Today, in a White House administration that has a reputation for spastic fits and starts, the paroxysm of terror and violent reactions achieved levels not seen since Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre.
In a move that the alt-right is heralding as the next step toward indicting and jailing vanquished political foe Hillary Clinton–to them, who cares if they prosecute her or find her guilty of anything as long as they hang her?–President Donald Trump unceremoniously fired FBI Director James Comey.
As recently as Monday, Comey, as a Trump administration rep, appeared in front of the Anti-Defamation League’s national conference at the Mayflower Hotel in D.C. to speak about hate crimes, racist attacks and intimidation. According to Michael Rothstein, a Chicago lawyer who attended the ADL conference, Comey (and all of law enforcement), noted the increase in hate crimes also vowed to work hard to stem the rising tide. The former FBI director also remarked, rather presciently, “Power must be overseen and constrained.” Rothstein reflects, “As I sat listening to Jim Comey’s speech to the ADL, I thought to myself that his presence in this administration would prove to be an important shield against attempted abuses of power. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who thought that.” Comey was scheduled to speak to potential FBI recruits Tuesday evening in Los Angeles. The move was so unexpected that Comey reportedly heard the news on TV before the official letter announcing his termination was delivered.
Critics will note that Comey stepped into the role of overseeing the probe into Secretary Clinton’s usage of a private email server, due to the perception that Attorney General Loretta Lynch could have been compromised during a brief conversation with Bill Clinton that took place in Phoenix after both realized they were on the same tarmac. Since then, controversy has surrounded Comey. In July, Comey closed the Clinton case without prosecution but declared 11 days before the November election he had had reopened it with a discovery of a new heaping handful of Clinton-related emails.
Amidst protests on both sides, many believed that move cost Clinton the election.
Tuesday afternoon, the embattled FBI director was gone. According to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, he and Attorney General Jeff Sessions recommended firing Sessions because of his bungling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail scandal. Specifically, Rosenstein said, “The Director was wrong to usurp the Attorney General’s authority on July 5, 2016 and announce his conclusion that the case should be closed without prosecution. It is not the function of the Director to make such an announcement.”
Trump himself also weighed in: "It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission.”
Just a day ago, the Trump administration took a heavy beating after James Clapper and Sally Yates testified in Congress about the ongoing Russian scandal and former General Mike Flynn. (Sessions has already recused himself from that investigation.) For an hour during the daily press briefing, the Flynn scandal dominated the headlines. Presidential press spokesman Sean Spicer couldn’t tell me, when I asked him, why Flynn was allowed to be involved in a telephone call with Russia just a day after Yates made her second visit to the White House to warn the President about Flynn being compromised.
“I really don’t recall the schedule from that day, Brian. But the point is, again, I think this is–look, I answered the question a moment ago. But I think–as I went through the timeline, Sally Yates came over here, gave us a head’s up, provided us the opportunity to–made it very clear the materials were available for the Counsel to review, but–and we followed that process. And within 11 days after that, we accepted General Flynn’s resignation that the President had asked for.”
He continued: “Look, we’re not going to re-litigate the past on this. I think we’ve been very clear as to what happened and why it happened. I think the President made the right decision and we’ve moved on.”
Apparently the next move was to fire Comey.
The Trump administration has made very coordinated efforts–when cornered or when confronted with news not to their liking–to up the ante and drive the narrative in a different direction. Dropping bombs in the Middle East has worked before–and, to his credit, Spicer reminded everyone how dangerous ISIS is Tuesday, though he also reiterated the administration’s move to obfuscate the Russian scandal by committing some 15,000 troops to Afghanistan.
But apparently adding troops to Afghanistan didn’t remove the Russian scandal from the midday news shows, so just a few hours later, the President moved on to canning Comey. Indeed, Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland agrees, telling Playboy, “Firing FBI Director Comey has the foul stench of an attempt to stop an ongoing investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. We know that the Russians interfered in our election. We know that every intelligence agency concluded that Russia interfered on behalf of Donald Trump. And we know that Director Comey was investigating potential collusion between Donald Trump’s associates and Russia. While I’ve long had concerns about Director Comey, it’s shocking that the Justice Department and the White House would blatantly interfere in an ongoing and very active investigation by firing him. Congress must continue its work to investigate possible collusion, but the timing of Director Comey’s firing requires that the Justice Department immediately appoint a special prosecutor in order to reinstall confidence in our justice system and in our intelligence agencies.”
Long-time investigative reporter of political corruption, organized crime and best-selling author Dan Moldea, who’s covered public and private corruption for 30 years, was shocked by the announcement. “Jim Comey was a disgrace to the FBI. But now, in the aftermath of his firing today by Donald Trump, we will be stuck with whichever right-wing stooge and cover-up artist Donald Trump decides to appoint to take his place. We cannot trust the chairs of the House and/or Senate Oversight and Intelligence Committees. We cannot trust the Director of the CIA. We certainly cannot trust the Attorney General. Like it or not, Comey was our only hope to reveal the truth about the provable corruption and alleged treason of the Trump Administration. It’s time for some brave insider who is willing to commit political suicide–and to face prison–to leak what has been collected about the Trump-Russia investigation to the New York Times and/or the Washington Post.”
‘We are witnessing the effective end of the rule of law,’ a long time source inside the Justice Department told me late in the afternoon.
While the Breitbart crowd apparently crowed this is just the first step in jailing Clinton, and earlier in the day Trump tweeted the Russian investigation into him was a “hoax,” the feeling inside the Justice Department was quite different. “We are witnessing the effective end of the rule of law,” a long time source inside the Justice Department told me late in the afternoon.
While Sessions said firing Comey would help re-establish the rule of law, other sources inside the D.O.J. fear for their jobs saying Trump’s move at the behest of Session has amounted to obstruction. “There is no independent department of justice to prosecute or investigate allegations against Trump,” said the source. “We are Venezuela.”
Now many in the Justice Department believe the man who beat her is again using the “non-existent scandal” to obfuscate the investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia prior to the election. “It is no coincidence this comes a day after Clapper and Yates went to The Hill and destroyed the president’s narrative about Flynn and Russia,” my long-time source at Justice told me.
Even some of the president’s staff were stunned by the decision to fire Flynn. “It’s always interesting around here,” a senior white house official said. “Today is no different.”
Late in the afternoon, Spicer released a statement from the president. “The FBI is one of our Nation’s most cherished and respected institutions and today will mark a new beginning for our crown jewel of law enforcement,” said President Trump.
However, others remained unconvinced and many questions remain unanswered. Notably, this announcement occurred late in the afternoon, after most reporters who would pose some tough questions had already left the White House. To wit, it remains suspicious the firing occurred a day after Clapper and Yates testified on the Hill. (The New York Times is reporting that AG Jeff Sessions has been "tasked” to find reasons to fire Comey since late last week.)
It remains just the latest act in the daily reality show called “Firebrand Theater” or as outsiders refer to it: The Donald Trump Administration.