FBI Director James B. Comey has been dismissed by the president, according to White House spokesman Sean Spicer.
“The president has accepted the recommendation of the Attorney General and the deputy Attorney General regarding the dismissal of the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” Spicer told reporters in the briefing room, according to a pool report.
Earlier in the day, the FBI notified Congress that Comey misstated key findings involving the Hillary Clinton email investigation during testimony last week, saying that only a “small number’’ of emails had been forwarded to disgraced congressman Anthony Weiner, not the “hundreds and thousands’’ he’d claimed in his testimony.
The stunning news confounds partisans who selectively praised and condemned Comey. Republicans were angry that he did not prosecute Hillary Clinton and then were mollified when the FBI director injected himself into the campaign days before the election. Democrats were relieved he did not prosecute but mortified that he chose to delve into facts of a case he was not prosecuting and then intervened at the end of the campaign to carry Trump, in their minds, over the finish line.
Trump’s letter firing Comey inserted his defiant and defensive spin that Comey had told him three times he is not under investigation. (We don’t know what instances Trump is referring to or what Comey might have meant.) The questions swirling around Comey’s firing will envelop the administration and Washington for the foreseeable future. Here is just an initial list of issues:
- If Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation, how and why did he make the recommendation to fire Comey?
- Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein laid out a convincing case as to why Comey acted improperly and unfairly to Clinton last July. However, Trump thought Comey should have prosecuted her, so why would Trump now object that Comey had been unfair to his nemesis?
- How is Trump to select the person who will be investigating whether his campaign colluded with Russia during the campaign without invalidating the entire process?
- When was the decision to fire Comey made: before or after this week’s testimony?
- Will Comey be able to preserve evidence he collected so as to defuse suspicion this is a giant coverup?
- Will Comey testify about the status of his investigation as of Tuesday?
- Will the demands for a special prosecutor now become too loud to ignore?
- Will Comey, once fired, feel free to reveal information about the Russia investigation? If so, why would Trump risk firing him now?
- Will Republicans snap out of their partisan stupor to demand answers about Comey and insist on a replacement who is above reproach?
- Will the administration — which has now fired a national security adviser and an FBI chief and has been plagued by conflicts of interest and infighting — take on the aura of complete chaos and instability, impairing the GOP’s agenda and America’s international standing?
The only thing we can say with any confidence is that this will never be a “normal” presidency without controversy, scandal and a fair amount of mayhem.