The Slatest

Democrats Can Both Have Wanted Comey Gone and Be Outraged at His Firing

James Comey listens to opening statements during a House hearing concerning Russian meddling in the 2016 United States election on March 20 in Washington.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey—via letter hand-delivered by the president’s old bodyguard—is a new phase in America’s devolution from imperfect democracy to sordid banana republic. But what gives it its truly sociopathic je ne sais quoi is the Republican argument that Comey was fired for his unfair conduct toward Hillary Clinton and that Democrats who once complained about that conduct should be grateful. As professional ratfucker and Trump confidant Roger Stone told a Daily Caller reporter, “What Comey did to Hillary was disgraceful. I’m glad Trump fired him over it.”

This isn’t just Stone being flip—it’s actually the Republican line. According to the New York Times, Attorney General Jeff Sessions “had been tasked with coming up with reasons to fire [Comey.]” This led to Sessions’ deputy, Rod Rosenstein, writing a memo recommending Comey’s firing for his behavior in the Clinton email investigation. In the memo, Rosenstein slams Comey for his infamous Oct. 28 letter to Congress about reopening the investigation into Clinton’s emails: “[T]he Director cast his decision as a choice between whether he would ‘speak’ about the FBI’s decision to investigate the newly-discovered email messages or ‘conceal’ it. ‘Conceal’ is a loaded term that misstates the issue. When federal agents and prosecutors quietly open a criminal investigation, we are not concealing anything; we are simply following the longstanding policy that we refrain from publicizing non-public information.”

Most Democrats would agree with the case made in Rosenstein’s memo. Trump, however, clearly does not, since on Oct. 28 he exulted about the Comey letter at a New Hampshire rally: “I have great respect for the fact that the FBI and the DOJ are now willing to have the courage to right the horrible mistake that they made.” Are we supposed to believe that suddenly, Trump has had a change of heart? And that it happened to come on the evening we learned that federal prosecutors have issued grand jury subpoenas in the FBI’s investigation of ties between Trump and Russia? Of course not. The absurd justification for Comey’s firing is not an attempt to shade the truth; it’s a mocking celebration of truth’s irrelevance. The Republican argument isn’t spin; it’s trolling.

“Cryin’ Chuck Schumer stated recently, ‘I do not have confidence in him (James Comey) any longer.’ Then acts so indignant,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday night. Republican Sen. John Cornyn echoed the president in his own tweet: “Ds were against Comey before they were for him.” The proper answer to this is: “Fuck you.” But if it must be explicitly said: There is no contradiction, let alone hypocrisy, in the belief that Comey should have been fired for his world-historical blundering in the Clinton investigation, but that it’s an outrage for Trump to fire him now, when the FBI is investigating Trump and his associates.

This is not a complicated argument. Anyone truly incapable of grasping it should not be serving in elected office. What’s happening here is clear: Trump is trying to derail an investigation that poses a threat to his presidency. The reaction from those who’d like to save this country needs to be furious, regardless of whether they thought Comey deserved his job.