Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and other cheerleaders for the Trump administration sprang to the defense of the president after the fired FBI Director James Comey, pointing out that he acted on a recommendation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
They came to that conclusion because that was the story being put out by Vice President Mike Pence, counselor Kellyanne Conway, and press secretary Sean Spicer. “It’s on (Rosenstein),” Spicer memorably said.
Except it was all a lie, as we learned when Trump told Lester Holt of NBC that he was going to fire Comey regardless of Rosenstein’s recommendation because the FBI director was a “show boat” (apparently only one is allowed in the Trump administration) and that the FBI was in disarray. Trump admitted Russia was on his mind when he made the decision.
Assistant press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders then poured more fuel on the fire by claiming that FBI employees had lost confidence in Comey and that the Russian collusion investigation was just a minor matter in the bureau. Both claims were contradicted by acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe.
Comey was fired after reports started circulating that the FBI was ramping up the investigation, Comey was getting daily instead of weekly briefings on the probe, and that he requested more money to expand the investigation.
Trump apparently blew a gasket and demanded that Comey be fired immediately. He wasn’t willing to wait until Comey got back to Washington, and couldn’t be bothered to phone him at the FBI’s Los Angeles office, where he was visiting when he heard the news. Anybody who thinks the firing wasn’t over the Russian investigation has been drinking the Kool-Aid.
The irony here is that Trump was within his rights to fire Comey–all he had to do was say he no longer had confidence in Comey’s ability to do the job. Instead, the big thinkers in The White House tried to pin the deed on Rosenstein, igniting a furor they didn’t need.
The backlash buried a very positive achievement for the administration: Getting China to loosen restrictions on American imports. But this is the sort of thing that happens when you have an entry-level presidency.
SPIN THIS: Trump met earlier this week with Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador to the U.S., an event that excluded the media. The only outsider present was an official Russian government photographer, or so the Trumpies were told.
As it turned out, he was a photographer for TASS, the Russian government news agency, and they were the only ones to distributed pictures of the meeting to media around the world. In other words, the Russians got to spin the meeting.
What a bunch of amateurs.