This past week Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. He did so in a very calm and deliberative manner after carefully reviewing Comey's job performance and conducting a thorough appraisal of how Comey's removal would be likely to play out across on-going FBI investigations. Donald Trump was the epitome of a professional executive as he terminated the services of a government employee.
Well, not exactly . . .
Trump apparently made the decision late last Tuesday afternoon to fire Director Comey who was serving the third year of a ten-year term as head of the FBI. At the time Comey was in Los Angeles speaking to FBI west coast field agents. Trump drafted a quick letter and sent it to Comey's Washington, D.C. office by courier.
It then fell to the administration full-time stooge and occasional press secretary, Sean Spicer, to notify the wolverines in the press corps. Spicer's first instinct was to email the bombshell news to the reporters who cover the White House, but his email system was having some performance issues, so the erstwhile flack stepped into his office doorway and "yelled" the news to reporters who were gathered there. Tweets began flying, and within five minutes it was national news.
James Comey learned about his removal from office while speaking in Los Angeles as news bulletins flashed across a nearby television screen. Comey said later that his initial reaction was to assume it was a joke - fake news, if you will.
It's hard to get more professional than that. But Donald already had his shovel dirty and he was determined to just keep digging.
Trump's initial justification for the firing of James Comey was that it was based on a report submitted to him by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Assistant Attorney General-designate Rod Rosenstein which outlined Comey's shortcomings in office, particularly in regard to the alleged mishandling of Hillary Clinton's email situation. Trump claimed in that letter that Comey had told him three times that he, Trump, was not the subject of any FBI investigation - an attempt at misdirection so blatant that it led many to conclude that Trump's hostility to the FBI's investigation of ties between his campaign and Russia was undoubtedly the primary factor in the firing.
But he had a report from Sessions and Rosenstein - a justification for getting rid of James Comey.
Trump, however, is like a dog with a bone. Once he buries the bone, he just can't let it stay buried - he has to keep digging it up and burying it again and again.
So his story changed. By the end of the week Trump said that he had fired James Comey as a result of the report from the leaders of the Justice Department, but added the caveat that he had already determined, even before seeing the report, that he was going to fire James Comey anyway.
The following day, as if to underscore the Russian connection, Trump met in the Oval Office with two prominent Russian officials: Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Photos of that brief meeting undoubtedly helped to strengthen the notion that many American's had regarding Trump's unusually strong ties to Russia.
But that wasn't enough of the old thumb-in-your-eye Trump style of communicating. Minutes after the Russians left, Trump had another meeting in the Oval Office, this one with Richard Nixon's former secretary of state, Henry Kissinger. The optics from that meeting helped to cement the growing public perception of a similarity between Nixon's "Saturday Night Massacre" and Trump's "Tuesday Night Massacre."
The Donald was either too dumb to parse all of that out ahead of time and realize the impressions that those meetings could create, or he was in his full emperor mode and daring the world to make something of it.
And then the leaks started as the White House and FBI headquarters both became veritable waterfalls of unofficial information provided by anonymous sources. Particularly galling to Trump were reports that Comey had retained the loyalty and support of FBI agents - despite White House claims to the contrary. Trump, in one of his Twitter rages warned that Comey had better hope the conversations he had with Trump had not been taped - because apparently whatever Comey's people were leaking could be counteracted with the tapes. The only thing Trump succeeded in doing with that not-so-veiled threat was to make investigators aware that Trump was likely taping his meetings - a la Richard Nixon. Hello, subpoenas!
A day or two after all of that, Trump got back onto the Comey firing again, saying essentially that the former FBI Director had become too self-absorbed and had turned into a "grand-stander" and a "showboat."
It was at that point that I began to develop my first glimmer of respect for Mr. Comey. Being called a "showboat" by the showboat of all showboats should be an honor almost beyond measure! Why, a man with that type of public affirmation ought to be a shoe-in for future public office and maybe even his own reality television show!
Pot, kettle - Mr. Tiny Hands - pot, kettle!