Without the need of an argument or storyline, I want to put together some key facts tied to last night’s events.
First: The man now in charge of the FBI on an acting basis is Andrew McCabe, a 20 year FBI veteran who has been deputy director since last year. Notably, in his prior position, Republicans last year tried to make hay of the fact that McCabe’s wife had run for a political office as a Democrat in Virginia and that she’d received a political contribution from Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. I mention this only to note that I would not be surprised if Republicans tried to resurface these claims which, if it requires saying, were really bogus.
Second: Rod Rosenstein is a longtime federal prosecutor and DOJ official. When he was nominated to serve as Deputy Attorney General, he was widely hailed as a well-respected career professional. Republicans are making great hay of this reputation, which Democrats seemed to generally buy into. He wrote the memo which made the case for firing James Comey. He is also, critically, the person currently overseeing the Russia investigation. Why? Because when Jeff Sessions recused himself from oversight of the investigation because of his meetings with Ambassador Kislyak, the oversight devolved to the number two in the Department, Rod Rosenstein. So the person who now oversees the Russia probe was directly implicated in the decision to fire Comey.
Third: There is a lot of color tied to the mechanics of Comey’s firing. The most lavish and chilling in my eyes is the fact that Trump had his former personal bodyguard and in effect his current personal bodyguard, Keith Schiller, hand deliver the firing letter to FBI headquarters. Schiller was head of security for the Trump Organization for years.
Four: The relevant issue with Comey’s firing was that he was not notified in advance and in fact only learned he’d been fired by hearing reports of it on television. This has great dramatic effect. It is tawdry and unprofessional, given the gravity of the decision and Comey’s long career in public service. But that’s all ceremony and decorum. What really matters is what this says about the haste and nature of the decision. It’s possible that this was done by design as an element of the humiliation Trump wanted to visit on Comey. But I suspect it was more of an accidental fringe benefit. I believe it shows this was rushed and urgent in nature. That is key to understand and remember.
Five: There have been various press reports about how long Trump had been planning to fire Comey or considering firing him. But most settle on the importance of one week. Sometimes it’s about a week, or at least a week, or a week – but one week comes up in almost every account. What happened one week before yesterday, May 9th? Notably, exactly 7 days earlier Trump launched what was then his most recent tweetstorm against Comey. This was the first of two tweets on May 2nd.
FBI Director Comey was the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton in that he gave her a free pass for many bad deeds! The phony…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 3, 2017
That tweet was from late on the evening before what proved to be Comey’s final testimony to Congress as FBI Director. In the event, the headlines from the May 3rd testimony turned mainly on Comey’s defense of his oversight of the Clinton probe. But his earlier testimony on March 20th was the first official confirmation that the FBI was probing collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. That must have been emblazoned in Trump’s memory.