In a memo cited by the White House as justification for the firing of FBI Director James Comey Tuesday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein called Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server “a textbook example of what federal prosecutors and agents are taught not to do.”
However, President Donald Trump at times praised Comey’s work on the investigation.
Trump’s praise was especially pronounced after Comey’s Oct. 28 announcement that he was re-opening the investigation, just 11 days before Election Day.
“I respect the fact that Director Comey was able to come back after what he did,” Trump said the day after the now-ousted FBI director’s announcement.
“It took guts for Director Comey to make the move that he made in light of the kind of opposition he had where they’re trying to protect her from criminal prosecution,” he said on Oct. 31. “You know that. It took a lot of guts.”
“I was not his fan,” he added, “but I’ll tell you what: What he did, he brought back his reputation. He brought it back.”
In January, shaking hands with Comey in the White House, Trump said: “He’s become more famous than me.”
In his memo urging Comey’s termination, Rosenstein cited Comey’s justification for his decision to speak out about the continued probe shortly before Election Day rather than keep the development under wraps.
“Concerning his letter to the Congress on October 28, 2016, the Director cast his decision as a choice between whether he would ‘speak’ about the FBI’s decision to investigate the newly-discovered email messages or ‘conceal’ it,” he wrote. “‘Conceal’ is a loaded term that misstates the issue. When federal agents and prosecutors quietly open a criminal investigation, we are not concealing anything; we are simply following the longstanding policy that we refrain from publicizing non-public information. In that context, silence is not concealment.”
Trump often criticized Comey and the FBI for its handling of the investigation — saying as recently as May 2 on Twitter that “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!”
However, Trump praised Comey’s actions on the email investigation days before Election Day — the same investigation the White House cited in part as justification to fire the FBI director.