UPDATE — 5/19, 1:10 p.m. EDT: The Justice Dept. released a transcript of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s comments in private meetings with members of Congress on Thursday and Friday about the firing of former FBI Director Comey on May 9.
Rosenstein, who wrote a memo at President Trump’s behest criticizing Comey’s job performance, informed lawmakers that the former New York businessman told him he wanted to fire the director on May 8.
Despite Trump’s directive, Rosenstein admitted “it was appropriate to seek a new (FBI director),” and that he stands by the contents of his memo.
The U.S. political scene is still reeling after President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday. While the sacking itself was shocking, details emerging about the how and why have consumed cable news and captivated the American public.
Here are four of the craziest details that have been revealed after Comey was terminated earlier this week.
1. Comey thought his firing was a prank
The former FBI director was speaking at an employee event in Los Angeles when he learned of his termination. A news television program on in the background of the event broke the news, interrupting regular scheduled programming. Comey reportedly laughed, assuming he was being pranked by his employees. Aides quickly pulled him aside to inform that it was not an elaborate joke and he was in fact out of a job.
Trump did compose and send over a letter of termination to the Bureau in Washington D.C., but Comey was not there to receive it. Instead of sending a political aide or courier, Trump had his personal bodyguard deliver the letter. The unorthodox choice of messenger only added to fuel to the fire with late night comics drawing Italian mafia comparisons.
2. The deputy attorney general threatened to quit
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote a memo which detailed why he had lost faith in James Comey’s ability to lead the FBI. Paramount in his reasoning was Comey’s handling of Hillary Clinton’s emails.
In the memo, Rosenstein stated:
“Over the past year, however, the F.B.l.’s reputation and credibility have suffered substantial damage, and it has affected the entire Department of Justice. . . . I cannot defend the Director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken. Almost everyone agrees that the Director made serious mistakes; it is one of the few issues that unites people of diverse perspectives.”
After Trump fired Comey, White House spokespeople referenced Rosenstein’s memo repeatedly, saying it was integral in the president’s decision. Rosenstein was reportedly so unhappy with the White House’s strategy to pin the decision on him, he was contemplating resigning from his post.
3. Trump admits he fired Comey partially over Russian investigation
President Trump contradicted the White House Press Office as well his television surrogates in an interview with NBC News Thursday. Trump straight up admitted the continued FBI investigation was part of the reason he fired Comey.
“And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said: ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won,'” Trump said.
However, according to White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump would “love nothing more for this investigation to continue to its completion.”
Clearly they both need to get their story straight.
4. Trump threatens Comey with “tapes”
To cap off an already bizarre week, Trump tweeted this cryptic threat regarding Comey early Friday morning:
James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
Make of that as you will. God knows there is enough speculation to go around.
[CNBC] [CNN] [New York Times] [ABC News] [The Guardian] [AP] [Photo courtesy Drew Angerer/Getty Images via ABC News]