US President Donald Trump walks after arriving on Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, April 28, 2017.
SAUL LOEB

Trump’s explanation for Comey’s firing is literally unbelievable

The Rachel Maddow Show, 5/9/17, 9:00 PM ET

Trump fires Comey as investigations into Russia ties heat up

Rachel Maddow traces the timeline of events in the investigations into Donald Trump and his associates leading up to the firing of FBI Director James Comey, the specious explanation by the Trump White House, and Jeff Sessions’ violation of his recusal…
Rachel Maddow traces the timeline of events in the investigations into Donald Trump and his associates leading up to the firing of FBI Director James Comey, the specious explanation by the Trump White House, and Jeff Sessions’ violation of his recusal…
The number of questions surrounding Donald Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey is almost overwhelming. Oddly enough, one of the most obvious questions – should Americans believe the White House’s version of events? – already has an answer.

The president’s explanation for this dramatic development is literally unbelievable.

The White House’s official story is that Trump, at the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, was so bothered by Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails that the FBI director could no longer remain at his post. It’s a claim that’s so plainly absurd, it’s alarming that anyone in the West Wing would expect anyone to believe such transparent nonsense.

If Trump were sincerely troubled by Comey’s conduct in the Clinton matter, he wouldn’t have waited until May to dismiss the FBI director. Indeed, the Inspector General’s office at the Justice Department was already examining Comey’s handling of the Clinton case, and the White House could’ve waited for that report and used it as cover to oust the FBI chief.

Trump also wouldn’t have relied on Jeff Sessions, who was supposed to have recused himself on matters related to the Clinton matter and the Russia investigation that Comey was overseeing.

All of which leads to the painfully obvious explanation for the president’s controversial decision: Trump fired Comey because of the Russia scandal. Politico had an especially striking report:
President Donald Trump weighed firing his FBI director for more than a week. When he finally pulled the trigger Tuesday afternoon, he didn’t call James Comey. He sent his longtime private security guard to deliver the termination letter in a manila folder to FBI headquarters.

He had grown enraged by the Russia investigation, two advisers said, frustrated by his inability to control the mushrooming narrative around Russia. He repeatedly asked aides why the Russia investigation wouldn’t disappear and demanded they speak out for him. He would sometimes scream at television clips about the probe, one adviser said. […]

Trump had grown angry with the Russia investigation – particularly Comey admitting in front of the Senate that the FBI was investigating his campaign – and that the FBI director wouldn’t support his claims that President Barack Obama had tapped his phones in Trump Tower.
The president started with the conclusion – Comey had become a political obstacle – and then worked backwards, ordering subordinates, including his not-so-independent partner in the attorney general’s office, to come up with a coherent rationale.

They came up with “Comey wasn’t fair to Clinton” – a former rival that Trump and his campaign wanted to incarcerate as recently as last year – as their fig leaf.

In other words, the president not only fired the FBI director overseeing a counter-intelligence investigation into the president’s campaign, he’s also lying about his motivations. It adds a layer of disgrace to an already historic scandal.

What’s less clear is what Trump thinks he’s accomplished with his Nixonian abuse. The Politico piece said the president has grown “frustrated by his inability to control the mushrooming narrative around Russia,” asking why the scandal “wouldn’t disappear.” Trump clearly failed to appreciate the fact that by firing the FBI director who was investigating him, the “mushrooming narrative” is now going nuclear.

If the president was furious with his inability to control this story before, he’ll soon be confronted with a familiar problem: Trump remains his own worst enemy.