President Donald Trump fired James Comey just as the FBI director moved to expand and intensify the bureau’s counterintelligence investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and the possible collusion of Trump advisers in those efforts.
That development alone ought to give pause to Republicans inclined to go to the barricades for the president. But there’s more. The White House’s after-the-fact explanations of the Comey firing were inconsistent and internally contradictory—and even, at times, demonstrably untrue.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions and President Donald Trump, respectively the man who recommended Comey’s dismissal and the man who executed it, had been on record praising Comey for the very thing they cited as the chief reason for terminating him. Trump, who had been critical of Comey’s refusal to prosecute Hillary Clinton, offered effusive praise when the FBI director announced days before the election that he was reopening the probe. What he did, he brought back his reputation—he brought it back, Trump said at a rally. He’s got to hang tough because a lot of people want him to do the wrong thing. But what he did was the right thing. The president was still defending Comey’s conduct in an interview last month with Maria Bartiromo of Fox Business. Sessions, who on May 9 formally recommended that Trump fire Comey for his conduct, told Fox News in November 2016: FBI Director Comey did the right thing when he found new evidence. He had no choice but to report his findings to the American people.