Yesterday afternoon, Donald Trump passed down word that he was firing FBI Director James Comey. The official administration line on this, that they fired Comey because he mishandled the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails. That would be an acceptable reason – many believe his theatrics may have affected the outcome of the 2016 election – but as an explanation coming from the Trump administration it makes no sense.
When Comey sent a letter to Congress in late October of 2016 explaining that he was re-opening the investigation into Clinton’s emails, Trump was quick to praise the move. His attorney general, Jeff Sessions, did as well. It’s difficult to find a Republican who was unhappy with the decision at the time, or who has criticized it since. Also, over five months have passed since Comey sent his letter. During that time, Trump could have fired Comey at any point, but chose to wait for reasons that don’t make sense.
The main Republican retort to the outrage surrounding the firing has been that Democrats and other opponents of the administration are hypocrites. They were really angry at Comey, and now they’re angry that he’s fired. This completely misses the point, though. If opponents of the administration believed Comey was fired for the reasons the administration laid out, things would have been fine. Some would even have cheered it. The issue is not that opponents of Trump do not agree with his stated reason for firing Comey, but rather that they believe the stated reason is not the real reason. They believe Trump wanted to fire Comey, but couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say why, and so he made up another reason to do it. They aren’t upset because they love Comey suddenly; they’re upset because it looks like a cover-up.
Remember, Comey’s FBI was investigating the Trump campaign for alleged ties to the Russian government. The investigation was ongoing, and according to the New York Times, Comey had asked the justice department just days ago to appropriate more money for the investigation. Nobody knows for sure, but the innuendo is strong. It looks as if Trump wanted to insert someone more pliable at the head of the FBI, and shut down or hinder the investigation into his campaign.
Now would be a good time for Republicans to take a step back and really take stock of what it is they think they are achieving by repeatedly going to bat for this guy. They should look and consider how unlikely it is that this doesn’t somehow end badly for them. Trump just fired someone who was heading up a federal investigation of his presidential campaign. There is something damning lurking in his tax returns. He has business interests all over the world, and has money tied up in who knows how many foreign entities. The notion that Trump will just be president for 4-8 years without some sort of drawn out, ugly scandal tarnishing it is implausible. Now would be a good time to ask, what are they hoping to get out of this. How many plausible scenarios are there where this works out fine for everyone who stood by Trump? The deeper we get into this story, it seems there fewer and fewer.