Only seven days after Donald J. Trump was sworn in as president, James B. Comey has told associates, the F.B.I. director was summoned to the White House for a one-on-one dinner with the new commander in chief.
The conversation that night in January, Mr. Comey now believes, was a harbinger of his downfall this week as head of the F.B.I., according to two people who have heard his account of the dinner.
As they ate, the president and Mr. Comey made small talk about the election and the crowd sizes at Mr. Trump’s rallies. The president then turned the conversation to whether Mr. Comey would pledge his loyalty to him.
Mr. Comey declined to make that pledge. Instead, Mr. Comey has recounted to others, he told Mr. Trump that he would always be honest with him, but that he was not “reliable” in the conventional political sense.
Trump: An Unusually Bad Liar
So, when do the wheels finally come off this thing? From the NYT:
President Trump offered a new version of his decision to fire James B. Comey, saying on Thursday that he would have dismissed the F.B.I. director regardless of whether the attorney general and his deputy recommended it.
It was just the latest in a series of statements, some of them contradictory, to whiplash Washington over 48 hours that began with Mr. Comey’s firing on Tuesday evening. And it was unusually harsh: Mr. Trump castigated Mr. Comey as “a showboat” and “a grandstander,” suggesting that his issues with the F.B.I. director went beyond any previously stated concerns.
Mr. Trump said Thursday he had not relied solely on the advice from the Justice Department’s top two leaders in deciding to dismiss Mr. Comey. Earlier, the White House had said that Mr. Trump had acted only after Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, came to him and recommended that Mr. Comey be dismissed because of his handling of last year’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email. In his Tuesday letter terminating Mr. Comey, Mr. Trump said he had “accepted their recommendation.” And Vice President Mike Pence, talking to reporters, echoed his boss.
But by the next day, that story had begun to unravel.
The White House says this account is not correct.
Maybe the White House is telling the truth here, but I don’t believe it. How can anybody believe it?
The thing to keep in mind is that this Dumpster fire is entirely of Trump’s own making. Maybe Comey deserved to be fired. If so, you don’t fire him in the middle of this Russia investigation, you don’t fire him in a dirty way guaranteed to raise everyone’s suspicions, and you sure don’t lie about it, and send your people (Pence, Sanders, et al.) out to lie about it.
And now, in his NBC News interview today, Trump blew it all up again, suggesting that the Russia probe did play into his rationale for firing Comey:
Trump to NBC: “When I decided to [fire Comey], I said to myself, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story.”
— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) May 11, 2017
… and that he had decided to fire Comey no matter what Sessions and Rosenstein said:
HOLT: Did you ask for a recommendation?
TRUMP: What I did is, I was going to fire Comey. My decision. It was not . . .
HOLT: You had made the decision before they came in the room.
TRUMP: I was going to fire Comey. There’s no good time to do it, by the way.
HOLT: Because in your letter, you said, ‘I accepted their recommendation.’ So you had already made the decision.
TRUMP: Oh, I was going to fire regardless of recommendation.
Remember when Sen. Bob Kerrey said of Bill Clinton that he’s “an unusually good liar”? Clinton was. Trump is an unusually bad liar — and it is destroying his administration only four months into his presidency. It is becoming very hard to deny that President Trump believes that the FBI ought to be not just under his authority, but under his control.
If you’re a Republican member of Congress right now, what must you be thinking?
UPDATE: Here’s a good piece from Politico talking about how, whatever Trump’s real reasons for canning Comey, that Comey had been courting this fate for a long time. Excerpt:
There are already hints that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was gunning for Comey at the White House’s request, but Trump’s letter firing the FBI director came attached to memos from both the attorney general and deputy attorney general that concluded Comey had compromised the bureau’s integrity and reputation.
It’s a conclusion that few in Washington will argue with today. As interviews with current and former FBI agents and executives as well as officials at the Justice Department and both the Obama and Trump White Houses make clear, Comey has spent the past year delivering enemies on all sides all the evidence they needed to conclude that he had become uniquely compromised as FBI director. That cover may prove a fig leaf for Trump’s real reason—hoping to avoid Comey’s tenaciousness as a prosecutor as he finds himself in the FBI’s spotlight—but the seeds of Comey’s downfall have been germinating for years.
UPDATE.2: So, now the President of the United States is threatening blackmail against the former FBI director to shut him up. Honestly, my pro-Trump readers, at what point do you say, “Enough!”?
James Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017