It was on May 9, 2017, when Donald Trump fired James Comey as the director of the FBI. The Republican president hadn't yet been in office for four months, but he nevertheless ousted Comey six years before the end of his 10-year term.
A few days later, Trump sat down with NBC News' Lester Holt and effectively confessed that he fired the FBI director in order to undermine the investigation into the Russia scandal. It was a rare instance in which a sitting president willingly raised the prospect of obstructing justice during a national television interview.
Four years later, the Republican is apparently still confessing.
In an interview that aired last night, Trump sat down with Fox News' Mark Levin, apparently to help promote a new book with photographs from his time in the White House. Their discussion turned to the Russia scandal, which the former president said may have been made up in Hillary Clinton's kitchen. He added:
"[A] lot of people say to me, 'How you survived is one of the most incredible things.' Don't forget, I fired Comey. Had I not fired Comey, you might not be talking to me right now about a beautiful book of four years at the White House. And we'll see about the future. The future's going to be very interesting. But I fired Comey, that whole group, and now that group is coming back again. I mean, it's not believable. It shouldn't be allowed to happen. It shouldn't be allowed to happen."
The host tried to change the subject, but later in the interview, Trump seemed eager to talk about this some more.
"I was going to say before, if I didn't fire Comey, they were looking to take down the President of the United States. If I didn't fire him, and some people said, 'He made a mistake when he fired Comey.' And now those same people said it was the most incredible instinctual moves that they've ever seen, because I wouldn't — I might be here with you, perhaps we'll be talking about something else. But I don't think I could have survived if I didn't fire him, because it was like a hornet's nest."
It was three years ago when The Atlantic's Adam Serwer wrote, "Donald Trump can't stop telling on himself." A year later, Nick Akerman, a former Watergate prosecutor, said, "What he's been saying in public is the kind of thing I used to prosecute people for doing in private."
To be sure, the former president has earned a reputation for breathtaking dishonesty, but it's also true that he has a weird habit of publicly disclosing his own misdeeds.
And now we have a striking new example. Unprompted, Trump seemed to volunteer to Levin that the FBI was on his trail, so he fired the FBI director in order to save his own skin.
Legal experts can speak to this with more authority than I can, but his on-air rhetoric sounded an awful lot like someone acknowledging — if not overtly bragging about — obstruction of justice.
In case anyone's curious, the statute of limitations for federal obstruction of justice is five years. Trump fired Comey four and a half years ago.