Timeline: How Donald Trump decided to fire James Comey

President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey was stunning not just for its surprise, but for its swiftness.

It came just months after Trump praised Comey’s character. Two weeks after the man who recommended the firing started his job. And, according to the White House, one day after Trump told that man to prepare an exit memo.

But the trouble began brewing last summer, in the dead heat of the presidential campaign.

Here’s how the Comey story came crashing down:

Trump fires James Comey: Five questions in urgent need of answers

July 5, 2016: Comey announces he will recommend no charges against Hillary Clinton for using a private email server as secretary of state, effectively ending the sprawling investigation. Trump immediately complains about the call, tweeting, “FBI director said Crooked Hillary compromised our national security. No charges. Wow! #RiggedSystem.” Trump will spend much of the remaining campaign months alleging some sort of backdoor deal.

September 22: A Daily Mail story alleges that disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner, the husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin, sexted with a 15-year-old girl. The feds will soon open a criminal probe into Weiner.

October 28: Eleven days before the election, Comey announces the reopening of the Clinton investigation because of new emails discovered during the Weiner inquiry.

Former FBI Director James Comey.

Former FBI Director James Comey.

(J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

October 29: With Clinton under the microscope again, Trump suddenly has nothing but nice words about Comey.

Meet Rod Rosenstein, the man who told Trump to fire James Comey

“I have to tell you, I respect the fact that Director Comey was able to come back after what he did,” he says at a Phoenix campaign rally.

“I respect that very much.”

October 30: Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who will become President Trump’s U.S. Attorney General, joins the chorus of praise for Comey, saying the FBI head had an “absolute duty” to inform Americans about the new emails.

October 31: Trump commends Comey again, telling a Grand Rapids rally crowd that “it took guts” for the FBI leader to look again at Clinton’s emails.

President Trump meets with Russian foreign minister

“I was not his fan, but I’ll tell you what: What he did, he brought back his reputation. He brought it back,” Trump says.

President Trump praised Comey in the final days of the campaign.

President Trump praised Comey in the final days of the campaign.

(MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

November 6: Comey announces no new findings in the second probe, and no charges.

November 9:  Trump unexpectedly wins the presidential election. Clinton and Democratic leaders cite Comey’s last minute action as a decisive factor in the upset.

January 18, 2017: Trump says Comey will remain as the FBI director, as the President-elect spent weeks in public wavering about Comey’s future.

March 2: Sessions, now serving as attorney general, recuses himself from federal investigations into the Trump campaign’s alleged Russian ties after it is revealed he twice spoke with a Russian diplomat during the race.

March 5: Comey asks the Justice Department to publicly shoot down Trump tweets baselessly accusing former President Obama of wiretapping him. The department refuses.

March 20: In an unusual step for an ongoing investigation, Comey confirms that the FBI is looking into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia. In the same hearing, he says he has seen no evidence of Obama wiretapping Trump.


Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who wrote the memo calling for Comey to be fired.

(Aaron Bernstein/REUTERS)

April 25: The Senate confirms Rod Rosenstein as the new deputy attorney general in a 94-6 vote.

May 3: In a Senate testimony, Comey says that Abedin made a regular habit of sending Weiner emails from Clinton, and that he had received “hundreds of thousands” of them.

May 8: ProPublica reports that Comey grossly misstated the facts of the Clinton case in his Senate testimony, and that Weiner saw only a few of the emails.

May 9: The FBI publicly corrects Comey’s testimony in a letter to Congress. Less than three hours later, Trump fires Comey.

A memo from Rosenstein urged the ouster based on Comey’s handling of the Clinton case, but the timing raises immediate questions about the state of the FBI’s Russia investigation.

By the end of the night, CNN reveals that grand jury subpoenas had just been issued for the Russia investigation.

May 10: Trump tells reporters in the White House that Comey “wasn’t doing a good job,” and Vice President Pence says the FBI needed a “fresh start.” The White House denies that the choice had any connection to the FBI investigation.

The White House says Trump wanted to fire Comey from his first day as President, and told Rosenstein to draft a memo about Comey on Monday. 

james comey
donald trump
hillary clinton
jeff sessions

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