WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump and his aides claimed he fired FBI Director James Comey Tuesday because Comey mishandled the bureau’s investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. They argued it had nothing to do with the fact that Comey was leading an investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian interference in the 2016 election. But by Wednesday morning, that story — which never made much sense in the first place — was falling apart, and the White House was stumbling to defend it.
Hours after Comey was fired, Kellyanne Conway, a top Trump adviser, appeared on television to defend the president’s decision. At first, Conway stuck to the talking points, reading verbatim from a three-page letter written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, criticizing Comey’s treatment of Clinton. But minutes later in the same interview, she contradicted herself.
“This has nothing to do with the campaign from six months ago,” Conway told CNN’s Anderson Cooper early Wednesday morning. “This has everything to do with the performance of the FBI director since the president has been in the White House.”
Trump addressed the issue publicly for the first time Wednesday morning, after a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. He didn’t mention Comey’s treatment of Clinton. “[Comey] wasn’t doing a good job,” Trump told reporters. “Very simply. He was not doing a good job.”
Trump had been considering firing Comey “pretty much since the day he took office,” Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday during the press briefing. The FBI director had committed “atrocities,” she said. She stuck with the idea that Comey’s treatment of Clinton during the campaign was a fireable offense. The final straw, Sanders said, was Comey’s testimony to Congress last week. Comey told lawmakers he had bypassed then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and held a press conference on the Clinton email matter because he believed Lynch had a conflict of interest. Read full story here