As I heard it put, what a year this week has been.
Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey was fired by President Donald Trump. “Comey was addressing a group of FBI employees in Los Angeles when a TV in the background flashed the news,” reported The New York Times May 9. “Comey laughed, saying he thought it was a fairly funny prank.”
The termination letter, delivered to FBI headquarters by Trump’s longtime bodyguard and Director of Oval Office Operations Keith Schiller, based the firing on the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with [their] judgment,” Trump wrote to Comey.
Firing Comey Jan. 20 would have been one thing, this was another.
“Federal prosecutors have issued grand jury subpoenas to associates of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn ... as part of the ongoing probe of Russian meddling in last year’s election,” reported CNN’s Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz and Pamela Brown May 10. Trump surrogates scrambled.
“Press Secretary Sean Spicer huddled [late May 9] among bushes near television sets on the White House grounds, not ‘in the bushes,’” read the editor’s note to Jenna Johnson’s Washington Post story.
Thursday, Trump refuted explanations by Vice President Mike Pence, Principal Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Spicer citing Comey’s mishandling of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton’s investigation.
“Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it. ... I said to myself, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story,” Trump told NBC News’ Lester Holt. (Obstruction of justice was the first article of impeachment against President Richard Nixon, and the third against President Bill Clinton.)
May 10, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergei Kislyak visited The White House. (Flynn was canned for misleading Pence about his Kislyak calls.) Outside, Lavrov jokingly feigned ignorance about the firing. American press was not allowed in. Russian News Agency TASS was. The White House failed to mention Kislyak. Friday, officials told CNN’s Jim Acosta the Russians “tricked us” by posting photos. Friday, Trump released a letter from Morgan Lewis saying he had no “income of any type from Russian sources,” with some exceptions. (The law firm was recognized as 2016 Russia Law Firm of the Year by Chambers & Partners.)
The official response to Saturday’s North Korean missile test mentioned Russia. “The president cannot imagine that Russia is pleased,” it stated. Monday, a bombshell by The Washington Post’s Greg Miller and Greg Jaffe dropped.
“Trump revealed highly classified information to Lavrov and Kislyak,” they reported. “The information ... had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies. ... The partner had not given the U.S. permission to share .... access to the inner workings of the Islamic State.”
Comey’s sacking drew comparisons to the “Saturday Night Massacre,” when Nixon ordered the firing of special prosecutor Archibald Cox during the height of the Watergate scandal Oct. 23, 1973. Trump met Nixon’s Secretary of State Henry Kissinger May 10. Trump insinuated the existence of Nixonian Oval Office recordings Friday.
“Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” Trump tweeted.
Monday, The New York Times found 140 Democratic and independent lawmakers, and one Republican calling for a “special prosecutor;” 84 Democrats and six Republicans calling for an independent investigation; and 41 Republicans and eight Democrats having “questions,” “concerns.” Unlike Nixon, congressional Republicans keep enabling Trump.
Rob Burgess, Tribune city editor, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MAY 10: PENCE DEFENDS COMEY FIRING, SAYS IT'S NOT ABOUT THE RUSSIAN INVESTIGATION:
MAY 10: HUCKABEE SANDERS DEFENDS COMEY FIRING:
MAY 9: SPICER DEFENDS COMEY FIRING:
MAY 11: TRUMP TELLS HOLT FIRING WAS HIS DECISION BASED ON RUSSIA INVESTIGATION:
MAY 10: LAVROV FEIGNS SHOCK OVER COMEY FIRING BEFORE WHITE HOUSE VISIT:
MAY 10: TRUMP MEETS WITH KISSINGER: