FBI Director James Comey takes questions from members of the media during a news conference, Nov. 18, 2014, in Boston.
Photo by Steven Senne/AP

As FBI probe continues, Trump says it’s ‘not too late’ to fire Comey

Updated
In an interview with Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo, Donald Trump was asked about “Obama-era staffers” that continue to serve in the executive branch. As the Washington Post reported, one official in particular stood out as important.
President Trump said in an interview aired Wednesday morning that he has “confidence” in FBI Director James B. Comey, but it was “not too late” to fire him.

Trump has long sent mixed signals on Comey and the bureau director’s future in government, though his comments to Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo are especially important because Comey has now confirmed that the bureau is investigating possible coordination between the Russian government and the Trump campaign to influence the presidential election.
This was all rather odd. For example, Bartiromo characterized Comey as an Obama-era “staffer,” but that’s not quite right. FBI directors are appointed to serve fixed 10-year terms – in large part to help shield directors from overt political influence and pressures – and in this case, the Democratic president chose a Republican to fill the post. That didn’t mean Comey was part of Obama’s “staff.”

But even putting that aside, Trump went on to say, after noting that “it’s not too late” to oust Comey from his post, “We’ll see what happens. You know, it’s going to be interesting.”

The president didn’t specify what, exactly, is “going to be interesting.” I hope he didn’t mean the results of the ongoing counter-espionage investigation into Russia’s efforts to put Trump in the White House.

Because if that is what Trump meant, the on-air comments might start to resemble a veiled threat – along the lines of, “It’s a nice career at the FBI you have there; it’d be a shame if something happened to it.”

In the same Fox interview, Trump went on and on about his strange belief that Comey helped Hillary Clinton last year:
“Don’t forget, when Jim Comey came out, he saved Hillary Clinton. People don’t realize that. He saved her life, because – I call it Comey won. And I joke about it a little bit. When he was reading those charges, she was guilty on every charge. And then he said, she was essentially OK. But he – she wasn’t OK, because she was guilty on every charge.

“And then you had two and then you had three. But Hillary Clinton won – or Comey won. She was guilty on every charge. […]

“Director Comey was very, very good to Hillary Clinton, that I can tell you. If he weren’t, she would be, right now, going to trial.”
To the extent that reality still has any meaning, all of this is bonkers. Hillary Clinton wasn’t indicted; she didn’t face charges; she was never found “guilty” of anything; and Comey never intervened to “save” her. Trump described details that appear to exist only in his mind.

In fact, Comey intervened in the election in such a way that almost certainly cost Clinton the presidential race, all while hiding information from the public about the Trump campaign being under investigation for possibly cooperating with a foreign adversary. To say that Comey was “very, very good to Hillary Clinton” is hopelessly ridiculous and completely at odds with the real-world events of 2016.

So why on earth would Trump make such absurd, demonstrably false claims about Comey now? Probably because the president wants to lay the groundwork for future complaints: if the FBI finds evidence of collusion between Team Trump and Moscow, the president wants to be able to tell his partisan allies, “I told you Comey was on Clinton’s side.”

That wouldn’t be at all true, but Trump’s laying down a marker now, just in case.

Donald Trump, FBI and James Comey

As FBI probe continues, Trump says it's 'not too late' to fire Comey

Updated