The 5-Minute Fix: Trump vs. the FBI: Day 3

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I don’t know about you, but I’m dizzy. Let’s take a moment to straighten out what happened this topsy-turvy week, day by day On Tuesday, President Trump fired his FBI director. On Wednesday and Thursday, Trump contradicted almost everything White House officials had been saying about why he fired James B. Comey:

  • Aides said it was because the Department of Justice, which oversees the FBI, recommended Comey be fired. Trump told NBC that nah, it was his decision.
  • White House officials and even Vice President Pence said a memo top Justice officials wrote criticizing Comey set off the firing. Then the author of that memo, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, threatened to resign over that narrative. Trump told NBC that nah, he’d been thinking about firing Comey for months.

More contradictions, this time from the FBI: Trump said Comey had to go — he was a “showboat” and a “grandstander” and the FBI was in “virtual turmoil.” Then-FBI Director James B. Comey in March. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post) Except, the acting FBI director told Congress on Thursday that Comey “has broad support in the FBI and still does.” On Friday, Trump blew the final hole in the White House’s sinking ship trying to rationalize firing Comey:

  • The White House said it was because of the way he handled Hillary Clinton’s email investigation.
  • Trump told NBC “this Russia thing” factored into his reasoning.

So if we’re to believe the president — and not his White House — it sounds like Trump fired Comey not over the FBI’s investigation into Clinton, but over the FBI’s investigation into HIM. Now, Trump’s threatening Comey Trump in March. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images) Trump also seems intent on proving he was not, is not, WILL not be under investigation by the FBI. The reality is, no one knows. The FBI and several committees in Congress are looking into whether Trump associates worked with Russia, which intelligence officials believe was meddling in November’s presidential election to help Trump win. How far that goes or doesn’t go is TBD. But Trump has gone out of his way this week to insist that Comey told him on three separate occasions that he wasn’t under investigation. Once, Trump said, was over dinner while Comey was apparently asking to keep his job. The Washington Post reported Trump demanded Comey provide him loyalty; Comey would offer only honesty. Trump recalls it a little bit differently: “I said, ‘If it’s possible, would you let me know am I under investigation?'” Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt. “He said, ‘You are not under investigation.'” (BTW: If these conversations took place, were they ethically murky and afoul of Justice Department protocol? Yes. Illegal? Probably not. There’s no law that says presidents and FBI directors can’t talk.)

But Trump seems concerned Comey will talk. On Friday, he tweeted this: Translation, says, The Fix’s Aaron Blake: That’s a nice reputation you’ve got there. Would be a shame if anything happened to it if you chose to contradict me. Issuing threats is Trump’s go-to leverage Blake can tick off several times the president issued threats — some veiled, some clear as day — to ruin the reputations of people who run afoul of him. Where does this whole Comey thing go from here? We don’t know. There are way more questions than answers right now, like:

  • Who will lead the FBI?
  • Will Congress set up an independent investigation to pick up any slack from the FBI? (The majority of Republicans don’t have any desire to. The House and Senate intelligence committees that have their own investigations going are doing just fine, thanks.)
  • Will Comey or Rosenstein — the guy who got fired and the guy on whom the White House originally tried to pin the firing — share their side of the story?
  • How does all of this affect Republicans’ attempts to revamp health care or the tax code? (“It’s another little speed bump in the road, I guess you could say,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) told The Post.)

We’ll keep you updated on all the questions, and any answers, that come to us in this fast-moving drama. But hopefully, after reading this, we’re all a little clearer on what just happened this week: A president fired, then threatened, his FBI director, and we’re all still trying to figure out exactly why.

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