Updated on May 10 at 11:45 a.m.
This much is clear: President Trump’s stated rationale for firing James Comey makes no sense.
The president justified the FBI director’s abrupt dismissal on Tuesday with a memo from Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, in which Rosenstein systematically laid out an indictment of how Comey handled the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email address and private email server while she was secretary of state. Rosenstein charged that Comey had “usurp[ed]” the attorney general’s authority by publicly recommending making no charges, overstepped his bounds by criticizing Clinton during a press conference, and then alerting Congress about newly found emails on the eve of the election.
These may be good reasons to question Comey’s leadership and even to remove him, but it is all but impossible to believe that Trump believes them, because Trump has criticized Comey for dealing with Clinton too lightly all along. The day that Comey announced he was not recommending charges against her, Trump tweeted:
FBI director said Crooked Hillary compromised our national security. No charges. Wow! #RiggedSystem— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 5, 2016
Notably, Comey’s lengthy dissection of Clinton’s errors in that news conference offered Trump lots of ammunition to attack her.