President Trump’s Tuesday firing of FBI Director James Comey — the head of the agency conducting an investigation into allegations of his campaign’s collusion with Russia to interfere with the 2016 election — has evolved from highly controversial with Democrats and some Republicans to what some are calling a full-blown constitutional crisis. The reason? Conflicting explanations for the firing given by the White House and Trump himself.
1. Attorney general Jeff Sessions and deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein made the recommendation, and Trump was merely acting on it
This was the first reason given when Comey was fired Tuesday. In his termination letter to Comey, Trump wrote, “I have received the attached letters from the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General of the United States recommending your dismissal as Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I have accepted their recommendation…” Press secretary Sean Spicer echoed this message.
2. Comey handled the Hillary Clinton email situation badly
This charge was in the letter written by Rosenstein.
3. Comey “wasn’t doing a good job”
That’s what Trump told reporters during a surprise meeting with Henry Kissinger on Wednesday.
4. Comey had lost respect from the FBI rank and file
Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders offered this explanation during a press briefing on Wednesday. This has been directly contradicted by testimony before the Senate committee yesterday by acting FBI head Andrew McCabe. A number of current and former intelligence officers have echoed this since.
5. Comey was a “showboat” and a “grandstander”
In an interview yesterday with NBC’s Lester Holt, Trump made that charge, with “Meanness & Lack of self-awareness,” wrote columnist EJ Dionne on Facebook.
6. “The FBI has been in turmoil”
That’s another reason Trump gave in the interview with Holt. “You know that, I know that,” Trump continued. “You look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil, less than a year ago. It hasn’t recovered from that.”
7. “I was going to fire him regardless of recommendation”
Trump also said this in yesterday’s NBC interview, directly contradicting the statements put out by his press team over the previous two days.
8. The FBI investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election
In the interview with Holt, Trump said, “When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won. … So everybody was thinking, they should have won the election. This was an excuse for having lost an election.” This has led to allegations of obstruction of justice by numerous politicians, journalists and pundits ever since.