funds to investigate the Trump gang’s involvement with the Russians. Think about it:

    – A week ago we had an asst. AG in charge of the investigation because the AG himself may be a target having already ‘misspoke’ about his meetings with Russians.
    – Comey asks the AAG for more money for the investigation.
    – Somehow, despite having recused himself from the investigation, the AG finds out Comey asked for more money.
    – It appears Sessions went to Trump.
    – the AAG, the AG and Trump sit down and jointly write the letter firing Comey

    This looks very bad. If McConnell had known about it this morning he would have kept his mouth shut.

    I’m no politician but like many of us I’ve dealt with some sh*t sandwiches in my life. It’s a survival trait to know when to cut someone out, however much short term pain is involved, because it is virtually certain that person will just unendingly escalate every bad situation. In my experience, Trump is 100% in that category, and I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone that comes even close to the totality of disaster the man represents.

    I think the problem for the Repubs is they know that the one who picks up the grenade and throws it from the foxhole is the most likely to get blown up. They are all just huddled in and hoping someone else will play the hero.

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  29. pylon says:

    Let’s say Clinton was elected. And let’s say Comey was still looking at EMAILZ. And let’s say Clinton fired him. I wonder what Mitch and co. would say? I wonder what Cuccinelli or the other hacks on TV would say? I wonder what john430 would say?

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  30. Tyrell says:

    Trump would not have been able to have done that to J. Edgar (“gangster buster”)

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  31. SenyorDave says:

    @pylon: They would probably skip the ind. prosecutor stage and call for impeachment. In case people forgot, Benghazi was investigate eight times at a cost of about $7 million. But potential treason? Nothing to see folks, Mitch McConnell is right on top of things.

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  32. Moosebreath says:

    @SenyorDave:

    “Mitch McConnell is right on top of things.”

    Yep, and that scares me. Or as John Stoehr at Washington Monthly puts it:

    “But the politics are different from the last time a president tried to cover up an alleged crime. Richard Nixon faced a Democratic Congress. Trump faces a Republican Congress that can and will shield the president as long as doing so keeps the base in line. With help from Fox News, it can.

    From what I can tell, a handful of Republican senators have voiced discomfort with Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, but none of the righteous chest-thumping outrage necessary for demanding action. The Senate leadership has already said a special investigation is not required. Expect more noise from Republicans in both chambers, but don’t comfort yourself with the possibility of their doing something. They don’t need to, and may never need to.”

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  33. michael reynolds says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Are you aware of this?

    Contact: Steve Hudak (703) 905-3770
    Immediate Release
    March 06, 2015
    WASHINGTON, DC – The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) today imposed a $10 million civil money penalty against Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort (Trump Taj Mahal), for willful and repeated violations of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). In addition to the civil money penalty, the casino is required to conduct periodic external audits to examine its anti-money laundering (AML) BSA compliance program and provide those audit reports to FinCEN and the casino’s Board of Directors.

    Trump Taj Mahal, a casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, admitted to several willful BSA violations, including violations of AML program requirements, reporting obligations, and recordkeeping requirements. Trump Taj Mahal has a long history of prior, repeated BSA violations cited by examiners dating back to 2003. Additionally, in 1998, FinCEN assessed a $477,700 civil money penalty against Trump Taj Mahal for currency transaction reporting violations.

    “Trump Taj Mahal received many warnings about its deficiencies,” said FinCEN Director Jennifer Shasky Calvery. “Like all casinos in this country, Trump Taj Mahal has a duty to help protect our financial system from being exploited by criminals, terrorists, and other bad actors. Far from meeting these expectations, poor compliance practices, over many years, left the casino and our financial system unacceptably exposed.”

    Trump Taj Mahal admitted that it failed to implement and maintain an effective AML program; failed to report suspicious transactions; failed to properly file required currency transaction reports; and failed to keep appropriate records as required by the BSA. Notably, Trump Taj Mahal had ample notice of these deficiencies as many of the violations from 2012 and 2010 were discovered in previous examinations.

    1) FinCEN was on him for years about money laundering.
    2) 2014 his casino goes belly up.
    3) 2015, he pays a 10 million dollar fine to FinCen.
    4) Manafort et al suddenly need to meet lots of Russians.
    5) The idiot Trump boys state that they no longer need banks, they have Russian money.

    Reasonable guess: Trump was staying afloat on laundered Russian money.

    That’s why he’s so desperate to shut this down. He might think he can get away with colluding in electoral meddling. I doubt he thinks he can get away with actual money-laundering. Nor could he tolerate the admission that his business is a house of cards built on Russian mob cash.

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  34. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Moosebreath:

    They don’t need to, and may never need to.”

    They only will if the press stays after it, and approval ratings go down.

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  35. KM says:

    @Moosebreath:

    They don’t need to, and may never need to.

    At some point, CYA kicks in. Granted, its taking an exceptionally long time because Republicans have not really paid for their political sins in a while and they are riding high on WINNING!!! Still, a politician’s second best instinct after lying/grifting is saving their own ass so if it comes down to them or Trump, it ain’t gonna be them. We just need to make it incredibly clear that it really is Them vs Trump, something this firing should help speed along. Backstabbing on the Hill is nothing knew but it used to be done with a little more care – no blood on the furniture, so to speak. Trump doesn’t care who or what goes down so long as he gets what he wants. He’s *not* a Republican and has no loyalty to the party or his own people – they’d do well to remember that.

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  36. michael reynolds says:

    @KM:

    He’s not a Republican, but he is an angry white male. Only disastrous polling will cause Republicans to act responsibly.

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  37. Moosebreath says:

    @Moosebreath:

    Or, as the Editor of Foreign Policy puts it, we are becoming a Banana Republic (and not the type one buys poorly made khakis from):

    “We don’t know what crimes may or may not have been committed — but we do see several patterns of behavior. All are deeply worrisome. Trump has repeatedly shown a reckless disregard for U.S. national security and national interests. He has shown a contempt for the law and for the American legal system. And when challenges to the legality of the behavior of his associates have arisen, Trump has repeatedly acted in ways that appear intended to prevent or impede the ability of those who would seek the truth. (Perhaps worse, he regularly takes to Twitter and other media to do to them what he never does to the Russians who attacked our democracy: denigrate and discredit those individuals for doing their jobs and upholding their sworn duties.)

    This deeply disturbing behavior is only made more worrisome by the fact that in other circumstances, as when the legality of immigration policies were repeatedly struck down by the courts, he has attacked judges and shown no appreciation for their independent and equivalent status to the executive branch in our system of government. In other words, he has repeatedly shown a desire to attack the system, laws, and Constitution he swore an oath to uphold. He has done so using all the tools of a demagogue and some of those more commonly associated with authoritarian regimes.”

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  38. john430 says:

    @Slugger: As to your last sentence…Fwck you. I have served this country in time of war and have seen good men die while you were probably still discovering your “thingy” in the bathtub.

    Does your mama still wash it for you, you creep?

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  39. Eric Florack says:

    President Donald Trump fired James Comey on Tuesday after a Justice Department review found the FBI director had usurped the attorney general’s authority by closing a probe into Hillary Clinton’s use of private email.

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  40. john430 says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl: Are you a PCH clone or a robot troll ? Pch101 used the same stupid “effect” remark to no avail. It only made him, you, et al sound more ridiculous than you already are.

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  41. michael reynolds says:

    @Eric Florack:
    Literally no one – including you, Eric – actually believes that.

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  42. DFroat says:

    @john430:

    I believe lying about ones military service–or in this case lackthereof–can get you in trouble. Better be careful, coward.

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  43. Barry says:

    @john430: “Let the chips fall where they may in the investigations. I do, however, find it amusing that Democrats recently wanted Comey’s head but now are outraged at Trumps’ firing him. How many ways do you guys want it?”

    https://www.balloon-juice.com/2017/05/10/the-part-of-james-comey-will-be-played-by-a-pizza-a-balloon-juice-explainer/

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  44. David in KC says:

    @Barry: it’s a complex thought process, but I am sure you get the difference between a question regarding whether he should be fired, and the timing of said firing. I get the rationale, but why now and not a month ago or within weeks of taking office. I’m sure it has nothing to do with Comey requesting more money for the Russian investigation, or subpoenas coming out, it has everything to do with how he handles a case last year…

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  45. Barry says:

    @john430: “I have served this country in time of war and have seen good men die while you were probably still discovering your “thingy” in the bathtub.

    Does your mama still wash it for you, you creep?”

    Since *all* right wing talk is pure Freudian projection……………

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  46. Barry says:

    @David in KC: “it’s a complex thought process, but I am sure you get the difference between a question regarding whether he should be fired”

    I’m on your side.

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  47. Slugger says:

    @john430: Thank you for your interest in my hygiene.
    Here’s what interests me: a couple of years ago, Eric Trump reportedly told a business reporter that Trump enterprises got $100 million from the Russians. I know that US banks were reluctant to loan money to someone with four or five bankruptcies. How much money did Trump get from Russia? Do they expect anything more than prompt loan service from Mr. Trump?

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  48. Hal_10000 says:

    The thing is that Trump has now basically guaranteed that the Russia scandal will never go away. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that that there’s not much to it: a few advisors had dealings, Trump wasn’t involved, etc. Had this conclusion been reached, say, six months from now, the scandal would have quieted at least. But thanks to the decision to fire Comey, that conclusion would never be believed now. Even if we posit that there’s no cover-up going on, . this gives the impression that one is going on. It’s mind-bogglingly dumb.

    This was one thing Bill Clinton understood. As much as the investigations drove him crazy, he knew that killing them (or trying to) would make it worse. Indeed, the only time he got in any real trouble was attempting to cover-up the Lewinski business.*

    (*With the caveat that Whitewater might have blown up had Susan McDougall testified).

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  49. michael reynolds says:

    The WaPo has a report with 30 sources at the White House, FBI and the Hill that makes it absolutely undeniable that this was about Russia.

    30 sources. 30.

    But the private accounts of more than 30 officials at the White House, the Justice Department, the FBI and on Capitol Hill, as well as Trump confidants and other senior Republicans, paint a conflicting narrative centered on the president’s brewing personal animus toward Comey. Many of those interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to candidly discuss internal deliberations.

    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.

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  50. michael reynolds says:

    @Hal_10000:
    Have I not told you Trump is stupid? It seems even the voters agree, that was the top-ranked descriptor in the Quinnipiac poll.

    He is stooopid. Because he’s stupid he says things in the expectation that people will believe him. See, Trump thinks he’s smart. But he’s only smarter than his base. He’s not smart enough to fool anyone who is not, himself, stupid.

    Isn’t that right, @MBunge?

    I absolutely believe Trump was shocked at the reaction to Comey. He is absolutely that stupid. He compounds stupidity with laziness and profound ignorance. He didn’t even know this would bring ‘Nixon’ back into common usage because he knows and understands nothing. He tells stupid, stupid lies, but he’s a rich asshole used to everyone nodding along. He thinks his rallies are the whole country.

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  51. john430 says:

    @DFroat: Tan Son Nhut with the Air Force. I was an E-4 Airman, First class with the 505th TAC — dirtbag

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  52. michael reynolds says:
  53. john430 says:

    @Slugger: Like I said in my first post- let the chips fall where they may. You libtards are too quick to hang someone without evidence and always want to bring in the hangin’ judge once an accusation has been made.

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  54. Mikey says:

    No doubt the Russia investigation had a lot to do with it, but the most basic reason Trump fired Comey is this: Comey was insufficiently loyal. He wouldn’t express a sufficient level of personal loyalty to Trump, and so he had to go.

    But I can tell you to whom he was unfailingly loyal, and who, contrary to the lies put out by the Trump administration today, he had full support and loyalty from: the agents and professional staff of the FBI. Here is the letter he sent them today.

    To all:

    I have long believed that a President can fire an FBI Director for any reason, or for no reason at all. I’m not going to spend time on the decision or the way it was executed. I hope you won’t either. It is done, and I will be fine, although I will miss you and the mission deeply.

    I have said to you before that, in times of turbulence, the American people should see the FBI as a rock of competence, honesty, and independence. What makes leaving the FBI hard is the nature and quality of its people, who together make it that rock for America.

    It is very hard to leave a group of people who are committed only to doing the right thing. My hope is that you will continue to live our values and the mission of protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution.

    If you do that, you too will be sad when you leave, and the American people will be safer.
    Working with you has been one of the great joys of my life. Thank you for that gift.

    Jim Comey

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  55. Kylopod says:

    @john430:

    Like I said in my first post- let the chips fall where they may. You libtards are too quick to hang someone without evidence and always want to bring in the hangin’ judge once an accusation has been made.

    That’s kind of funny coming from someone who once claimed it was a certainty that Hillary would be indicted.

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  56. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Jake: Wow. Really?

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  57. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @john430:
    A rose is a rose.
    A duck is a duck.
    A poster child for Dunning Kruger Effect is a poster child for Dunning Kruger Effect.
    Your every comment proves it.

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