President Trump’s abrupt decision to fire FBI Director James Comey was reportedly fueled by the commander-in-chief’s anger and frustration at his refusal to clear him in his agency’s Russia probe.
Trump was furious over the FBI’s growing investigation and began turning on Comey in March, when the lawman testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee that his agency was in fact probing the Trump campaign, Politico reported.
The President’s anger only grew when Comey refused to support Trump’s baseless claims that former President Barack Obama had ordered illegal wiretaps of Trump Tower — and often led to the President literally “screaming” at the television, the report said.
Comey was back before the Senate — and back in Trump’s cross hairs — last week, when he testified that the probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election was continuing.
That’s when Trump openly started talking about firing Comey, The New York Times reported, and he hatched a plan to do so while watching the Sunday morning news shows at his estate in Bedminster, N.J.
By Monday, the paper said, he told aides he thought there was “something wrong” with Comey, and he wanted to get rid of him.
The FBI probe had intensified so much that Comey was receiving daily instead of weekly updates on the investigation, according to The Wall Street Journal. The briefings left Comey concerned because they detailed possible evidence of collusion, according to the newspaper. Trump discussed firing Comey with Vice President Pence, White House counsel Don McGahn and his son-in-law and aide Jared Kushner in recent days. All of them reportedly supported the move.
Chief of staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Stephen Bannon urged him to wait, the paper said.
The White House gave a different account of the decision, saying Trump had been unhappy with Comey since his inauguration — and had decided to fire him after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who’s been on the job for two weeks, advocated getting rid of him during a meeting Monday.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump asked Rosenstein to write him a memo about his concerns.
Rosenstein’s memo criticized Comey for going public with information about Trump rival Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server — a move Trump had previously praised Comey for.
Trump fired Comey after getting the memo.
Democrats were skeptical of the White House’s shifting story and said Trump’s actions reek of an attempt to cover up Comey’s Russia probe.
Sources said Wednesday that Comey had asked Rosenstein for more funding for the Russia probe just last week. The FBI had also recently issued subpoenas to force associates of Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn to testify before a grand jury.
Pence called the termination the “right decision at the right time” and said Comey had “lost the confidence of the American people.” In a brief statement to reporters, Trump said he canned Comey because “he wasn’t doing a good job, very simply.”
Huckabee Sanders used even harsher language, telling reporters the former spy chief committed “basic atrocities” during his tenure, including “circumventing the chain of command” in his closing and reopening of the Clinton probe.
Comey — who found out he was being fired on TV news while speaking at an agency event in Los Angeles — took the high road in a farewell letter to staff and friends that was obtained by CNN.
“I have long believed that a President can fire an FBI director for any reason, or no reason at all. I’m not going to spend time on the decision or the way it was executed, and I hope you won’t either. It is done, and I will be fine, although I will miss you and the mission deeply,” he wrote.
“Working with you has been one of the great joys of my life.”
Andrew McCabe took over for Comey as the interim FBI director, though it’s unclear how long Trump will leave him in office.
McCabe sat down with Trump on Wednesday afternoon and is scheduled to testify in Comey’s place at Senate Intelligence hearing on Thursday.
Comey, for his part, has been invited to testify before a closed Senate Intelligence Committee hearing next Tuesday.
Meanwhile, another part of the Russia probes is going forward — the Senate Intelligence Committee announced Wednesday it had issued a subpoena for documents that Flynn has refused to turn over.